For Those of You Who Love an Addict/Alcoholic/Self-Destructive Person

Loving an Addict

No one is ever going to save an addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person from themselves.  I don’t know how many people came along in my life and tried to save me while I was in my addiction, but all they got from the relationship was hurt and confusion.  It wasn’t that I was incapable of feeling love, because I definitely loved people (including my two children), but my self-loathing took precedence over everyone and everything.  I could hide behind motherhood, a career and a meaningful relationship for long stretches of time, but seeping out from behind those images I tried so desperately to uphold, was a deeply terrorized person who lived in a state of absolute fear.  If you don’t know what that’s like, then it must be difficult to grasp the behaviors of an addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person, because they can be so damn lovable at times, and terribly mean when you least expect it.  That unpredictability is because an addict is a person who behaves according to how good or bad they feel.  If they are feeling high, then you’re the best thing that ever happened to them, but if they are too drunk or going through withdrawal, or needing a drink or drug (or whatever it is that keeps them from feeling the terror within them), then watch out.  Anything you say or do can and will be used against you.

Reasoning with someone who lives their life in a state of fear is like reasoning with a toddler about why they aren’t getting a cookie that’s already in their hand.  It’s impossible.  You aren’t going to get anywhere except frustrated.  Everything an addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person does is out of fear.  Nothing takes precedence over their deeply ingrained fear.  There will be times when they seem clear and ready to make a change, but the fear will always override.  The only cure for an addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person, is for us to acknowledge our fear and to step directly into it.  We have to do the work ourselves, and many of us are afraid of the work because the fear of facing our demons is overwhelming to a degree that will push us further into our addiction.  This is why the programs of recovery teach us to do things “one day at a time.”  In our addiction, an addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person is not capable of seeing things the way a “normal” person sees them.  Instead of seeing a mountain as something you climb one step at a time, we only see the whole of the mountain, and feel like it is an impossible journey.

If you are dealing with an addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person, you may say things like, “Well, they don’t drink/use/behave badly all the time, so I don’t know if they are really “an addict” or if they are just having a hard time in life.  That is something my loved ones told themselves, because the thought of me being “an addict” was devastating to them.  People hear that word and they think “hopeless…”  Normal people have a difficult time digesting that label because it sounds like a person is doomed, but it can be alleviating to recognize this trait in someone who has been abusive and unpredictable, because it gives definition to their strange and hurtful behaviors.  Your alcoholic/addict/self-destructive loved one’s fear is like a boulder chained around their neck.  Sometimes they have slack in the chain, but eventually it is going to take them down.  It is only a matter of time.  Although the chain and boulder is not who they truly are, no amount of love, reason or chivalry will unlock that chain.  The addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person is the only one who holds the key.  Helping them out of their addiction is an impossible feat, and it will strip you of your own self-worth.

Loving an addict is like throwing a valuable coin into a well and hoping your wish comes true.  The value in the coin doesn’t guarantee a wish coming true. Your love cannot reach the bottom of the addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person’s fear.  The only way they can move through the fear is to recognize it for themselves, and to be willing to walk through it.  The willingness has to come from a place deep within themselves.  Sometimes it takes several years and many rock bottoms for an addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person to become willing.  For me, it took me realizing that I could never die drinking, so I inadvertently decided that I wanted to live my life on the opposite end of the spectrum.  It was my own personal awakening.  No one who tried to save me ever got very far.  I was drowning in my fear of life, and my dread of feeling anything other than high.  I had no idea at the time, that my emotions were temporary and beautiful (like the seasons).  I thought everything I felt (the misery) was eternal, and this is the delusion that kept me drinking and using for eighteen years.  I had to lose everything in order to realize no matter what I went through, and how difficult life was, that I would not disappear. When I was still alive and well, during the great losses of my life, I finally understood how valuable I truly was. Prior to that, no one could love me to that degree of understanding. You cannot love someone to a place of ultimate recovery.  You simply have to know that your loved one is in a state of fear, and it is impossible for them to accept love when love is the furthest thing from fear.

If you can grasp the way an addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person is, the hurtful things they do and their strange behaviors will make more sense to you.  I know it’s difficult, because when one of us shines, we are brighter than most, and our loved ones recognize that there is more to us than the self-loathing, but that fear will always seep through the cracks of the images we so desperately try to uphold (whether that be a relationship, a job, or our vanity).  The fear blinds us from ourselves, but the one thing you have to know is that we are not hopeless.  We have the key to our own recovery.  Many people can and do recover from this affliction, but no one recovers because someone loved them to the doors of AA, or into treatment.  A person who is living in fear cannot be moved from the outside in.  It has to come from within.

If you love someone who is struggling in their addiction, and you’ve discovered yourself feeling lost, confused and yearning for their love – you are not alone.  Those of us who are afflicted with alcoholism/addiction/self-loathing are some of the brightest people around, who simply do not know how to balance in life.  We are loveable.  We are the kind of people that want to change the world, yet we feel so small in the grand scheme of things.  We cannot see that the only thing we need to change, is ourselves.  We see the mountain, rather than the small steps it take to get to the top.  We have a different perspective than you is all, but in order for us to change our perspective, we have to be willing.  The best thing you can do for yourself is to let go of that person who is struggling with their alcoholism/addiction/self-loathing and love them enough to let them find their way.  Letting go is like having unconditional love for that person and not expecting anything in return.  It sounds awful (kind of like recovery sounds to the addict), but it will set you free.  Letting go doesn’t mean you are giving up on them.  It simply means that you are in acceptance of their affliction, which takes precedence over everything.

Nobody enjoys feeling vulnerable, which is where loving an addict will take you very quickly, but vulnerability is a place of surrender, and surrender is the beginning to your own healing. Acceptance and surrender isn’t only for an addict in recovery like me. It is for anyone and everyone who wants to experience the fullness of their life. It is essential. So when it is all said and done, be grateful to the addict/alcoholic/self-destructive person in your life who brought you to this place of vulnerability. For they have unknowingly offered you a beautiful gift.

