Life’s a Beach!?

foreverfragrance.com (1)Last year around this time I went on a 2-day intensive writing workshop which I thought I had loved, and oddly I have not written anything other than social media posts since then.  I found the weekend both inspiring and traumatic, and was awed by the quality of the writing, or maybe I was completely intimidated by it.  I was definitely way out of my comfort zone and recently I have found myself being in a space where I am questioning my personal and professional “why”.

Since my return to South Africa in early 2014 I have been pretty clear on what I was trying to achieve and it really feels like a lot of my goals are coming to fruition.  And that has left me with an odd emptiness.  I don’t feel like I am lost, but I am also not really sure where I am going at the moment.  It’s like I am walking along an unfamiliar beach, with the coastline on my right and the landscape on my left.  As long as I keep walking I will eventually end up somewhere, and I feel a serenity that I am not going to be walking in circles. This “vision” is extremely vivid for me at the moment and I’m taking this to mean that I am on the right path and I feel confident that I am going in the direction that my work to this stage is pointing me. I am just not overly sure on what I am hoping to find when I reach some sort of settlement.

I’m really not used to feeling like this.  The serenity is oddly unsettling, but I can still become anxious over my day-to-day professional responsibilities.  Managing a substance abuse treatment clinic is all about learning to balance the crisis, chaos and conflict that our clients bring into the environment on a daily, even hourly, basis.  Yet, I have become empowered in that space to understand that it is not my dysfunction and have started to become somewhat detached.  I do not mean that I am aloof or lack empathy, quite the opposite, but I am able to hold the space in a way that doesn’t detract from my well-being and peace.   Most of the time anyway…  There are moments when I can get quite overwhelmed and have to go back into certain relationships and own my behaviour, but that’s all part of growth as I see it.

Of course this “lull” could just be me in the eye of my (life) storm…that strange quietness that you feel when the wind suddenly dies down and there’s an eerie stillness on the streets.  Or perhaps it’s the dawn after the storm when everything is coming back to life after being beaten and bruised by the weather.  Maybe I am just connecting more with the earth through these thoughts and actually living in a more grounded, present way? It always seems easier to be the coach and assisting someone else through their process than trying to figure it out for myself.  I guess the personal work has to become embodied and unconscious at some point in our development…

I think that just sitting here and writing, the thoughts are becoming a little clearer around where I am at in my life.  I’m reflecting back to my reason for not writing and I know that ego stands arrogantly at the root of that.  Feeling “less than” or “not as good as” others who are prepared to be vulnerable and put their truth into the world.  I am reading the final chapter of “Dare to Lead” by Brene Brown at the moment, and grappling with what my two (you’re only supposed to choose two) core values are.  Picking 10 or 15 would be easy, but when narrowing it down to two, I am challenged to think about which of those I can easily identify as values are in fact my core values.   The ones that I can use to check myself in life.  And I believe that authenticity is one, and I want courage to be the other one.  Yet, when I fall prey to my inner critic around something like the writing (or lack thereof), I can hardly own up to living into my value of courage.

Maybe this blog post is about me being courageous about it and owning what I have been avoiding. I don’t think it’s only about ut the writing to be honest. I guess it’s about showing up in parts of my life that I might have been avoiding recently.  It’s about taking some time to understand myself in this new phase and reconnect with my why, from a place of self-love and -compassion.  So perhaps I am really living into my values of authenticity and courage by being able to see where I have not been very courageous recently and identifying where my egoic, inner critic is still holding court.

What I have learned in my personal recovery process is that being well is relative to the recovery capital that we build.  And at the moment I am having to work around my spirituality which I see as my connection to myself and the world around me.   This place I find myself is not one where I am driven by fear or anxiety, but rather a real curiosity as to where I am at the moment.  I know the feeling of sand between my toes, the salty taste of the coastal breeze and the reassuring rhythm of the rolling surf, I’m just not sure which beach I am walking along.  For the time being I am going the keep going and enjoy the warm touch of the sun.  I have faith that I will get to where I am supposed to be if I stay open to the experience and what I am discovering within myself.

