Where are Your 20 Minutes of Perfect?

A couple of weeks ago while running a recovery support group at The Foundation Clinic, the topic moved onto how sometimes doing the right things doesn’t always get us the immediate results that we are looking for. That we we do what’s difficult and “right” we don’t experience the instant gratification that those of us with substance abuse disorders are so partial to.

Brené Brown says that,”Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.” And for those of us that have experienced the spiritual disconnection of substance abuse, pushing against our personal values and principles is often what causes the most emotional and mental pain and anguish in addiction. So regaining integrity, rebuilding trust, practicing self-love, and overcoming guilt and shame are all part of the personal work that is required for a sustainable recovery and a life of meaning and purpose.

Of course everyone is completely different and these might sound like sweeping statements, but the longer I do the work the more I see this thread running through my life and the lives of the people I work with. Most common is the need to show up honestly and authentically in life, to be courageous and compassionate, and to move forward rather than recycling the snafus of the past over and over again.

Like anyone engaging in transformative work, getting well in recovery is challenging. Yet getting clean and sober, and becoming a wholehearted member of our tribe, probably ranks up their among the more raw and painful A huge part of the work is to learn to be accountable and responsible in life, not just around what’s come before, but also what follows from here. Learning to communicate effectively, problem solve, manage conflict, deal with emotions and not want to run screaming for the nearest line of coke or bottle of Jack, is in itself a masterful balance act of responsive thinking, adult learning and behaviour modification.

I have said it many times that the work is hard, but it’s worth it; especially if we find ourselves in the space of having to make choices. Really massive, scary choices when you gripped by substance dependence. Because there comes a point for most of us as to whether we want to choose drugs and alcohol and dysfunctional behaviour over pretty much everything else. Values are completely displaced when the individual moves into dependency, overtaking and replacing anything else we think is important; family, partnerships, children, health, spirituality, success, certainty honesty, integrity, courage…

Just like any type of change, the move to recovery and wellness does not happen overnight. There are often years of dysfunctional behaviour to address. Plenty of amends to be made. Past traumas to be overcome. Self-worth that needs special attention. The expectation that everything is going to change in a New York minute because we’ve stopped using is insane, and I mean that with love. Most individuals who are abusing or dependent on substances have used to cope with difficult situations, to escape from emotions, to reward “good” behaviour, to just check out, relax and disappear; to find some sort of oblivion in an attempt to fill the hole in their soul. The work takes time, patience, commitment and above all consistency.

And then one morning you wake up and realise that even though it’s fucking difficult to show up in life on a daily basis, we start to notice those 20-minute glimpses of perfect. In the group I mentioned at the beginning of this post, one of my clients shared a story of his morning when his young daughter, toddler son, his wife and himself simply lie in bed together before the chaos of the morning routine begins. What he was challenged to see initially was that although his life has not yet settled into the rhythm and flow of recovery, this is 20 minutes he just can’t have when he is using.

That although everything hasn’t done a 180 and miraculously fallen into place, this 20 minutes of perfect is where he gets to build from. Changing our behaviour as adults is not any easy task. We don’t learn at the rate that we did when we were kids. But if we can start small, start in 20 minute pieces of perfection, then surely there is capacity for creating these moments throughout the day. Life isn’t just difficult for those of us recovering from addiction, and we need to be conscious of that. Sure we have to learn to do things differently, but what a gift.

There is so much written these days about the mind-shifting power of gratitude, and if we just learn to slow down a bit and notice where there is change and connection, we have a very real place to restart from. When we can learn to link those moments together and spend more time in the present, rather than beating ourselves up over our tumultuous parts, and freaking ourselves out with the anxiety of the future, I believe that there is untold hope and possibility in moving forward.

I know for myself that if I just slow down and remember to be grateful for where I am in my life, there is always peace in those spaces. I’ve been very mindful of these moments in my life since that day in the group. Once of the joys of what I do is getting the opportunity to learn from the people I work with. Your days might not be perfect, you may still be grappling with the early work of abstinence and finding your feet in recovery, but if you slow down just a bit, I’m pretty sure that you’ll notice that you do have 20 minutes of perfect somewhere in your life. And I truly believe that that can be the soil in which you can start to sow the seeds of your new life.

This post is dedicated to “J” and his 20 minutes of perfect.

This is a repost of the original on my website Be the Change Coaching.

Now that I’ve stopped…how do I stay stopped!?

rope_bridgeI originally wrote this post for The Foundation Clinic, but wanted to share it here on my personal blog.  I hope you enjoy the post.

