Forget the 50/50 Right Now...

Forget the 50/50 Right Now...

     Relationships are rarely a fifty-fifty exchange of give and take. The reward of a solid relationship is the understanding that at any given time, one of the partners may be carrying most of the load. But giving of yourself in excess abundance, does not mean your partner “owes” you. It is not a transaction that will eventually require payback.

     Julie and I have been through countless variations of this scenario, where one person is down and the other is keeping the ship on course, making sure the day-to-day obligations are met, the kids are fed, etc. Sometimes these situations can stretch out for days or even weeks, as it has lately with all of the moving preparations necessary to get our family from Pennsylvania to Oregon. It's been particularly difficult for me, having lived in the same area for the last 52 years.

So we both have been employing self-care techniques to keep ourselves sane and keep our relationship as healthy as possible.

  1. For myself, I've been lacking the spiritual energy and support that I usually rely on to get through both the good days and the bad, I realize faith and gratitude are actions that I sometimes neglect and that this is a large reason for the funk that I've been mired in. Therefore, I start every day with a new attitude and I make a fresh attempt to find my way back to the positive outlook and joyous embrace of every day.

  2. For Julie, she has been doing everything in her power to lend me the support that she knows I crave, on a daily basis. But at the same time, she has been guarding her own spiritual energy, protecting her sense of serenity and calm from the negative vibes that I have been emitting in copious amounts and with few breaks. She walks a fine line between reaching out a helping hand to her partner and letting herself get sucked down into the negative spiral.

  3. As a couple, we respect each others’ spaces in our lives. We each accept that there is a lot of negative energy being felt and experienced. Neither judges the other as to how he or she is experiencing this difficult time. We merely try to honor the challenges that come from a life experience for which we both were unprepared. We realize that, although one person’s experience may be less painful than the other’s, there is a lesson to be learned for both of us.  

We welcome you to be aware in times of transition or just a hard day that you can honor yourself while lending support. There is a balance but it is not always 50/50 and recognizing that is an invaluable tool in having loving exchanges with your partner even during tumultuous times.


If you are seeking support, check us out on Facebook for our daily live stream with advice and tips for balancing relationships, family and business.

Three reasons to THINK before you speak to your loved one.

Communication is hard. We are a complicated species, and we walk around with a super computer in our heads that the smartest people on the planet still haven’t completely figured out. It’s no wonder we have trouble communicating with one another. Throw very real emotions and personal agendas into the mix and you have a recipe for anger and confusion and, ultimately, resentments. And we all know the poison that resentments stain relationships with.

     Many of the conversations that Julie and I have had started on a good note, with good and loving intentions on either side. But sometimes, one or both of us were poised, ready for a tense situation and confrontation. But either way, this mental preparation was not only exhausting, it was counterproductive.

      There are three things Julie and I try to remember before we get into difficult conversations or just any time we’re conversing.

1.) Spoken words often change meaning between the time they leave the lips and the time they reach the ears : Often times, we say things with the best intentions, but the message somehow gets skewed when it is received and the other person reacts with anger or indignation or any one of a bunch of other negative emotions. We, in turn, react negatively to the other person’s negativity, because the tone of our original message was misinterpreted. Ours is a complex language and, therefore, is prone to implying the wrong shades of meaning while we talk. Therefore, choose your words carefully, and watch the tone and even the body language.

 

2.) Your loved one has already imagined the conversation you're about to have and has already decided how to respond and react to everything you're about to say : He/she has already decided how the whole thing is going to play out. Therefore he/she is unreceptive to how the conversation actually might have gone, if it had the chance to develop organically. The spin you intended to put on the topics discussed will likely fall on deaf ears - the other person thinks he/she already knows what you’re  thinking and what you’ll say. If you think your partner may have already spun the whole conversation out in his/her head before you have uttered a word, it’s usually best to start slowly. Very deliberately, and using as little emotion as possible, state your belief that there may have been a miscommunication about a particular matter, and you want only to clear up any possible misunderstandings between you two.

 

3.) You have no idea the space your loved one is in or how receptive he/she is to new information : Although you and your loved one have known each other for awhile, it’s impossible to accurately assess the mental or spiritual place he/she is in all the time. There will be moments, hours, days, or even entire weeks where you two are growing in different directions and experiencing different life lessons. At times like these, it is very difficult to predict how information will be received, especially if it is of a subject matter that is emotionally charged. It’s best to simply ask if now is a good time to talk about whatever it is that’s on your mind. If now is not good, just ask when a good time will be, or ask him/her to think about when will be a good time and to get back to you.

      As you can see there are SO many factors to consider when communicating with your partner. Have you ever experienced this in your relationship? What did you do? How did your partner handle it? Please tell us about it in the comments below - we would LOVE to hear from you! 

If you loved this please share it with your friends and if you feel ready to go deeper into your journey either with your partner or solo, reach out to use at hello@loveandaddicts.com to set up a FREE 45 minute coaching session. 

 

3 Signs That You're Letting Fear Take Over Your Life

    3 Signs You’re Letting Fear Take Over

 

    Fear is a natural emotion that pervades every aspect of our lives. It has been vital to the evolution that mankind has made, and continue to make, as a species. Without it, people all would have been eaten, poisoned, or crushed to the point of extinction long ago - very likely before we had the chance to walk upright. Fear gets a bad wrap sometimes, but that’s because too often it takes over; the same guy who feared the tigers still needed to get out of his cave to hunt, or he would have starved to death.

 

    We find that our lives are a delicate balance between real fears that present valid consequences, and unfounded fears based purely on the ego’s attempts to limit our potential. Weighing whether any particular fear presents actual or imagined repercussions is a task we address on a daily - and hourly - basis.

 

    Here are three signs that you’re letting fear start to run things, instead of using it as the valuable tool that it can be :

 

  1. You can’t sit still - When you find yourself unable to sit quietly and peacefully - provided it’s not because you are swamped at work or home alone with three young kids - ask yourself what is driving your restless behavior. Your body moves in response to your mind. If your mind is obsessing over a few  - or many - problems, ask yourself - can you solve any of these problems right here and right now? If not, can you put the problem(s) aside until the opportunity arises for you to address it/them? Like unwanted baggage, put down the worries that you have no control over until such time that you do.

  2. You can’t be alone - When your mind is racing, you feel like you are your own worst enemy and your own worst company. Craving the company of others to distract you from yourself is a sure sign that fear is chasing you. It has you going around and around in your own head, a domain that is your sovereign territory. But through the company of others, you can pretend the turmoil in your mind does not exist, at least for awhile. Additionally, if a calm exterior can fool others into believing that you have it all together, you can sometimes convince yourself of the same thing.

  3. You actively seek distractions - Distractions from yourself can also come in the form of activities. When these activities begin to take over, they can become even more important than the avoidance of self that originally enticed you. At this point, you likely have developed an addictive behavior. Regardless of this possibility, the active avoidance of self causes you to miss out on the really wonderful things that life has to offer.

 

    At Love and Addicts, we have seen fear drive people to addictive behaviors. And we have seen people who are in recovery from one addiction be driven by fear into another kind of addiction. It is a process to step back enough to have an awareness about the fear that is running your life. As we come to realize how much it is holding us back we begin to search for other ways to live, knowing that how we are living now is exhausting. This transitional process can be so liberating when we begin to find relief, peace and more deep breaths in our everyday lives.

 

     We know that learning to live with fear while still stepping through it is a challenge. If this is something you face and want see if we can help you can reach us by email at hello@loveandaddicts.com to set up a free 30 minute couples in recovery consult. The challenges with fear rearing its ugly head can seem insurmountable, but when you use love and the strength within, nothing is impossible.

 

Codependency Recovery: 3 Steps Toward a Healthy Relationship

Codependency Recovery: 3 Steps Toward a Healthy Relationship

 

    In 12-step recovery, we address the issues surrounding addictive behaviors and the person who participates in these behaviors - the addict. While the addict must focus on him/herself in order to recover, there is an innate need in life that distracts from that focus, and that is the love for another person. Any behavior that pulls the addict outside of himself, thereby offering a temporary escape, poses a threat to sobriety. But feelings of love for another person is something that most of us strive to experience; life is not complete without it. An honest program of recovery must acknowledge and allow for this need, whether the addict is 24 hours clean or 24 years.

 

    When someone loves an addict, that person comes into close proximity of a world of addictive behaviors. Sometimes that person becomes completely immersed in that world, ultimately acting out in ways that are as sick as the addict’s. His/her behaviors largely center around and are driven by reactions and responses to the life that the addict lives - whether the addict is sober or using. Here at L&A we call this person the re-addict. If the addict escapes himself in addictive behaviors, the readdict escapes himself in the addict. Essentially, both use behaviors in an attempt to avoid their own lives and themselves.
 

    After my wife and I met, she became obsessed with my recovery, and the majority of her actions were centered around maintaining my sobriety for me. In response, I tried to maintain my sobriety for her, sometimes lying and hiding “bad” behaviors, other times overtly displaying “good” behaviors in an effort to reassure her that I was sober and would never relapse again. Each of us was trying to manipulate the other, and no one was happy. Something drastic had to change, or our marriage wasn’t going to last.

 

    So we established a program that supports a conscious awareness of three elements that are crucial to any healthy relationship, whether it is with a romantic partner or otherwise. We strive to develop and nurture each of these on a daily basis :

 

  1. Focus on the self

The only person who can truly decide to follow a particular line of thinking or course of action, especially when either of these is in contrast to the typical thoughts or actions of the past, is the individual who is going to have the thoughts or perform the actions. Change is difficult. The only way to have any success at creating change in your life is to commit to doing the work that you need to do, to tackle the challenges that you face, to face the tasks that lay in front of you. In other words, mind your own business.

 

  1. Focus on the partner

This doesn’t mean you don’t care about the other person, however. While it is true that you can’t do the work for him/her, there are ways you can offer support without being nosy, pushy, or obtrusive. Listen when the other person is having a particularly difficult time, without giving unsolicited advice. When it’s appropriate, lend a hand without hidden agenda or expectation of payback. Tell the person you care and that you believe in them. Do something simply because it will make the other person smile, without working the angle that benefits you. In other words, be nice.