 

 

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

Which way to recovery?

street-signs-recovery-300x168Recovery is scary, there is no doubt about that!  It takes time, perseverance and lots of work to stay sober, especially in those first couple of months (and years) and there are moments when relapse seems like the easy option!  But with more than 2,200 days of sobriety behind me I can honestly say that it is worth the battles, the moments of self-doubt and the sheer determination it takes.  And there are people who want to help us stay sober!  And whether that is your local mutual-help group, your therapist or counselor, your sober companion or your recovery coach there are options.  Social media has an incredible network of people in various stages of recovery, groups that are advocating a myriad of recovery options and recovery professionals that are there to hold our hands through the dark times and share in our successes during the good times.

So often in the past people thought that recovery could only begin once a person had reached “rock bottom”, but this is not the case.  Anyone who feels that they are struggling with a deep-seated addiction or just moving towards one, can reach out and use the internet which has become an invaluable source of information and education.  This may be as simple as taking on online test if one is concerned about their substance use, becoming a member of an online support group or doing a Skype session with a recovery professional.  It’s not a one-size fits all fix when it comes to confronting our substance abuse and making the decision to enter recovery anymore.  For some people it may start with a stay in a rehabilitation centre, for others it might be court-mandated and for others it may just be a case of enough’s enough!  Whatever the reasons are for people choosing to start their recovery journey, the options are becoming more varied than they have ever been.

I’ve blogged about this before, but as I study more about substance abuse, it is becoming clearer to me that just because one approach doesn’t “fit” doesn’t mean that a person should give up and go back to the source of their pain and misery, in whichever form they choose that to be.  I can speak from experience when I say that I spent a little time in voluntary rehab and it’s all good and well when one is within a protected environment, attending group and individual therapy and education sessions on a daily basis, but the hard work really starts when you leave and have to make recovery work in the real world! Sadly, it didn’t for me!  I tried, I honestly did, but at the time in my city the only options were therapy sessions I couldn’t afford and AA which just didn’t resonate with me.  I relapsed and spent another 4 years battling my alcoholism.

One of the resources that helped me through my first year in my third attempt at recovery was an online support group.  It wasn’t a 12-step program and that was a revelation to me.  I didn’t have to give myself over to a higher power and I was the person in control of my recovery choices.  I am taking absolutely nothing away from 12-step programs, they just don’t work for everyone and that is my point here.  Just because you don’t want to attend a group meeting, where you work steps and share your addiction in an open forum, doesn’t mean that there aren’t other alternatives.  There are other mutual-help groups that are not based on 12-steps, there are online support groups and discussion forums and there is an ever-increasing workforce involved in the area of substance abuse recovery.  But the most important thing is that if you do go through a rehabilitation program, you need to find what works for you after that.

Don’t give up if one of the options doesn’t excite or drive you into the next phase of your recovery!  Get on the internet and find a way that does…and there will be one.  Whether that means typing your fingers to the bone in online chat groups from the comfort of your living room or finding a recovery coach that will help you create a recovery plan.  For some it means doing work with a therapist to understand why they fell into addiction and laying these past issues to rest.  Because if you expend the same amount of time and energy on your recovery as you did on your addiction the results will be unprecedented.  I have read so many stories recently of people who are opening up and are not afraid to share their stories without the curtain of anonymity to protect them.  Because it is time to shake the shame and the stigma of substance abuse and do everything that we can to create awareness, educate, assist and overcome this disease that ruins too many lives across all sectors of the world population.

So reach out, ask questions, find the your way forward and make the internet and social media an intrinsic part of your recovery.  Of course these are just suggestions, things that have worked for me, but I find daily strength in blogs, tweets, posts and articles that I read that I believe make me stronger, wiser and more passionate about my own and others’ recovery journeys.  We are part of a community of people that care deeply about each other and our sustained sobriety and for that I am exceedingly grateful.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

struggle

 

Today I want to thank…my addict.

i-have-seen-the-sea-when-it-is-stormy-and-wild-when-it-is-quiet-and-serene-when-it-is-dark-and-moody-and-in-all-its-moods-i-see-myselfSometimes I wonder whether I’ll ever find the balance I so strive for in my life!?  The balance that I believe will bring me personal calm and emotional tranquility…  There are some days when I feel like a tiny dingy being tossed around on a stormy sea, secured only by a fraying rope to its yacht, slowly breaking up as the waves pound onto it.  Then there are days like today, when I feel like the sleek, beautifully crafted boat that I was tethered to the day before.  Gliding effortlessly through the azure waters of some light-kissed sea.  Yet what I strive for most is to be the rope that is holding the two together.  I am still tending to extremes, either motivated and inspired, or avoiding anything that resembles real life.  There are some days when I feel the strength of the rope, reassuring and flexible, as the two sides of me move across the metaphorical ocean, but it’s never for the length of time that I want it to be…

