Thankful for…..me.

thankful-for-meIn the world full of nostalgia and family gatherings this holiday season we are asked one question, “what are you thankful for?” Many people respond that they are thankful for their families, children or loved ones. A possible thanks for a job promotion or a deed done to help them along the way. There are many different things we are thankful for, I am no different. Yes I am thankful for all those things mentioned, and you may be too, but one thing we may forget is to be thankful for ourselves.

Gratitude goes along way when it comes to showing thanks and more often than not we forget to give thanks for the person who might actually mean the most in our lives. Giving thanks to ourselves and nurturing who we are gives us an opportunity to honor ourselves while reflecting on the personal growths that we have made. This is especially true for those in recovery.

I’ve spent much of my life feeling desperate to be liked. I tried to make myself be something that I wasn’t, all to be accepted. But accepted to be what? I didn’t know either. I lied to myself to make myself believe that I was in charge of my own life, when in reality I never really knew who I was and nothing ever worked – I was just too consumed with trying to be something, anything, to realize that. Sobriety awakened my sense of reality. I finally saw that I’m okay just as I am. I learned I don’t need to change myself for others to like me. As long as I’m true to myself and confident being that person, people will either like me or they won’t – and that’s no reflection of my self-worth. I am worthy without the validation of others and that is why I am thankful for myself.

I have noticed that you have a right to choose your own path and can choose to live in addictive behaviors even if you’re sober – fear, anger, isolation, trying to escape your own reality – or you can choose recovery and deal with the issues you’re trying to avoid or escape. Choosing recovery goes way beyond attending a meeting or picking up a key tag or coin. It goes far beyond the realms of a 12 step program, it becomes a new way of living and ultimately you find yourself. Invariably, the problems are usually never as big as they feel and they’re infinitely easier to deal with when you’re present in your own life. I am thankful for being present in my own life, as easy or as hard as things may be. I am thankful for me.

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The road to OK

 

The need for validation creates the drive to be seen as special. Being one among the crowd will never do for our validation. How do we go about our lives in recovery without some form of validation? Is it really necessary? I think not, the reason being is this one bit of truth I have heard “you are not that special”.

Now I believe everyone in recovery, especially in early recovery needs some form of validation, meaning they want to know that they are doing ok. We have coins or key tags to prove that validity in the form of clean time. None of that matters if you do not change your life. Change everything.

I spent many years of my life feeling unworthy. My unworthiness I felt was masked by my arrogance. I most definitely was an egomaniac with an inferiority complex. I felt that everything I did, that I was the best at even if I secretly felt like I wasn’t. I projected a confidence that portrayed me as such, but secretly I always doubted myself and never felt good enough. I have found that we use arrogance to cover up our unworthiness. The problem with this is that we actually believe we are our unworthiness. As insight increases, we recognize arrogance as a mask that we use to shield ourselves from the world.

In recovery I have learned to know the difference and learned to know that I am not my unworthiness and I am not my arrogance. Both of these are false truths to fill a void in our life, which I no longer need to fill. Now I know everything I write or say for that matter is always easier said than done. Things will ultimately in your life make you feel unworthy at times, but how you respond to it I think is the ultimate truth.

I think the hardest thing that any person whether they are in recovery or not to overcome is resentments. Resentments can and will destroy you from the inside out. I consciously struggle with trying to live my life without resentments, but find it easier to understand that resentments will happen and I need to be able to deal with them appropriately.

I am not special in anyway and no longer perceive myself as such, but when I find out that some still perceive me as my old self, my drunken, lying manipulative self, it hurts. I know how hard I have worked to become a better person and knowing that someone still believes it to be false can be defeating to say the least.

So how do we recover without the validation, and the resentments, especially from those who you may have damaged in the process throughout your active addiction? You won’t unless you can let go. Let go of the hurt, and the pain. Understand that no matter what you do and what you say, sometimes it will never be enough for others. That is not your problem though. You cannot control the outcomes of how others see you no matter what you do.