 

  1. Focus on the couple

One of the best things you can do to keep a relationship of any kind alive and healthy is to participate in activities that emphasize the joy you both receive from it. Don’t have unrealistic expectations of bliss or of carefree interactions. Difficulties exist in every relationship ; deemphasize these as much as you can and accentuate the good parts. Don’t regret the past or agonize over future uncertainty. Stay present and relish the presence of the other person in your life. There are many lonely people in the world, but neither of you are one of them. In other words, count your blessings.  

 

    These elements are products of the work we do at Love and Addicts. Our goal is to help couples in relationships as well as other people who are involved in some way with an addict who is in recovery. We strive to help people form and maintain healthy and fulfilling relationships that previously suffered from issues surrounding codependency. We offer individual and couples coaching. If you like what you read here, go to LoveandAddicts.com and sign up and look out for our free ecourse to get started repairing and strengthening the connection you have with an important person in your life. Relationships take work, and most can benefit from some outside help. I hope you reach out to us so we can work together.

 

Truth in a Book

There are a lot of books out there, many written by authors of great inspiration. Although reading seems to go in and out of fashion, largely due to the fact that people seem to find great difficulty in holding onto a coherent thought for more than a minute or two at a time, books still have a great impact on tens of millions of lives around the globe. There are works of fiction and nonfiction, and there are historical texts. You can find how-to books, autobiographies, and entire wings of bookstores are dedicated to self-improvement. And then there are the books that tell you how to live your life. 

    Essentially, the author is trying to impose his version of the truth onto your life and your circumstances, through the form of the written word. Despite its apparent waning popularity, the written word still exerts an incredible amount of influence over the lives of the populace. This is largely due to the fact that an individual can pore over the manuscript repeatedly for hours or even days, dissecting and reevaluating passages, phrases, words, and even punctuation in order to coax the meaning from the text that will give him the answers he seeks. 

    I’m inclined to wonder what makes any particular author the authority of that which is true in my life. Or your life. Or anybody’s life, except his own. I understand there are some pretty powerful tomes out there. Weighty pieces of work that speak the word of God, in the many names that people use to reference Him (or Them). And there are guides like the Big Book from Alcoholics Anonymous that endeavor to help escort people from the throes of addiction back to a healthy life. 

    What if the truth can't be found in the pages of a book after all? Perhaps the Truth - your “Truth” , as it specifically pertains to you, in your life, at this point in time, corresponding to and deriving from your thoughts, your actions, and your experiences - can only be found within yourself. No one can just hand you the Truth. You have to work for it. You have to earn it by actively seeking it. Meditate, devote time to self-introspection, climb a mountain, spend time in nature, commune with those who would help you look at things differently (not with absolutes and ultimatums, but with suggestions and new perspectives). There are as many paths to the Truth within yourself as there are books that would place it there for you, without any effort on your part. Truth doesn't come to the sheep. It comes to the hunter.

    Much can be gained by referencing as many external sources as possible in your pursuit of Truth. There is a great body of work dedicated to finding it and understanding it, and you can learn a lot from the efforts of those who have come before you. But because you are the only one who exists exactly in your time and space, it is only you who can ultimately decide just how exactly you fit in there. It is only you who can grasp Truth, as it defines you and how you define it. Trying to insert someone else’s Truth into your reality is like going shopping for a suit that fits. You see the styles that look good on other people, and there are many brands, shapes and sizes to choose from. But ultimately, there is always compromise to be made, because it was not custom-made for you. 

    The problem with shopping for a version of Truth that you find is an acceptable fit to your life - rather than building your own - is you end up with something that has been mass-produced. It has been watered down so as to accommodate as many lives as possible. By gratifying a few basic needs, such as security, acceptance, or the promise of a reward for prescribed behaviors, it attracts as large an audience as possible. There is strength in numbers. This breeds validation for followers and power for those who spout the rhetoric of their Truth.

    Beware those who would impose their Truth on you through fear of impending consequences for not heeding their call. They may have an agenda. And that agenda may be a lot worse than the imagined consequences they claim they can keep you safe from. There is absolutely nothing wrong with borrowing and test-driving pieces of their prescribed lifestyle and behaviors. Study them with an open mind and see how they speak to your mind and heart when you enact them. This is how your truth evolves with you as you evolve with the passage of time. But don’t force ideas and ideals to fit you, nor force yourself to fit them. If they don’t speak to your soul, do not hesitate to throw them out and move on!

    Truth, as it pertains to you, is not a model or an object that exists outside of you that must be located, acquired, and operated, like a used car. It is created within your thoughts and inspiration. It is then manifested in your life through action. When there is discomfort in your life, ask yourself :
Have you actively sought your Truth, or did you follow the crowd and end up there? 
Did you reach for your Truth with open eyes, ears, mind, and heart, or was it thrust upon you?  
Has your Truth encouraged change and growth in your life, or has it limited you?
Have you stepped into your Truth with confidence and joy, or did you receive it with hesitation and fear? 

    You are more than the equation 2 + 2 = 4 . You are more than a mindless array of zeroes and ones. The energy that forms you, your reality, and the relationship among them needs constant monitoring. The ultimate authority to oversee this process is you. 

Getting Off the Zoloft

It was my turn to put the kids to bed, and I was lying near the feet of my six-year-old son, who was, I hoped, on the verge of sleep. Getting our three young boys to go to sleep at night, in the same room, is a process that transpires in a series of steps. Step one, where I am trying to get them into bed, was done. Step two, where people have calmed down and are starting to fall asleep, was almost complete. The third step, where I wait for the oldest boy to drift off, has me lying quietly, checking the calendar on my phone, going over that day’s events, and planning the following day, Frequently, it is during this step that I end up briefly falling asleep myself.

    On this night, I'm not sure if I had yet fallen asleep, but I became acutely aware of confusing and unusual thoughts, which I perceived to be memories. They seemed too lucid to be dreams. And yet, facts and ideas seemed jumbled and without any discernable order. I tried to organize them into coherent trains of thought that I could examine and try to understand. I tried to gather them together, like picking up sticks, but they were elusive. As I mentally approached the group of associated thoughts, the group started to fall apart. And then they vanished, like dissipating smoke . 

    As soon as one this first group of associated ideas was completely gone, another one presented itself. I couldn’t even describe to myself what it was that I was trying to grasp. It was like I could sense the presence of thoughts but they stayed just out of view in my mind. The ideas were there, but they were hiding in the dark. 

    I marveled at how persistent they were in their need to be acknowledged and dealt with. They seemed urgent so that I had to accept their presence and deal with them immediately. They would not be ignored. And yet, as I tried to shape them into a comprehensible mass of ordered and rational thought, they began to pull away from me. I repeated the aforementioned process, trying to make sense of these thoughts which had appeared so suddenly, as if from nowhere and with no apparent provocation. I tried to gather everything up and make sense of the new concept, but it proved to be elusive as before. Then it was gone. 

    This progression of events must have repeated itself eight or ten times. Each time I became more desperate to catch at least the gist of meaning but ended up with nothing I could hold onto in my mind, nothing that I could use as evidence that my mental faculties were not slipping. Each time there was a main idea or central theme that seemed more concrete than the others, and to which the others seemed anchored. I pursued the “side thoughts” or “complementary thoughts” first, believing each time that I had the luxury of getting to the main - and obvious - thought after I gathered up the smaller, scattering pieces. Then I would be able to put them all together and build one basic concept. Inevitably, however, after all the little fragments had escaped, I would turn to the main one to look at it more closely, and it would have disappeared as well.   

    What was particularly unsettling was not knowing whether these assaults on my memory banks were from intangible dreams or actual experiences. There was much apparent evidence to support either explanation. That they were so hazy and difficult to pin down or hold onto made me certain they must be dreams, but the force with which they demanded to be acknowledged gave them the appearance of tangible and concrete events that I had witnessed and in which I had participated. Dreams usually were acknowledged upon wakening, rather than waiting until day’s end to show up - then quickly retreat - in the conscious world. Memories of events tended to gently drift in and out of active thought, rather than ambushing the unsuspecting mind with an aggressive game of mental hit-and-run. The elusiveness of my thoughts and the confusion that they presented made me think they must be dreams, but their intense presence made me think they must be real memories of actual events. I had been assaulted by dozens of seemingly unrelated and random thoughts with no previous ties to me (dreams) that had at once demanded to be heard and recognized with such force as to suggest familiarity (events). 

    Somewhere around the fifth or sixth “dream assessment” I began to earnestly question my mental stability. I was convinced these were no mere dreams or intangible mental wanderings. They were too powerful, too relevant. But why was it so hard to see them clearly? Was I on the verge of accessing another dimension or universe - a universe that had been there all the time but that very few people have access to? Was I developing a unique ability or possibly just a very rare one? Was I on the verge of an amazing, as yet unimaginable, life? Was this a dream gift or a hellish burden? 

    Seriously - what the fuck was going on?

    I texted my wife and told her I was experiencing something very strange and I really needed to talk. I knew she was at work, but I couldn't explain what was happening in a text. I thought if I just spoke to her briefly, I might gain some sort of sane perspective. At least she might be able to talk me down off the ledge of mental collapse. The boys were asleep, so I tucked them in and went outside. 

    As I waited for her to call, I started browsing my calendar of events for the next couple days, and I saw a notation to read my most recent, and as yet unposted, blog to check for grammatical and other errors. I opened Google docs and scanned through, looking for the entry. Between my wife and I, there are over 100 individual documents, but I felt confident that I would be able to find what I was looking for, as they are sorted by placing those which have been recently opened at the top of the list. 