Striving for Wholeness Rather Than Greatness

Be Yourself

It is interesting to me how we think of ourselves versus the actual way we are, or how other people perceive us. I often think of the most influential people that I have met, and how the world around them upholds them in a certain light, yet their family rolls their eyes at their antics. The persona they uphold is powerful, yet their personal life is quite possibly lacking something; perhaps attention to detail. I know comedians often repeat their jokes in different settings, which can get incredibly old and taxing on a significant other who hears the same thing over and over. I’ve met pastors who hold their congregation to high standards while their children were out in the world causing havoc. I think I’ve seen these types of gaps in people’s lives enough to pay attention to myself and how I’m putting something out in the world that I’m not exactly paying attention to in my immediate affairs. The images we hide behind create incredible illusions. How many people do we meet that are genuine and transparent? I find those kinds of people to be humble and fascinating; more so than those who can talk a good talk.

I had a conversation with someone yesterday about how money changes some people, and how it doesn’t affect the way other people behave in the world. I brought up the fact that I want to be one of those people who treats everyone the same, whether they are famous, infamous, or living on the streets. I recall so many times when I’ve entered into places where I felt extremely uncomfortable, and someone of significance approached me and graciously made me feel welcome. I’ve also been in several settings where I was snubbed for not wearing the right attire or appearing the role. Just the other night while walking around downtown in my sweats, my daughter and I took a stroll inside a new art gallery. They were having an open house. Not one person treated us like we were welcome there. If I had been wearing something different, I’m certain I would have gotten at least a handshake or a nod. But nope. We were treated like outsiders and ignored. I am the same exact person whether I’m wearing a gown, or a pair of jeans. It’s so funny how people treat me differently according to what I’m wearing.

We put so much emphasis on our looks and how we appear to the world, but since I’ve worked on myself from the inside out, I easily see through people’s personas. I can tell when someone is guarded, or when they are hiding behind a thick mask of illusion. I can see people who do not even know that they are hiding behind masks, and those that think they have it all going on, yet their lack of self-worth is casually leaking through. I think back to myself when I was in their shoes and wonder how many people saw right through me. I used to be a great actress. Now I’m embarrassed when I find myself in a situation where I’m trying to impress someone, or when I throw out an impressive image to hide my insecurities. More than anything, I just want to remember that I am no better than the person standing next to me. I have worked hard on myself, but I also vividly recall what it was like to be uncomfortable in my own skin, and how it feels to suffer. I try to offer my most genuine self to new people now, although it’s tricky to be genuine 100% of the time. Many people have a way of expecting impressive stories or pulling out that mask of mine that I’ve tried to leave behind. The world is filled with people who want to impress the world.

Before I go into a new place where I might feel uncomfortable, I do a simple little meditation to ground myself. I pretend that I am a tree and I imagine my roots going deep into the earth and then wrapping themselves around the earth’s core. I do this so that I feel like I’m rooted deeply in who I am, rather than being easily swayed by the people in the room. If I feel grounded, I’m less likely to feel insecure or to need to hide behind some weird mask. I think many people struggle with social anxiety, which is why many of us drank to begin with, and why many people do drink in social settings. I want to be one of those people that can walk into any room and feel magnificent in my own skin. I’m working on it… (one day at a time). I don’t beat myself up (however) when I do find myself feeling insecure or when I go back to my old ways and hide behind images. I am compassionate with myself, knowing that I’m still learning and growing. I understand that I have a long way to go. It is not a negative thing to feel insecure. It simply shines a light on what I need to work on in myself. When I sense other people feeling insecure, I offer that graciousness that has so often been offered to me in the past. There is nothing like someone who treats another human being like they are more than welcome, no matter who they are or how they appear. I know how good I’ve felt when someone “greater than me” has treated me like their equal. It can really give a person wings.

I would rather have nothing of significance, or to be no one of significance, but to have been known as someone who was genuine, and also someone who made others feel welcome. I feel like it has taken most of my life to get to know myself, and I want to honor that self of mine, rather than try to be someone I’m not, or to appear better than I am. Humility is not something to shy away from. It is a cloak of integrity, and the shelter that keeps us in alignment with who we truly are. I used to want to be like every other person. Now I realize that I am the only person who can be me, and I am so incredibly excited about sharing my uniqueness to the surrounding world. Being who you are is the greatest gift you can give to the world. It is also satisfying and noncompetitive. It’s simple and free. I think my greatest life lesson has been that when I had nothing, I was still me. I was still alive and there. There was nothing lacking. I try to carry that with me wherever I go now, and it has completely set me free.

Turn that Frown from Longitude to Gratitude

Gratitude

I know… pretty annoying title, especially if you are feeling overwhelmed, annoyed and perfectly tired of people who spend their lives thinking positive. (Shame on them for not being “realists.” Life is not all unicorns and butterflies). Pretty easy to say things like, “Have gratitude,” or “Look for the silver lining…” when life is not twisting you up inside, but when you’re feeling homicidal or hostile toward the world, those little sayings are enough to make you actually pull the trigger, or to at least pull the blankets up over your head as you sink lower into the darkness. I get it. I understand pragmatism, realism, pessimism… (Murphy’s Law-ism). I’ve tried all these ways of “being” after my recovery peers made me feel like I was walking around with a rainbow up my ass, and my counselor told me to get my head out of the clouds. I decided to take off the positivity suit and to button up in one of those negative attracting gowns. You know the ones… They don’t allow any light in at all, because that would be a set up for my demise.

Okay enough joking around. This is going to be simple enough. Personally, after trying out constant pragmatism, and then feeling mostly frustration and annoyance, I decided to give positive thinking a real chance (without being delusional and ignoring the bad stuff. You can acknowledge the bad stuff, laugh about it, and not get sucked into it, however), and honestly, life began opening up for me in ways that seemed to move mountains in my life. When I was being cooler about life, life became cooler with me. People were nicer, I was able to laugh more, situations that used to boggle me were not that big of a deal, and better opportunities were knocking at my door, rather than me having to climb barbed wire to get what I wanted. I didn’t accept that life was one way. That to me sounded a lot like ignorance. When you are open to receiving, without judging what approaches, with an attitude of gratitude (yes I said it, so roll your eyes… whatever dude), there’s a real intelligence to this way of being. I know a lot of people say that when you’re positive, you set yourself up for disappointment, but that’s only true if you’re positive and expectant of an outcome. So the hell what if life disappoints you once in a while? That simply means that you have to change your thinking around outcome. Open yourself up to a bigger understanding of things. Perhaps you didn’t get that job because subconsciously you didn’t really want it, or maybe your child is acting out because your overall negative energy is causing an imbalance with the world around you. Cars break down, computers crash, people don’t pay attention when they are driving, but it’s your thinking that either causes you grief, or sets you free.