I meet so many people who have stopped!  Stopped drinking..stopped using drugs…stopped addictive behaviour…and they truly want to stay there.  But there is a vast divide, the Grand Canyon of good intentions, that separates wanting and doing.  I want to live a fulfilled and purposeful life, is a far cry from attaining that life.  It’s a great start, but in between the wanting and the doing is where the real work lies.  Who doesn’t want mature, healthy relationships with their spouse, kids, family and friends!?  A great job that you look forward to, even on a Sunday evening!?  Meaningful interests, hobbies and pastimes, that bring fun, adventure and balance into the everyday!?

There are not a lot of people who I  know that don’t want these (and more)…yet talking about something and actually doing it are extremely different!  So how does one bridge the divide and start to achieve these ideals?  A good place to start is reevaluating one’s values…those things that get me (and you) out of bed in the morning.  What feeds your soul, and makes you come alive?  What makes the hours of the day slip away unnoticed?  For me values are quite different from principles…  I don’t get out of bed to be honest and live with integrity, but rather to pursue my work as a Recovery Coach, spend time with my partner, study and live courageously.  My principles of honesty, integrity, courage and compassion (to name but a few) come into play as to how I undertake to live to these highest core values.

So in order to get from where I am at any present moment, towards where I want to be, takes practising my principles…and there are a couple I find extremely challenging.  Especially patience, forgiveness, acceptance and tolerance (of myself and others).  But armed with my little bag of principles and clear in my values, I take the initial steps towards closing the gap between wanting and doing.  Somehow, just this personal awareness and understanding of what guides my personal compass towards where I want to be, gets me that little bit closer.  Of course I need to be crystal clear in what it is that I am striving for…and I have to be extremely honest, willing and open about whether this is realistic and achievable for me, as well as the opportunities and obstacles that may exist!

So knowing my values, practising my principles and setting SMART (specific-measurable-achievable-realistic-timebound) goals are some of the ways that I managed to move from being stopped to staying stopped.  I also came to understand that stopping was not enough…I needed to build up a set of resources, #RecoveryCapital, that would support me in quest to stay stopped!  I needed to find activities, pursuits, undertakings, interests, hobbies (still battling with that one), and relationships that were supportive of me in recovery.  Because if recovery was going to be less exciting, fulfilling and meaningful than active addiction, what was the point?  And initially it was less exciting, less fun, less invigorating than drinking, dancing and general inebriated adventure.  But slowly, a step at a time, the journey started to unfold for me some of the greatest joy, love and fulfillment I had ever experienced.

The little things started to have more meaning than I could ever imagine…living in my integrity and showing up when I said I would show up was so much better than I believed it would be.  Being present in relationships and noticing what was going on with my loved ones has brought me countless blessings over the years.  Getting to know (and  love) myself, is one of the most fulfilling relationships I’ve ever had.  And it all starts with just a couple of practical, little actions.  The changes don’t happen overnight, the relationships don’t miraculously fix themselves from one day to the next, but armed with just a few tools, a whole lot of awareness (achieved through complete honesty with myself), a set of clear goals (even around what I wanted from my personal relationships), I have managed to walk across the bridge between stopping and staying stopped.

And there have been days when the bridge has been nothing more than some rope and some shaky planks, and others when it’s metal and concrete.  But I keep my focus firmly forward, not letting the past pull at my ankles like terrifying trolls that live on the river banks.  Because one of my biggest learnings has been that hanging onto the traumatic events of my past does not serve me.  I have taken the time to learn from them, but then I have thanked them for their teachings and laid them down along the road, so that they cannot sabotage me or what I want from my life.  I have stayed stopped by learning to say yes to certain people, places, thoughts, beliefs and parts of self and no to others.  I am not perfect, I don’t always get it right, but I have the conscious awareness to know when I am slipping into self-defeating thinking.  And that awareness is like a razor-sharp knife I use to cut the sneaky tendrils of guilt, shame, fear and blackness that sometimes endeavour to envelop me.

And so I continue to be vigilant as I move from being stopped to staying stopped, always equipped with by bag of tools should I need to mend part of my bridge, fortify an area of weakness or build up my inherent strengths.  It might just mean stopping and looking at the view from a different perspective, giving my values a good shake up, reevaluating my goals and action plans, or simply enjoying the slight swaying as life continues to become more fulfilling, exciting, purposeful and adventuresome than I could ever imagined before I stepped out of the mist, took my first step onto the bridge and started to narrow the distance between wanting and doing.

If you are interested in the tools I have learned, and share, as a Recovery Coach, please contact The Foundation Clinic for more information about our treatment and recovery programmes. You can call on (011)728-9200, email leigh-anne@thefoundationclinic.co.za or fill out the form below and we will contact you!

For more information about Treatment and Recovery Programmes visit www.thefoundationclinic.co.za