Archive for the ‘Purpose’ Tag

“Baby Steps” – Self-Esteem (Re-Post)   5 comments

“Baby Steps” a Lesson in Self-Esteem

After some recent interactions I feel that this is a good time to revisit this concept. It is such a struggle for so many. I actually heard someone say “I don’t feel worthy of getting better.” How much clearer can this epidemic be expressed?

I Hope and pray that your are encouraged and inspired to fight the good fight and take those first challenging “Baby Steps” of reclaiming your self-esteem.

As always, your comments and feedback are welcome and ENCOURAGED

One Breath, One Step, One Day at a Time!

_______________________________________________________________________

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!”

My Own Little World   Leave a comment

What if there’s a bigger picture?
What if I’m missing out?
What if there’s a greater purpose?
I could be living right now
Outside my own little world

from “My Own Little World” by Matthew West

 I woke up at 3 AM with this song resounding through my head. The entire song is actually quite beautiful and inspiring. (I hope that you will listen to it at the link provided at the end.)

So what’s the message of these simple lyrics? My hope and prayer is that we discover the answer to this question together as we discuss these words and a few passages of scripture that I have found to be well-fitting.

Our lives can get to the point were they seem to be a never-ending whirlwind of activities:

Work, raising kids, meetings, cleaning house, church, laundry, friends, and the list goes on and on and ….  I know I am as guilty as any of getting drawn in to “”busyness” and going through the motions; existing in my environment, but not really living.  In essence we have become “nearsighted” in our relationships, activities and our very “being”. We have turned our vision and our focus solely on microcosm of those things that affect us directly. Everything else is simply a blur.

However there is great truth in this chorus is this:

There IS a bigger picture

I AM missing out

I HAVE a greater purpose.

As long as I continue with my head down looking down and in I will miss out and not even recognize the bigger picture or what I am actually missing out on. I will simply know that I am not fully content or happy in the life that I am living.

So if we can agree that there is a “bigger” picture, then what is it?

Community, sharing, and giving a little bit of me to others so as to make their lives better.

As John Donne the English poet of the late 16th and early 17th Centuries said it, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.”
Another rather well-known writer, The Apostle Paul, stated it this way:

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.  Romans 12:4-6

 We are each a piece of the whole. In a sense as we are NOT our “own little world” floating in outer space unconnected with no effect on others around us. We are a part of an intricate system of beings interacting with one another, hopefully for the betterment of all.

As another highly respected teacher said it: “A new commandment I give unto you: that ye love one another, as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples: if ye have love one for another.”  Jesus (John 13:34-35)

This is definitely the case where 1+1≠2. When we look around at our co-workers, clients, neighbors, and even that stranger in front of you in line at the grocery store, we will realize that we are actually more alike than we are different. That last sentence that Jesus said in that verse sums up the whole of each of our purposes: “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples: if ye have love one for another.” In one word… LOVE!

Old Faithful, “Miriam Webster” defines love as “strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties” Notice again the connection, “kinship or personal ties”.

In real life terms for the 21st century, what is love? Love is sharing who you are, with others, your heart, emotions, time, talents, and resources. As we give love, then in turn we also receive it in return from others.  Pitcher tipped and pouring into other pitchers, however simultaneously, there are other pitchers being poured into it. However the instant that it is turned up and is no longer pouring, neither are those pouring into it. That which it holds simply grows stale and stagnates.

When we live our lives in “our own little world”, and we are not “loving” those around us, our lives grow stale, unfulfilling, unrewarding and in short futile.

 “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful…. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  Jesus in (Luke 6:36-38)

The size of the gesture is not important. Some of the smallest of acts have absolutely changed the lives of others.

  • A simple sincere smile and “God Bless You” to clerk at the grocery store. What you don’t know is that her husband just left her and her three kids and she is on the verge of giving up. However your kindness and love reminded her that there was hope.
  • A bottle of water and a “Thank You” to the postal worker delivering your mail in 100+ degree temperatures.
  • A burger and soda for the homeless veteran standing on the street corner.
  • Or lastly, simply being a sounding board and a shoulder to cry on for a hurting friend.

My friends, it does not take much, but can you imagine the difference that each of us could make in “our own little worlds” just by sharing a little bit of His Love! Just think, 11 men with a story and a lot of “LOVE” changed a lot more than their “own little world”, there are a lot more than 11 of us, why can’t we do the same thing!