Being authentic to your true self is the only answer. Be able to take an honest look at yourself and validate the fact that you are ok. The hardest part is being able to decipher your authentic self from the unworthiness and arrogance. I can finally say I am happy with who I am and who I have become, if you think differently I cannot control this, and that’s ok because I do this for me and only me, you’re welcome to join me in happiness if you choose.

 

The other side of the coin

The other side of the coin

Addiction. For many of the afflicted it seems that the only way forward is to focus on your recovery and try to become functional once again. This may be true, but as you work through those steps, and you come upon that infamous step of making amends(which is step 9 for those of you wondering) You will need to be willing to make those amends, and you need to be understanding of the fact that the damage you have done, may and most likely will never be able to be undone.

I think life is a constant test. It is a series of events in which you will need to decide one way or another. Think back to those choose your own adventure books from when you were a kid. Although a funny comparison, what isn’t funny is that once you make a decision in life, and it become clear it was the wrong decision, you cannot turn the pages backward and choose again. There are no do overs.

I think what most addicts do not realize is the fact of the unimaginable carnage they leave in their wake. From endless trips to the hospital, being found in dirty motel rooms, waking up in jail cells and sadly ending up in the grave. We are so consumed with self-hatred and selfishness we cannot see the damage that we are inevitably causing. For some, they may never see it, and many may never get that opportunity to see it.

Being involved in recovery I have to constantly learn. I learn that I do not know anything, and the moment I think I know everything is the moment I am doomed to repeat my mistakes. I need to be a sponge and absorb everything, this is my only path to true recovery. Seeing people you love suffer from addiction is life altering, you will move mountains and traverse the sea to try and help save them. And a sad realization is some people may not want to be saved. I have heard this saying before “addicted to the addiction”. Didn’t really make sense when I first heard it, but it makes sense now. Those people who are so opposed to treatment or to getting help are constantly manipulating the situations around them even if they don’t realize it.Many people can become addicted to the addiction, addicted to going into treatment, to detoxing, to the watchful eye of concerned loved ones. Selfishness, manipulation, mental torture. It is all toxic. Addiction is more than a physical disease, it is mental. Your capabilities for rational thoughts and actions are diminished the longer you are active in addiction. The constant thoughts of loved ones of “why cant they just stay sober?” “Cant they see they are killing themselves, killing me?” The sad truth, they cant see any of it, they don’t have the capability. Even if they want to.

I have seen firsthand from both sides of what addiction does to people. It will make you angry, sad, apologetic, and remorseful. It does nothing but destroy. There is no hope for anyone without some sort of recovery, for both the addicted and those affected by them. The hardest thing to do is to walk away. Be mindful though,this does not mean your feelings disappear, it doesn’t mean you stop caring or stop loving that person. When you are thoughtlessly affected by people with addiction, you must believe you can choose to be no longer  intertwined in the destruction, and know that walking away is not giving up. Walking away is love. It is truth. Love does not mean destroying yourself. The most powerful gift anyone affected by addiction can receive, is the power of truth.

Having maintained sobriety for almost 2 years I have learned that the people who walked away from my destruction had every right, and what I also realize is that I no longer have the right to try and bring them back into my life, no matter how I feel now. I work tirelessly on a daily basis on making sure I am accountable for my own actions, and I know to some that will never be enough, and that is ok because they deserve peace. Just knowing that you have found recovery may be enough to heal. No amount of apologies can take away the pain suffered at your own accord. No amount of amend making will take away pain already suffered. The truth….the only way for healing is to allow it time to heal. Allow yourself to grieve. Be completely honest. No one wants to be reminded of doing horrible things, but then again no one wants to relive horrible things done to them. A truthful apology, a real amend is allowing someone who walked away, stay away. Why? Because they deserve at least that. If they choose to come back, or not, it was their choice alone.

It’s a whirlwind, I know.

You can’t save everybody

“You can’t save everybody. In fact, there are days when I think you can’t save anyone. Each person has to save himself first, then you can move in and help. I have found this philosophy does not work during a gun battle, or a knife fight either. Outside of that it works just fine.” ― Laurell K. Hamilton

Every day that I have been sober there have been increasingly more and more times I feel this to be true. I want to help others but I have to constantly remind myself that when they reject help, that maybe they did not want to be helped. Addiction is painful, it will tear you apart from the inside and it will make you feel that you will never be whole again. But that doesn’t mean you’re a failure and cannot become something great, you can succeed, and you will be HAPPY once more.

