Archive for January 2011

Notes from Along the Road – Brave   Leave a comment

You are braver than you believe, stonger than you feel & smarter than you think.

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Notes from Along the Road 1/24/2011   Leave a comment

I wanted to take just a few moments to step back and reflect on the journey that has been the Road to Recovery Blog over these last nine months. As the days have gone on with each new article, I have realized how much I thoroughly enjoy this endeavor. As I complete and post one article, I am anxious to begin working on the next.

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However, I find myself asking the following questions:

  • “What do they think and feel about the material?”

 

  •   “What thoughts and feelings do the articles invoke in them?” and most importantly

 

  •  “Are the people that read the articles actually benefiting from them?”

With that in mind, I ask for your help. As I strive to become a better writer and to provide you with the information and encouragement that you need, I request your feedback and comments.

You can do so in a number of ways:

  1. Use the “Like” button (it has a star beside it).
  2. Rate the Post (line of stars at the conclusion of each post)
  3. Leave comments on the comments section each the post.
  4. “Like” the Road to Recovery Facebook Page and leave post and comments there.
  5. Join the Road to Recovery Blog Facebook Group and leave post and comments there.
  6. Finally, send me an e-mail to rd2recovery@gmail.com

In addition, if there happens to be a specific topic or question that you would like me to address, please let me know. Contact me and I will attempt to address it as best I can.

I also ask that you share the blog and Facebook pages with your friends and peers to whom you think the information will be helpful.

When I set out on this journey, I never would have guessed that I would have never guessed that I would have come as far as I have, but I admit I am still a work in progress and consider it an honor that you continue to read.

As I have said previously my hope and prayer that through these words you will be enlightened, encouraged, inspired, instilled with hope, and empowered as you continue along your Road to Recovery.

Sincerely and Gratefully,

Gary

Forgiveness Part 2   Leave a comment

As I begin this post, I start thinking about this very simple yet paradoxically complicated word.

There are so many implications. This word affects us in all relationships areas of our lives:  with God, with friends, with significant others and within ourselves. Each of these is intertwined delicately with each of the others. All of us have needed to forgive and be forgiven at some point in our lives. I believe that being able to forgive and willing to seek forgiveness are attributes that must be developed and honed in order for any individual to truly live a fulfilling and successful life. This is part two.

Forgiveness in our Relationship Within

Once we have resolved our need for forgiveness in our Relationship with God, then and only then can we begin to consider forgiveness in the other two areas. However, neither of them is as straight forward as the first and they are very much entangled together. Let’s look first at forgiveness within. It is often said and is no truer than in the life of those in recovery: “We are our own worst enemy.”  What exactly does that mean? To me, it means that we beat ourselves up over the smallest mistakes. We look for every weakness and imperfection and focus on them, and taking every effort to point them out to those with whom we have relationships. Even when others point out our strengths, or other positive attributes, we discount there compliments and deny them completely. In other incidents, when we offend or otherwise hurt or disappoint someone else, including God, and they forgive us, we will not let it go and move on; we are unable or unwilling to forgive ourselves.

My friends, we have all made mistakes and had to suffer the consequences of those decisions and behaviors. For some of you those consequences have been VERY painful and costly, on all levels. They have affected not only us, but those around us, especially those which we care for the very most; thus, confirming within our psyche that we are more “trouble than we are worth” and thereby not deserving of forgiveness and validating our poor self-esteem and self-worth. Let me refer briefly to a verse from Part 1:

 For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  Romans 3:23

We have ALL have sinned.  EVERYONE of us has made mistakes, it is called being human. As noted, some are bigger and have more detrimental to our relationships, recovery, wellbeing, our LIFE! However, there is no mistake that is not forgivable.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

My ability to accept and experience within is dependent on my surrender and willingness and ability to accept forgiveness in my relationship with God, as previously discussed. Unfortunately, for many of us, even that is very difficult.

Here is the hardest message as it pertains to forgiveness and it is true for ALL aspects (with God, with others and within)…

 Forgiveness is NOT based on being worthy or deserving of it.

Forgiveness is an act of grace and mercy.

Ultimately it is an act of LOVE!