I had a power session with a wonderful coach on Thursday evening and one of the things I wanted to address was my erratic motivation.  I have so much going on at the moment and I feel that rather than breaking it down into bite-size manageable chunks (as the 7-step formula for guaranteed success which is stuck to my study mirror recommends) I am looking at it all as one great, big daunting task and really not getting anywhere!  So my coach and I looked at all the things I have to do and my need to be able to measure my progress, so that I can see what I have achieved, rather than trying to measure it internally.  It was nothing new, it was nothing revolutionary, but suddenly as a said that I needed a movable, vision system that I could use to literally mark off my progress on, things started to become clearer.

A cork board with pinned items, became a chessboard with movable tasks and goals and then a menu choice struck the perfect cord!  A set of water vessels, each representing a project and to be filled with coloured water as actions were taken towards completion.  Suddenly I was feeling incredibly inspired because instead of a jumble of projects, tasks and ideas within my head, I was thinking about something that I could use to gauge my achievements and mark off my steps!  It was visual, flexible and incredibly simple…  All I had to do was decide on the most important projects that I want to complete over the next eight weeks and get to work on my “Power Tower”.  I pondered, imagined, rushed out and bought the ingredients to get started and then woke up yesterday morning in a funk!  I hate the fact that there is no consistency in my moods…

Sometimes I can go for weeks without feeling down, but then something throws me off course and I am in that dingy again!  Well, yesterday was spent weathering the most atrocious emotional tempest.  I know that I am supposed to be mastering the tools I’ve studied over the past months and have been successfully using to empower the clients I work with, but sometimes I feel those addict behaviours wrap themselves around my psyche in an iron-clad grip.   It’s a terrible feeling of helplessness and vulnerability, being trapped in a very negative state of mind for no particular reason.  It takes me back to the weekend mornings when I would wake up on after a night of binge drinking, feeling morose and miserable.  Those mornings when I’d wrack my brain to try and remember if there was anything I’d done that I needed to feel remorseful about…  That lurking feeling of unease that something horrible had happened, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

The thing is that my life now is actually so incredible!  I am moving back to my home country in less than two months, I have a wonderful man in my life, and the most incredible friends and family.  There are exciting professional prospects ahead and I have made some very promising connections to move closer to my dreams.  Yet I can feel the addict in me looking for something negative and destructive to grab onto!!  And on those days I do feel powerless in the face of my addiction.  I don’t believe that my alcoholism was only about substance abuse, but also personal abuse, where I allowed my behaviour to be governed by destructive thought patterns and negative interactions.  It wasn’t only about the misuse of alcohol, but also the misuse of self.  And sometimes even after more than six years of recovery, that is the part of the addiction that I find the hardest to keep at bay!  It’s not the drinking, but the freedom that drinking allowed me to be less than myself.

Nobody really expects too much of someone who is battling in the midst of addiction, and no more so than the addict themselves.  I didn’t feel the need to achieve, to develop, to succeed.  After all wasn’t I dealing with enough trying to get over my substance abuse and live through the physical and mental anguish.  And now my life is good, really good, and all those expectations I ignored are here, right in front of me and the only way I can avoid them is to tend towards my addict thinking.  I have to say that as I type this it’s coming out like a personal epiphany!  It’s not really what I was going to blog about today, but as I write these words I realise exactly what has been going on the last couple of months.  The truth is that the weaker the addict within me is getting, the more fiercely it is fighting to stay alive…  It is frantically engaging in guerrilla tactics to ensure it’s survival and not be banished.  It’s amazing how I’ve suddenly realised this in the last few minutes…

And as I sit here, I want to honour the addict in me…thank it for everything it has brought to my life…express the utmost gratitude for the lessons it has taught me…and give it the respect that any element of ourselves deserves.  I also want my addict to understand that I am not trying to cast it out, as it is very much a part of who I am, but rather give it the space to exist within me emotionally & spiritually, as part, but not all, of who I am.  Rather than trying to omit the addict from my life completely I need to acknowledge the good things that it brings to my life and how I can use these elements to develop, prosper and succeed.  I totally understand the obstacle work I have done in my coaching studies and sessions as of this moment, as though a switch has been flicked and as I sit here, there is a strange sense of peace and acceptance moving through my body, because everything is easier with an clear head and an honest heart.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

Relax!? Don’t do it!?