When I was consumed with my own addiction I rarely ever looked to anyone else for help. I only expected help when I needed to get out of a jam, needed money or just wanted some sort of verification that what I was becoming wasn’t really that bad. Manipulation at its finest.

Being able to work in the field of addiction I think has been a blessing for me. There are often times I find it difficult trying to help people when I feel that it’s too hard for them to truly listen and see the truth. I see people come in and out, consistently relapse and get hospitalized, and honestly in the end I know there isn’t much that I can do. It truly is up to the individual if they can ever succeed. When I see their pain, I can often relate and I want to know why I can’t help more. How can I help people not suffer like I did? I know that in my darkest moments I had people around me that cared and loved me, tried to help me, and I know I still do. I didn’t want it, until I was willing to except it. But how can I try to pass on my experiences of what I have gone through if it seems no one is listening? I realized that I am just trying to fix a problem, which unfortunately cannot be fixed. There is no fix, no cure for addiction. There is only our own path of recovery and the ability to be able to serve others. That is the answer I have been searching for. That is the answer to my questions. It was there all along.

This is where I know I have to look inward, to my own program of recovery for some sort of guidance. I could not help myself alone, and I cannot even begin to help anyone else alone either. Many times when we try to help we do not really serve anyone. Serving is also different from fixing. One of the pioneers of the Human Potential Movement, Abraham Maslow, said, “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.’ Seeing yourself as a fixer may cause you to see brokenness everywhere, to sit in judgment of life itself. When we try to fix others, we may not see their hidden wholeness or trust the integrity of the life in them. Fixers trust their own expertise. When we serve, we see the unborn wholeness in others; we collaborate with it and strengthen it. Others may then be able to see their wholeness for themselves for the first time.”

I don’t think that until now I ever realized that wanting to help others and be able to serve others were two different things. I have to be able to learn daily about myself by finding the truth through serving others and with others. I have to be satisfied with that. I can find great strength in myself through my own path of recovery, and who knows I may be able to help after all.

Time

How much time is in a year… 1 year, 12 months, 365 days, 8760 hours, 525,600 minutes, 31,536,000 seconds….

Every second in the past year has taught me something new. I am on this never ending journey for truth, and enlightenment. I am finding these truths through sobriety. I would have never found this truth any other way but this.

I find it hard sometimes to explain to people why it had to be this way. I mean I enjoy now being able to share my story because I believe that honesty is the only way to find the real truth. When I say honesty I don’t just mean being honest by not lying or just telling the truth. Honesty meaning being so completely honest with yourself and to yourself that everything else comes together.

How did I come to this point in my life? You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.

Before drafting the Big Book, Bill W. had been a skeptic about spiritual matters. In his autobiography, he describes himself at one point as “incapable of faith.” That changed later, when Bill came to see himself as an alcoholic doomed to an early death unless he stopped drinking.

One night, during a hospital stay, Bill cried out, “If there be a God, let him show himself.” The response was immediate: Suddenly my room blazed with an indescribably white light. I was seized with an ecstasy beyond description. . . . Then came the blazing thought, “You are a free man.” (From Bill W. My First 40 Years, page 145)

Even so, Bill later doubted the experience. “My scientific education asserted itself,” he wrote. “It told me that I was hallucinating, that this just couldn’t be so.” Bill came to accept his new spiritual viewpoint–and the notion of his sanity–only after consulting a psychiatrist.

Now I never saw a white light or had what you might call a spiritual awakening, I did however become clear in thought. I truly wanted what others I had seen in the rooms of AA had, I wanted that feeling of despair and hopelessness to go away and I wanted so badly to find some kind of reprieve from the pain I felt every moment of every day.