I refer back to Romans 12:6, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”

We all have SOMETHING to give. So whatever you have to give, GIVE!

If you sing then SING; If you teach then TEACH;

If you encourage then ENCOURAGE; If you give then GIVE.

….whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

My friends I urge you to look up and around you, seek out opportunities to “pour out” His love and get out of your “own little world” and make a difference in the whole one that He holds in His hands.

My Own Little World

Matthew West

from the album The Story of Your Life

http://youtu.be/M9Yasgzjc0w

In my own little world it hardly ever rains
I’ve never gone hungry, always felt safe
I got some money in my pocket, shoes on my feet
In my own little world, population: me
I try to stay awake during Sunday morning church
I throw a twenty in the plate but I never give ’til it hurts
And I turn off the news when I don’t like what I see
Yeah, it’s easy to do when it’s population: meWhat if there’s a bigger picture?
What if I’m missing out?
What if there’s a greater purpose?
I could be living right now
Outside my own little world

Stopped at a red light looked out my window
I saw a cardboard sign said, “help this homeless widow”
And just above that sign was the face of a human
I thought to myself, God, what have I been doing?
So I rolled down the window and I looked her in the eye
Oh, how many times have I just passed her by?
I gave her some money than I drove on through
And my own little world reached population: two

What if there’s a bigger picture?
What if I’m missing out?
What if there’s a greater purpose?
I could be living right now
Outside my own little world
My own little world
Father, break my heart for what breaks Yours
Give me open hands and open doors
Put Your light in my eyes and let me see
That my own little world is not about meWhat if there’s a bigger picture?
What if I’m missing out?
What if there’s a greater purpose?
That I could be living right now
I don’t want to miss what matters
I wanna be reaching out
Show me the greater purpose
So I can start living right now

Outside my own little world
My own little world
My own little world

Trauma   3 comments

PREFACE: Please be aware that some may find this article triggering. Read with caution and PLEASE stop reading and seek out support at any point that it becomes overwhelming. It WILL be emotion inducing and some what challenging. However, I believe that you will be glad that you did so.

                 This article is definitely more enlightening, but I do hope that by the end you are encouraged, inspired, instilled with hope and most importantly EMPOWERED to believe in yourself and the strength that resides within.

YOU are NOT a VICTIM!                     YOU are NOT a SURVIVOR!

YOU ARE AN OVERCOMER!

There can be absolutely no denying the impact that trauma has on mental illness and substance abuse. In fact, I would guess that a significant number of readers of this very article, have been touched by some kind of trauma or another. In fact, I would be bold enough to day, that if you personally have not been touched by trauma, every one of us has some one close to us that has.

Well, let’s start with a simple definition of trauma:

  • A serious injury or shock to the body, as from violence or an accident.
  • An emotional wound or shock that creates substantial, lasting damage to the psychological development of a person, often leading to neurosis.
  • An event or situation that causes great distress and disruption.
  • Extreme stress that overwhelms a person’s ability to cope.

Trauma is also defined by DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as:

an event in which a person experiences, witnesses, or is confronted with actual or threatened death or serious injury or threat to physical integrity of oneself or others

Trauma can be the result of experiences that are private in nature such as:

  • sexual assault
  • domestic violence
  • Rejection / Abandonment
  • child abuse/neglect
  • witnessing interpersonal violence
  • Victim of Crime (assault, robbery, etc)

Trauma can also be the result of experiences that are more public in nature such as:

  • War
  • Natural Disasters
  • Terrorism
  • Automobile or other Accident

That being said we have ALL experienced some kind of trauma or another. However, it is the personal/private trauma that we think of most and typically has the most psychological effect.

 A Few Facts about Trauma

In mental health and substance abuse service settings

  • As many as 80% of men and women in psychiatric hospitals have experienced physical or sexual abuse, most of them as children.
  • The majority of adults diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (81%)or Dissociative Identity Disorder (90%) were abused as children.
  • Up to two-thirds of both men and women in substance abuse treatment report childhood abuse or neglect.
  • Nearly 90% of alcoholic women were sexually abused as children or suffered severe violence at the hands of a parent.

In childhood and adolescence

  • 82% of young people in inpatient and residential treatment programs have histories of trauma.
  • Violence is a significant causal factor in 10-25% of all developmental disabilities.

