Viewing entries tagged
addiction recovery

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 support@lovejulieandandy.com to set up a FREE 30 minute coaching session. 

 

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. 

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. 

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.

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.