In the Playground of Life, Sliding and Falling is Not Considered an Epic Failure

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Somewhere along my journey (about a year and a half ago), it occurred to me that I could stop judging myself based on the concepts of “right and wrong.”  You see, no matter which decisions I made for myself, there were always consequences that either moved me forward along my path, or taught me humility (which I needed to learn at the time).  Once I made the decision to stop labeling everything as “right and wrong,” something incredible happened.  I was immediately set free, and there I envisioned myself standing before this amazing playground that we happen to call “life.”  My soul has always longed to explore, yet I was hesitant to move about freely because of all the conditions I placed on myself.  There was religion, beliefs, ideas about the way things worked, my own thoughts about things, judgments, fear, concern of other people’s judgments, etc., yet here I had been very self-destructive regardless of all those conditions.  When something isn’t working for us (and obviously it wasn’t working for me), we must try something different, and this is when I decided to open myself up to the possibility that life was more about exploration, than it is about limitation.

When I was a kid, I was all over the playground.  I didn’t miss a beat out there.  I learned to climb to the top of things, swing as far as I could go, dig the biggest holes in the sand, slide backwards and down on my stomach, and flip around those metal bars; both forward and backward.  Oh, I got hurt.  Countless times I recall bashing my head against the ground from not getting enough air space during my bar twirls, and I don’t know how many times I burned myself on metal slides.  It was a dangerous place to be; those playgrounds.  My fingers got stepped on, my hair got pulled, my knees bled and my hands were often scraped up or splintered.  I laughed out there, cried, made friends, rejected stinky kids and compromised being Wonder Woman with a girl named Tina more often than I wanted to.  Each day outside was a different adventure and none of those pains or inconveniences stopped me from playing on the playground, because they weren’t considered failures.  They were simply part of the experience. 

We are all in this playground called “life” together.  When one person is climbing up the slide instead of scooting down it, we tend to project our distaste for their way of doing things, but what if we considered that this was simply part of their own experience, and compassionately allowed them to do their own thing?  As we grow, we learn how to do things less clumsily, but each individual is at a different level of exploration, and the playground is endless.  There are many things you have yet to explore, which may require a helping hand when you decide it’s your turn to twirl upon a different bar.  In your own arena of the playground, others may need guidance along their adventure, and you should be their to help them, rather than making fun of them for not knowing what you’ve already learned.  We shouldn’t stand back and judge the person who falls, or the recovering addict who relapses.  There is always something for them to learn, and humility is a definitive part of the human experience.

Since I’ve been playing upon this playground, instead of limiting myself to the safe boundaries of life, I’ve realized how much compassion and acceptance is out there. It’s like my safety net along my journey.  With this understanding, there really is no right and wrong – there are only learning experiences. Some of my so-called “failures” have been catapults to my greatest successes. This new perspective has given me freedom and there is no need for fear.  It’s a darned good place to be… this amazing playground called LIFE. 

 

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A New Season for New Beginnings

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As I sit behind my desk enjoying the twilight view from my window, I’m refreshed to know that when the sun finally makes its appearance this morning… it’s officially spring.  I’m grateful to embark upon a new season.  I noticed it yesterday while driving through my oak tree adorned neighborhood.  I don’t exactly know when it occurred, but leaves have replaced the stark and barren branches of the sprawling, giant trees.  Squirrels scurry, not looking for nuts to bury, but in a playful fashion; suggesting they too, are enjoying the fertile grounds.  Lately I’m waking up to the songs of swallows rather than the hollow squawks of crows.  It’s time to spread out my arms and embrace the luscious beauty surrounding me, and to enjoy evening walks again as the gracious sun remains above the backdrop of rolling hills in the west.

Spring is such a glorious reminder from the universe, isn’t it?  A reminder that we are generously and continuously offered new beginnings.  A reminder that most things (like dreadful winters) are not eternal.  A reminder that after a cold and damp darkness, sunlight does return.  A reminder that it doesn’t matter how desolate the earth seems during winter; the flowers will always re-bloom and green fields will replace the naked land.  It’s the natural order of things, and this applies to the inner workings of life as well… “As above, so below.”   We as human beings, are part of nature, and have an innate ability to rebalance and grow throughout our lives.  Nothing we feel is eternal, but without the darkness, would we even recognize or appreciate light?