If I was a therapist, the first thing I would ask people when they came to me with a problem, is what their thinking and self-talk is around the issue. I would start from there, because after several years of experimenting with gratitude and positive thinking, I’m thoroughly convinced that the way I think, determines my life experience.

I’ll end with this. Yesterday was my first day at a new job. I went from part-time self-employment, to full time employment. The money is much better, but my mind told me that I was imprisoning myself, and that I would be overwhelmed and unhappy. The funny thing about that is – I believe that I attracted this job into my life because I was feeling restless at my other job, and bored. I need to feel challenged in my work. Anyway, yesterday I woke up feeling like there was a boulder sitting between my shoulder blades and I felt terrible going into my first day with the attitude that I was not going to be happy, so I did what any good recovering addict would do and I surrendered to how I was feeling. Overwhelmed. Anxious. Scared. Worried… I actually got down on my knees and thanked the universe for the new job and for the opportunity that was being provided. I especially asked for help and guidance, and I also asked to make friends, to be of service, and to allow me to be a light. “Shine through me,” I affirmed. “Let this job be an opportunity for me to grow, for me to attract people into my office so that I can build new relationships, and to help me be a positive and kind voice that they hear.” Saying the prayer moved me from my head down into my heart, and when I walked into my new office, I felt a sense of serenity. The entire day unfolded in a way that I can only describe as uncanny. Several little coincidences occurred, letting me know that I was in the right place. My office is up away from the main thoroughfare, but several people came up and introduced themselves to me. I was able to offer them a genuine smile, along with a handshake, and confidence in myself when I let them know what I can do for them. Some of them came back around to say “hello” again, and they even entrusted me with their files. I have a job where I’m supposed to be building relationships and trust. I am certainly not “imprisoned” in my new position. No one is hovering over me. I have complete independence throughout the entire day. I am so fortunate, and I know that this job is the next step in my life. The right one. It’s a big giant step in the right direction, but had I sunk into my negativity yesterday, I don’t believe that I would have had such a good experience. It truly is my responsibility to not just “think” gratitude, but to “be” gratitude.

How can I be of service? How is this experience going to help me grow (emotionally, spiritually, mentally)? What can I do to make this experience a good one, even though it feels terrifying? These are the questions I ask myself now. It is so important to me to make the most out of my life, and to feel amazing while I’m here, so this is why I choose to think positive, and why when I feel homicidal, I surrender. Instead of yelling, “GET DOWN ON YOUR KNEES…” I get down on mine.

Excerpt from ‘Presage in a Bottle,’ by J. L. Forbes

Presage

Twice in my life I nearly drowned in the undercurrent of the ocean. Both times I was caught off-guard by waves of mass erosion sucking and folding me into the lethal body of water like a listless rag-doll. In milliseconds, the shoreline morphed from beauty to beast; first fulfilling my soul, then virtually robbing me of my young life. One of those times, my head crashed into the seaboard. I spun mercilessly inside the rifting tide, which harshly indicated my own vicinity between the water and the land beyond the whirlwind. I was lucky to hit my head regardless of the pain and shock. I dizzily anchored my knees and palms into the sandy floor, offering me enough leverage to stand and save myself. Both of those perilous times, I was dragged, hurled, slammed, twisted and regurgitated. I panicked in the terror of death’s taunt each time, and was instantly alleviated when my pleading lungs sucked in air instead of salt water.

Years later I dreamed of saving a drowning baby girl from a ravage river. Saving her almost took my own life. I pulled her in from the back of a moving speed boat; painfully gripping the wooden swim step with one hand while pulling her out of the river with the other. She was going to die if I didn’t use every fragment of my own strength to rescue her. My heroine tactics sufficed. The girl was brought to surface and survived. She was an infant. I lifted her, handed her over to the people aboard the boat, and then pulled myself to safety.

Upon awakening I knew exactly what the dream meant, although it would be several years before I took heed and followed the path of my heroine self. I fervently remained a drowning child in the hollows of alcoholic bottles and benders with every intention of dying drunk. At the end of my drinking I didn’t care about living. Problem was, I could not drink enough to die. At the end of every bottle and blackout, I found myself awake in the same world I was trying to drown myself out of. Each time I should have died, I awoke in a hospital attached to needles pumping liquid life into me. Goddammit I wanted to remain asleep. Where is my Vodka?

Washing up into a detox facility was me finally saving myself. It was my decision to go. Still drunk from several days of heavy boozing, I was stained with urine, bruised from tumbling on sidewalks and streets, scratched all over from trying to sleep in bushes believing it would be a great place to hide from my desperately searching husband. My right knee was inflated with fluid from clumsy collapses. My palms scraped and bloodstained; face, stomach, feet and fingers swollen with liquor, skin dehydrated and taut, eyes bloodshot and expressive of exhaustion, terror and humiliation. Facing myself in the mirror was seeing an enigma of myself. Who is this lost girl? Where am I?

Cherry Hill Detox felt like shore to me after many nights of drifting out at sea. Even the dry ham sandwiches and watered down tea were satisfactory, as well as the thin plastic mattresses and ongoing commotions from people suffering in withdrawal. Their horror was all too familiar. Sometimes I laughed in sinister appreciation, but mostly I related and empathized in quiet agony and sadness. Opiate detox is excruciating and messy. I’d been in their sweaty sheets a few times when I’d swapped alcohol for pharmaceuticals in a shallow and brief attempt at sobriety. Before my own alcohol wore off during the first night in the facility, I observed what was ahead for me in the likes of other addicts; my hopeless brothers and sisters. What should have been disturbing felt harmonious in comparison to the drunken awfulness of passing out alone in the back seat of my car, or in vacant fields where I always hoped to wake up before being discovered by someone who would overreact at the norms of an everyday drunk.