 We must first accept and acknowledge the forgiveness that is given to us by God, not because we deserve it but because we don’t. We accept it as his gift of grace and mercy. What is the purpose of His forgiveness? The purpose is to restore our relationship with him.

If the Almighty God, the Ruler of the Universe and Giver of Life, is willing to lavish us with his love, grace and mercy, forgiving us of EVERYTHING, then who do we think that we are not being willing to forgive ourselves. We need to grant ourselves the same mercy and grace that He has so richly given.

Even then, learning to walk in forgiveness within is going to take practice and it will not come to us overnight. The pain and suffering that resulted from our poor decisions and behaviors will remain and heal slowly, but it will heal.

There will still be times and situations in which we struggle to forgive within. It is in those times that we must “Let go and let God.” We confess our struggle and inability to forgive ourselves and we ask Him to help us and to heal us from the hurt and pain that are deep within which are holding us back. As we draw closer and closer to His mercy and grace, it becomes easier to grant and apply mercy and grace to ourselves.

“The Hole” – A Lesson in Personal Responsibility   Leave a comment

The Hole - A Lesson in Personal Responsibility

The Hole

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
By Portia Nelson

Chapter One
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost…I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter Two
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend that I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in this same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter Three
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep whole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in…it’s a habit…but,
My eyes are open
I know where I am
It is my fault.
I get out immediately,

Chapter Four
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter Five
I walk down another street

 

 

Forgiveness   2 comments

As I begin this post, I start thinking about this very simple yet paradoxically complicated word.

There are so many implications. This word affects us in all relationships areas of our lives:  with God, with friends, with significant others and within ourselves. Each of these is intertwined delicately with each of the others. All of us have needed to forgive and be forgiven at some point in our lives. I believe that being able to forgive and willing to seek forgiveness are attributes that must be developed and honed in order for any individual to truly live a fulfilling and successful life. This is the first of either two or three parts on this issue.

Forgiveness in our Relationship with God

I do not make this blog an avenue to “preach” or “proselytize”, however, I have never concealed my personal faith. It with that in mind that I believe that ultimately there is only one place that we can start when we begin to consider forgiveness, our relationship with God.

It does matter who you are, where you are from or even what you have, we have ALL made mistakes and done “wrong”. Scripture calls these “wrongs” sin.

For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  Romans 3:23

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, itis  sin for them. James 4:17

Just like in our personal relationships when there is some offense between us and someone else, when we have sinned then there is an offense between us and God and thus a strain on our relationship with Him. However when he confess our sin, acknowledging them to ourselves and before Him, then He forgives and the relationship is restored.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. Psalms 32:5

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Proverbs 28:13

Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. Psalms 32:5

And finally, last but not least:

Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits — who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, Psalms 103:2-4

I especially like this last verse, because it expresses completely what God does in and for us when we come to Him. Let me explain briefly.

“Forgives all your sins” – He forgives ALL our sins and mistakes that were made in the past. The smallest to the largest there is no difference.

“heals all your disease” He heals us from our past hurts and disappointments, with His  help we can overcome our mental illness and addictions.

“who redeems your life from the pit” – He lifts us out of the pit, though many of them are self-induced, he delivers us from the consequences of our past sins and mistakes, setting our feet on solid and stable ground.

and crowns you with love and compassion”– He goes simply lifting us up out of the pit,  he puts his crown of love and compassion on us claiming us for himself.  Though we  have never known or accepted unconditional love He gives it to us freely.

So I ask you my friends, what are you waiting for?

He anxiously waits to hear you call out to Him.

Of course that is not quite so easy for some of us. We have our own issues and hurts and are angry AT God. We believe that He has wronged us in some way or another. We are angry because he “took” someone that we loved greatly. We blame Him for the terrible and traumatic things that have happened to us or others near us. We do not understand how he could be a God of “Love and Compassion” and allow bad things to happen to “good” people.

Unfortunately there is no easy answer, to these questions. U can simply reference one passage:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares  the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

Ultimately there we may never have the understanding that we so desperately seek, but at some point we must accept that He is God, and though I do not understand, He had a reason and I must move on. Sometimes the only answer will be, “He is God”.

