The five most important lessons I have learned…from my food addiction.

0 (1)Looking at myself in the mirror or glancing down at my legs I hardly recognise myself at times, which is a weird experience.  Sometimes when I look at my jeans I wonder how I am ever going to get into that size 12 rather than the former size 16/18 I was wearing this time last year.  And even the 12s are getting a little big!?

Sometimes when I browse through the clothes stores (no shopping at the moment) I will look at a dress or outfit and wonder if they’ll have it in my size or if I’ll fit into it…and then remember that my body has shed almost sixty 500g blocks of butter in the past year, and of course I will!  Shopping has always been a horror experience for me, taking a range of clothes to the change room only to discover that even the size 18 is a little small in some part.  Avoiding full eye contact with my reflection because I was embarrassed by my own self…thinking that I was lazy and useless to not have been able to stick to yet another diet plan and lose the weight that had crept on over the previous 12 months or so.

One of my biggest realisations over the course of my process has been that a big part of my inability to successfully complete a programme comprised of a couple of elements:

  1. The diet was restrictive and unsustainable, eliminating whole food groups which I love (insert carbs here).
  2. The expectations I placed on myself about the results I was going to achieve and the time frame I was going to achieve them in were completely unrealistic.
  3. The mindset I had around nutrition and exercise where fixed, which resulted in seeing every little slip, scale gain and  plateau as a failure and a chance to give up.
  4.  I did not know how to create accountability around my process, because if I couldn’t get it “right” that must mean I was lazy and incapable.
  5. I just didn’t love myself enough to see it through to the end!

Nothing earth shattering there! And what a load of complete and utter BS!  I have come from the school of dieting that is all about getting on a diet and sticking to a diet until you have achieved the required results.  No erring!  No mistakes!  No excuses!  If you are following the plan/programme, sticking to the instructions and eating the food you are supposed to you WILL LOSE WEIGHT.  So if I was doing all that and wasn’t getting the required outcomes then I  must have been doing something wrong.

Often after a great start of weight loss, I would quickly plateau in my scale losses.  I would become disheartened and frustrated that nothing was changing, and when I would ask the programme leader, dietitian, nurse or facilitator I was working with what was going on they’d always answer with a raised eyebrow and something about “Sticking to the programme!”  These comments and attitudes would leave me feeling uncertain and then I would start to question myself…my will power…my inability to do it right…my frustration at feeling deprived and unhappy…and sure as anything I would  be throwing in the towel and back to my old ways!

My old ways included self-deprecation for being so useless, criticising myself for not being focused and motivated enough, considering myself a loser because I just couldn’t see anything through.  And back I’d go to eating for all the wrong reasons.  The problem with any sort of dysfunctional eating behaviour, is that abstinence is not an option!  Unlike substance abuse, we can’t simply give up eating.  So, I would abuse food in the same way that I abused alcohol.

Depriving myself of anything nourishing or healthy when it came to what I put in my body.  Hiding my eating habits from my family and friends, which included chronic binges that left me feeling sick, guilty and ashamed (not unlike the way I would abuse alcohol in my twenties and early thirties).  The Friday evening shopping ritual was like a visit to the bottle store, piling my trolley with the most highly palatable food I could find and the I’d isolate over the weekends and eat, to the point of physical sickness.  I wasn’t bulimic because it didn’t happen every weekend, and like with drinking I could go for days without being dysfunctional.  But then the urge would strike!

This usually happened when I had nothing planned for the weekend, and I was feeling lonely or excluded, I had not been taking care of my stress, or I was just feeling I needed a reward for a long, hard week.  I’d get home and unpack all the food onto my kitchen counter and plan how I was going to eat it.   How I would have a little of this and one of those, maybe a small bowl of ice cream and just a few of the potato chips.  And it would start of well enough, just like the first couple of drinks in the years gone by.  But then something would happen and my brain would take over, and I would be lost in a hopeless cycle.  I would tell myself that I was only going to have one more brownie and leave the rest for tomorrow, only to end up eating the whole pack and then feeling immensely weak and out of control.  And so it would go until the food was finished or it was all in the bottom of the toilet.

This pattern of eating really got intense over the last few years leading up to when I started to identify that I was actually dealing with a cross-addiction in my life.  As a coach working in the field of addiction recovery, it was an extremely difficult realisation to own that I was abusing food in the same way I had abused alcohol years previously.  I was no longer eating for enjoyment, nourishment or reward, I was eating to punish myself, to hide away and to release negative emotions.  The similarities were difficult to ignore and the consequences were just as negative.  Feelings of self-loathing, isolation, emotions ranging from helplessness to rage, guilt, shame and a tattered self-esteem.