A presage is a foreboding of things to come. Negative things. An omen of sorts. It isn’t a word I even knew while facing my alcoholism in the end, but you don’t have to know fancy words in order to make intuitive decisions. Intuition does not require any thinking or logistics. It’s a simple knowing of things to come and which direction to follow. Both intuitively and cognitively I knew my ass needed serious help. I had been identifying myself as an alcoholic for seven years by this time.

The morning I went into detox, I was so frightened of my self-destructive behavior, that I completely embraced everything that resulted after walking through those clinical double glass doors. I was in a state of complete surrender, and this is where one needs to be in order to recover. It’s really the bottom line. Surrendering is the foundation of true recovery. And the surrender must be eternal. There is no wavering here. There is no taking back the reigns. You are fucked if you think you get to ever be in control again. When I say “fucked,” I mean, rock bottom becomes a deeper and denser pit. This pit is muddied with terror and self-deprivation. Once you start sliding down that pit, there is less and less in this world, and of yourself, to grab a hold of. Once a person has given up on themselves, all hope dissipates into the wasteland of their own disgrace.

This was the presage in my bottle. The emptiness of every dry liquor container mirrored my internal state of desolation. I knew what was at the end of every bottle. It was more disconnection from who I was, and all of the dreams I ever had for myself, which were many. It was despair beyond measure. No matter the size of my bottle (a half pint, a pint, a fifth, or a five-bottle box of cheap wine), there was never enough. Never enough booze to wet the desert inside of me. It wasn’t even numbing me out anymore. It was scaring me and sucking the life out of me, yet it wasn’t killing me.

I would eventually cry. Tears would come in ample time, but now I needed to be alert and aware of my surroundings. Relief and the need for survival in this rancid place dammed my frolicking emotions; parting them from the single particle of sanity burrowed in like a calcified gem within the twisted and haunted confines of my mind. You dare not mix one last morsel of sanity with ravaging emotions. In inconsiderate monstrosity, emotion shall devour sanity.

There really is no diversity in addiction when I think about it now. There is no skin color, fat, thin, tall, short or intellectual vs. idiot. The only difference between us is what drug we abuse the most. Even that doesn’t matter because real addicts only care about one thing and one thing only – where their next hit is coming from. We all relate and empathize with one another on that wretched level. There is a safe and harrowing bond between us all.

(Coming soon to Amazon)

http://www.amazon.com/J.-L.-Forbes/e/B00HS980ZI/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1426859153&sr=1-1

Just Be Who You Are (No Matter Who THEY Are)

Be You

The worst thing for any artist (I’m certain) is when you complete something that you’ve poured your heart and soul into, and you look at it with the sudden realization that it’s crap.  I don’t think there is an artist around who doesn’t have a little voice in their head telling them that they suck, and once in a while taunting them to give up altogether.  It’s even worse if the artist has no other outlet.  Last week when I was considering no longer writing, the only thing that came to mind was to buy a surf board and call it a day.

It’s so weird and awkward to be faced with insecurities out of nowhere when you’ve moved along feeling quite secure.  You followed your gut, and everything felt so intense and right, so you went with it for months at a time, but you were kind of in your own world during that duration, and then you get out into the real world around people who seem to have something that you don’t have, and immediately you’re like, “I’m clueless.  I’ve been delusional this whole time, or naive, or perhaps just foolish.”  You stand there and feel like your legs have been kicked from beneath your torso, and if you’re anything like me, you don’t know what to do with your hands.  I’m always looking around for napkins to shred in these situations.  So you go home and you take it all in, and you’re like, “What am I supposed to do now that I know I’m lacking everything.”  It sweeps over you for a few days, while confusion is poking at you to go down a different path.  I should be more literary and less visionary.  I should be more like her, or after the same things as him…  At middle age, you feel like you’re in high school again and you’re wondering which bridge is closest to home (Richmond or Golden Gate) so you can jump off, but you laugh at yourself for being so dramatic, just like in high school.  I’m just going to buy a surf board, you think.  And call it a day.  I have absolutely no place in this world.  Then you just stand there for a while not buying into the confusion.  By just observing it you realize that it’s really beneficial to see your insecurities, because those pockets of weakness inside yourself need some serious attention.  So you decide to be compassionate toward yourself and to not make any sudden decisions or changes.  There’s something brewing within.  You know it.  And because of this moment of terror, and facing the terror (rather than pretending it didn’t happen), you grow.  You grow stronger, wiser, a little more in tune with yourself.  You become a little more rooted in who you are, because you didn’t sway in the moment of confusion.  You just stood there and allowed it to sweep over you, like an oak tree standing tall and strong in a winter wind.  Some old branches got blown off, and you feel a little bit bare, but you’re still standing there.  Those old branches and leaves aren’t who you are.  They’re simply images that deflect the whole of you.  They often hide you, even from yourself, but when they get swept away unexpectedly, you get a good look at yourself, which is so beneficial, because you’re bigger and stronger than those parts of yourself that wither and die (the images).  You’re something of greater value, and though you can’t put your finger on what that is, (because it’s impossible to identify something so empty of identification) you know it’s significant and that you should spend more energy on that part of you, which is always growing and becoming stronger.  It’s beyond the illusions you put out to the world to help you fit in.  I think it’s good to know that you don’t always fit in, because it reminds you to root yourself into the ground, rather than showing off your leaves.