Isaiah 55:6-13

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty,but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the LORD’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.”

“Baby Steps” – Self-Esteem   12 comments

“Baby Steps” a Lesson in Self-Esteem

Self-Esteem is probably one of the most important yet difficult issues faced by any human being whether you are challenged with a mental illness or substance abuse or not. This is even truer for those that are traveling along this journey of Recovery battling these issues.

It has been my experience that Self-Esteem is so difficult for some of us that we avoid even talking about the issue completely, including ways to work to improve it. I believe that we do this because we are fully aware of the minimal amount of esteem that we have for ourselves. This low-self-esteem is a great obstacle in our recovery.

We will often sabotage our potential and possibility of success, by not fully investing ourselves and thus not giving our very best effort. Why? We do this because we are “Sure” that we are going to fail again. If we are honest with ourselves, then we often unconsciously and at times consciously choose to fail rather than succeed. I believe that we do so for a couple of different reasons.

 1. Though it is painful, failure is actually comfortable and familiar. Though it hurts, we know where we are and what is going to happen next.

It is sad but true but, many of us, despite the pain and suffering we will often choose to remain in a state dysfunction out of comfort and familiarity.  On the other hand, if we allow ourselves to succeed, then there is a whole new world of unknowns that we must navigate. Once we start experiencing even the smallest of victories, then we are faced with all new expectations of success placed on us by ourselves and by others. Here again, we had rather fail now rather than fail later and let ourselves or more importantly (to us at the time) someone else.

 2. Through our past and experiences, we have grown to believe, “I don’t deserve to be successful and happy”

For many of us we initially heard the negative messages from others, parents, teachers, others kids at school, etc. Messages like: “You’re good for nothing”, ”You’ll never amount to anything”, “I don’t even know why you try”, “ All you are is a screw-up”. These “tapes” have played in our heads for so long that we grow to believe that we really are “worthless” and do not deserve to have anything good happen in our lives. When something does happen to our benefit, we attribute it to “luck” or to the actions to someone else and refuse to accept any personal recognition or satisfaction for the effort which we put forth in order to reach that point of success, no matter how great or how small.

 3. We have developed a since of learned helplessness.

Similarly, we grow to accept and take on these same negative messages and thus believe that we truly are not capable of succeeding.  Therefore, when faced with an opportunity for success, we either consciously or unconsciously sabotage it, insuring that we fail. There by strengthening our belief in our helplessness. I believe that this is where the concept of the “self-fulfilling prophecy” comes in.

 A self-fulfilling prophecy is at the beginning, a false belief about a situation which evokes a new behavior which makes the original false conception come ‘true’. Thus the individual will cite the actual course of events as proof that he/she was right from the very beginning

Much of what I have shared thus for is not new to any of you, in fact my guess is that as many of you have read, you have said to yourself, “Oh, that is why I do that”. Well now that we have a little bit of an idea, of how we got to where we are, and why we have stayed here, lets look at some ways to get moving in the right direction.

Most, if not all of us, have been hindered at least to some degree by before mentioned learned helplessness. There is one good thing about learned helplessness… it is LEARNED. If it is learned, then it can be unlearned and something new, different, better can be learned in its place.  We can learn “hopefulness”.  Hopefulness essentially is the opposite of helplessness.

Hopefulness is “Believing, despite what I see in my circumstances, I am capable and worthy of being successful.”

 Of course, getting to that point is much easier said than done. Many of us have been hopeless and helpless for so long, we struggle with even the possibility of hope.

 Self-Esteem has to be build from the ground up and learning to walking in it really is a step by step process. Let me borrow from a life experience and lesson that we have ALL learned from.

When a child learns to walk, he/she does not turn 10-months old and just start walking independently. There are MANY smaller steps that have occurred over the months leading up to day.  He/she rolled over, scooted, crawled, pulled up to stand, etc. He/she took one “baby step” after another until he/she got to the point of taking those first steps. Even then, once he/she starts walking, there are going to be falls, bumps, and bruises.  Does the child give up? NO. He/she cries for a bit, but then gets up and tries again. Slowly but surely, he/she gets better and better, more stable, and ultimately more and more confident.

