Viewing entries tagged
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. 

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

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. 

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.