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.

One way ticket to Relapse City?

Man I wishThere are so many people and things that have helped me along the road to recovery.  The people I have to thank for their love and support are numerous and they know who they are, because I’ve made it my business to keep them close and show my gratitude to them often.  But today I thought I’d write about some of the things that have helped me stay sober.  Of course there are times when we all falter and days that we feel like giving up, but when these days sneak up on us or pounce unexpectedly from the shadows, what do we do?  It’s wildly idealistic as a recovering addict or even a person in long-term recovery to believe that nothing is ever going to throw us off course.  Actually, it’s downright arrogant and this along with complacency about our addictions can be our downfall, not matter how many hours, days, weeks and years we’ve been clean.

I’m ever mindful of the fact that I have an addiction.  It might be dormant at the moment, sleeping quietly in a corner, but given half a chance I know that it would be front and centre of my life again and that is never something that I want to happen.  So over the last years I’ve spent plenty of time learning about my disorder so that I am aware and educated about the different elements of being an addict.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll mention it here again, I am not my disease.  There is so much more to me than the unfortunate fact that I am an alcoholic, but I cannot simply ignore that this is part of me, because then I start to slip into the realms of denial and that’s a one way ticket to “Relapse City”.

One of the practices I have adopted over the past years is to focus on my personal development.  There are a myriad of ways of doing this, and there is no right or wrong answer to what works and what doesn’t.  In that respect it’s a lot like choosing how to approach your recovery, there is definitely not a one-size-fits-all solution.  And research, although not definitive in this area, is giving more heed to the idea that it is possibly a combination of recovery ideas that may work best for each individual.

The way I have chosen to develop myself personally is to focus on how to deepen my esoteric understanding of the world and myself.  As I am not a religious person, I grappled horribly with the ideas of having a higher power and being powerless over my recovery.  But as I progressed through the early part of my recovery I began to understand that I needed to find peace within myself and in relation to the outside world if I was going to get my life under control.  Being an avid reader and a person who is constantly in search of knowledge I turned to one of my greatest loves, the written word.  And where I’d found pleasure in thousands of pages of fiction over the years, I began to find peace and understanding as I delved into the works of the modern-day spiritual masters.

There really is no other name for them, and I am not trying to upset anyone’s religious sensibilities.   “The Power of Now” by Eckart Tolle was a philosophical awakening for me.  The ideas and practices on the pages have brought me great comfort over the years since I opened the book for the first time in the very early days of my sobriety.  I am by no means an expert on living in the present moment, but I definitely try and embrace it on a daily basis.  The truth is that living in the now, letting go of the past and not fretting about the future is a place of immense stillness and calm.  I have read this book more than a couple of times and it is always next to my bed, so that I can pick it up and use it to bring myself into the present moment.

This is by not only book I have read on the subject, and Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer & Brene Browns’ books are all stored on my Kindle so that they are always within easy access.  I also have some of their works in audio format, so that I can listen to them when I am traveling or just need to detach from what’s going on in the world around me and take some time to focus on me.  I’ve never managed to embrace the art of meditation personally, but listening to them discuss their ideas or read from the pages of their books is exceptionally soothing and meditative in its own way.  I personally think that spending time focusing on our self-development is an essential part of sustained sobriety and long-term recovery.

In the early stages of the journey we begin to mend physically.  Then we begin to heal emotionally.  But is is also hugely important to rejuvenate our inner selves.  For me this is where we begin to rebuild our feelings of self-worth and personal poise.  Where we reestablish our place in the world and begin to determine our purpose once again.  It’s a slow, focused process to bolster our spirit back to a place where we feel that we are once again a worthy, contributory member of society.  I honestly believe that if I hadn’t concentrated on this element my life wouldn’t be nearly as fulfilling as it is right now.  I’m not saying I have all the answers, that I live in constant balance and harmony, or that I am always blissfully happy.

I have confessed in my posts more than once that there are times that I wander through the day in a haze of confused emotions, but I am self-actualised enough through  my reading and intellectual discoveries to appreciate what I am going through.  To use the practices I have learned to bring myself back to the present moment, if only briefly sometimes.  To embrace the fact that it is okay to be vulnerable and scared at times, and not panic because I don’t feel like I am completely in control every minute of the day.  I am after all just a regular woman, not a spiritual master.  I have flaws, imperfections and fears, but I’ve come to realise and appreciate that that’s okay and the more I bring these parts of self towards me rather than trying to evict them from my life,  the more balance, peace and present-moment focus there is on a daily basis.  After all life is better with a clear head and an honest heart.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

The Habit Of Gratitude…

Denali National Park in autumn, Alaska, USA, North AmericaPractising gratitude is something that many people advocate and over the last few months I’ve made a concerted effort to include it in my daily routine. Normally there is something that happens during my day that I am truly grateful for. It doesn’t have to be anything monumental… Perhaps it’s a message that I receive or a little event during the day that reminds me how truly blessed my life is. And there are days when I have to think about it more deeply. Yet there is always something. And the more aware I’ve become aware of expressing my gratitude, the more I have had to be grateful for.

I’m not saying that every day is a blissful experience for me because of this, but I am saying that even on the bad days (and we all have them) I can find something to be thankful for. By opening myself up to possibilities by doing this daily, countless opportunities are beginning to unfold for me. Over the last few weeks I have experienced a deepening of a personal relationship, exciting professional developments and an ever-increasing sense of inner peace. Along with being grateful, I’ve also spent months really working on my personal development which has brought me greater empowerment along with a far better understanding of self. This hasn’t always been easy and I’ve dug deep to find the answers within to keep me growing as a person.