Artists are faced with doubt more than the average person because many of them are placing themselves out for scrutiny.  Opinions of other people about your work is so subjective, so it’s important to have a vision for where you’re headed and to not get lost in the maze of other people’s standards.  This applies in life as well.  I may work a menial job, which will be judge by certain individuals who have secured themselves a fabulous career, but I also know that it’s incredibly temporary.  I work the job to pay the bills.  My vision for my life goes way beyond the office.  So I can’t get caught up in the disapproval of other people.  Comparing our artwork to artists in a different genre, is foolish.  I mean, I get scoffed at once in a while by literary snobs who don’t think what I write is “real” writing, but half of them haven’t written a fraction of what I’ve written (I’ve prudently observed).  At least I’m putting my work out there, rather than just standing around and talking about my ideas for the book that I haven’t written yet, or making excuses for why I haven’t written anything.  I’m getting better each time I complete a manuscript.  Anyone who’s completed writing a book, knows the struggles, dedication, and hard work it takes to actually finish the job.  Those who have done it usually respect anyone who at least finishes writing a book, no matter the subject.  It’s admirable in any case, especially because you’re basically standing there naked for the world to see you (if they are that interested)… and that takes guts.  I think standing there with your guts hanging out says more about you than your artwork.  Your artwork is the leaves.   Your courage is the tree.

To actually stand there and have the courage to admit that you may suck, yet not giving up in the face of defeat, is like rooting yourself into the ground, shedding old leaves and spreading your branches out toward the sun a little bit farther.  When you are faced with these uncomfortable adversities, you’re challenged enough to keep becoming who you are deep down inside, rather than shallowly striving to be like everyone else.  Good for you.  You only spend moments with other people.  You spend a lifetime with yourself, so don’t let the world sway you.  When you feel shaken, root yourself in deeper, stand taller and let go of those leaves that no longer suit you.  Ask yourself if you’re missing something that you may want to work on from here on out.  Trust in the process of feeling confused and insecure once in a while.  That confusion and insecurity is giving you a good opportunity to look at yourself, and to recall your vision, and to see if you’re on track.  I think it’s good to remind ourselves that everyone feels insecure once in a while, but those who are great, strive not for greatness, but to merely be themselves.

T. G. I. F. (Tarantulas Grow Insane Fangs)?

Smile

“Life is so weird,” responded one of my coworkers on Tuesday when I told her I was moving onto a full time job after a year and a half of being self-employed and working part-time.  “Life IS weird,” I repeated, “but it’s so good!”  I’ve spent the last month not worrying about the curve ball apocalypse coming at me.  It was one of those times that seriously tested my faith.  I was given the opportunity to either think outside of the box, or to cave in.  I didn’t cave in because I promised myself a year and a half ago (when I took a huge leap of faith and moved to the opposite side of the San Francisco Bay with my daughter) that I was going to “go for it” while I was here.  After two years of being sober, I trusted myself enough to put everything out on the line, and if I failed, I made the decision that I could live with it, because at least I tried.  I least I felt something and got passionate about my life, and followed the vision I have for it.

I recall several years ago when I decided to get sober, I spoke to a group of peers and said, “I want to be the best me that there is.  I’m going to place all my energy into going after what I want in life.”  It occurred to me that I should totally place the persistence I had in my addiction, into something positive.  I mean, drinking wasn’t working for me at all, so why not scoot on over to the opposite side of the spectrum and actually create a life worth living?  There was no way I was doing sobriety half-assed.  That wouldn’t have worked for me at all.  I’m an “all-or-none” type of girl.  I’m not saying that I don’t waiver, because God knows I do that too, but once I make a decision… the sky’s the limit.  This is the opposite side of the spectrum after all.

So the curve balls were approaching.  The roommate bailed.  My son moved back with his dad after four months of living with us.  My daughter began complaining that she also wanted us to move back to my hometown where our family resides.  Work was slow for several months.  Yet, I’m in a lease until September, she’s got school through May, and I feel connected where we are now, plus she’s getting a really good education and the opportunities are endless here.  She’s safe in our town, which wouldn’t be the case in my hometown where there is a lot of crime.  “I don’t feel like moving back there would be the right thing to do,” I told her after thinking everything through.  She was also feeling like we would be too tight on money now that I was paying the full amount of rent.  She was right.  I didn’t come here to struggle or to be in constant survival mode, so I had to do something.  The urge was hitting me pretty hard.  The only thing I could do was surrender (and pray).

“Listen, Universe filled with love and abundance… You know what’s happening right now.  It’s too much for me to handle, so I’m going to let you handle it.  I’m open to receiving whatever comes my way.  If I’m supposed to pack up and go home, then just give it to me straight.  I can handle it, and I’m willing to do that, but honestly, I don’t feel like that’s what I’m supposed to do.  I love it here.  I feel like this is where I’m supposed to be.  I trust that whatever I need will be provided, and that you will give me clarity so that I will know which way to go.  You know my needs better than I do, so please take care of us.  I do not want to struggle while I’m here.  I’m tired of struggling.  I’m done with that way of life.  I’m ready to rock and roll.  Thank you for today and for my wonderful life, and for giving me this opportunity to surrender, and for a new perspective.  Give me complete clarity.”

Two days later, a new job opportunity presented itself.  I vacillated, because I was just starting some new ventures with my self-employment.  Business was slowly picking up.  I could have remained where I was and hoped for the best, but then the new job offered more money than expected, and I realized that I could also work my way up there, which wasn’t the case being self-employed.  I got advice from a few people, and sat with myself for a day, but it became abundantly clear that I should take the new position.  It is much closer to home.  I can build a community there, just like I have at the job where I’m at now.  In fact, there are tons of more people working in the new office, and there is so much more opportunity for growth.  How could I pass it up?  I couldn’t.  Sure, it’s scary to start a new position in a busier environment, and to walk away from what I have now, but my fear pales in comparison to my faith.