Contrast is the soul’s way of remembering.  Without a dense and dark playground, such as the physical realm our earth provides, our souls have no way to explore and discover it’s own innate wholeness.  It is during our darkest hours that we learn our greatest lessons; and as we return to our natural state of joy after such harrowing experiences, we are awakened to this wholeness of ourselves.  It is a constant cycle of humanity.  Individually we all must experience these cycles and allow them to be, without meddling with the flow and order of things.  In our addiction, we were meddling, but in our recovery, we are discovering that life effortlessly unfolds before us, like a celestial path of self-exploration.  Resistance of this path creates turmoil, like a brutal winter storm we must endure until we finally surrender to our experiences, realizing that all is actually well.  Everything harsh passes, and if we don’t resist the occurrences, we emerge with great insight; like a blooming garden after a callous winter.

For those who think you have too much work to do before you can experience an internal spring, stop telling yourself this.  You can begin a new season with where you are right now.  The universe is waiting on you to be present so that it can abundantly provide you with everything you need to recover.  This is not the land of punishment; this is simply the soul’s playground.  Once you understand the physical realm in this manner, nothing you face will deem impossible, or even difficult to overcome.  It is simply an obstacle course in support of your spiritual growth. 

Ah… the sun has finally illuminated the green hills in the west, and the sky is mellow blue with a slight marine layer offering beautiful contrast.  I’m grateful to embark upon a new season.  It’s a reminder that I can begin a new season in my own life… this very moment.

If you would like more information on the soul’s dynamic journey through recovery, here is a link to my memoir:

http://www.amazon.com/Devils-Altar-Dynamic-Journey-Recovery/dp/1492957798/ref=sr_1_1_title_1_pap?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1395325580&sr=1-1&keywords=the+devil%27s+altar

And if you own a Kindle, you can download it for 0.99 http://www.amazon.com/DEVILS-ALTAR-Dynamic-Journey-Recovery-ebook/dp/B00FO72854/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1395326763&sr=1-1&keywords=the+devil%27s+altar+in

Devistating News and The Story of the Monk

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The irony of getting my life together, is that my children’s father has gone on a downward swing in the meantime.  This isn’t the first time this has happened.  When we got divorced, it was because he was mixed up in meth, and I couldn’t help him.  He pulled himself out of it, we became close again, and then I spiraled out on alcohol.  Up and down; up and down, the pendulum swings between us.  It’s like the extreme ebb and flow of parenting in recovery and relapsing.  I’ve spent nearly three years sober, and I’ve been diligent this time around.  I’m not going to relapse again, but I wasn’t expecting a phone call like I received yesterday.

We’ve been divorced for ten years, but we’re raising children, so we try to keep a civil relationship.  He has supposedly been sober for several years now.  He disappeared in September, and I suspected a relapse.  I expected a phone call, any minute, that he was dead, but it was his voice on the other end of the phone yesterday… “Hey Red,” (his nickname for me), “I’m in a lot of trouble.  I relapsed and I’m going to be spending some time in state prison.  Possibly two years or more.  My court date is in a month and a half…”

The weird thing was, I didn’t flip out on him for disappearing.  He is like a brother to me, and the love I have for him is unconditional. I totally understand addiction, and I know what he is feeling is one hundred times worse than anything I could say to him.  I practice living in the moment, and being in total acceptance of whatever it is that comes my way.  I trust the Universe is constantly supporting me, so I surrender, but I cannot deny that I am devastated; hurt; saddened; heart broken, stressed and anxiety stricken. 

There is story I keep in the back of my mind for situations like this.  It’s about a monk who lives by himself in a village.  One day a baby is delivered to him by the angry parents of a girl who says the monk impregnated her.  The monk takes the baby in without question, saying, “so be it,” and for several years he raises her.  When she is a toddler, the parents come back with their daughter and apologize to the monk; for he is not the father.  The girl was afraid to tell the truth about her pregnancy, and in order to keep a boy from getting into trouble, she lied and blamed the monk.  The family took the toddler back into their care, and the monk, without question says, “so be it,” and goes about his business.

I believe the monk practiced, “Life on life’s terms,” beyond anything that I could ever imagine “being,” but I’m giving it the good ole’ college effort today.  It is not for me to judge what comes my way in this human experience of mine.  If I am open to receiving, and trusting in a higher purpose for my life, I should ask no questions.  I should trust that this is par for the course of my recovery.  I won’t sit here and lie about how I felt yesterday.  It was the first time in a long time that a shot of alcohol tempted me in my disoriented state of shock and anxiety.  I reached out, however, and told on myself for these alcoholic fantasies I was having.  They were old tapes playing.  Back in the day, receiving news like this would have been a perfect reason to drink.  I’m still shedding old skins and practicing NOT picking up a drink.  This was good practice.