I had searched my heart and found that nothing I could do nothing at all could make me believe in God. I tried, really I did. I went to every church imaginable and still couldn’t find him. And never did. I did however find myself through meditation. I tried and tried to be all Zen and hoping that I could find peace. I didn’t and I am not surprised I didn’t because I was looking in all the wrong places. I found a book written by a guy who was in the 80’s punk scene and became a Buddhist teacher. I read this book thinking ‘’cool, punk rock and Buddha, why the hell not?” I was blown away at how this book changed my perspective on everything and I figured out how to truly find that “Higher Power” that we alcoholics need to make this program work.

I was looking at everything the wrong way, much like how was living my life. I needed to focus on now, and not dwell in the past, because if you truly live in the present then the past no longer matters because it no longer exists.

Whoa! That past no longer exists because we live in the present. I never looked at it like that. Now that doesn’t mean that the things you did won’t be relevant now because everything you do has consequences. Everything.

I am able to finally look at my life and be happy, Anger no longer controls me and I enjoy life. I will still make mistakes and I will fall down. But getting back up will no longer mean life or death anymore.

This past year has taught me so much about living that I have to write about it because it’s worth retelling. Everyone’s life is worth it, not just mine. I choose to share my story because it helps me stay honest with myself and keeps me accountable.

So when people ask, how did you do it how are you doing it? I tell them I found myself and that’s the truth. No matter who your god may be, your higher power lives within you. You have the power to be able to love yourself, forgive and move forward. Share your love, and be grateful that we have so much to offer.

Complacency Defined

William Pollard once warned:

“The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”

Complacency can be defined as a feeling of contentment or self-satisfaction, especially when coupled with an unawareness of danger, trouble, or controversy. To say an individual is acting complacently means that they are taking things for granted. They have developed a type of smugness over their achievements, and they just expect that things will remain the same forever. When an individual becomes complacent they no longer feel that they need to work in order to find success in life – they view it as something they have already earned.

When addiction takes us to our rock bottom, we are left with no choice other than to rebuild, and hopefully, to rebuild our strategies with more sustainable practices. Choosing to break patterns that we have built is difficult work to put it mildly, and it takes attention, strength and perseverance. It means being aware of internal energy shifts, of learning to listen to voices that may have been ignored for many years.

Complacency is the direct adversary of this work. It is a fanciful dream that the recovery process is easy or can be done with minimal effort. It would be lovely if it were true, but it simply is not the case. When we convince ourselves that we do not need to be diligent working the steps, or give up the practice catching ourselves sliding and then bringing ourselves back to our center, we are setting ourselves up for a relapse. Recovery requires mindfulness and mindfulness is the opposite of complacency. To be complacent with your mental state is to blindly accept whatever your mind, or rather your ego, has decided it is going to feel and then be a slave to that feeling, obeying it’s instructions to crave a substance or run from difficulty. Will these things still happen while you are being mindful? Of course they will. The only difference is that you will see them coming and be able to see them for what they are—transitory feelings that are to be observed but not clung to.

When we are complacent, we allow ourselves to function automatically, without observing the processes to see if they are flawed or contain the seeds of self-sabotage. Allowing complacency when you know yourself to be in recovery is in itself, a form of self-sabotage, because you cannot pretend that you didn’t know you would need to be actively engaged in this work, nor can you pretend that just allowing your mind to go through its most deeply set patterns of behavior as if they were in no need of adjustment. This does not mean being at war with yourself, keeping yourself under constant surveillance waiting for the first, smallest form of misconduct. This means being in tune with your life to the point of continual progress.

The poet Gwendolyn Brooks wrote:

“Clogged and soft and sloppy eyes have lost the light that bites or terrifies. There are no swans and swallows any more. The people settled for chicken and shut the door.”

How soon is too soon?

How do you know when to do things in sobriety? “No major changes in the first year” is a common suggestion for newcomers in AA. It means holding off on moving, changing jobs, starting a relationship, etc. It’s not a bad suggestion. If these things don’t work out — or even if they do — change can drive people to drink or use again.

I never listened to anyone before, so why would it be any different now? I have been sober for over a year and things are quite frankly…..awesome. And that scares the hell out of me. I had a conversation with my ex-wife last week and told her how thankful I was that she was there for our kids and that she deserved my 1 year coin more than I did. The comment she made was like she was right there in my brain. “I just don’t trust it yet, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop”.