In the criminal justice and juvenile justice systems

  • 80% of women in prison and jail have been victims of sexual and physical abuse.
  • In one study, 92% of incarcerated girls reported sexual, physical or severe emotional abuse.
  • Boys who experience or witness violence are 1,000 times more likely to commit violence than those who do not.

From The Damaging Consequences of Violence and Trauma, 2004, compiled by Ann Jennings, PhD.

Trauma, especially when left untreated can have a severe and negative impact on a person’s physical and emotional well-being. Trauma has been linked to…

  • Hallucinations
  • Disassociation
  • Depression
  • Suicidal Tendencies
  • Chronic Anxiety
  • disturbances in mood/self-esteem,
  • Delusions
  • Self-Injury
  • Hostility
  • Flashbacks /Nightmares
  • Assaultiveness
  • Impaired interpersonal  Relationships
  • substance abuse

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OK, enough of the textbook info. What about where the rubber hits the road. In the lives of REAL people not numbers and statistics.  The truth is, traumatic experiences can literally be devastating! A single experience can be disturbing enough on the functioning of an adult, how more injurious is repeated or multiple traumas to the psyche of a child. This is my personal theory, not supported by any research that I know of:

“Trauma is the number one leading cause of poor self-esteem.”

 It reaches in to the deepest places of the individual psyche, pulls it out, rips it to pieces, stomps on it and then hands it back. All that is left is mess and the individually is usually unable to even recognize her/him-self after the fact.  All one is left with is pain, anger, fear, and self-doubt. At this point it feels like there is absolutely no hope at all.

My friends, look around, this sounds paradoxical, but if you are at the bottom, then that is a GOOD thing.

It is a good thing, because if you are at the bottom then there is only one direction to go and that is UP!

My personal “traumatic” experiences are rather minimal, but I have known and helped many through very intense and overwhelming experiences.  I do NOT claim to be a trauma expert, but want to offer some encouragement and insights for helping those that have these experiences to fully overcome them; even it is a “baby step” at a time.

So, where to begin? The first step and most important step is recognizing that you do not have to be a “victim” of the trauma in your past. Simply having survived and come out of it at least somewhat functional, you have proven the strength of your character. Despite how powerless you feel now, you are stronger than you believe at this point in time.

YOU are NOT a VICTIM!                      YOU are NOT a SURVIVOR!

YOU ARE AN OVERCOMER!

I once heard it said something like this: “The mark of an individual is not what he/she has accomplished, who he/she was in the community, how much money he/she made, but what adversity had he/she overcame!

Let me say it a little differently:  “Your past has shaped your view of yourself and the world around, but it does not define who you are now, or your destiny.

The first and hardest part of coping with trauma is separating ourselves from it! We must find a way to start rebuilding our “self” from the inside out. Here are a few practical steps from my article on self-esteem. (Click the link to open the article – will not close this one).

  • List 5 positive things that other people have said about you.
  • List 5 positive things about yourself.(Attributes or accomplishments)
  •  Share a compliment with 5 other people.
  •  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.

 Next and likely just as difficult and I know more painful…. We MUST get in touch with the depths of the emotions associated with our traumatic experiences.

 **WARNING**

Do NOT try this at home!

Do NOT attempt to do this ALONE!

As long as we continue to hide from, cover-up, stuff and self-medicate the feelings associated with our trauma, we will continue to suffer just like we were in the midst of the event over and over again. It is like a never ending flashback of pain and suffering. However, when we face them head and push our way through them, yes it is going to be VERY painful, and we want to quit and give-up. We say to ourselves and even to those around us, “It’s not worth it”. But hang in there. The pain is severe, but if you will endure, then you can break the power and control that those strong emotions have had on you leading to ongoing suffering. Now is the time to be totally honest with yourself and the PROFESSIONAL that is helping you. There is no such thing as wrong or inappropriate emotions. Every feeling that you feel related to your experiences is valid and need to be expressed, processed and released!

You will NEVER forget, but with time and work, those memories will not be painful and debilitating. You are on a long and treacherous journey, much like climbing a steep mountain with nothing but a cliff on one side and falling rocks on the other. But if you can hang on and keep pushing yourself, when you get to the top, the view is worth it. When you finally start feeling like you are getting “ahead” of your past, you will simply be amazed of how STRONG you will feel. The beauty and confidence that have been hidden by pain and fear.