I’m sitting here and staring at the keyboard, feeling like I want to post something today, but not quite sure what it is…  And the more I think about it the less I am coming up with.  I’m feeling a little distracted and in one of those moods when I cannot fully focus on one task in particular.  I find that sometimes the idea of buckling down and completing a job that requires any level of thought and concentration are way beyond me.  The idea of grinding away at something that will only bring gratification in the long term, rather than being instantaneous, is more than I want to deal with.  I have a long list of things I need to do even though it’s Saturday.  From tasks as menial and mindless as attacking the big basket of ironing that is glaring at me from the corner of my bedroom to spending a good chunk of time working through my coaching notes for my final assessment in a couple of weeks.

What I’d really like to do is lounge next to a crystal clear ocean, preferably in a hammock, quietly whiling away the hours with a good book and languorous conversation with my guy.  It’s not going to happen today, especially considering that I am surrounded by thousands of kilometres of desert, being scantily clad is completely forbidden and the man I mention is on another continent.  And then I start to feel a little guilty about the fact that there are so many things on my to-do list and I really just don’t feel like doing any of them.  But I need to stop now and remember my own advice and look for the positive intention that the lack of concentration is bringing me and there it is…  My brain is tired!  I work a normal(ish) 5-day work week, but my weekends and evenings are taking up coaching and studying.  And by sitting here and looking at what I should be doing and making myself feel bad about it, I should rather just accept that maybe I need an afternoon (or at least a few hours) to mentally recuperate.

This is something I never learned to do while I was drinking.  If I hit any sort of resistance to the things I was trying to do, I’d simply push through and then get to the stage where I was utterly exhausted.  Generally what would follow would be a good binge session to reward myself for all my hard work, to be tailed by at least one day of feeling high levels of physical and emotional remorse, only to complete the cycle by pushing myself extra hard to make up for the days I’d lost drinking and recovering.  A vicious, unhealthy pattern of overwork and complete avoidance thereof.  So if I have to be honest with myself I guess that there are still times I begin to enter into that negative cycle.  Except now instead of getting to the point where I throw up my hands and grab a strong drink (or ten), I am learning to identify that I am in need of some downtime and do just that.  Because sitting at my desk and not getting anything done is just fooling myself that I am actually working.

It’s taken me years of personal development and introspection to understand these elements of self, and sometimes I am still incredibly hard on myself.  But truthfully I have my coaching work and personal coach of the past six months to thank for these insights.  I may think I am being lazy or unproductive, but now I’ve started to see that I need to listen to these “negative” feelings and see what they are trying to bring me.  What’s wrong with being lazy once in a while?  What’s the harm in taking a Saturday afternoon off to enjoy a good book?  It’s a whole lot better than dashing off to the bar with the first person you can find to accompany you, and then spending the night getting steadily inebriated.  And we all have a version of how that story ends…

relaxIt’s so easy to get caught in insane patterns as a recovering alcoholic, replacing previously destructive behaviours with new “healthy” ones.  But addiction comes in all shapes and forms.  It’s a case of being constantly vigilant with myself and picking up the early signs that I might just be tending towards getting into a dark vortex of extremes.  Working too much, studying too hard, being too needy in my relationship or any other kind of extreme behaviour.  I guess I have to accept that this is part of who I am and be aware that replacing one addiction with another (even if it’s not the kind that’s tied to a toxic substance) is something I need to keep in check.  I’ve even gone through stages where I’ve become obsessed with exercising or healthy eating at the expense of everything else.  What I’m constantly striving for is sustainable balance and I feel like I am getting closer all the time, but I cannot ignore the “Little Professor” inside me who is constantly trying to remind me what I need to do to maintain this long-term equilibrium.