My thoughts exactly, the thought of complacency scares me, almost to the point of where I am afraid to do anything but focus on my recovery. But that is not living.

I have made some major moves in the first year of my recovery which I think have made me appreciate my sobriety for the very first time. I was a chef for close to 10 years. It was everything I ever wanted and worked for, but in the end it was also a big reason why I drank all the time. Now I am not saying that being a chef made me drink(although doing a 400 cover brunch on a Sunday morning would make just about anyone drink) I am saying it was too easy to drink being a chef and it was widely excepted coming in to work hung over and smelling like a brewery from the night before. Not the greatest environment for me. And I am thankful that I was able to recognize this fact.

I had to walk away. I was scared and I was unsure of the outcome, but I knew that if I made this choice that there was no going back. Probably one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. I am now continually working that 12th step on a daily basis (Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.) I am going to be going to school to become an addiction counselor and I currently work for a sober living facility. I enjoy helping others and it is what I believe to be my true calling.

It hasn’t been all roses and puppy dog tails, it has been probably the most difficult thing I have ever done. And it continues to be difficult each day presenting new challenges and obstacles. That’s why we live one day at a time. Because if we look too far ahead we are missing this ever important present, which is shaping our future. Live, love and be happy, don’t be afraid to take chances, you never know it might end up being the best thing you ever did.

An Alcoholics Truth

Upon living through everything I have in my life, war, broken relationships, a failed marriage, depression, homelessness, I had given myself an excuse to become something I am not. I was a bad husband, an absent father, a manipulative son, and a distant brother.

I had become so consumed with my own self-hatred and bent on self-destruction I couldn’t have cared less who got in my way. I knew what I was becoming, and I hated myself even more for it. I had let every excuse manipulate and justify my actions, because I deserved to be able to do what I wanted….I earned it.

How very wrong I am, I am reluctant to ever say was only because I know I will forever be putting pieces back together for all the damage I have caused in my life, as well as those around me.

I have no excuses anymore. I have accepted the fact that as hard, and sometimes easy as it may be to say…I am an alcoholic. I blamed it on the war, my failed marriage, nagging parents, you name it. There is no one to blame, but that of which I see every day in the mirror. I did it. No one forced it upon me. In AA they teach you that alcoholism is a disease. Which I believe, but I also believe it’s another excuse to be used in an alcoholics undying search for that next drink. “I have a disease don’t you know!”

I have been selfish in the past for all the wrong reasons, and now in my never ending quest for sobriety and clarity I am being selfish for right reasons. Doesn’t make sense does it? I know it didn’t to me either.

I’ve never wanted to die. But I tried to kill myself….twice. Let that sink in a bit. The ultimate achievement for a selfish person.

I never succeeded in my endeavor because of my previous statement. I never really wanted to die, except for when I was so out of control and couldn’t stop drinking that it seemed like a better alternative to living. This is where that first step comes in to play, you will never stop or ever want to stop until you truly want to admit that your life had become unmanageable and that you are truly powerless over alcohol. Some people can never fully admit this.

I was afraid to live. This wasn’t the life I wanted and things weren’t going the way I planned. Excuses to keep drinking. I went to rehab. Got sober, but that was the biggest lie of them all. I said I had been sober in order to look good for other people, and so people would leave me alone. When in reality. I was a bold faced liar. Even though I wasn’t drinking, I wasn’t sober. That didn’t last too long and I began to drink again, but I still told people I was sober. I was so consumed with hiding the fact that I was drinking that I lost sight of reality. This is where I believe that disease part comes in, it’ll sneak up on you, whisper in your ear. And make you believe you can handle it, and before you know it, it has you. But it had me all along, I wanted help to stop but I did it for all of the wrong reasons, and none of those reasons were for me.

Why does it take something catastrophic or life altering in order to appreciate how precious this short moment is? We die a little every day. It is a fact that there will be no tomorrow for some of us, and some might miss these opportunities we have right now.

Question everything. Living in a nightmare of shattered shapes and bizarre sensations followed by inescapable panic, cold sweat and a racing heart is how we have grown used to living. I awoke from this nightmare to find out it wasn’t a dream but my life. Desperate for change.

