Archive for the ‘Success’ Tag

Unexpected Gifts   1 comment

Have you every been given a unexpected gift? A gift that you get at a time that there is no special day or time associated with it, no birthday, no holiday. no anniversary, etc. For many that either personally battle with the challenges of addiction and mental illness or have a loved whom does, that is exactly what they get almost every day. Unfortunately is not in a good way. Addiction is a “gift that keeps on giving.” What kinds of gifts does it “bless” the affected with?

  • Physical Illness
  • Emotional Pain
  • Poor Self-Esteem
  • Legal Problems
  • Estranged Relationships
  • Financial Problem
  • Guilt / Shame
  • Hopelessness

Unfortunately, there is no “Day after Christmas” in the real world. There is a strict “no refund, no exchange” policy in reference to these “gifts. Once they have been received, the best that we can do is take them as they come, and attempt to cope with them as best we can. <Kinda like the ugly sweater that Aunt June gave you. You think it is absolutely hideous, but with a smile you put it on and wear it for the day. Then when she goes home you put it in the pile for your next rip to Goodwill.>

Unfortunately as we all know those that battle addiction, do not typically respond to these gifts in a “healthy” or “positive” manner. Many times they are taken as a good “excuse” to continue the negative and destructive behaviors.

This is so typical, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) says this about Substance Abuse (Addiction):

When an individual persists in use of alcohol or other drugs despite problems related to use of the substance, substance dependence may be diagnosed.

This is one pattern of behavior that is needed for a person to be “diagnosed” with a substance abuse disorder.

In my opinion, this is the typical view that has been taken of these “Gifts of Addiction”, the negative and destructive. I want to challenge our paradigm and look at them from a little more positive perspective. Then I want us to look at the greater gifts and rewards that are found on “the other side”, in a life of recovery.

Friedrich Nietzsche (October 15, 1844 – August 25, 1900) a 19th-century German philosopher, poet, composer and classical philologist, once said,

That which does not kill us makes us stronger.

A couple of similar quotes reinforce this idea.

Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.Arnold Schwarzenegger

I have had to fight like hell and fighting like hell has made me what I am.John Arbuthnot Fisher

Opposition is a natural part of life. Just as we develop our physical muscles through overcoming opposition – such as lifting weights – we develop our character muscles by overcoming challenges and adversity.Stephen R. Covey

So what am I trying to say? I would NEVER choose to rewind the clock of time relive any of the struggles of the past including their pain, loss anger, etc. However, as strange as this sounds, I would not go back and undo them if I could either. Despite, all of the negatives that resulted, these struggles come with their own “unexpected gifts”. They develop character. Each one of us is the person that we are because of our experiences good and bad not despite them. These same trials foster strength and courage. Having gone through and overcome these trials, we become stronger and stronger with each obstacle that we conquer. With each step that we take onward and upward, we are stronger and wiser when it comes time to face the next one. It is not easy and will take a lot of work and devotion, but in the end we realize that it was all worth it.

That brings me to the ultimate “unexpected gifts”, the gifts that we discover in a life of recovery. In my experience and communications with those that have known both sides of this coin, there is one gift that is far and above the most treasured, “PEACE”. We learn that life does NOT have to be full of chaos! As we grow and get wiser and stronger, we realize that we are capable of much more than we have ever given ourselves credit for in the past. We realize that we DO have something to share with the world that is around us and it is some thing positive, healthy and beautiful! Life AFTER addiction is just that LIFE! We finally start living and being able to enjoy the experiences of each day rather than simply “surviving”. Life after addiction is a life of daily “unexpected gifts”. That is if we will open our eyes and hearts to be watching for them.

So whether it is your past, your present or you future, I challenge you to open your eyes and your heart and be grateful for each of the “unexpected gifts that come into your life.

Thanks for letting me share one with you in these words!

One breath, one step, one day at a time,

“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!”

Hope and a Future   1 comment

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  JEREMIAH 29:11
It is NOT in our Heavenly Father’s plan for us to have to endure pain and suffering. He does NOT harm us. However, because we are human with a free will to choose and to do what we think is best for us at any given moment in time, and because we live among others with the same free will, we have experienced that same pain and suffering, BUT no matter our past pain and suffering or poor and destructive choices HE declares
“I have a plan for you, you have a purpose, it is for good and not for harm. I have seen you destiny and it full oh hope and I will meet EVERY need that you have along the way”
But how do we get there? Simply – Just like he called the first disciples when he said, “Come follow me.”
 “This is what the LORD says, he who made the earth, the LORD who formed it and established it—the LORD is his name:  ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ Jeremiah 33:2-3

Arise from Broken   2 comments

There are only two ways to truly fail: Fail to try and fail to try again.

To fail and try again shows even more strength and courage

than to have never failed at all.