Be patient with yourself, you did to get to this point in your life overnight and unfortunately overcoming it does not happen quickly nor easily either. But, celebrate and reward yourself for small victories and accomplishments along the way. Every obstacle that is overcome, makes you stronger and more prepared to overcome the next. Soon, instead of “making mountains out of mole hills”, you will be “making mole hills out of mountains!”

In closing let me close with one final recommendation

Each day wake up, believe and strive to demonstrate this simple affirmation:

 “I and I alone choose my destiny, I control whether I am happy or sad. I am responsible for me and me alone. I choose to live MY life; I choose to write my own story!”

We have to LIVE in the present looking forward with hope for the future. I urge you my friends star LIVING and take your life and destiny back from the traumatic events and perpetrators that have haunted you for TOO LONG!

 YOU ARE WORHT IT!

Your past may have set you going down a certain path, but you are still the one in the driver’s seat!

 The scars of yesterday are the badge of honor and strength of today and the proof of potential for tomorrow.

Write Your Own Story!   4 comments

Most of us have heard the old saying, “He who angers you, controls you.” I contend that anger is not the only emotion that we can let others to control us. These emotional ties come from many sources: past abuse or trauma, abandonment/rejection, unfaithfulness. Other sources include current disturbing behaviors such as substance abuse, violence run away, etc. They control us because we choose to have our lives driven by our emotional reactions to the behaviors of others. Lets discuss these two very different scenarios.

First lets look at control from the past. Please consider the following example;

A young man feels and believes he was abandoned and rejected by his birth mother. Despite being raised by a loving and caring step-mother, he never gets over the feelings of hurt, anger, resentment and bitterness. As a result of these feelings, he grows to believes that he is not worthy of being loved or wanted. So all of his relationships are either short lived because as soon as things start getting “too close”, whether consciously or not, he sabotages the relationship and pushes others away. This is not true just in romantic relationships, it can also be true in platonic relationships as well. If this is not what he does then he finds the “sickest” or neediest girl that he can and goes to work making her dependent on him. Why? If she need him to take care of her, she won’t leave, and thus abandon/reject him. (So he believes anyway).

 So what is the driving force behind these behaviors?

 His behavior is controlled by his unresolved issues from his mother. Thus, I would say that because he allows these beliefs and emotions to continue to shape and direct his life, he chooses to give the control of his life, the pen of his story, back to his mother, rather she wants it or not.

 When we continue to look back and let issues from the past control our emotions and behaviors then we are surrendering control over our destiny back to the person or persons that hurt us to begin with. I once said it like this: we had no control over the abuse in the past, but now we hand them the bat.

 Now, lets look at the other scenario, current disturbing behaviors of others that control our emotions and behaviors. As mentioned above, there are a number of behaviors that may contribute to this type of reaction: substance abuse, anger, violence, criminal behavior, run away, manipulation, etc. We have all been in this situation to some degree or another.

 Here again, lets look at another example:

 A young lady is in a relationship with an alcoholic/addict that disappears on binges for days at a time. She sits at home, crying and worrying that he is OK. When he does finally come home, she nurses him through coming down and withdrawal and then does everything that she can to clean up after him. If he misses work, she calls the boss and tells him he is sick. She keeps the secret hidden, yet she is miserable, lonely, depressed and hates every minute of it.

So here again, why? Similarly, she believes that is what a “good wife” does; “no one else would love me and want to be with me.” Whatever the case she continues to let his behaviors and her emotional response. This is especially difficult when the individual is not a spouse or even a parent, but your child.

To a degree, you feel responsible, you blame yourself, you ask yourself over and over, “What did I do wrong?” The truth is, for most of us, we did nothing wrong. Our loved ones/children have made their own choices. Despite all of our efforts now an in the past, we have no control over their choices and behaviors.

On the other hand, when we allow ourselves to be consumed by worry and attempts to “save them from themselves.” then we are giving them that exact control over our lives. We allow their behaviors and our emotional response to them to consume our very being.

We all know exactly what I am talking about; it is classic “codependency”. Sometimes we are aware of it and are even willing to acknowledge it, but we have been this way so long, we don’t know any other way to live. We have completely lost our identity as an individual because we are so enmeshed with our addicted loved one.

I hear you saying, “thanks for pointing out all that is wrong with me. That was really encouraging.” I truly understand, but what is the first step of solving a problem or fixing something is wrong? We have to recognize that what we have been doing to this point is number one not changing the other person, and number two and most importantly we are unhappy and in fact, miserable.