I’ve recently completed my course to become a life coach (I just need to complete my assessments) and over the next few months will begin specialising in Recovery Coaching. I’m in the process of planning a business, developing a website and communicating with people in the area of further training. The days don’t feel long enough at the moment with all the planning, research and study I am doing towards my aspirations to becoming a recovery coach. For the first time I finally know where my true purpose lies and the work that it’s going to take to get me there is invigorating rather than being daunting. I’m constantly thinking about ideas, writing notes and setting up systems that I am going to use to bring creative awareness to the recovery of those who chose to make the journey, as well as my sustained sobriety. One thing leads to another and I am discovering that I have a unique skill set that will allow me the privilege of aiding in the recovery of others. The thought of being able to pay this wonderful experience forward fills me with energy and focus. I read a wonderful blog post this morning by William L. Smith about how recovery is contagious and I loved the idea of this.

All the personal development I have endeavoured to do has started to come to fruition and make sense as I spend more time in the presence of the present. Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly” which I am reading at the moment is also reinforcing that having embraced my vulnerability and opened myself up to opportunities and possibilities in all areas of my life, no matter how scary they may feel, has also had an enormous impact on my personal development. There are moments when I still question and worry, allow the anxiety to take root, but these are becoming shorter and more infrequent. And the beauty of the work I am doing is that I recognise these fearful moments now, look for the lesson they are trying to bring me and rather than fighting the feelings for long periods of time, I acknowledge them and they seem to disappear. I was dubious when I was first introduced to this idea, but I sit here after a few months of embracing this notion and have to admit that it works.

So today I am truly grateful for everything I have experienced and learned over the last six months of my recovery and coaching journey. And as I continue to practice the Habit Of Gratitude, I know that as the months and years unfold there will be more precious people, experiences and events that will fill my life. So before you go onto the next thing today, just take a few minutes to be thankful for something, just one thing, that you have today, because tomorrow there will be more.

‘Til next time
Sober Something

In an addict’s instant!

I’m not shy about sharing stories about my addiction, but I am fairly nervous about sharing my writing with the people close to me.  Like many people I am profoundly nervous of critiques, even when disguised in innuendo like “productive feedback” and “constructive criticism“.  I’ve never taken personal censure well, even if the speaker’s intention has been for me to use it as a point of departure for improvement and self development.  I get defensive and uptight and I can rarely find the value in what they are saying at the time.  My addict side which may have appeared to be courageous and audacious, filled with self-confidence and dogmatic bravado in the years gone by, is actually the part of me that is severely lacking in any real self-worth and is demanding, insecure and seeks constant approval.  It’s the part of me that even though I am sober sneaks into my life when I am tired, stressed or let my positive defenses down for even a minute and takes over…

Realize-deeply-that-the-present-moment-is-all-you-ever-have.-Make-the-Now-the-primary-focus-of-your-life. (1)Then I am immediately caught in an unhealthy, personal inquisition when I start to question the contributions I make in all areas of my life.  When I am present-focused and in the now, I am calm, enveloped by a sense of contentment, with no doubt in my mind that everything will work out as the universe deems it to.  I’ve read the books, I do the work.  My Kindle is filled with the works of Dr. Wayne Dyer.  My computer loaded up podcasts by Deepak Chopra.  My copy of “The Power of Now” always on my bedside table no matter where in the world I am.  Byron Katie and Brene Brown are two women whose work I greatly admire and am presently spending time reading their wonderful works.  I spend a couple of hours with a personal coach every other week working on the elements of myself that require it…like my need for reassurance, my tendency towards procrastination and my personal inability to balance what comes in and out of my life.  And all this positive and powerful work can be undone in an addict’s instant when I am feeling emotionally and physically weak and powerless.  I know it’s the same side of me that was quieted by alcohol from the time I was a tween and as I mentioned in my previous post it’s ever so easy to just give into that side of ourselves.  The side that can be so effortlessly quieted with a shot, a hit or a night at the poker table.

The hard part is acknowledging that we fight inner wars and that we need to honour and embrace all the elements of who we are.  I need to accept the addict in me and find gratitude in what it is trying to bring to my life.  That when I am feeling tired or run down instead of trying to avoid it, my addict is actually coaxing me to rest and relax.  It’s hard to constantly wage war with myself, because on the days that I can bring the addict into my life and see the good that it is trying to show me I am far more at peace and present than on the days I am pulling away from that part of self.  It doesn’t mean that I am giving into my addictive behaviour of the past, it means that I am seeing the addict in me and remembering that my power side is better served when it is in balance with my addict.

Instead of constantly running from one part of ourselves towards what we consider to be the positive opposite, we need to find a place of integration within our personal depths where the two exist side by side.  It’s something I am working on with profound effort at the moment.  However, the fact that I have pushed so hard against what I consider to be a negative part  for so long means that there are days when this really messes with my mind.  When I bring my addict and my power together I feel unstoppable, I don’t worry that my choices are anything other than spot on and I don’t doubt that I am exactly where I am supposed to be in that moment.  Sobriety is not easy and there are days when I just want to “make the bad man stop”…the one who doubts and questions and feeds the hamster that turns the destructive wheel in my mind.  But never even in those instants do I ever want to return to the life I had before, because even though it felt simple when I was drinking, the tough emotional days now don’t last and  life really is better with a clear head and an honest heart.

‘Til next time

Sober Something