Four months of a meth relapse, and my ex is looking at state prison time.  Our daughter will be well into her teens when he gets released, and our son will be an adult.  I will be in my forties.  The old part of me wants to scream at the top of my lungs and slap this man who is supposed to be a father to my children, but the recovering person in me wants to be like that monk in the village.  I remind myself today that I am not in control.  I’m not the conductor of my life; I’m merely a passenger on a spiritual journey. 

Is Relapse a Part of Recovery?

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I met with one of my treatment peers this weekend for lunch.  He recently relapsed after having two years’ sober.  He’s back on track now, and something has definitely shifted for him.  There is a difference in his perspective, and I observed a sort of leveling out of his entire demeanor.  This friend of mine struggles with depression, and has a way of self-sabotaging, like all of us, but it goes a little deeper with him.  He is comfortable in his depression, and it’s difficult for him to see that there is any good in store for his life. 

I was with my friend throughout our treatment together, and witnessed the ongoing ebb and flow of his shifty moods.  It’s difficult enough to live life as an addict/alcoholic without the curse of a mood disorder, yet sadly, this isn’t uncommon.  I regard my friend as a strong, courageous Seeker.  He doesn’t give up, man.  He is on the search for some serious truth and meaning.  I think we tend to look outside ourselves for this, but I believe this relapse brought my friend right into the corner of his own heart.  He’s face to face with himself, for real this time, and the clarity is coming in strong.  What if this relapse was just what he needed?

You know, this recovery thing, is simply part of a life journey that we choose to take when we realize that “our way” is not working out for us.  Recovery is not a separate institution of our life.  It synchronizes with the all encompassing spiritual path.  There is no separation from the path.  In our stubborn self-will, we deliciously take detours, but from the time we are born, until our death, we are all on a unique spiritual journey, regardless of the several roads we travel.  Recovery brings us out of the detour of suffering, onto the path of freedom.  There are no dead ends, not even in death. 

My point is, we build walls around our recovery and institutionalize it, like everything else.  Humans tend to be comfortable creating regulations, rules, and fixating on wrongs and rights.  In actuality, we need merely be guided by intuition, and honoring our boundaries.  My friend relapsed on a urge.  There was no pre-arranged method to his relapse.  He simply decided to use one day because the urge was there, and his guard was down.  He came to the conclusion, during this relapse, that he was tired of hiding behind his depression, and he was going to take the initiative to do the work surrounding his deep-seeded issues.  He felt something he had never felt before; like a sort of cleansing or clearing of his clarity.  He saw himself with new eyes. During the shock of his “failure,” he became willing to face himself.  For him, this took a couple of years in recovery, and perhaps it took a relapse.

There is a lot of judgment that accompanies a relapse.  Mostly, self-judgment.  On top of this, we go to meetings and announce that we are starting our program all over again.  It’s a humbling place to be, and I don’t necessarily believe we are taught the right attitude in the AA and NA tradition when it comes to addressing a relapse.  They say we need to start our program all over again.  Ok, sure, but what about the overall picture and the spiritual growth happening with my friend, and so many others who come out of a relapse stronger than they were prior to the relapse?  I just have a problem with “programs” all together.  I don’t have all the answers, and I certainly follow suggestions of people who have been in recovery longer than I have, but there is something deeper happening with me since I came into recovery.  I actually trust myself today, and I listen to my own intuition.  I follow the path of my heart rather than the self-destructive road of my self-will.  The steps that are listed on the walls of the rooms, unfold for me naturally.  Shouldn’t the AA and NA tradition be a tool we use, as opposed to yet another institution?  Many of us get addicted to the rooms, and the program, which is just another crutch in life.  There is no freedom in this.  I guess what I’m trying to say is, when we fall in our recovery, and dust ourselves off, it shouldn’t feel like a failure; yet it does when we have to announce the amount of days we have sober.  I suppose they do this to keep us accountable for ourselves, and I know it’s a program that has worked for thousands of people over the years, perhaps millions, yet my understanding of my friend’s relapse went beyond the limited perspective of the program.

I’m just really fed up with judgment.  I want to have a heart of compassion and see beyond the physical.  There is no right and wrong here; it’s all simply an experience.  My friend’s growth in all of this was intense, profound and beautiful.  I just want to cheer on his spirit and shout, “KEEP ON GOING!!!!  YES!!! KEEP ON GOING!!!” 

And to answer my own question, “Is relapse a part of recovery?”… Recovery is part of the spiritual journey; and relapse does not fall short of this all-encompassing spiritual journey.