Viewing entries tagged
self-esteem

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. 

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.