    I couldn't find the blog. Nothing looked familiar. I had only written it five days previously, but it was nowhere to be seen. I came across one that looked like it might be what I was looking for because of the title. I opened it and started reading. I thought that Julie must have written it, because I didn’t recognize anything in it, so I closed the document and continued my search. I soon realized, however, that this was the document that I had written. When I opened it again and started reading, more closely this time, two things struck me. One, it was incredibly powerful, of a metaphysical or religious nature. Two, I had no recollection whatsoever of having written it. If it was so powerful, how could I have forgotten it? It had only been five days!! I began to wonder if it had been of divine inspiration. Had God spoken through me? Was I a conduit for His message? Was my life about to change, drastically and completely? Had I been chosen for a special purpose? Was this a one time thing, and, while it was incredibly powerful, was my usefulness to spreading the word of God at an end? Would my message from then on be mediocre in comparison? I wasn't sure which was worse - the burden of being a mouthpiece for God for the rest of my life, or the reality-check of being the mouthpiece once, then being thrust back into obscurity. 

    My wife called and we talked for a few minutes. She suggested that perhaps my getting off Zoloft was the culprit to this weird chain of events. I had been on Zoloft for about 20 years. The last six months saw me slowly lowering the dose. On the evening of this incident, I had not taken any of the drug for close to two weeks.


    I had decided to get off the drug because I wanted to live life with more clarity and fewer filters. Well, the filters are gone, and the intense desire to actually experience all aspects of life and reality has been reestablished by the wakening of a long-slumbering human psyche. Some believe that dreams are just the mind at play, but I believe that in many ways they help us live a life of infinite choices and limitless possibility. Dreams are one way that the mind helps us sort things out and find answers to questions that elude us. And they are only one of many ways that the mind provides us with information to help us cope, to help us grow, to help us thrive. I believe the deluge of mental images and ideas that came forth on that night had been locked in my drug-addled mind for years, impatiently waiting to be released into a consciously-decipherable form. There was a huge arena of sleeping brain cells where my life was locked up so as to protect me from myself, to deny access to the unpredictable, the unscripted, the unprotected part of being a human. I am done living my life with blinders on. I've taking off the seatbelt, and I'm heading down the highway at 100 miles an hour in a vehicle that is equipped to provide excitement and a little danger. 

    Since quitting the Zoloft, I've been crying over anything and everything - Father’s Day cards from my wife and kids, things my kids say, texts, songs… If you're using drugs - legal or otherwise - to take the edge off of life, you're missing out on some amazing stuff, like feelings, experiences, opportunities, deep connection to people and to yourself. 

    It’s time to wake up. 

Get Your Feet Wet

There is a reason the beach is used in so many analogies about life. It’s warm and dry, and it’s frequently sunny. There is fun to be had, people to hang out with, and, unless you’re a lifeguard, very little responsibility. We love the beach, or at least we love the idea of what the beach represents - no worries, no cares. Life is easy on the beach. And this is the very reason it’s so important to get off of it occasionally. 

    A little while back I wrote about the joys of spending time in your comfort zone and the importance of appreciating that zone, rather than feeling you ought not to spend any time there at all. But too much time spent in a place of ease or routine can breed complacency. And complacency breeds boredom. Addicts in recovery do not always fare well under the placid acceptance of boring daily routine. 

    There is a law of physics that states “an object at rest tends to stay at rest.” This is true of humans as well, in the sense that a lack of active engagement with life, when practiced consistently and over a period of time, becomes difficult to change. In other words, sitting on your ass and letting life pass you by can be habit-forming. 

    Getting involved in something - anything - other than the predictable day-to-day pattern does not have to be a huge undertaking, nor does it have to be frightening, although the definition of both is completely arbitrary, and will vary greatly from person to person. The most common factor in determining how difficult it will be to break routine is to ask yourself how long you have been going through the motions - or avoiding any movement at all. Not surprisingly, the longer a person has been following a safe pattern, the harder it will be to get out of it. 
    
    This means it is probably in your best interest to start today. 
    
    Change can be tiny at first, and the little ones can sometimes be the most interesting. Wear a button-down when you usually wear a T-shirt. Or vice-versa. Try driving a different way to work, or stop at a different gas station. Try going to a different meeting, or investigate some spiritually based literature instead of repeating your step work. Again. 
    
    If you are surrounded by people who live in a similar fashion, and who are also creatures of habit, there may be the added difficulty of breaking away from the crowd. Misery loves company, and is frequently camouflaged by conformity. Life’s limitless possibilities can get obscured behind the people around you, especially if they're doing the same boring shit you are. You may not be able to see or even imagine that there are alternatives, and you may experience great resistance from the others who are offended that you would even contemplate such possibilities. 

    I’m not suggesting you quit your job so you can dance in the chorus line on Broadway. I’m not suggesting you leave your spouse of 20 years. I’m not suggesting you start skydiving. Although any of these might be exactly what would get you off the beach of banality and into the ocean of enterprise and creativity, each solution is extreme and some consideration of consequences would be in order before you stepped in and possibly drowned. But the thing to remember is that “drowning” is an extremely unlikely result of augmenting change in your life. It is more likely that you will get cut on the coral or a big wave will knock you off your feet and you will get your wind knocked out. 

    On the other hand, maybe you'll hop on a surfboard and have the ride of your life...

    When trying to get out of a rut, tangible results are not nearly as important as the unpredictable by-product of growth. Cuts heal and embarrassment fades, but lessons and experiences last a lifetime. Try to remember that there is no failure in unexpected results, only the opportunity grow from the experience and maybe do it differently the next time. 

    It is not in your best interests to let life pass you by, rather, you want to actively travel along the path of your creation. If you fall, get back up. If you land in shit, take a shower. If you slam into an oak tree, bandage your wounds and go around it. If you find yourself strolling through a field of roses, enjoy the view and the aroma...but watch out for the thorns. 

    The point of living is not to avoid hardship, nor is it to seek perfection. The point is to move, to experience, to participate. We fear the demons that may drag us down, and certainly some people, places, and things are best left alone. But why get scared into paralysis? Where is the joy in existing in a “safe” room with padded walls, no windows, and no way out (and no way for new people or ideas to get in)

    If you were in chaos when you were participating in addictive behaviors, you may cherish the peace and quiet that comes with sobriety. This is not only understandable, it is commendable. We get as caught up in the maelstrom that results from bad ideas, actions, and consequences as we do in our addictive pursuit to avoid life and ourselves. The mess we create can become, in its familiarity, the only life we can imagine. When things calm down a bit, it's like heaven has descended upon us, and we cling to it vehemently. But once the dust has settled and the damage has been assessed, it's time to start healing. 

    Never assume a life without any risk is a life that is rich in rewards. Never confuse banality with serenity. 

        It's time to start living. 

Swim Solo

I’ve said it before : I love 12-step recovery. I’ve learned many lessons and acquired many tools that have helped me live my life, free from drugs and alcohol. The meetings, the fellowship, and the readings have all been wonderful aids in my recovery. Through numerous attempts and failures to stay sober, the program of 12-step recovery was always there to help me clean myself up in order to start again. 

    But here’s the thing : AA didn’t provide me with the one tool that I really took hold of, the one lesson that I needed to learn in order to change my life forever. It didn’t teach me how to love myself and, hence, it didn’t teach me how to cherish the life that I had been privileged to live. AA started me down the path of recovery by showing me basic tools of gratitude and acceptance and the benefits of hard work. It helped me make the early transition from drinking daily to total abstinence. But it didn’t provide real answers on how to find inner peace and happiness so that I would never WANT to go back to using again. 

    I know a lot of people have sought a solution to their substance abuse issues through the rooms of AA and NA. Many of these people have achieved long term sobriety, and many have not. Of those that have, some are the most miserable old pricks you will ever meet. Why? Because addicts, by nature, are loathe to follow directions, and 12-step is all about following rules or “suggestions” in order to make it through the day. A person who is subjected to non-stop monitoring - even if he does so of his own free will - is still under the thumb of an authoritative regime. This provides little room for creative expression or personal growth, and it assumes the person has neither the ability nor the desire to make healthy decisions in his life.

     Of course, most addicts in early recovery don’t trust themselves, as is warranted by their history of bad ideas and lousy behavior. But when does trust begin to be reestablished? Isn’t the desire to believe in oneself a huge reason that a person seeks recovery in the first place? How long do you need to be guided through every moment in order NOT to fuck up again? And when are you capable of learning from these poor decisions on your own? Do you need to be micromanaged every day of your life?

    Let’s pretend you’re drowning. You don’t know how to swim, and you just got leveled by a huge wave, which now is dragging you out to sea. Fortunately, you’re not far from the beach, and a lifeguard swims out and rescues you. He hauls you back to dry land and begins giving you CPR (if you want to pretend he/she is the man/woman of your fantasies, go for it, but let’s stay focused on the lesson here) You start to breathe on your own, you’re starting to come around. Open your eyes, slowly get up, catch your balance, get your bearings. Now you walk back to your towel and the friends you came with. A couple weeks later, you start taking swimming lessons. You learn a few different strokes and a bunch of safety tips. You do a little research on your own about tidal pull, waves, undertow, dangerous aquatic sea life, etc. 

    Are you now prepared to go to the beach by yourself? Or do you need your swim instructor to go with you? If you disagree with him as to which stroke you want to swim or what beach you want to visit, does that mean you’re going to drown again? Will you bring a manual on water safety and read it every morning? Do you need the lifeguard to remind you to put on sunscreen and to not swim too close to motorboats? At night, will you meet with other folks who have had scary experiences in the water? Will you ask them to tell their stories about almost drowning, and will you tell your story again and again? While none of these are necessarily a bad idea, they do limit your choices as to how you will enjoy future experiences in the water.

    It’s up to you to learn from your mistakes and get on with your life. A lifeguard will teach you the strokes but he won’t teach you how to love the sport. Many people who almost drown avoid large bodies of water for the rest of their lives, but that solution is extremely limiting, and it’s not foolproof (there are bathtubs and hot tubs, just to name two ever-present threats). My suggestion is to learn how to swim, don’t eat before you jump into the water, and, if the water looks too rough, stay on the beach until the conditions change.  But for God’s sake, GO SWIMMING AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE !!