Writing this post has made me realise that I need to switch off from my work, grab a cup of tea and find a sunny spot to enjoy a few hours of reading.  That perhaps the best time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.  Then I will be able to come back to the things I need to do refreshed and mentally relaxed, feeling good that I honoured my need to just be.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

In weakness there is strength…

I’ve had a really really tough week!  Yup, it was one of those weeks where every little trick I’ve learned for centering myself, being present and finding a personal balance seemed ineffectual.  I was quite literally an emotional and mental wreck for most of the last seven days.  And then I stopped and took stock.  I’d forgotten to honour my need to rest and recuperate.  I’d forgotten to stop for a minute.  I’d forgotten to put my personal needs above the needs of others.  I’d just been the “YES” girl and I’d let everything get on top of me.

Sometimes I forget that I’m still an infant in the area of knowing myself and my true needs.  That for many years whenever something challenging happened in my life I’d grab my bag, slip on a pair of fabulous heels and head out to the nearest party.  Because I refused to drink alone, as in my mind that epitomised alcoholism, I would simply find people to share my binges.  After all the bars of the world are full of people who don’t have drinking problems and are simply blowing off some steam.  What’s the harm in a night on the town to get over the strains and stresses of the week?  Of course I was kidding myself at the time, but a night of revelry was just the ticket to being in the moment in those days.  Maybe that’s why sometimes I find it so hard to be present at times, because if there is one thing that drinking does is that it keeps you so firmly in the now.  You’re not worried about tomorrow that’s for sure…not until tomorrow comes anyway!  And it always does, but until then each minute is lived to its very fullest with no regard for what will happen next.

There are days when I long for that escape, where time is of no consequence and the biggest worry of the evening is going to be who CHALLENGE AND CHANGEwill buy the next round.  So when I have a week like I had this week and there is nothing to help me refocus except for the skills that I have learned, it all gets a bit much.  Living away from the people I love doesn’t help in these situations because instead of coming out and asking for help and support, I tend to become clingy and needy.  Rather than simply admitting that I am feeling weak and helpless, I turn into the person I least like and whom the people in my life get rather annoyed with.  So this week I bottled it all up until I reached breaking point and the emotional walls came tumbling down around my ears.  Not really something you want to hear from someone who is planning to make their life’s work Recovery Coaching, but I’m still learning to find my core when it comes to these really dark weeks!  And then I stopped!  I breathed!   I rested!  And I honoured my need to be vulnerable and weak and in doing so I found my balance.

Taking to my bed and sleeping for an entire day seems to have brought me back to a place where I am not being ruled by unbridled emotion and where I can think and act with a greater objectivity.  When I am in these emotively driven spirals I almost feel like I am drowning and although the personal development work I am doing constantly means that I can get through these dark times a lot quicker than before, they still catch me unawares.  It’s been a while since I felt like this and it did catch me by surprise, because I wasn’t expecting it.  Yet when I look back on the days proceeding it I should have known it was coming.  Not only do I live in an environment at the moment that is completely foreign and unnatural, but I have very little real human contact.  I go weeks without even touching another person simply because the people around me are largely colleagues with whom I have a professional relationship.  It has driven home over the last months how incredibly important physical intimacy is.  And I’m not even talking sexually here.  There are days would I would gargle live scorpions just for a hug.  Then there are the daily stresses of work and an ongoing wrangle with my HR department over a large amount of money they owe me.  And the fact that the only place I really want to be is back in South Africa building the life I am envisioning for myself.

So sitting here today, feeling more my positive and energised self, I have to say that being vulnerable and admitting that I am weak at times, does not make me a lesser person.  What it does do is make me stronger through it’s personal honesty.  It doesn’t make me any less of a person than I was, rather through admitting that I am not always as focused and centred, and that I am constantly learning and acquiring new skills, I actually become stronger.  So today I embrace my emotional vulnerability and honour the fact that even though I am constantly trying to be more present that there are times when I fail at this.  But I do believe that it is only through overcoming failure and personal challenges that we grow and develop as individuals, with more to offer, more to share and more to give to ourselves and those around us.  And that in weakness there is strength…

‘Til next time

Sober Something

Hello Presence this is Ego!