Two Gates – One Choice   2 comments

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14 (KJV)


Go in through the narrow gate. The gate to destruction is wide, and the road that leads there is easy to follow. A lot of people go through that gate. But the gate to life is very narrow. The road that leads there is so hard to follow that only a few people find it. (CEV)

This passage is set in the midst of Jesus great ‘Sermon on the Mount” and obviously gives us direction regarding the choices and direction of our lives. It is also a very clear picture of our journey in recovery. The only difference is that everyday we are faced with that same decision over and over and over again. I once said, Each step in recovery is one step further away from where/who you were and one closer to who you really are, and where you want to be!” Despite that truth, everyday and at times throughout the day, the “Wide Gate” continually offers itself for us to enter in. Thus AA has slogans like:“One day at a time” and “Do the next right thing”. They are all about recognition of this precise challenge.

That being said, I personally began using a new closing in my correspondence, “One Breath, one Step, one Day at a time.” Ever moment of everyday we are faced with situations and decisions, some so seemingly small that we react without giving them a second thought, others are far more difficult and require more processing. The scary part is, the “small” thoughtless decisions have just as much potential for changing our lives for the positive or negative as the “bigger” and more difficult ones.

Let me share with you a brief example: I was running late to work after lunch one day and focused on getting back as quickly as possible. Because I was in a hurry, I quick
ly decided to accelerate through a red light that had just turned from yellow. Because I was not paying attention, I did not see the one-ton Pick-up that had just exited the interstate and he “t-boned” my front end spinning me 270 degrees, and ultimately totaling my vehicle. Luckily I nor the other driver were seriously injured. That one thoughtless decision could have not only altered, but ended m
y life.

So as the author and poet, Robert Frost said,”Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–I took the one less traveled by,And that has made all the difference.“ From the Road Less Traveled”

So how do I go about making sure that I am taking the right path. One clear indicator is that if you are surrounded by others that all seem to be moving through life as fast or faster than you are, then you are probably not on the right path. Where as when you feel like you are alone and struggling just to take the next step, then you are probably in just the right place. The good news that we are not alone on this journey. We are not left to our own devices and wisdom alone as we travel. First and foremost we have our “Higher Power”. I refer to Him as God, the Heavenly Father; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He has provided us with His written and infallible Word and His Spirit He has placed within those that believe. His word on more than one occasion provides instructions for when we do not know “what the next right thing” is.

Matthew 7:7-11“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

When we find ourselves at a crossroads where it is difficult to determine, which path is not just the “right” one, but the “God’ one, all we have to do is ASK!

Even then, if you are still unsure there give you a few simple suggestions:

  1. Love God with EVERYTHING that you have. (Matthew 22:36-39)
  2. Love others and treat them how you would want to be treated.
  3. Examine your actions and thoughts and test them against the “Fruit of the Spirit” – love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:21-23)


I can guarantee one thing, at least at the beginning, the “narrow road” will NOT any easy one. But as we overcome one obstacle after another, we get stronger and more confident and the trials slowly do not seem as difficult to manage and overcome. Eventually, sooner than later, if we keep up doing the work, we find ourselves no longer “making mountains out of mole hills” rather we begin to make “molehills out of Mountains”

Rather than mumbling, grumbling and complaining about our situations, let us do as a before mentioned passage of scriptures recommend and

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

Have you noticed that having a bad attitude does not help the situation get any better, however, when we keep a positive attitude, we things just seem to “be” better. This scripture and thought reminds me of a comment that I recently saw posted by several friends on Facebook, with some slight wording changes it is:

I am strong because I know my weaknesses, I am alive because I am a fighter, I am wise because I have been foolish, and I can laugh because I have known sadness. I am proud and strong. I made it through the storm and learned to dance in the rain!’

We grow grow stronger and wiser through the trials and hardships. Let me use an analogy: You can’t sharpen a knife by running the blade under water. You must have some kind of sharpening tool with a rough surface which the blade is rubbed against. Rubbing the surface of the blade against the rough surface smooths, straightens and polishes the edge of the blade, sharpening it.

Trials and “storms” are the tools that develop our character, smoothing out our weaknesses and polishing our strengths. When we take the Wide and easy road through life with out these trials we develop no character of our own and never truly define who we are as a person.

So let us be grateful for the potholes, treacherous cliffs (some of which we have fallen off of), and thorn patches because these are the very experiences that have molded us into the strong and capable people that we are today. I know many of you are look at yourself and you do not see strong and capable. I challenge yo to reconsider that perspective of yourself. If you were not strong and capable, where would you be today? One thing I am sure of, it is not where you are!

So, no matter how hard the path seems right now, I urge to wake up every morning and say the following affirmation out loud to yourself:

Today is a new day; I choose to be grateful for all that I have and to follow the narrow road that leads to peace and contentment. I know each step may be difficult, but I will approach each trial confidently, knowing that as I persevere I am become wiser, stronger and ultimately happier!” 

Life Happens!   Leave a comment

life-happens

Posted August 15, 2011 by Hope in Recovery in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , , ,

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

 

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