    12-step recovery continues to be something I reach for on occasion. Its structure, its lessons, and the uniformity of the meetings I attend, all coalesce to provide consistent, solid, reliable support. I am eternally grateful for its inception and continued existence, and I continue to benefit from it while I live my life under the decision-making ability and leadership of my own free will. 

    Yes, I said free will. I don’t care who you are or how tight you are with your higher power, YOU are the one who keeps you sober. When you were tempted, who called your sponsor or another alcoholic? You did. When you needed strength, who prayed to your higher power? You did. When the opportunity presented itself to relapse, who stayed sober? You did. Who was at the last meeting you attended? You were. You, you, you, you, you. Holy shit! Maybe it IS all about you, after all (or at least mostly about you, as it appears from your perspective) And maybe that’s exactly how it is meant to be. 

     You are way more powerful than you give yourself credit for, but be careful how you wield that power. Tell yourself that you can’t be trusted often enough, and you will have no choice but to believe the authoritative voice in your head. Conversely, tell yourself that you are capable of changing for the better, of growing, of loving yourself, and of loving the present opportunity to live a joyous existence, and you will create a world that you don’t WANT to escape, and a life that you don’t WANT to avoid, and a YOU that you don’t WANT to get away from. 

    But always keep an eye open for sharks and jellyfish.

Recovery State University

Before I begin, let me assure you that I love AA and the 12-step program that it follows and that it has brought to millions of addicts and the world at large. AA saved my life. It showed me that I was not alone, that there were thousands of people who suffered from addiction and who lived in my area. I took great solace in the fact that I was not the only one who had issues with feelings of isolation, with fitting in, and with a past that was ravaged by antisocial behavior. 
I immersed myself in a community whose main focus, whose very reason for being, was the recovery from drugs and alcohol. 

    Sorry - I mean the recovery from alcohol. If you need to recover from drugs, you have to attend a different meeting, even though alcohol is a drug; the only differences are that it’s a liquid and that it’s legal. And that’s frequently a topic for much debate. Most people who suffer from alcoholism also have a history of drug abuse, stemming back to the stories you can read in the Big Book wherein the various authors mention drugs as part of their stories. Despite this, most AA meetings begin with a request for those who share to limit their comments to their struggles around alcohol. 

         Meetings, and the programs they support, need structure in order to be effective. With structure comes rules of conduct, and general streams of thought that are intended to produce a desired result. Add to this, the oft-present tendency for addicts to lie and manipulate, and you end up with a rock-solid list of expectations on the part of members for themselves as well as each other. 

    This is where 12-step begins to lose its ability to help every person who is struggling and who is looking for some outside assistance. Any program that has a set path intended to get you from point A to point B, without regard to your individual and unique gifts (and faults) will lose some people. There is no “one size fits all” with regards to recovery, nor should there be. And yet, when an addict suggests that perhaps 12-step recovery isn’t for him, the pervading assumption is that he has relapsed, is planning to relapse, or that he will relapse in the near future, despite yearning to stay clean. 

    The founders of AA never claimed the program was (or would be, in the future)  free from disagreement among its membership. I would go so far as to suggest that they deemed the presence of argument to be a crucial factor in recovery. Argument arises when new ideas are voiced, and the opposing sides need to think as they debate. New ideas and perspectives, and the controversy they provoke, all encourage introspection and growth. The ultimate result is change. Without change an addict will die. 

    Of course, it is change that 12-step tries to invoke in its members, but it is change under the strict guides of a structured program. Change directed by “accepted” literature and led by people who have followed those who preceded them. Do as you’re told, read the books, attend the meetings, “stick with the winners” , get active in service, come early to meetings and stay late, take the cotton out of your ears and put it in your mouth...it all becomes a little like you’re being seduced by a cult. If you question any of it, it is assumed you are shying away from the hard work that must be done in order to affect successful change in your life. Aversion to structure and authority are a natural trait inherent to many addicts, so there is much time and energy devoted to dissuading them from succumbing to the desire to leave the program before they can see the results - “before the miracle happens” . 

    Again, let me assert that I love AA and the 12-step program. I can’t tell you exactly what my life would look like now, had I made different decisions in my past, but substance abuse was killing me. And AA helped me recover. But 12-step simply is not for everybody. The prevailing axiom that “12-step is not for those who need it. It’s for those who want it.” This is true, but that is not to say that those who do not follow a 12-step program will never attain lasting sobriety. The implication made by many who say say the axiom is “12-step is for those who are willing to do exactly as they are told (exactly as I have done), and the rest are doomed to suffer their addictions until they die” . This is NOT true. 

    Addiction, in its many manifestations, holds no prejudices as to who it will infect. 12-step is, for the most part, as open in its acceptance of those who would join one of its programs. Perhaps the members could be as open to those who choose NOT to join their ranks, in favor of alternative pursuits to sobriety. 

    Here at ArcoftheSpirit, and our corresponding programs that we run at Love&Addicts, we are always looking for new ways for the individual to get and stay sober. Our main message is one of love. Love of Self, of Man, of God, and of the Universe. We believe all of this is inextricably connected. We believe Man has lost sight of the importance of living in love in all aspects of his Being. Addicts in recovery are especially susceptible to losing sight of the omnipresence of love. It’s everywhere, but we have let it get lost among bad ideas, misdirected journeys, escape from the Self, and guilt over our pasts. 

    12-step programs are a wonderful way to break from active addiction and begin recovering. The brightest gifts they offer (besides sobriety!) is the introduction of the idea that the addict does not suffer alone, nor does he need ever suffer from active addiction again. But those in recovery who are interested in more than just being clean, those who yearn to live with inner peace, inner purpose, and INNER JOY will benefit from pursuing additional and alternative means to recovery. 

    Take the long, difficult, and rewarding journey within yourself. Take time for silence and meditation. Find and develop the love for who you are and why you’re here. You are not here to go to meetings and give rides to meetings for those who have no car. You’re not here to make coffee or to list every wrongdoing you committed in active addiction. You are here for a higher purpose that is yours to discover and share, thereby lifting your fellow man just a little higher than he was before you showed up on earth. 

    Addiction drew you down as far as it could. 12-step can help (or has already helped) you curtail your descent. To truly soar, you need only look within. 1

Messy Inspiration

Life is….messy. You have hundreds of things to do, people to see, places to go, and never enough time to finish half the things you start. Partially completed projects gather dust as the days go by, and the list of things that you haven’t even begun grows longer. As you lie in bed, exhausted at the end of another marathon that starts when you crawl out of bed and ends when you finally collapse back into it, you may think to yourself, “I gotta get organized.”

    I’m a big fan of organization, in all areas of my life, and I make lists for everything. I have so many lists that I have to organize them. They are all stored in one place and can be accessed from my laptop or smartphone. Essentially, it’s a list of all my lists. All the people, places, and things that need my attention (according to me, at least) are here. My life, in electronic print, is here. 

    And yet, my life is still a clutter of evolving ideas, unanticipated obligations, and agendas that crash into and contradict one another. The organizational systems I’ve established for existing data don’t apply, so I need to come up with a new way to organize life as it unfolds today. I need to re-distribute, re-collate, re-order, and re-sort everything so all the old stuff meshes with all the new stuff. I need to reorganize the old organization so I can think about what’s happening now, how it applies to the stuff that already happened, and how it will play out with the stuff that’s going to happen. 

    I gotta get organized. Or do I?      

    There is an inherent problem with trying to keep every idea and plan in neat little compartments. They lose some of their tendency to step in each other’s way. It is the natural inability of the mind to store all your thoughts apart from each other that enables them to intertwine in unintended ways and produce great ideas. The most fascinating and inspirational visions are borne from a lot of effort and a little something else. You might refer to this “something else” as luck or coincidence. I call it divine inspiration. 

    When I’m contemplating life, when I’m writing, or when I’m just planning my day, I often try to let a little silence into the spaces between the thoughts. I find that it’s the best way for God to get in and nudge things together or apart until, all of a sudden, I say “Eureka!”  or  “Holy shit!”  (depending on the circumstance in which I find myself.) And I try to let the thoughts flow naturally, following a train of thought while it meanders among the synapses and nodes of my mind, until it becomes something really interesting or I lose interest, at which point I latch onto something else. 

    The idea is to follow an idea and listen for inspiration at the same time I’m making an effort to create something, whether it be an interesting blog, a shopping list, or a decision that will move me either towards, or away from, a bad idea or behavior. Despite my desire to compartmentalize my life and control the ebb and flow of ideas and events, the most favorable results are largely influenced by divine inspiration. I am led by God’s communication that comes to me directly and constantly. All I have to do is maintain an awareness of the messages. These occur naturally, without manipulation or organization. 

    A cluttered mind can lead to frustration. Letting the imagination and/or intellect roam free inevitably leads to contradictions and repetitiveness, but the mess from all that thinking shows effort, rather than complacency. Effort and intention leave little room for the contemplation of negative self-image or resentments, which can lead to the formation of bad ideas, and eventually the actions of old, unhealthy behaviors. 

    Inside my head, there is a great disarray of many rambling, wonderfully ambitious ideas, some of which will come to fruition when their time is due. My active participation in the processes of life, creation, and growth is what reassures me that the mess will occasionally produce results. I show up for life now, as opposed to letting it roll right by me in the past. I create disorder in thoughts and ideas, rather than in my life. I actively seek divine inspiration while I create, instead of praying for God to get me out of another jam. 

    Don't just sit still so the past can catch up and drown you, and don’t let the fear of the future threaten to crash over you like a wave. Be active in the now. Be immersed in the activity of creation. If all you can see today is the mess you’ve created, at least you are trying! And that is all anyone can ask. God will fill in the gaps, and tomorrow or next week, the beautiful, divine creation that is of yourself will be revealed to you. And the Universe will applaud. 

Life's Mysteries

We are a curious species. We want to know how everything works. We want to know how far the Universe stretches. We want to know what the future holds for ourselves and for those we love - and for those we don’t. We want to know if there really is a God(s) and what He/She/It/They want of us. We want to know when we are going to die and what happens next. 