That brings me to the good news or bad news depending on your point of view, some recommendations on how to change this cycle and reclaim our emotions and behaviors. Here why I say it could be considered bad news: It is NOT going to be easy, and it WILL take a lot of work. So if you are ready to take the challenge and start living YOUR life again, then keep reading, if not good luck.

When we continue to look back and let issues from the past control our emotions and behaviors then we are surrendering control over our destiny back to the person or persons that hurt us to begin with. I once said it like this: we had no control over the abuse in the past, but now we hand them the bat.

Whether, it is the current or past, we must find a way, to do the hardest, but most important thing: “LET GO”.

 We must accept that there is nothing that we can do to change the events of the past. Holding on to the pain, anger, and any other related negative emotions only hinders our ability to move forward and meet our full potential. I know that this is a painful process and we can’t just let go and walk away that easy. Take your time, surround yourself with support. If possible being involved in some kind of counseling is also a good idea. This may be individual or a group of others with similar experiences.

 The same is true in regards to letting go of the expectation that we can change the dysfunctional and negative behaviors of our loved ones. Our worrying about them, nagging, yelling, threatening does not effect positive change, in fact many of these behaviors lead to exactly the opposite of the desired effect.

 The very best thing that we can do is express our love and concern for our loved one and then pray believing that the Heavenly Father will keep is eye and hand upon them. We can not go on protecting them from the consequences of their choices and behavior. When we do so, we simply enable the behavior to continue.

 Just like overcoming the past, and moving on, I know this is a difficult and painful process and we can’t just let go and walk away that easy. Take your time, surround yourself with support. If possible being involved in some kind of counseling is also a good idea. This may be individual or a group of others with similar experiences.

 The next step is probably just about as difficult, we must start reclaiming our own identity. For many of us we have been so entangled in the past or the behaviors of others that we have lost even the ability to recognize who we even are without that to define us.

 Start simply, set aside some time with just you, paper and pen or your computer.

  • List all the current roles that “define” you (mother, father,son, sister, teacher, friend, etc).

  • List your values? (What is important to you? – faith honesty, kindness, family, friends, etc.)

  • List the character traits that either define you now, or that you would like to do so. (strong, independent, hopeful, etc.)

  • List your strengths. (What are you good at?)

  • List your weaknesses. (What do you need to work on?)

  • What are your goals? (Where are you going, what do you want to do with your life?

  • Finally, write out a narrative that would describe you as person. Start with the list from above and describe your personality, your likes/dislikes, strengths weaknesses and most importantly where are YOU going in future?

Now, each day wake up, believe and strive to demonstrate this simple affirmation:

 “I and I alone choose my destiny, I control whether I am happy or sad. I am responsible for me and me alone. I can love and support others, but they must choose their own path. I choose to live MY life; I choose to write my own story!”

I feel like this article has been a little disjointed, but I hope and pray that it helps you to let go and start living your own life again.

Thanks for reading!

R2R

 

Be Still, Be Silent…   Leave a comment

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.Psalm 46:10-11 (KJV)

I grew up in what at the time was referred to as a “microwave” society, the 1980’s. Of course, at the  time computers were just coming on to the market and a “web” was still something that spiders made and you cleaned them out of the corners of your house.

We just thought that was a time of “instant gratification”. Compared to today with the internet, social media, text messaging, 24/7 cable news coverage. It is VERY easy to get pulled into information and activity OVERLOAD.

It seems that we are always GOING to do SOMETHING somewhere.  Community Meetings, school functions, sports activities, church, social gatherings, etc. We are so BUSY, we have minimal time to relate and interact with those living breathing souls that we live with, much less, setting a side to spend in relationship with our God and Father.

Because of this, we get more and more stressed, anxious, depressed and overwhelmed. For many of we are not “addicts”, but our lives have “become unmanageable”. We make decisions on the fly and react to situations rather than thinking them through completely. Then we are often faced with negative consequences as a result of these poor choices.

We appear to all those around us to be “super-human”, accomplishing so much and ALWAYS having a smile on our face. Yet, just below the surface, we are shattered to pieces and no one could ever imagine just how weak we feel and how much we are hurting. But, in the world we are strong and confident. Our world feels like it is literally falling apart around us, and we are drowning in the undertow of our circumstances.

This reminds me of a story that I heard many years ago about recognizing the hand and voice of God in our circumstances.