Some days I don’t feel like I am in control of my life and other days there is not doubting who the master of my destiny is… I’ve often wondered what it must be like to go through life just feeling content.  Never too happy, never too sad.  Never constantly clambering between the peaks and valleys of life.  I’m not an emotionally consistent person!  I have great days and I have terrible days, but rarely are my days somewhere in that middle ground of contentment.  It’s tiring to say the least and I spend countless hours trying to find ways to maintain some semblance of balance, but thus far I seem to be missing the mark on an ongoing basis.  I listen, I read, I explore ideas on how to achieve and maintain this feeling of equilibrium and I have glimpsed it to be sure, but it never lasts very long.

Or maybe that’s just my ego pulling me towards the extremes of my personality so that I am creating some sort of personal drama or emotional giddiness for myself.  When we abuse substances I believe it is often in an attempt to quiet our minds and the destructive thought patterns that we develop.  I don’t like to admit that about myself, but as I am sitting here and typing the words it seems to make perfect sense.  Why would my egoic mind let me nestle comfortably in the arms of personal gratification where I am ignoring that part of self that thrives on instability and emotional histrionics.  So the hamster in my head starts to run frantically on his little wheel to create all sorts of scenarios that pull me out of this place of mental peace.  And then it’s back into the cycle of destructive, addict thought patterns.  I’ve made it my business to read some of the modern spiritual masters like Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle and Wanye Dyer and I’m sure of I could be their example of someone who needs to learn to fully embrace the present.  I’ve felt that presence when I am fully aware and presently focused, but it’s mercurial in nature.  It’s so ephemeral to me that almost as soon as I start to feeling completely here, it seems to have slipped away.

There are definitely ways of remaining more present.  Writing is an undertaking where I find I’m completely focused in “The Now”.  Where time slips by without me giving into thoughts that turn into vortex of worry and what ifs.  In the present I feel calm and secure, embraced by the comforting arms of emotional tranquility.  The waters of temperance lap gently at my being and I am at one with the world.  I don’t get (too) distracted by the events around me and my intellect is fully engaged, yet my mind is still.  It’s how I feel at this exact moment, with the unwavering belief that everything will unfold as it needs to and things will happen as they should.  And I am not in the least panicked by this thought as I become when I am not focused on the wisdom of my being.  Then just as suddenly I am out of that space as something draws my attention away from my source.  And even though I may endeavour to get back into my “nowness” I’m all over the place, thinking about yesterday (although I tend to go there on a less regular basis) and worrying about tomorrow, rather than embracing the joy of presence.

in times whenI have to admit that simply being conscious of where I am has gone a long way to experiencing the present more often.  I only wish that I was able to stay there for longer periods of time.  But my egoic mind is still strong and I know that sustainable change is a process, made up of steps, not simply a gigantic leap from one place to another.  The more coaching practice I do the more I realise that if you approach change a step at a time, the chance of the transformation “landing” and being tenable are far greater.  So I keep working towards this personal goal of becoming and staying present more often during my day, and through this feeling far more in control of my emotional, spiritual and physical life.  Remembering to stop, take a breath, focus my thoughts on now and continue forward with an open mind and an honest heart.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

 

I’m really not that fussy…

I’m not very good at putting myself first!  I genuinely feel that I am doing people a service by elevating their needs, wants and desires above my own.  Yet, when I am honest about it it actually tends to be of disservice to me in the long-run.  While I was drinking I did it because I felt like I needed to be constantly finding some way to apologise for my bad-days behaviour.  So putting others first seemed like a good way of showing them that even though I may have been verbally aggressive towards them over the weekend or failed to show up because I was too hungover to function, didn’t mean that they weren’t important to me.  So I got into the habit of doing things for my friends and family that didn’t always take my needs, wants and desires into consideration and sometimes even left me feeling a little hostile towards them.

Unfortunately this is now seen as being part of who I am.  Always happy to be agreeable and maintain the status quo to avoid confrontation where possible and go along with what the other person or people have in mind.  The problem is that now that I’m not drinking and having to be constantly apologetic, I find that I’ve started to feel really hostile towards these same people when they do this, because now I feel like they are taking advantage of my niceness.  I’m not a total pushover, but in the realms of insignificance I chose not to do battle.  So I’ll consent on the trivial things over and over again, and it’s started to piss me off about myself.  I’m not talking anything that goes against my moral fibre, but rather decisions over evenings out, places to eat, leisure time, what’s on the TV, which movie to watch…you get the idea.  I’m starting to think that I should stand up for myself a little more in the respect that my opinion, no matter how insignificant the subject, should matter to the decisions taken.