I had realized that things in my life had been causing me great distress, although I was conscious I was unaware. I realized that I am the cause of my own distress and I am the only one who can cause it to end.

Being able to acknowledge this is always easier said than done, but these things I need to ask myself daily.

The one thing I do know though, no matter what people say. No one truly knows how hard it is. To be so completely honest with yourself and everyone else that the lies just melt away and truth becomes reality. Sometimes people cannot handle the truth and are happy with that false reality. They will never succeed in staying sober.

Everyone is different. I have been told other people’s truths. I’ve never been able to except anyone else’s version of the truth and I don’t think anyone else should. If the meaning of life,    the road to living a sober life, the universe and all of its mysteries were all written down in a few simple words for everyone to follow and agree upon, it would be just that easy. But it’s not. People may argue that they have been written down in certain ways in the Bible, the AA big book, etc. But that is still someone else’s truth…not yours. Can those tools help you? Yes of course they can but only if you do it for yourself. You need to follow your own path to enlightenment, by whichever way you choose. But you must be the one to choose, no one else.

That’s the thing about getting sober. People may tell you they are proud of you, that they are happy for you or that you are an inspiration to others. None of that matters. It is nice, but it won’t keep you sober. Only you can do that. I hope that I can inspire others, but at the end of the day the only inspiration you need is you.

So in conclusion….even if you run and run and run forever, you can’t possibly escape reality. You can fervently deny the existence of an ultimate truth or of God, but reality is always right there staring you in the face. And you can search for enlightenment but you will always only ever find reality. This is my reality. This is the only order I can rely on in the chaos of addiction because I know I am flawed. I am not perfect. There’s no such thing as perfection, only reality. But I know I am loved, I love, and I have learned to accept. I’ve accepted my reality. This is my life. This is my truth. I can’t accept anything less than that.. Life really is too short. I choose this life. This is living. One single day at a time. Smile, because why not. Be happy, for it takes more effort to be angry. Live, but really live. Be everything, or be nothing. But be.

An Idea of Thought

Living life on life’s terms. What a novel idea that is. How hard is it for us to actually do, though? I wonder sometimes how I was able to live before. Before I understood what that really meant. Before I understood what a lot of things meant really. This life is all we get.

Thoughts amongst thoughts, require nothing, no responses. But we stoke those thoughts, like an ember into a flame, and that flame can burst into an inferno. But it required nothing in the first place. This is life. We choose which fires to stoke. That’s the key to living on life’s terms. The choosing part.

It’s something so easily missed, something so short in time that in reality it will never be missed by anyone. That’s the point. In the realm of time and space this moment we have is so short and fleeting that relative to time it won’t matter. It will only matter to you. What you do with it is yours alone.

So if we can understand this, then why aren’t we happy? Why do we let things so insignificant bother us? I guess its human nature, we are flawed and are always trying too hard to be something were not. But why? Can we ever be truly happy with ourselves?

Live today like there’s no tomorrow. But really do it. What would you do if you knew there was no tomorrow? Would you value your life then? Would you pray to your god? Kiss your loved ones? Make amends? Be grateful? Appreciate life?

But Why not do that anyway?

Or would none of it really matter. That choice is yours.

Why does it take something catastrophic or life altering in order to appreciate how precious this short moment is? We die a little every day. It is a fact that there will be no tomorrow for some of us, and some might miss these opportunities we have right now.

Question everything. Living in a nightmare of shattered shapes and bizarre sensations followed by inescapable panic, cold sweat and a racing heart is how we have grown used to living. I awoke from this nightmare to find out it wasn’t a dream but my life. Desperate for change.

I had realized that things in my life had been causing me great distress, although I was conscious I was unaware. I realized that I am the cause of my own distress and I am the only one who can cause it to end.

Being able to acknowledge this is always easier said than done, but these things I need to ask myself daily.

Smile, because why not. Be happy, for it takes more effort to be angry. Live, but really live. Be everything, or be nothing. But be.

Live life. On life’s terms. It is all you have.