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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. 

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.