I constantly hear myself saying things like, “whatever works for you” and “I’m really not that fussy”, but actually when I start to think about it there are times when I’m not that happy with the option.  I grew up with parents that fought about really stupid things that still don’t make any sense to me and I’ve always believed that compromise is important.  The problem is I think I’ve swung to the opposite extreme where there’s no compromise because that actually entails discussion and reaching a mutual decision.  And I don’t want to carry this into my new relationship because I can only imagine that I’ll start to become resentful of the fact that I’m just too acquiescent.  I’m not talking about constantly disagreeing over the silly little things, but if I don’t have any practice how do I voice what’s important to me on the larger issues!?

well-behaved-women-rarely-make-history-marilyn-monroeI’ve learned how to stand up for myself professionally.  I guess I just need to take myself more seriously in the personal sphere of my life and talk about the things that matter when choices crop up.  There are things that I’m willing to let slide, but I suppose what I’m getting at is that I need to be more vigilant about just letting things go and then regretting that I didn’t give voice to my wants, needs and desires at the time.  There are so many new skills that I’m having to learn as my journey into sustainable recovery lengthens that it can be a bit daunting at times.  However, I do need to remind myself that I have 20+ years of self-neglect and bad habits to undo and underdeveloped and new personal skills to sharpen and acquire.  At the moment I’m going to focus on looking for the assurance inside and sticking up for myself when it matters.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

It’s not a sign of weakness…

I haven’t posted for two weeks and the reason is that I let my stress levels get completely out of control.  My situation at work became unmanageable and instead of acknowledging how I felt, I simply tried to bottle it all up and put a brave face on it.  But when the cracks started to show, well everything kind of fell apart.  These things can go either way for an addict, and luckily for me they turned out okay.  I was given the opportunity to voice my concerns to an objective party and changes are being made which are having a positive impact on the people I work with, but I didn’t manage my personal situation well up until that point and feel like I lost some professional credibility.  It’s dangerous for an addict to do this…  Instead of asking for help, I tried to go it alone and the results could have been disastrous and not simply left me feeling a little sheepish.  To be honest I live in a country where it is incredibly difficult to obtain alcohol, but if it had been easily obtainable I am not sure whether everything would have turned out as it did.

On top of that my home country mourned the death of an incredible leader and statesman, and it was with heavy hearts that we laid our beloved Madiba to rest today.  These are difficult times to be away from your real support network and sometimes it is difficult to reach out across the oceans and ask for emotional support, because people often think since you have kicked alcohol you can cope with anything.  But it’s really important as a recovering addict to know when to ask for help, because if you are anything like me, people are often confounded when I get to the point where everything starts to fall apart.  I need to know that I cannot always be strong and handle every situation, because somethings, and especially peoples’ behaviour, are completely out of my control.  My choices about my life and not drinking are my choices, but the decisions that others make that often directly impact my life are largely not governed by me.  And that part of me that wants to be in control of every situation needs to accept that.  I need to understand that while I work for a large organisation there will be systems and practices that I don’t agree with, but this drives me harder towards my goal of working for myself in the not-too-distant future.

I also need to accept that I am only responsible about how I respond to situations and can’t be accountable for the thoughts and actions of those around me.  Of course I wish I could make people around me see situations purely from my point of view, without sounding like I want to manipulate everything to my liking.  By accepting that there are certain things that I need to say yes to and to and others that I need to say no to, I can balance my stress levels better and remind myself that I am only truly responsible for myself.  Because at the moment my stress has led to physical illness and I am bed bound and a little frustrated with myself.  But honouring the fact that I am slightly irked and that my body and soul needs to be nurtured on a daily basis is another lesson that I take away from these last few weeks.  It’s essential that as addicts we learn to address situations as they arise and not pretend that everything is going to be better in the morning, because that is the kind of thinking that took me into the depths of drinking and the depression that came with it.  I caught a glimpse of it this last week and it really frightened me, because it has been many years since I saw that dark place in my soul.

So I’m taking the doctor’s advice and allowing myself these few days away from the office to rest my body, mind and soul and take a little time to reflect on how important it is to take care of all parts of me because even though I am less than a month away from six years of sobriety, there are days when I feel like I am still in the early stages of recovery.  It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help, but rather a sign of strength.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

stop

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