    So many questions. 

    Mankind has made many advancements in the fields of science, medicine, and technology, as well as developments in more personal areas, such as open-mindedness towards, and tolerance for, one another. We no longer blame naturally-occurring events on the wrath of God.  We don’t burn witches. We have a vast array of knowledge about physical and mental health. We are more open to the concept of peaceful coexistence, and we do so more frequently and more successfully than ever before. I’m writing this on something that was barely a dream as little as 50 years ago, and you will read it via a system that was barely functioning as little as 25 years ago.  

    We have made great strides, solved many riddles, and settled many differences. In many cases, our lives have been made easier and fuller as a result of the efforts made by curious people who sought to improve situations or circumstances that were deemed to be intolerable or merely unappealing. Without a doubt, curiosity and discontentment have been monumental driving forces in the evolution of mankind. We have amassed an inconceivable store of knowledge, and we maintain the ability to gain almost instant access to most of it. 

    The result of this privilege is a sense of entitlement towards knowledge. All knowledge. If there’s a question, we damn sure expect to be able to answer it. And if we can’t, we’ll Google it. If the search avails no answers, we tend to quit searching, judging the issue unimportant. We shrug our shoulders and get on with our day. We try ignore that which we don’t understand. We don’t like mystery. It makes us uncomfortable, because it reminds us of our limitations and inherent frailty as mortal humans. 

    But it is the uncertain aspects of life, the indefinable nuances and the ever-present dilemmas that create a need to keep showing up, day after day. If you knew exactly where you were going, how you would get there, and when you would reach your destination, would you bother putting any effort into today? If the song had already been written and you knew the score all the way through, would you bother learning to play your part? Would you even purchase an instrument? If there were two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, with the bases loaded and the home team down by one run, would you be on the edge of your seat if you already know the guy was going to strike out? Would you even go to the game?

    I have never been as comfortable with uncertainty as I would like to be, and I know there are aspects of my life that will remain uncertain until...well, until it is time for them to be revealed. Which is to say, they will remain unknown until they aren’t. I don’t always love that fact, but I know the only way to gain perspective on life’s biggest, scariest questions is to let life’s mysteries reveal themselves to me on their schedule and that some mysteries may never be revealed. I don’t like that fact either, but I didn’t write the rules for this life, nor do I understand many of them. I just try to learn and follow them. 

    On a daily basis, I try : to accept that which I cannot change (life’s uncertainties), to summon the courage, strength, and patience to find answers where appropriate (life’s uncertainties that will eventually reveal themselves), and to know the difference between the two. To put it another way, I make the effort to LIVE every day, learning that which is taught, appreciating or accepting all that is either given or withheld, and letting go of that which is out of my control. 

    As an alcoholic and addict, my list of questions is rather long : Why me? Why did I waste so much time acting out on addictive behaviors? What caused my addiction? Do I get “good points” for being sober? Do I deserve any happiness in the aftermath of all my shitty behaviors?  Have I made any significant positive changes? Am I closer to God than I was? Am I on the right track to making amends to God? Am I a better person now than I was, or is it just a matter of time and opportunity until I revert to the old habits? I’m not exactly sure how to answer most of these questions, and it is in the lack of a solid answer that these questions gain so much relevance.

    The most important question is the one that cannot be definitively answered, because it is this quality that encourages me to keep showing up for life, learning, improving, and healing a little bit each day. Any critical question - and its answers - have the tendency to make subtle changes in their shades of meaning from day to day and hour to hour. Every time I think I’m getting close to an answer or basic understanding, the rules and questions shift, and I need to take a step back to reevaluate or look from a different perspective. This keeps me from getting complacent or lazy. It keeps me involved, and it is through every-day involvement that I learn vital life lessons. 


    As you let life unfold itself to you, stay comfortable with the fact that today’s questions and answers are as impermanent as this moment in time. Keep asking questions as a way to stay present, but don’t worry about being “right” There will always be another point of view and a new idea that contradicts your findings. It is more important to participate than to figure out all the reasons why everything is as it is.  The Universe knows that if you knew how it all turns out, you might not stick around to experience it.


    On any given day, a good question is infinitely more valuable than its answer.

Chaos vs. Serenity

An addict lives in chaos. It comes in different degrees; the need to act out every weekend and make apologies on Monday, the need to sneak out of work for a few minutes/hours to satisfy the cravings, or the need to get up at 3:00 am and have a few drinks. It comes in various forms; “How am I going to keep all these lies that I’ve told straight?” , “Here’s ANOTHER number on my cell that I don’t recognize - who is it and what does HE want?” , “How am I going to explain (and pay for) the damages?” , or  “What day is it, and where the fuck am I?” Regardless of the particular circumstances, a life consumed by addiction is one that is permeated by chaos. 

    One of the biggest and most immediate perks of getting sober is that the individual no longer has to endure new consequences to addictive behaviors. No more hangovers. No more empty wallet in the morning. No new charges (from the police or the credit card companies). It is a powerful and exhilarating period of early sobriety, often referred to as the pink cloud. 

    The problem with the pink cloud is that it doesn’t last. There is a huge relief that comes from escaping the downward spiral that one’s life was turning into, but instead of segueing into a pervasive sense of ease, this relief frequently transitions into an overall sense of boredom. Chaos brings excitement and lots of activity that is sorely missed when it’s gone, although the addict may find it hard to admit that this is the case. Frequently, one finds it necessary to make a gratitude list. The list contains all the things life IS NOT, DOES NOT, and WILL NOT be, if one remains sober. It is examined and reexamined, hopefully on a daily basis, as a way to constantly remind oneself of how much better life is, now that the bad habits have been dropped. 

    But memory has a way of glorifying bad ideas and downplaying bad situations. The highs that were chased appear to be attainable and the consequences that were suffered appear to be avoidable. The possibility of successful reconnection with addictive behaviors dangles in an addict’s mind like the magic of Christmas morning to a six-year-old. And all the time that has been freed up by not participating in these behaviors gives the mind way too much time to ponder the pros and cons of caving into ever-present urges. 

    What an addict needs is a list of healthy habits that replace the old ones. He needs something to put time and effort into. Merely avoiding negative consequences does not create a fulfilling existence, nor does it provide healthy alternatives to the coping mechanisms that, up to now, are all he used. He needs to DO, to TRY, to EXERT, to SWEAT. The opposite to his previous life of avoidance is action. He needs to build a new life around ideas that drive him and ideals that inspire him. Even his response to the inevitable backlash from those who disagree with him gives the addict something to put his energy into and distract him from the old way of thinking. The negative energy that others may throw his way gives him something positive to work on. 

    If addiction’s agenda is to destroy everything it can get its claws into, the ultimate weapon an addict can yields against it is creation. And creation requires action on the part of the creator (and the Creator, but let’s not get off topic). It takes time. It demands mental and physical effort. By its very definition, the act of creating something entails work. And therein lies the huge benefit. When an addict immerses himself in work, he leaves little energy to fuel the urge to act out. 

    Conversely, when an addict focuses solely on everything his life DOES NOT HAVE or IS NOT ABOUT any longer (failed relationships, squandered potential, self-delusion, lies, manipulation, deceit) he is living a life based on lack. He lives in a void of discarded habits and lingering self-recrimination. He creates nothing, and how can you build on nothing? What is fulfilling in a void? The human psyche craves some sort of input, whether it be sensory, spiritual, or mental. An addict living in a bubble that provides none of these is far too susceptible to the call of old behaviors to fill it.

    As an alcoholic and addict, I have been in and out of recovery more times than I wish to admit. Every time I threw my hands up in frustration and returned to the rooms, I vowed to get a sponsor, a home group, a long list of numbers...everything they told me to do. I would follow suggestions for a few months, get bored and dissatisfied with the program of recovery I was exposed to, disconnect from the program, and eventually go out again. As much as I gained from 12 step recovery, I still felt there was something vital missing.

    When I went to prison for my fourth DUI, I began a long journey inward that continues to this day. Deep inside myself is where I connected with my higher power and began learning about myself, who I was, where I wanted to go, what I was meant to be and what I was meant to do in this life. It began a long process of gaining awareness through observation and sharing insights with others who were sick like me. The journey has been at times daunting, fraught with doubt and fear, confusing, enlightening, joyous, difficult, and a host of other emotionally-charged adjectives that change, at times, minute to minute. It has been almost all-consuming in its demands of my time and efforts. It has provided long-sought-after answers to many of my life’s questions. It has kept me sober, and it has provided great comfort in my sobriety.

    It has helped me create serenity in my life. 

    Your serenity depends on your ability to create something out of your deepest, brightest, highest self - not on your ability to avoid repeating the mistakes of your past. 

    Time to get to work. 

For Those We Love Before They Die

My mom died recently. As I write this, it has not even been two weeks, so the wound is very fresh. In many ways, the reality - and the finality - of her death has not yet registered in my mind. Just this morning, as I was cooking breakfast for my wife and myself, I had a question for her which I subsequently realized I would not be able to ask. It was inconsequential, but nonetheless poignant in its permanence - an insignificant fact that I would never be able to attain. 

    The question I had was what kind of peppercorns did she put into the largest of her pepper grinders. She had several grinders in her kitchen, and this morning I was using the one that stands about 18” tall. She had this one for years, and, as I’ve always liked it, I took it home with me after she died. It works really well - grinding the pepper into a super-fine dust or into larger chunks, depending on what the user desires. I’ve bought plenty of grinders for myself over the years, but I never found one that was really good and eventually threw most of them away. I believe this grinder was in their kitchen more for my dad than my mom, and, for all I know, it may have been a gift from me. Regardless, it reminds me of her and of him, and I took it home. 