————————————————————————————————–

The Flood Story
A flood threatens a town, forcing everyone to evacuate, But Joe thinks,
“I’m a devout man, God will save me,” and stays put. As the waters rise, Joe’s neighbor comes by and says, “Joe come with me, we’ve got to go.” Joe declines,
“I’m a devout man; God will save me.”

The waters keeps rising, Joe scrambles to his second floor. A firefighter in a rowboat comes by. “Get in the boat or you’ll drown,” he says. Joe again declines, saying, “God will save me.”
Finally, the flood waters force Joe to his roof. A police helicopter comes by and throws down a rope. “Climb up or you’ll drown,” the policeman yells. “No, I’m a devout man, God will save me,” Joe replies.

Soon, Joe drowns.
He arrives in heaven and challenges God.
“Why didn’t you help me?”

“What do you mean?” God says.

“I did help. I sent a neighbor, a firefighter and a helicopter.”

———————————————————————————

“He has promised that He will not let us be tempted with more than we can handle. In the words of the story, He won’t let you drown.  Even in the midst of the storm, and there WILL be storms and trials, He will provide an escape. We just can not be like Joe and refuse his Hans when he stretches it out to us.” I Corinthians 10:13

But, how in the midst of the chaos that surrounds us day in and day out are we suppose to recognize His hand and voice? We learn to recognize His hand and voice just like we do anyone else’s. Spending time together. The instance we were born, we recognized our parents’ voices, why because even without seeing them we listened to them for the first 9 months of our existence. Despite not seeing Him if we WILL listen he speaks to us everyday.

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, Romans 1:20

 

Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.  So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave.  1 Kings 19:11-13

Whether it be His hand at work in His creation, or the “Still small voice” of His spirit speaking to us from within, He IS speaking.

A third time the LORD called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”

Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”

Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

And the LORD said to Samuel…..  I Samuel 3:8-11

He calls each of us by name, but we are to busy filling our ears with the things of this world or our minds with worries and fears.

STOP – LOOK – LISTEN

We all remember that simple reminder don’t we?

Stop – Don’t take another step

Look– Pay attention to situation around you.  Look at the BIG picture.

Listen – CLOSE your mouth… and open your ears and more               importantly your heart.

This brings me back to where we began; we must SLOW down, Be STILL, Be SILENT, and LISTEN!

We have long forgotten that prayer is not a one way street of communication. It is not just to tell him what we need and how “terrible” our life is”.

In the midst of ALL our crisis he is there is watching. He strengthens in our time of weakness.

Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.

He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.

Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.   Isaiah 40: 28-31

Also remember when you feel your weakest remember, that HIS strength is made perfect/complete in our weakness.

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.  ‎2 Corinthians 12:9

 I know I have been a little all over the place but I hope that you have been able to follow, my frenetic thoughts. Summing up:

 STOP –

Much of our difficulties or stress is SELF-IMPOSED due to being over committed.

Insure that you have time to take care of yourself.

Finally and most importantly, MAKE time to sit and be quiet in prayer and meditation.

LOOK –

Look at the BIG picture, not just on the circumstances at this moment.

Look at your life and situations from God’s point of view.

Look for His hand at work in even the “small stuff”. He is JUST as interested in your “small tuff” as He is the “BIG.”

LISTEN –

Be quiet, open your heart and ears.

Be willing to listen to the advice of Godly counsel.

Listen with your eyes by reading His Word.

EVERY traveler has to stop at a rest stop ever now and then. We have to have time to “refuel” and get “the oil changed” sometimes.  If we don’t we will burn out and blow up the engine.

It is OK to take a break.  Just don’t stay in the pits!

Be blessed and may your eyes, ears and hearts be open as the Lord speaks to and guides you each and every day!

So You Think You Know Me….   4 comments

The Paradox of Masks

“Society is a masked ball, where every one hides his real character,and reveals it by hiding” Ralph Waldo Emerson

We all wear a mask from time to time, many of us more than one and to tell the truth some of us live in them.  I consider the afore mentioned quote, “Society is a masked ball….” I envision people all standing around talking, but each is holding a masquerade mask covering his/her face. Then as someone leaves one group to visit with a different group, they change masks before they get to the next group.

 Even the great Apostle Paul said the following, “I have become all things to all people” in 1 Corinthians 9:22.