“Life is only getting better.  I have everything I need and more.  Money is flowing toward me and my life is abundant.”  This is the motto I live by.  I don’t waiver with this affirmation.  It’s been my statement for about a year now, and it’s proven effective.  The truth is, I wasn’t getting along with my roommate.  We had completely different standards of clean, among other things. My son is happier when he’s closer to the entire family, and I knew this was a temporary move for him.  My daughter was merely reflecting a decision I needed to make, and she later came and apologized to me for being doubtful. Work was slow because it was time for me to move on to something more challenging.  There are always arrows pointing us in the right direction.  The question is, are we aware enough of our vision to notice the arrows pointing us toward our vision?  If life is left up to us to simply trot along without direction, most of us would feel like we are lost in a maze.  The universe puts things along our path to wake us up to the path.  It’s easy to see once you recall the vision you have for your life, even if that vision is merely to remain sober.  I had to ask myself, which direction would most likely keep me sober?  And the answer was “the path of least resistance.”  Surrender and open yourself up to whatever comes your way.  Recall the direction you wish to go, and get on board with whatever is presented to you, even if it feels like life is coming against you.  Be open to receiving whatever it is you need right now, even if it doesn’t look like it’s what you need right now. When the curve balls come, look around for the bat.  TGIF (That’s God Invoking Faith)!

Limbo is Only Good at a Party, Not So Much in Everyday Life

Limbo

The one game I am terrible at is Limbo.  Sadly, I’m not limber enough to limbo, but I’m talking of the physical game here, not the mental/emotional one.  I was the champion at the mental one, except it never got me anywhere (um… because the mental/emotional game of limbo keeps you stationary), so there was no true championship.  Reality limbo is like a stagnant river.  Everything just gets swirled into that one place of non-action until it eventually stops the flow, and begins stinking to high heaven.

On my morning run this week, I noticed a new sign sitting up on a chair at this shabby/chic store that I love.  It says, “WAKE UP AND BE AWESOME!”

Wake up and be awesome

I saw this after making the decision that I wasn’t going to waiver any longer when it came to making decisions.  I have spent the last several months wavering back and forth about so many things.  It has become incredibly exasperating.  I’m the kind of person who wants concise answers about things.  Just give me the damn bottom line.  Tell me what to, where to go, who to talk to (how not to pick up a drink).  Give me solid lines, man.  But something has changed for me since I’ve been in recovery.  I’m more about feeling my way through life, rather than thinking my through it, or making decisions based on logic.  And this is a huge shift for me because I’m an “all or none” type of individual, and when you’re feeling your way through things, lines can get kind of blurry.  I think this has been my problem lately.  Logic tells me one thing, and my gut tells me another.  So I’m in limbo, but when I made a decision earlier in the week to follow my gut, and then I saw this sign, it was like the bulb in my head ignited.  It’s not about what I do, really.  It’s about how I feel while I’m doing it.  If I make a decision to “feel awesome” per say (and I have made this decision, btw), then I’m focusing my energy inward, which will project (create) an outward physical reality that is pretty f-ing awesome.

It’s true.   We get caught up in physical reality because it’s solid, but we forget that there is a whole universe occurring right inside of us, which actually projects that physical reality.  If you’re not paying attention to yourself, life seems pretty random, but if you are self-aware, everything that unfolds before you is thoughtfully developed by your well-trained thoughts.  I have literally “thought” people out of my path by not thinking about them at all.  By basically telling the universe that I don’t want to have the experience I’m having with them, I’ve rid negative people out of my life.  I do it all the time.  I just don’t give attention to those people, or I give them direct attention to move it on out, and they go away.  I know I can do this with everything.  If I need more money, I focus on money coming in, rather than dreading what I don’t have right now.  If I want more friends, I open myself up to that experience, instead of basking in my loneliness.  We all have the power to create our experiences by focusing on what we do want in life.  The bottom line (ah… here it is), is that we essentially want to feel good.  In order to feel good, you have to have a positive attitude, no matter what’s occurring.  So what does this have to do with limbo?  Everything.

It’s all about waking up and saying, “I am going to feel awesome today.”  I’m going to put my all into whatever it is I’m doing.  If I made a decision to remain at my job, then I’m going to get focused and work hard.  If I made a decision to be in this relationship, then I’m going to give it my all.  If I made a decision to get out of this relationship, then I’m not looking back.  If I decide to lose twenty pounds this year, then I’m NOT going to screw around with sugar and carbs.  If I do binge out on Twinkies, then I’m going to feel guilty.  My goal is to feel awesome, so screw that Twinkie (do people even eat those things anymore?).

I know this is easier said than done, but if you’re focused on how you feel, rather than spending a great amount of time focused on physical reality results, then the results will reflect your awesomeness.  It truly will.  I know for a fact that I feel amazingly awesome after I finish writing a blog, or while I’m plucking away at another chapter in a book, so why would I study for a real estate exam in order to sell houses because that’s a more “logical” course of action?  For years I’ve gone back and forth with this.  The other day I was like, “You know what?  I don’t feel as awesome when I’m spending my energy on my real estate career, like I do when I’m writing a book.”  The only thing I truly care about is writing books.  Do they make a lot of money?  Not yet.  But I haven’t even given it a real shot because I’ve been in limbo this entire time.  I realize now that I haven’t focused my energy on my writing like I could.  Even if it takes me a decade to make a living writing, it is that worth it to me, because I feel so incredible while I’m writing.  Nothing else gives me that feeling of awesomeness.  You know what I’m saying?

So where am I placing my energy from here on out?  On this thing that makes me feel awesome.  I know (because of extensive experimenting and experience) that once I go for it, my physical reality will unfold to match my alignment with who I truly am.  This is a law of nature.  I may not end up a millionaire, or a homeowner, or a Tesla driver (not right away anyway), but I will definitely be a happier person, and I think I made the point that the way we feel, is so much more powerful than our physical reality (which will eventually reflect the way we feel).

If you’re in limbo about something (or several things), then take a moment and think about which direction makes you feel awesome.  If one way is a gamble, yet you feel exhilarated thinking about taking that chance, and the other way is you settling for less because it’s a much more comfortable decision, then go for the awesomeness.  You don’t have to give up everything on the comfortable side to follow the path of awesomeness.  You simply have to make a decision to place more of your energy toward feeling awesome.  At some point, that comfortable place will become uncomfortable and it will naturally fall away.  It all about where you place your focus, and your focus should always be within (or you will surely do without). (Right about now, my son would roll his eyes and shout, “Mom, stop saying AWESOME…”)

What Path of Treatment is Best for You?