    As I prepared the eggs for our morning omelette, I found myself wondering how full of peppercorns the grinder was. It’s fairly tall at 18” so it holds a good amount. But it will run out eventually. And what then? I have no idea what style or flavor the pepper is. Did it come from some faraway location? Was it harvested on a mountainside in Asia? Are there other spices mixed in? I’m no connoisseur - I just like fresh-ground pepper in my food, and I think it’s cool to use an over-sized pepper mill while I cook. Subsequently, it just doesn’t matter what kind of pepper is in there currently. When it’s empty, I’ll buy whatever they carry at the grocery store. Maybe, if I’m feeling motivated, I’ll check out one of those specialty, gourmet kitchen shops and get a small container of an over-priced, exotic-sounding blend. 

    And yet…

    There is an echo of a question that bounces around inside my head. It was sent, but it has nowhere to go and no one to receive it. If I had sent an email, I would at least get an auto-response that the account is no longer active or that the message is undeliverable. But there is nothing. Just a void. A silence. And a slow realization that I probably will never know the answer. The person who could have enlightened me has left the building. There will be no encore. No last-minute advice or nuggets of inspiration. The recipient to my query has moved on with no forwarding address or contact information. I’m on my own to figure it out myself or to always wonder... 

    My mother and I were very different people. If our two paths had crossed under different circumstances - if we had not been related - we undoubtedly would not have had anything to do with one another. She was very conservative. I am not. She was a strong believer in the Christian version of God, Jesus, the teachings of the bible, etc. I believe that God exists in all of us and that we are all connected by the energy that binds the Universe together. She followed the rules. I questioned them. But we had something significant in common - we both drank too much. 

    Over the years, I finally came to accept that I am an alcoholic and drug addict. My mother readily accepted this as true. But she never admitted to having any issues with addiction herself. As I live in and work through recovery, I have come to the conclusion that resentments are one of the biggest threats to continued sobriety. My resentment toward my mother at the fact that she could so easily label me as an alcoholic, while offering not even the slightest degree of acceptance that she, herself, might have had a problem, is undoubtedly the resentment that I have struggled the most to come to terms with. 

    The thing about resentments is, left unchecked, they can grow like weeds, choking the relationship between any two individuals. People need to stay in touch with one another. They need to check in with those people that they care about to keep their love strong and healthy. Resentments can’t grow when the familiarity between two people stays fresh, and each person keeps up to date with the changes that the other goes through. Life happens to all of us, but ill will and anger only affect our feelings for others when we forget that we are not the only ones who have struggled. 

    Forgiveness is crucial in life and in recovery. It is a decisive force against the power of resentments. Unfortunately, it is usually most difficult to find forgiveness for those we love the most and have known the longest. As an alcoholic in recovery, I am all too familiar with the difficulty of learning to forgive the shortcomings of others. I exacerbated the situation with my mother by avoiding the uncomfortable task of dealing with resentments through conversation. I told myself it was pointless to talk about certain things with my mother and that I would be unable to calmly discuss my feelings. I never gave her a chance to tell her side of things. I never gave her a chance to say she was sorry. I never gave myself a chance to experience the healing power of forgiveness. 

    And now it’s too late. The resentments bounce around inside my head, because they have nowhere to go to find resolution or peace. The recipient is no longer able to explain her side, to give me a fresh perspective. Unanswered, my resentments are free to flourish and grow. They stir up unhappy memories and make it hard to conjure up good ones. They cloud visions of my childhood, making it easy to forget the many sacrifices my mother made for me and my siblings and my dad. They color scenes in my mind’s eye with an unpleasant hue that brings emphasis to the crap and ignores the good times. My mother was a hard woman to like sometimes, but she had my best interests, and those of my wife and kids, at heart. She loved us the best way she knew how. She had shortcomings, no more and no less, than any other human. 

    It is hard to lose a loved one, even under the best of circumstances. I want to be free to miss my mom and be sad that she’s gone. But there are too many unresolved issues and the ensuing emotions leave me feeling more confused than anything else. I wish I had said so many things. And I wish I had given her a chance to respond. 

Serenity in a Bottle

As an alcoholic and addict in recovery, I have achieved a little sober time. The term “little” is highly subjective, of course. I’ve run into people with decades of sobriety who say they have a little sober time, and I have met those who have been sober for a month or week or day who say the same thing. From my perspective, the length of time they have been sober is huge in either person’s case, but I like when a person uses the term “little” because it implies humility on the part of the speaker. And a healthy dose of humility is a vital part of any solid program of sobriety. 

    As I said, I have achieved a little sober time. Currently, I don’t attend as many 12 step meetings as I would like. This is mainly due to the fact that I don’t currently have a license to drive. (It pains me when I think of how slow the law moves when dealing with DUI and other substance-abuse/traffic violations. People who commit these types of offenses continue to drive for months or sometimes years after they are arrested and before punishment begins. I know this from experience. I only wish I had started to serve my sentence sooner, so as to have been done with this phase of the sentence sooner. But I digress) Many people in the rooms would say that my lack of regular attendance at meetings is a recipe for disaster. Meetings are one of the basic needs for many in recovery, and people who skip them tend to have a much higher tendency to go back to their addictive behaviors. 

    There is, however, a basic need that many people in recovery overlook but which I address regularly and with as much energy as I can muster; the need to search the inner self for the light that resides therein. There is inherent beauty in every human being that lives now or in the past. Discovering this beauty, admiring it, sharing it, and celebrating it are key elements to an individual’s most productive and happiest existence while here on earth. This applies to everyone, not just addicts in recovery. And in many ways, it is the absolute basis from which any successful recovery must grow. 

    The advantage I have over those who have access to as many 12-step meetings as they desire, is that I don’t get sucked into the naturally-occurring group-think that tells those in recovery to focus on all the bad crap they’ve done and all the unhealthy ways they think. This is seen as the surest way to stay resist the all-too-common urge to backslide into old habits. But I contend that the most common result is to encourage the addict to berate himself for his mistakes to the point that he feels he is worthless and possibly beyond help. Alone at night, he may see the only way to escape the pain is to go back to the behaviors that always helped him escape in the past. It is an unfortunate fact that the percentage of people who get sober, then stay sober for the rest of their lives, is less than 15%. And the suicide rate of those who stay sober for years is much higher than the average. 

    The focus on the positive, in myself and in what I experience as my reality, is vital to my recovery, and in the happiness I feel in my sober life. It is what keeps me out of the darkness when life gets challenging, and it is what gets me through those times that the darkness comes, despite my efforts to keep it at bay. It makes the good times better, and it helps create more of those good times. Certainly, an improved attitude has not made life simple or trouble-free. But it is far more satisfying and infinitely sweeter than it was when I fixated on things I shouldn’t have done, things I shouldn’t be, and things I shouldn’t think. 

    The vast majority of addicts, if not every single one, has used, or still uses, addictive behaviors to avoid life, and themselves. That’s a lot of avoidance. Life goes on 24/7, and a person lives with himself the same amount of time, so the behaviors that are developed to get away from all that have to be pretty extensive and very thorough. Recovery demands that an addict stop all those behaviors completely. So what happens to the massive chasm that opens up in a life that was so centered around avoidance of itself? An addict is told to walk away from that gap and meet life head on, on life’s terms, which are difficult to the most well-adjusted person, under the best of circumstances. How can the addict, when encountering a moment that life pushes hard against him, manage to NOT get thrown right back over the edge, into the hole that is now wide open at his feet? Will he push back, armed with the lessons he learned that he is vulnerable, powerless, weak, manipulative, untrustworthy, dishonest, sneaky, self-centered, etc? Is this really his best defence? Are these really the tools that are the most effective?

    Anyone in recovery needs to fill that hole with meaning, with purpose, with desire - and not desire for self-gratification, but desire to create something good, to share something important, to spread some joy. When the hole begins to fill with something of substance, a person begins to feel whole. There becomes less of a need to avoid everything that he is NOT, because he begins to see all that he IS, and all that he CAN BE. 

    This all starts with self-love. 

    Finding, maintaining, and actively appreciating a person’s self-love is a journey that lasts a lifetime. Fortunately, this leaves little time for self-deprecation. 

    Which is not to say that a person who follows these suggestions will never find time to be afraid of what’s coming, or to doubt himself, his path, and his choices. On any given day I may find myself mired in fear and doubt. I may not want to get out of bed or I may just be counting the hours until I get to get back into it. I may spend time going over my gratitude list or saying affirmations to myself in the mirror and wonder “Why am I wasting my time?” And there are many times that I ask myself “Isn’t there something - anything - that I can use to take the edge off?” This is a very dicey road to go down, obviously. As a former substance abuser, I know that, deep down, there will always be a part of me that yearns to ingest something that will get me out of the present moment and into a place of peace and quiet.
    
    Is there something that I can take that won’t give me a buzz, and therefore create a false desire within myself to seek it out at times that are neither appropriate nor opportune?

    When I was introduced to the world of essential oils, I had no idea how big a part they would play in my recovery. There are a variety of oils that have been used for centuries to encourage a way of living that is free from addiction. Additionally, there are oils that help create feelings of peace, serenity, grounding, and calm. I have often taken comfort in the knowledge that I have this blend of oils and others in my home, at my disposal. When things start to unravel, the blend helps induce a sense of calm so I can think straight. It helps me get a good night’s sleep, which is imperative for me to have the energy to face a new day. As with many addicts, I have issues with anger - that are tied in with depression and a host of other self-esteem issues - and the blend helps maintain an even-keel, without as many outbursts. 

    I suppose I still rely on substances to maintain my every-day existence, but the oils don’t lead to me losing all the things I hold dear - my family, my health, my self-respect, and my sobriety. They don’t get me high. They don’t create a false reality where all is euphoric and fantastic. Rather, they help me appreciate that which is good in my reality when I’m having a hard time staying level-headed, peaceful, and grateful.  
    
    And I don’t need a dealer, or even a prescription, to get them.

The Strength of an Addict

   In 12-step recovery, the addict is encouraged to dig deep into his past, and into himself, and honestly look at all the wrongs he is guilty of - in action and in thought. Not surprisingly, the process is painful, and it is frequently met with a considerable amount of resistance. But it is urgently suggested as a crucial part of any real recovery. To lay claim to the misdeeds of one’s past and the unhealthy thoughts that exist in the present is to begin to build the base from which a healthy future may evolve. By contrast, to ignore one’s indiscretions is to ignore responsibility for one’s life in its entirety, as opposed to just taking credit for the good stuff.        