It is actually natural and healthy to adapt and conceal our parts personality to a degree when we are interacting in different situations or settings.  We all have different roles that we play. We  are a father/mother, a husband/wife, son/daughter,  supervisor/employee, teacher/student, a friend, etc. In each of these roles, we portray a little different version of ourselves than we do with the others. This adaption is normal and expected. I was recently discussing the concept of masks with some other travelers on the “Road” and the idea came to me that in these situations, it is more like having a veil that only partially hides the face; we partially conceal our true personality rather than covering it entirely.

However, many of have taken that next step and we wear a various masks, thus hiding our true personality entirely.

The question that must be asked is, “Why?” Why do we feel it is a necessity to wear masks and hide who we really are from others?

There are many different answers to this question; we will focus on the one that fits more than any other.

Life experiences have taught that others can not be trusted. If others are allowed “too close”, then they will disappoint and hurt us.

What kind of hurts have we experienced? These include: abuse, neglect, rejection, abandonment, just to name a few.

I know in my life personally, I felt abandoned and rejected by my mother. So in order to feel loved and accepted, I would enter a group and look around at the attitudes, behaviors and personalities of others in the group and I would proverbially, paint my mask to be similar to theirs.

The mask that I wore more than any other was the mask of caretaker and hero. Everyone of my “romantic” relationships up until I met my now wife of 15 years, were very co-dependent and dysfunctional. I figured that I wasn’t good enough for the “normal” girls. So I found subconsciously I sought out someone that needed to be “fixed” or “taken care of” as much as I needed to be needed.

Along my way on this journey, I have met MANY others that due to whatever reason, they have taken on the same types of behaviors. We have become people pleasers and co-dependent, seeking to insure that EVERYONE else is happy even when doing so makes us miserable on the inside.

This is no surprise to anyone, but if we live our lives hiding behind a mask, we will never be happy or find peace. We go from place to place and group to group always making sure that we are wearing the “right” mask for the occasion. Then we find ourselves in a crisis when we encounter people from different groups simultaneously. For example you out to dinner with your significant other, and “one of the guys” form the office comes up to you and tells you an off color joke that you know that your date is going to find offensive. What do you do? Which mask to you reveal?

Although I know it’s unfair I reveal myself one mask at a time” Stephen Dunn

 “It’s a terrible thing to be alone — yes it is — it is — but don’t lower your mask until you have another mask prepared beneath –as terrible as you like –but a mask.”Katherine Mansfield

There comes a point that as much as he hate it as unhappy as we are wearing masks, we get to the point that we no longer know how to live without them. We do not know how to interact and relate with others in any other way. We wear s certain mask for so long that we “become” the mask that we wear, yet we despise every moment of it, and start hating ourselves for getting to that point. We are miserable within our own skin and consciousness and have no idea what to do about it. This misery has led to many of the self-destructive habits and behaviors that led to us being on this journey; substance abuse, self-harming, eating disorders, suicide attempts and ideation, etc.

“Sometimes people carry to such perfection the mask they have assumed that in due course they actually become the person they seem.”  William Somerset Maugham

 “He who wears a mask cannot see within himself.” Anonymous

“The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. …You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask.” Jim Morrison

We have gotten to the point that we have completely lost knowing who we really are because all we see is the mask. We have even tried to “look inside” and we don’t know “who we are” anymore. Our personality has become so enmeshed with our mask, we do not know which are which and what emotions are real and which are the result of wearing the mask. Eventually, we get to the point that we stop feeling completely.

So, no what? Seems like the picture that I have painted to this point looks pretty grey and dreary, BUT there is hope! One day at a time, one step at a time we can RECLAIM our emotions, our behavior and ultimately our personality!

First of all you MUST learn to believe in ourselves again, and that often entails rebuilding our self-esteem.  Here is an except from a previous post “Baby Steps – Self-Esteem”

Self-Esteem has to be built 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.

Of course that is just the FIRST step, and as we all know that is a definite chore in and of itself. The good news is that as we are working on our self esteem, we become more and aware of our aware, comfortably and happy with our REAL personality. As we do so, then how do we get out from behind the mask and start revealing this “new person”.

Similarly, to building our self-esteem, we MUST take BABY steps. We start by taking little risk in trusted and safe relationships.

You and a group of friends are going to the movies and they are discussing what to go see, SPEAK UP! Jump into the discussion and share your opinion. Very low risk, but you’re giving yourself and your wants/needs a voice.

Slowly, over time take bigger and bigger risks in your relationships.