Path toward Mt. Tam

Each time I go to an AA meeting with a speaker who says they got sober in AA, and they have several years sober because of AA, and they are living it up (thanks to AA) – I stir in my seat.  AA works for a lot of people.  That rigorous honesty thing and sponsorship is the answer for many.  It also doesn’t work for many because some of us are too clever for our own good.  I remember often wanting a drink after some of those meetings.  It takes a willingness beyond the desire to drink in order to do the work and to surround yourself with people who can support you along the way.  It takes discipline, and that’s a word I couldn’t relate to back then.

When I first started going to AA, I had no idea how self-centered I was, and I was one of those who worked my own program.  I thought I was being honest with my sponsor, but in retrospect I see that I had my own agenda.  Some people realize early on in their drinking (before several multi-car train wrecks) that they need help, and they are smart enough to get their ass straightened out before it gets rock bottom embarrassing.  Not me.  I wanted to see how far I could wrestle with my affliction of alcoholism before it took me to places that I wouldn’t dare confess to a priest (although I’m not Catholic, but they supposedly hear a lot of terrible things in those little booths).  I had to scrape my ass on the rocky bottom of the hole that I dug myself into (not once, but several times over).  It was a seven year rock bottom for me.  AA was the piece of cake that I ate during those seven years, which kept me briefly sober.  In other words, I needed something more intense than a meeting once or twice a day.  My self-destruction and self-loathing was beyond those thin walls that displayed posters of steps and helpful sayings.  I know I’m not the only one here.

I had no idea that there were several treatment centers in the Bay Area (where I live) that were county funded.  If I had known it during those seven years of my toilet bowl spiral, I would have most likely got the help I needed a lot sooner, but I may have not been so desperate for help then, to choose the most intense treatment center of the bunch (besides Delancey Street in San Francisco, which is two years of militant rehabilitation).  I may have gone for easy-street and chosen a program that let me do whatever I wanted, which was mostly sit around and watch tv, eat garbage and drink coffee.  I know a lot of people who go into treatment for a sabbatical from life.  That doesn’t work.  I went to a sixth month program that ripped my head out of my ass and slammed it into the mirror until I saw my bad behaviors around my drinking so clearly that I pretty much left there licking my wounds.  I was chastised and humbled and awakened.  Reality slammed me in that program like madness into the Hatter.  I woke up to myself and saw what I was, which was a piece of shit.  But six months of that, plus ten months of sober-living and aftercare, brought me to complete wholeness in myself.  I know a lot of people who go to 30-60 day treatment programs and come out of it feeling refreshed and alive, just to discover that they can’t cope in the real world.  You’re safe in those programs, you see, and then suddenly you’re exposed to reality again.  When I graduated from New Bridge Foundation (in Berkeley), I not only coped in the real world, but I knew exactly who I was and what I wanted in the real world, and I knew how to go after it, sober.  That’s the place I wanted to be, so that’s why I chose a behavior modification program as opposed to a cushy institution with TVs and endless pots of coffee.  I was willing.  When I first got into New Bridge, everything was weird and regiment.  The clients wore slacks and button down shirts.  There were a thousand rules to follow, and a hundred plastic red chairs.  The counselors kept saying, “hold onto your red chair.”  It was confusing at first, and everything got under my skin.  I was angry often, and bored, and annoyed, but I kept sitting in those red chairs, and standing in their infamous mirror, and eventually, I “got it.”

Here I am nearly four years later, and I know beyond the shadow of doubt if I were stuck on a deserted island out in the middle of nowhere, by myself, with a shit ton of fermenting fruit surrounding me, and there were no AA meetings to speak of, I would not get drunk.  That’s the place I wanted to be in my sobriety.  More than anything, I just wanted to trust myself, so I guess the question you have to ask yourself when choosing a route of sobriety is, where do you want to see yourself at the end?  What kind of sobriety do you want?  Do you want to live your life to the fullest, or do you want to struggle for the remainder of your life with your affliction?  Do you want to know how to live a fulfilling existence sober, or do you want to just get by?  Because it really is your choice.  I don’t go to many AA meetings.  I go hiking.  I go to the beach often.  I write as much as I breathe.  I meditate and listen to positive speakers on YouTube.  I spend a lot of time with my family.  I surround myself with people who are filled with integrity and who love me dearly.  I laugh often.  I go to meetings sometimes to recall what it was like.  I do a constant inventory of my life, and when I’m wrong, I admit it as soon as possible.  I know a lot of people go to meetings to give back to Newcomers, and I think that’s amazing.  I try to give back to the world everyday I’m in it.  I do my best with what I have.  I put up a lot of boundaries with people, even if it means pissing them off, because it keeps me centered and sober.  I stay spiritually connected and surrender to things I have no control over, everyday.  That’s what treatment did for me, and I wouldn’t have done it any other way, even though it sucked much of the time.  I’m eternally grateful for that place.  I still have friends from New Bridge, and most of my graduating group is still sober and very strong as a whole.  That’s pretty incredible right there.

If you are trying to figure out how to stay sober, you’ve got to be willing to do the work.  It isn’t easy, but you don’t have to do everything at once.  You get to do it one moment at a time, and there will be a lot of support around you during the process.  Whether you choose AA, NA, or a rigorous program like I did, do it willingly and with discipline.  Do it to the point that you get to a place where you completely trust yourself.  Because until you completely trust yourself, you are a slave to your drug of choice.  So ask yourself exactly what it is you want, and then go the distance.  There are so many resources and programs that are county and state funded.  If you are worried about leaving work behind, and leaving your family during treatment, think of how not-present you are for your job and family now.  Ninety days or six months of treatment is a drop in the bucket.  When I got out, I found a job immediately and my family was happier than ever to see me.  They rooted me on throughout the entire process, and they supported me going in there because they were tired of my shit.  I have a friend who’s job was waiting for him a year later.  The universe will fall into place for you when you get the help you need.  It truly will, so do whatever it takes, and do it as intensely as you went after your high.  That’s the way to go, and if you have any questions about my journey, please feel free to write them in the comments below, or email me at ArticulatingMagic@gmail.com.