    Not that you will find many addicts bragging about - or even mentioning - many of the good things they’ve done or are capable of doing. Go to a 12-step recovery meeting, and you will hear tales of manipulation, crimes committed, and degradation. Honest and open monologues will contain confessions and self-reproval. Once a person gets comfortable in the rooms, he discovers the huge relief that comes with divulging the truth. He finds he can talk about things that he dare not discuss anywhere else, and it is incredibly liberating to get the garbage off his chest. He begins to be free from the suffocating weight of the lies and deceit of which he is guilty.

    Unfortunately, the relief found in confession too often leads to pleasure taken from personal derision. What begins as a tool for self-improvement becomes an exercise in self-pity. An addict loves any action that provides immediate pleasure, and the diatribe that derives from internal conflict provides instantaneous and powerful release. It becomes easy to spew the rhetoric of resentment, because there is little work involved. All you need is a person to face while you complain. 

    Frequently an addict will be stuck for years in this part of his recovery. The spiritual flagellation he subjects himself to becomes as much a bad habit as his drug/behavior of choice. Eventually, he builds himself up to be the martyr who deserves to never be free from the ever-present guilt that he welcomes into his soul. He is grateful for the feelings of self-deprecation and defines himself with them. He may laugh and joke while among his brethren in recovery. He will smile while being quick to volunteer service to other addicts in and out of recovery. But away from the rooms, he is miserable. His truth is that of an irredeemable and undeserving soul.

    But what part of the truth remains undisclosed? 

    What too many addicts fail to concede is their own brilliance. There are astounding qualities that exist amid the sea of crap that they envision as their life. The problem is that digging deep to discover, nurture, and share these qualities takes work. And most addicts in recovery are sick of digging, because digging a hole to hide from life is what they did for so many years.  

    I challenge you to go to a 12-step recovery meeting and tell 5 of the attendees that they are beautiful souls who deserve peace, love, and happiness in their lives, regardless of what they may have done while in active addiction (or recovery!). At least four will look back at you with doubt in their eyes and say nothing. Or they may deflect the statement with a comment about how they are grateful that their lives are not worse, although past actions could have easily made them so. Or they will flatly deny that they deserve anything but repercussions for their sins and a life sentence of active atonement.

    I have found very little encouragement for recovering addicts to celebrate the good aspects of themselves. There is a lot of talk about gratitude, but it is always in reference to things outside of themselves, or the good fortune that their addiction did not create more mayhem than it did. It is extremely rare to hear anyone express joy simply for the fact that they are a powerful, living spirit. Nobody says they are awesome or that they have much to contribute to society. Each and every addict has something inside that the world sorely needs, but this fact is actively ignored. Instead addicts are told to list all of their shortcomings, to share with one another their misdirected thoughts, and to remain alert for unhealthy desires. They were in the throes of addiction, and they are still susceptible to addictive thinking and actions. To combat their dark side, they are told to focus on all the wrongs, the bad, the ugly. 

    I assert that all this self-disparagement is a waste of time. Yes, you did some crappy things, and, yes, you are a less-than-perfect person with the propensity to make mistakes or even to do unto yourself at the expense of others. Undoubtedly, there is room for improvement. But you’re not going to change anything by sitting around, exclaiming what a waste of human tissue you are. Beating yourself up is non-productive, self-serving, and easy. Nobody can cry a wider river of tears for you than you can. It is very possible that most of those people who you harmed don’t think about you nearly as much, nor with as much intensity, as you think of them. You probably are just not that important to them. 

    On the other hand, when is the last time you thought about any of these people without regret, remorse, or guilt? Do you remember, did you ever know, what made any of these people wonderful human beings, and how did they touch your life in a positive way? Certainly, if any of these people have absolutely no redeeming factors in the way their lives intertwined with yours, they are far in the minority. And if there are no good thoughts that go out toward these people, have you at least saved any for yourself? What did you tell yourself today that was an affirmation about how incredible you are? What interesting and unique gift do you possess that you took a moment to appreciate? Where do you place yourself on your gratitude list? Are you even on it?

    If you take only one thought away from these words you are reading, let it be this : 
    You are a child of the Universe.

    I’m not going to get into a discussion of who or what you believe in, because has no bearing on the above statement. The two indisputable facts that have relevance are : you were born, and you exist in this Universe. You want proof? Just look into the mirror - there you are. Now look out the window - there it is. 

    You were born to shine. One way or another, emitting one type of ray or another. It’s up to you to find out how to shine and what colors to transmit. This is the part that takes work. It’s what will cause pain and confusion and frustration. But it will also bring about the fullest sense of happiness and purpose you can imagine. And it can only be achieved by letting go of debilitating guilt about the past, while retaining the responsibility of ownership of the past. Addicts are most hard-pressed to find the beauty that lies within. But it’s been there since birth, and it cannot be destroyed. Poke around inside your mind and you’ll find it. Keep looking, and you’ll figure out how make it an active part of your life. Once you do that, you won’t have time to drag your feet and talk about what a terrible person you are. 

    Everyone who walks the earth has a responsibility to lift us all just a little higher than when he arrived here. You can’t lift anything when you live in negativity. And when you focus on every lousy thing you ever did and every lousy thought that passes through your head, you are doomed to live in negativity. Try being nice to yourself, loving yourself, admiring yourself, trusting yourself. Own the awesome power that lies within. Be as open and honest with your good points as you are with the bad. You will be able to help lift the human race by sharing yourself with the Universe in ways that you may never have imagined. 

    The important thing to realize is this -  You still can shine. Today, tomorrow, next week. No matter how much time you spent in the darkness, and no matter how deep you dug. The opportunity to live again is in front of you right now. Begin by loving yourself for all the wonders that are you. They don’t have to be unusual or unique to be amazing. The tiny and seemingly inconsequential ingredients all play a part in the mix of mind, body, soul, and stardust that is walking around this earth and answers to your name. 
   
     But you can't heal if you focus only on the poison. 

How to Really Know Your Comfort Zone

You hear it, you read it, you see it posted. Everyone, everywhere is saying that your comfort zone is a place of non-productivity and developmental gridlock. They say that life begins at the end of your comfort zone or that change only occurs when you are on your feet, fully engaged, and off of the couch. They tell you to get comfortable with discomfort and that, to truly live, you need to thrive on uncertainty. Turn off the TV, get away from the computer, put away the cookies, take a shower, and prepare to enter the world outside your front door. Participate in something new and with people with whom you are unfamiliar. 

    As an advocate for positive change, I agree with all of the above. I know how hard it is to truly change, even for a person who really wants to do so. Therefore, I agree with the idea that most people benefit greatly from constant reminders that change takes a lot of work. And a lot of desire and dedication. Sometimes the people who most want to change are those who most greatly resist it, so it is natural to rely on the repetition of mantras and affirmations, almost to the point of harassment, as a means to get these people moving.

    However, if you look around enough, if you listen to what’s happening outside your own mind, if you seek answers from those who are (presumably) wiser, more enlightened, and closer to the “answers,” you begin to realize that a lot of people are just saying the same thing over and over. They keep rehashing the same old trite sayings. They show you a pretty picture of themselves doing yoga or eating a healthy meal or sitting on a beautiful beach. They tell you that all you have to do is listen to them and you will have
whatever it is you desire, usually in the form of a soul mate, a bunch of money, or a smoking hot body. 


    Far be it from me to belittle the very reasonable desire to have these goals in your life; when I was single, I looked for a mate, I have struggled with body image issues, and self-induced stress over money concerns has led me down some dark roads in my life. And certainly, I understand what it is like to be so incredibly stubborn and stuck in your ways that you would prefer to be on the easy and familiar ground of misery rather than on the difficult and uncertain road to happiness. So I understand why seeing and hearing these messages of hope over and over can spur a person on to make incredible changes in his life. It’s the constant tap on the shoulder, the smiling wave from the beach, the gentle whisper in the ear “Do you want to keep living your life this way? Is mediocrity all that you want, or are you willing to reach for extraordinary? Will you continue to stifle your heartfelt desires with the daily cocktail hour, or will you spread your wings and truly live?” A big wave will move from sand around, but the repetition of the tide will reshape the entire beach. 

    The problem arises when a person looks to another person to provide him with ALL the answers to his questions, to the ONLY solution to his problems. I see so much similarity among those who would bestow upon you THE way to happiness, because easy answers are conveniently passed around. The basic blueprint is to hit a few pain points then offer a simple solution with the promise of a shiny new life. Just sign up, and your future bliss is assured. 

    Certainly, some of these people will help you change your life. And many will tell you up front that they will help guide you, but they won’t do the work for you. But too many of them will take your money then throw a lot of recycled cliches at you, unconcerned about who you are as a unique individual, with nuances of personality, unexplained phobias, and flashes of brilliance. 

    This life is what you make of it. You can shine like the sun or stay in the shade. You can unleash your spirit and let it cruise throughout the solar system, or keep it close to home. You can mingle with and wade among all the people of the earth, or you can be stoically introverted. Who is to say which of these paths is right? Who is to say which of the infinite choices that lay in front of you, in this life, is the best? At any given time, in any given place, circumstances are uniquely yours, as are the questions that you have to answer. Or you may choose to ignore them all.

    You are the ultimate authority to decide what is best for you. When seeking advice, be sure to ponder it thoroughly before heeding it. A guide will help you find the answers that already lie within but which elude you. A charlatan will fill your head with pretty colors that quickly fade and leave you more confused and lost than before. And just because you hear something from many sources, that doesn’t mean it is advice that is wisely followed. Propagation through repetition of an idea does not denote personal accuracy or relevancy. 