We must translate these same “baby steps” into our recovery. As we start out, we slowly put one foot in front of the other, a little wobbly at first and reaching out and relying on our support systems to a degree. We begin with simple say day to day challenges: getting out of bed, taking a shower, eating, going to support groups or meetings. If faced with more difficult decisions we seek counsel from among our peers and support. As we grow more confident and stable in making these simple day to day decisions and solving problems, we gradually start taking on more difficult ones. Again, we are becoming more and more confident in the process. Just as with the child learning to walk, we are learning that there is hope, we can be successful and it really is not as scary a place as we thought that it was. We have learned to be hopeful, seeing ourselves and our circumstances from a optimistic perspective, seeing the good that our lives can be and how we can be an asset to those around us.

 I want to leave you with a few practical exercises to help as you begin “crawling” in your self-esteem:

  1.  List 5 positive things that other people have said about you.
  2.  List 5 positive things about yourself.(Attributes or accomplishments)
  3. Share a compliment with 5 other people.
  4. Do something unrepentantly kind for someone that you perceive to be  “worse off” than you.

 As you complete each “step” take out a pen and journal about how completing the activity made you feel. Take note to how you feel about your self before and after each activity.

 “We have to walk before we can run!”

Be Still, Be Silent.   1 comment

We always talk about New Years being a chance for new beginnings, a chance to start over, to do things differently than we have in the past. However, sometimes, the first thing that we have to do is do NOTHING! What do I mean by that? We often are so wound up in our own thought and especially our emotions that we often REACT; we take action purely based on these emotions. What is the usual outcome? TROUBLE! Why is that? Well, we all no, our emotions are not always rational and appropriate for a given circumstance. Those of is on this journey of recovery of one kind or another, often over exaggerated and dramatize our situations. As the old saying goes, we “make mountains out of mole hills.” Then because of we see our lives as so awfully, we want to share our pity party with EVERYONE around us; and we expect them to completely join our party and validate how terrible out lives are. But, then when they don’t do so, we get angry and see their responses to us as even more proof to confirm that our feelings are justified. What lessons do we learn in this process? “We’re worthless, our lives are hopeless, and we can’t trust anyone to support or help us.”  But is that actually true or is it just our perceptions of our circumstances?

 I challenge you to consider this a moment, then see if you do not agree that it is actually the later.

 As this we enter this year, I urge you to take time to slow down and in the midst of the storm, be still, be silent and do nothing at first. What happens when we stop and do not react automatically? We give our brain a chance to begin to rationally process the situation and we can come to more appropriate and logical interpretations of what is going on. As a result, we make wiser and healthier decisions for our lives and our recovery.

Thus the first sentence if the following quote applied…

The beginning of wisdom is silence. The second step is listening. — Unknown

 That brings us to the second sentence. As mentioned earlier, when we are falling apart in the midst of our pity party, we are to busy telling others how bad things are, we don’t hear much less listen to what out friends and support system have to say that just might be positive, encouraging and helpful to us. Thus, we need to learn and force ourselves to share what is going on with us, but then be willing to be quiet and not only hear, but LISTEN to what those around have to share. Will their advice always be right on? Of course it won’t, but we will never know if it is good or bad if we will not listen to it. Even if it is good advice and information, we are still under no obligation to follow it. You listen and then think it through for yourself. The most important part is being willing to LISTEN.

 That brings me to one other brief point that I want to share. As you enter in to this New Year I encourage you to take some time to be still and be silent. Listen to what this past year has taught you? What mistakes have you made and what lesson did you learn from having done so? What success have you achieved, and what have you learned about yourself in the process. Remember the falls, but only briefly, remember more the getting back up. CELEBRATE your victories and accomplishments. Having done so; look at the year that is to come. Set goals that you are brave and bold, but achievable. Set smaller goals that will be used as markers of your progress. Imagine life as a marathon, the ultimate goal is the finish line; the smaller goals are the mile markers along the route.

 So my friends, I again encourage you…

First, Be Still, Be Silent!

Gary

Carpé Diem

Remember Yesterday, Hope for Tomorrow, Live Today!

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