Getting Past the Physical and Emotional, Into the Eternal

Path of Light

Over the course of a couple of years, I keep running into parallel situations where I am confronted with circumstances beyond my capability for immediate resolve.  The circumstances are stressful beyond measure.  Two times, I could barely get out of bed because of the weight I harbored, but I reached out to my friends or family each time, who helped me find the strength to trust in the outcome.  What am I asking for in my life?  I have to reflect on this, knowing these situations are created by an inner desire for something.  I am of the understanding that I am the creator of my own life experiences.  The answer is that I want to move past some of my old ways of thinking, especially about money.  For years, I have “never had enough,” and in each of these situations, I’ve been stretched and pulled and contorted into a place where I’ve finally had to let go and trust that there would be enough, and there always has been more than enough in each of these situations, although in the moment, I would have never guessed that I would be even better than ever, if I merely looked past what was right in front of me, and how I felt at the time.  The one thing I did not do was go down a dark path of thinking.  I acknowledged my fears, but did not get caught in their trap, and I know now, that this is key in overcoming the most difficult situations.

I find myself almost laughing today because here I sit with another circumstance that has me mentally contorted.  My roommate is basically bailing on her responsibility for the remainder of our lease.  We have seven more months on our lease and rent where I live is not cheap, which is why I got a roommate in the first place.  I can’t exactly get another roommate because of the way our apartment is set up.  It would have to be with a close friend or family member because of the space.  My roommate was like family, so it worked out okay, but I cannot replace her, nor do I really want to at this point.  My children and I need our own space, and none of my family lives near here, so it’s not like I can offer anyone close to me a place to live.  I’m on my own now.  Suddenly.  Just got an income increase two weeks ago, and a week later, my roommate tells me she can’t pay the rent.  Kind of ironic, and yes it’s a blessing about the income increase, but how incredibly scary and frustrating.  I was going to buy a laptop with that extra money so that I could work from home. Now I’m spending that extra money (and some) to pay the rent.  So much for the laptop… (but, wait)…

Yesterday I was riding with the Realtor I work with as his Transaction Coordinator.  We were going to look at a historic house that is going on the market with the two other Realtors I work with, as their Transaction Coordinator.  During the drive, he asked how I was holding up with the “roommate situation.”  I told him that I was bummed because I needed to buy a laptop with the extra money, so that I could work from home.  He knew that I was looking at laptops just a week prior. The device that I was using was a tablet, and it was quirky with some of the online systems we use, so it was taking me several hours to do what would normally take a half hour on a PC.  We were on the way to his house to grab some signs.  He just bought a device like mine, but newer, so he mentioned that he had a laptop just sitting around collecting dust.  He grabbed it when he got to his house, bag and all, and plopped it on my lap.  “Here you go.  All you need to do is erase all my crap.  It’s a good laptop.”  I opened the HP and was surprised to see that it was in great condition.  I’m using it now and it’s faster than my device, plus much more convenient.  It is everything I need to work from home, and it has all the bells and whistles that my device doesn’t have.  Sure, I would love to have a brand new system, but I didn’t have to pay a dime and I got something handed to me faster than I could have done research on what to purchase.  This is how life unfolds for me.  What I need is provided.  When I ask, I receive.  When I let go, things fall right into place.

I don’t exactly know how I’m going to manage the next few months without feeling overwhelmed, but from experience, I know that it will all work out.  My roommate situation wasn’t exactly convenient like I had hoped anyway.  There were several issues, and I wasn’t happy the way things were, so having her move out is a very positive thing, emotionally.  Usually when you remove negativity from your life experience, it makes way for more positive things to come into fruition.  I’ve noticed that when I am emotionally tired, or stressed or frustrated, it is difficult to write, but when I am at peace, the writing flows.  Other things flow better too, like money, and good relationships with like-minded people.

One of my very close friends got really angry in empathy for me when I explained what was going on with my roommate.  I was too drained to take on any anger at the time, nor did I want to sink into my frustration like that.  It just takes too much energy, but it also reminded me that I’m no longer caught up in the physical appearance of things like I used to be.  I am aware that something greater is unfolding for me and my children.  It isn’t apparent yet, and it is scary as hell, but I truly have no control.  This is all beyond my capability for immediate resolve.  After my friend had his fit of anger (which was really entertaining, btw) he told me something he had told me once before a couple of years ago while I was going through something similar.  “The universe won’t let you fall,” he gently said.  This was after I mentioned that if I couldn’t make it, I would be okay.  It isn’t the end of the world if I have to start from square one again, but he assured me that the universe won’t let me fall because I’m doing everything I can to take care of business and keep a roof over our heads.  I knew he was right, so I relaxed into the couch (thank god it’s mine) feeling very grateful for his affirmation.

We all want life to be a certain way and to unfold at a certain time.  From tons and tons of experience with sudden changes, my life rarely goes according to how I want it to go, or in my timing, but I have also grown incredibly strong and wise during my journey.  I don’t have control over most things, but I certainly have control over myself.  I have control over how I think, what my vision is, who I hang around with and how I respond to circumstances.  I have control over what is important to me and identifying those things that are not a priority.  My journey has been more about me than it has been about the outside world.  In the meantime, I’ve grown closer to my children, my friends, and my family, and I have a very good working relationship with the several Realtors I assist.  I am so incredibly fortunate to live in the area I live, collaborating with down-to-earth people, and that I have a positive outlook, rather than a negative one.

There is still a lot of work to be done, and I can improve in many areas of my life, but I know that when I focus on that which is beyond the physical and the emotional, the knots in my life work themselves out.  If I need help, I ask.  If I need a friend to talk to, I reach out.  If I need support, I go to a meeting.  If I’m overwhelmed to the point of feeling paralyzed, I turn it over to the great HP and focus on being of service to another human being.  There is an eternal place with an abundance of grace.  This is where I go when the skin meets the pavement in my life.  This is the space where I am set free from the burdens of everyday uncontrollable circumstances.

When Life Is a Big Fat Question Mark

What Next

Not knowing what comes next

has its benefits

something greater than me

has my back

This mystery is not a tragedy

merely a vestige to remain

on track