    That being said, is all this comfort-zone-bashing beneficial to your particular life? Man has struggled and fought with other men, as well as with himself, since the day he emerged from the primordial ooze, to establish a place of safety, ease, and well-being : a comfort zone. We work hard to make a living, to ascertain our self-identity, to carve a space into our reality where we feel we belong. When we achieve these things, should we not enjoy them? Why struggle if you can’t enjoy the fruits of your labor? You built the zone, so take comfort in it! There is no reason not to revel in it, to lounge in it, to get naked and roll around in it.

    Until...

    Your comfort zone is the only place you dare to tread. The only reason that your comfort zone is comfortable is that everywhere and everything else terrifies you. You vaguely remember life before your comfort zone, but it has been so long since you ventured from the bubble, you no longer have any idea how you would get around “out there.” 

    The choice is, and always will be, entirely yours as to whether or not (or when, or how often) you leave your comfort zone. Should you decide to let someone else run your life, you still have made the decision to relinquish control. And you can always take it back. Just make the decision based on what drives you toward joy, as opposed to that which leads you from fear. Let your happiness steer your spirit through the times and places that you experience, whether anyone else agrees with your decisions or not (I don’t care how many weeks his book was on the NY Times best-seller list).

    Ain’t nothing wrong with chilling on the couch...

Uncertainty

     Uncertainty is a common thread that flows through everyone’s life. What is not common is each person’s comfort with its presence. Some people seem to be very comfortable with uncertainty. They assume that whatever comes their way will be for the best and that everything will work out. Others hate it. If they had their way, they would know what is going to happen, when it’s going to happen, why, how, where...no room for surprises.


    As a rule, those who are uncomfortable with uncertainty are less optimistic than those who are. If you are uncomfortable with not knowing what’s going to happen tomorrow or next week, it may be due to the fact that you think something bad is coming your way. You want to be able to prepare for it, so you can lessen the impact of the damage that will descend upon your life. Knowing what is going to go wrong enables you to dodge the brunt of the oncoming storm. 


    People who are not too focused on what exactly is going to happen next week are generally more optimistic about the inevitable flow of their lives. They are confident that the Universe has their back. If the unexpected arises, it will be even better than what they had planned. They don’t need to know when the shit is going to hit the fan, because they assume that it never will, or if it does, it won’t create too big a mess.  
    I find myself somewhere in between, although I tend toward the “discomfort” side - closer than I care to be and certainly closer than I care to admit. Although I espouse positivity, the Law of Attraction, and the idea that your thoughts create your future, I still have doubts. I have moments (and days) where I fear for the future - mine, my family’s, and all of mankind’s. I call myself chronically optimistic, but not constantly optimistic. Although my optimism always wins in the end, I still battle doubt and disbelief at times in my life. I waver. I guess that means I’m still human. 


    For those of us who are uncomfortable with uncertainty, it is beneficial to remember that uncertainty doesn't have to bring about fear or trepidation. It can instead arouse curiosity and excitement. We've all heard about happy accidents. The things that surprise us, the things that we don't plan for often are the things that make life sweet. These are the things that we remember - more so than the plans that went perfectly. People say "I love it when a plan comes together" but they don't REMEMBER it. What they do remember is when a plan falls apart. For better or worse, these times are what make us who we are and shape us as human beings. They teach us and inspire us. They give us a depth that we don’t have if we always get our way. Often times Plan B is better than plan A anyway because of the lessons we learn and the unsought knowledge obtained It’s rare that unforeseen circumstances lead to the conclusion that whatever we were doing was a total waste of time. Rather, usually we experience a HAPPY accident. There is a pleasant shock to the system.


    "Well…. I didn't see that coming, but COOL!"

My (Subtle) Resentments

I've been thinking a lot about resentments lately - the ones that are very strong and in the forefront of your mind, as well as the other quieter and more subtle ones - and I'm not sure which are worse. 


    The strong ones are loud, in your face, and impossible to ignore, because they are obvious: the guy who cut you off in traffic or the “friend” who derides you behind your back. They pull you out of the productive, positive place you strive to live in and demand your attention. Try as you might, you can’t get them out of your head, and they will drive you crazy if you let them.


    But at least you know what is leading you down that unhappy road. 


    Subtle resentments are way more insidious. They frequently arise from instances where you feel something that you think you shouldn’t feel. You doubt that your thoughts and feelings are valid, because someone else disagreed with them or violated them. Things you were told by an adult when you were a child or offhand comments made by someone you admire can be absorbed and, left unexamined, begin to cause confusion. This confusion slowly settles into your psyche. Undetected, it begins to suck the joy out of your being, like leeches. The “truths” that were thrust upon you by people who “know more” or are “wiser” than you masquerade as your own actual truths. They survive in your heart and mind until they become indecipherable from truths that derive from the authentic you. You may not even know that they exist or that they are weighing you down. 


    It's like a pilot who is trying to fly an airplane. He has checked the weight of the passengers and luggage, he knows the thrust of the engines and the specs of the wings. Your hidden resentments are like extra weight that the pilot knows nothing about. He starts heading down the runway, full speed ahead, faster, and faster. But as he approaches the end of the runway, he's not becoming airborne. What's going on? Why isn't he taking off? And now it's too late to try to change his trajectory. That extra weight causes him to crash and burn, just like those hidden resentments cause you to crash and burn. 


    One day you look in the mirror and say “Just what the hell DO you believe, anyway? It’s a loud, confused chaos that exists behind those eyes, and I have no idea how things got so fucked up in there”


    That's why it's so important to constantly monitor your true intentions, constantly search inside for how you truly feel, measure your gut reactions to see if something that is NOT borne of your true self is driving you to act out in certain ways. How do YOU feel about events in and around your life? What do YOU want to offer to those who you interact with? What is the TRUE self that you want to grace your world with? 


    Don’t let the sticky residue of past resentments influence the healthy, loving soul that yearns to be happy, that DESERVES to be happy. Subtle resentments are like the dirt on your hands from working in the garden all day. They won't leave you until you make a conscious effort to be free of them. 


    It is crucial to your sanity to keep taking personal inventory. Resentments have a very long lifespan, and they will hide for years if you let them. They will bring you down if left unchecked. Never stop asking yourself what are your motivations for acting, doing, thinking, saying...for BEING. You are your own highest authority for what is best for you. You are your own best guide to your path in your life. Let go of the resentments. Be influenced by the love that surrounds you, the light that resides within you, and the infinite possibilities that lie in wait for you.
 

Living for the End Game, Enjoying the Ride

 I've been thinking a lot lately about my "life's work". A brief history : I've had a few different "careers". Each time I ended one, it was in (frequently mutual) disgust, and each time I entered a new one, it was with excitement that THIS would bring me the life of my dreams. My current career - that of being life coach and personal growth guy - began with the promise of showing me the answers to all my questions about existence. I wrote about life experience, I wrote about seeking a deeper meaning in life and all of its components, I bore my heart and soul, I shared about recovery, and I shared about truths that were revealed through these processes. 

    It was gratifying and cathartic. I was relieved of many burdens as I helped others navigate life's challenges. It felt good to be honest (at times, painfully so) , and it felt good to serve my fellow man. 

    Then the work began. 

    When I say this is my life's work, I am implying that there is an income that results from my efforts. And when I intend to earn a living at something, it implies I have something of value to provide those who would pay me. This means I need to research and model myself after those who have walked this path before me, dig endlessly within to find my connection and truth through these people, learn how to lead meditation, perform reiki, hold retreats, speak at crowded seminars, write books, inspire thousands to heed the wisdom of my words....

    Holy shit! I want to go back to what I did before!

    I aspire to positively affect others, the way some of my heroes - Toni Robbins, Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Mastin Kipp, etc - have (I won't even mention the Big Boys - Buddha, the Dalai Lama, Jesus Christ). I try to be inspired by all they have done, and yet I find myself envious of all that they have achieved and doubt that I will ever attain that level of service. 

    Part of the reason I got into this line of work was to do something that actually means something to me. And because I felt I needed to start giving back to the universe that has provided me with so many gifts and gotten me through so many messes. But I listen to a guy like Brendon Burchard (another hero of mine) say "Live. Love. Matter" and I feel this intense urgency to do great things RIGHT NOW!!!

    Of course, the greatest thing a person can do is : on a daily basis, find forgiveness for yesterday's mistakes, aspire to be the greatest self today, and prepare for the unknown challenges that will come tomorrow. If you do this every day of your life, people will be talking about you and the fantastic accomplishments you achieved in your lifetime long after you're gone. 

    But when I have a few hours alone - the kids and wife are gone for the afternoon, and I have no specific deadlines to meet, do I make the best use of every minute that I have? Do I read the book by Dr Daniel Amen that I've been meaning to read? Do I watch an online inspirational video by Gabrielle Bernstein or Marie Forleo? Do I look at the latest post by Tim Ferriss? Do I take the time to let some or all of this new, highly valued information soak into my bones and affect my life? Or do I watch Sons of Anarchy while thinking that there is NO WAY Eckert Tolle would waste his time this way?

    The answer is : yes. 

    I do all of these things, and sometimes I do one thing to an extent that I can't get to the other things. And sometimes it feels incredibly overwhelming to have so many high aspirations and so few hours in the day. And sometimes I ask - "Why do I waste time on the trivial, mundane, uninspiring clutter that does nothing to lift me up spiritually?"

    It's because that inane garbage is vacuous content that gives my brain a rest from the hard work I put it through. If I aspire to one day be on par with some of the awesome people I mentioned earlier, I have to do it my way, following the path the universe lays out for me. And if a day goes by where the only tangible thing I do is write a blog post, then that's ok. 

    The effort life requires is enough without the added burden of the guilt I lay on myself because I think I should have done more. The self-deprecation that follows will make me wallow in self-created failure.  

    And there is no failure! Only giving up. 

    I choose to do neither. 

    Nor should you. So, the next time you find yourself "wasting" a few minutes, hours, or days by not pursuing your ultimate goals, remember : it's all a process, life takes as much time as it takes, and pushing too hard can cause it to push back. If you focus too hard on the endgame, you may miss the ride. And, really, that's what life is all about - the ride, mistakes and all.