Viewing entries tagged
resentments

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. 

 

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. 

The Strength of an Addict

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

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

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

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

    But what part of the truth remains undisclosed? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.