I know this sounds paradoxically TOO simple, yet at the time very difficult. The techniques are rather simple, the application “not so much”. I know from experience that working through the emotions related to this issue can be very painful. But I ask you, would you rather suffer the pain of dealing with the issues that got you to where you are, or do you want to continue to suffer in the misery of nothingness hidden behind a mask.

I hope pray that you choose to BELIEVE in the good that is within and the good in others.

When you hide behind a mask, it is like taking a priceless jewel and hiding its beauty from those desiring to admire it. You steal a little piece of the beauty out of the world.

So as was so appropriately stated my Jim Morrison, “The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are.”

Be Free,           Be Beautiful,                Be Happy!

Road to Recovery Manifesto   Leave a comment

This post is LOONG over due in being posted, both in the amount of time since my last message and in its content.

Road to Recovery Manifesto

At it’s inception, Road to Recovery was simply a coping skills class offered with the Patient Education program of aBig SpringStateHospital. It utilizes an active, interactive model for sharing and communicating information. The idea initially was to use a holistic approach to addressing recovery in regards to mental illness and substance abuse.

 In the process of interacting with those that attending the class, some seen of which would be discharged and re-admitted, I finally acknowledged something that we all know too well, “there are NOT enough resources available in most communities to adequately support those that are on this journey on a daily basis. That being said, in April of 2010 Road to Recovery took its first steps standing on its own feet with the launch of the Road to Recovery Blog. Not long after that Road to Recovery hit Facebook. Initially as a “Page”, which is actually still active, but then as a “Group”.

 Also in this time of getting up and walking, Road to Recovery has also gone online with Twitter and Tumblr.

 Just a few months ago, Road to Recovery, became its own “profile” on Facebook and within the last 3 weeks has added more than 150 friends, with more being added on a daily basis.

 So what is R2R today?

 Well, Road to Recovery continues to be the persona taken on by this writer with the hopes that through our interactions either personal, one on one, in the blog or other means of communication that you will experience on of the following as a result of that interaction:

  • Enlighten: To me, to enlighten is to share information with others so as to teach them something that they did not previously know, in order to allow them to improve the state of their lives.
  • Encourage: I recently described encouraging as offering a hand to another whom has slipped and fallen along their way and helping them to get back to their feet,
  • Inspire: Continuing from the previous thought, once the individual has gotten back on their feet; to inspire is to walk alongside and urge them on in their journey, rooting them on saying “you can do it”.
  • Instill Hope. To give, to share or impart hope. Hope is the belief that something good will happen and success is possible.
  • Empower: Finally, to empower is to have others come to the realization of the strength and courage that resides within, so as to believe in themselves and their potential for success.

To this day and as long as I am blessed to continue this journey, this will be me mission and my purpose whether it is in face to face interactions or by utilizing modern technology.

However, I have also learned a very valuable lesson through this process, I have come to realize that I am merely A voice. I am not THE Voice. That brings me to the second and probably the more important part of Road to Recovery today.

 I see it as a caring community of travelers who are all on the same journey, striving to overcome our “issues” and be “better” than we were yesterday. 

 We come all parts of this great planet on which we occupy, with all different types of problems including but NOT limited to any of the following:

  • Mental Illness – Depression, Bipolar, Schizophrenia, etc
  • Substance Abuse/Dependence
  • Co-Occurring Disorders – Both of the above at the same time.
  • Eating Disorders
  • Personality Disorders – Borderline, Dependent, Histrionic
  • Trauma – Abuse, PTSD, etc.

 We come together to share of struggles, our victories our joy and our tears. In sharing our experiences, we draw strength from one another, and individually and corporately we are one step further along in our journey. We acknowledge our similarities as well as our differences, respecting both. We will not always see eye to eye, bit we can always accept one another’s opinions and discuss issues and ideas without resorting to personal attacks. 

Every physical road has curves, mountains valleys, pot holes, signs, etc. The same is true in regards to personal recovery process and our growth as a community.

What determines if we are successful in our recovery and maintain our personal and corporate  well-being is how well we navigate these obstacles as we face them on our journey? Just as in driving, if we do not navigate these appropriately we will find ourselves in the bar ditch, or in recovery terms, relapse.

 I hope and pray that as you travel day to day o in your journey of recovery, you will be enlightened, encouraged, inspired, instilled with hope and ultimately empowered to face every curve and obstacle on your ROAD TO RECOVERY.

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