Ever move I made I was conscious of how I hated my body.  I was unable to walk into a room without feeling like everyone was judging me for being fat and lazy, because I was unable to control myself and stick to a diet, lose some weight and get myself into a gym.  Every week I promised myself that I was going to make changes, only to end up slipping off to the kitchen to eat slices of cheese behind the half-closed fridge door!  Not that there was anyone to see me doing it.  It all felt so dark and secretive, so damaging and yet even with a set of tools and practices, I felt powerless to do anything about it.

LEIGH 3 monthsThe challenge with certain addictions though is that the only option is moderation management.  Learning a way of reducing the harm that I was doing to my body, mind and soul through this destructive behaviour, was going to be my only way out of it.  Learning a new set of habits, skills and behaviours that were supportive of change; long-term, sustainable change.  And then I reached out…and like with any recovery that was the beginning of finding my way forward.  I didn’t get the right support for me off the bat, but I did start to make changes.  But what I did get right is that I started to get honest!  I stopped talking about the food and I started addressing my intentions and underlying motivations around the way I used food.  Making changes to my narrative was an essential part of the process, and learning to listen to the quiet, gentle inner voice rather than the angry, destructive critical one became a turning point for me.

In September 2016 I had a real breakthrough with my personal coach when I started to explore how I spoke to myself, and it was there that the real change started to happen.  I wrote about this in my blog post “How Do You Speak to Yourself?” and that was the day that I realised that the only way I was going to move forward was to do something new and different.  Something that I hadn’t tried before…  And so began my real recovery into finding and loving myself.

And after 12 months what I have learned is this:

  1. An eating plan can be as inclusive and exciting as I choose it to be, with all the food groups, and yet healthy and sustainable.  Thank you Flexible Dieting!!
  2. The expectations I place on myself are controlled by me, and need to be realistic, achievable and self-loving; only then can I expect to achieve them.
  3. That if I embrace a growth mindset in my life, then everything becomes a learning and an opportunity for growth and development, and there is no beginning or end just the process I chose to follow.
  4. I have created accountability and support through allowing myself to be vulnerable and reach out, because there is no right or wrong, just finding a way that works for me.
  5. And my biggest learning has been that I am deserving of the love and attention that I give to myself.  That the choices I make are ones that nourish and fulfill my bod, mind and soul, and I am worthy of making those choices and loving myself!

My name is Leigh-Anne and I am a recovering food addict and a flexible dieting convert…

Recovery is NOT Just Abstinence…

imagesOne of the very first questions I ask my clients when we start working together is “What do you understand about the idea of recovery?”  The answers vary, but most of them tend to talk about abstinence.  And for most people recovery does mean abstinence, but #RecoveryIsNOtJustAbstinence!  In my opinion, recovery certainly involves “STOPPING”, but in just “STAYING STOPPED” without the necessary personal growth and development, is extremely difficult if not impossible.  I speak to numerous people who talk of “white knuckling” their recovery for years and years, feeling lonely and isolated, almost hiding from the temptation that the outside world holds.

And the mere fact that I am working with these individuals normally means that they have had some sort of slip or relapse that has caused our paths to cross.  When we start to introduce the idea of #RecoveryCapital to our clients at The Foundation Clinic they are almost relieved to hear that life needn’t be all about trying to embrace sheer focus and willpower to overcome and manage their substance abuse disorder.  Recovery is about living a fulfilled and purposeful life, creating and building upon the emotional, mental, spiritual, social and spiritual resources in their lives.  Life and recovery become interchangeable, as we explore values and spiritual principles, equip clients with simple, practical tools for overcoming triggers and urges, goal set and action plan, and start to understand and embrace adult emotions.

Recovery is not about putting life on hold while we learn to deal with our disorder.  It’s about building a life that doesn’t leave space for the use of drugs and alcohol.  It’s about developing a healthy lifestyle and a positive self-esteem that makes us feel worthy of fulfilling personal and professional relationships.  It’s about a change in mindset, seeing the obstacles in life as a set of exciting challenges and opportunities for growth, rather than a set of potential pitfalls.  It’s about changing our negative self beliefs into those which support and assist us in life (and recovery) instead of negative thoughts, beliefs and actions ultimately leading to those very same negative self-fulfilling prophecies.  And it’s about self awareness and pursuing a conscious, present-focused existence that ensures we are living to our highest personal values, achieving the aspirations that we set out for ourselves and are intentionally pursuing through well-laid out action plans.

Recovery is not simply about putting down the harmful substances and then pretending that they don’t exist.  Recovery is about wanting and needing more from life, so that we are not restricted in our choices!  It’s about consciously and practively creating and developing the skills and the resources to go after a life that we believe we are worthy of…not being limited and imprisoned by drugs, a fixed mindset and a set of negative, limiting beliefs. #RecoveryIsNotJustAbstinence…#RecoveryIsLife..

For more information about Recovery Coaching and the development of #RecoveryCapital, please feel free to contact me | leigh-anne@thefoundationclinic.co.za.

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If You’re Not Growing You’re Dying…

If you're not growingLife has been extremely hectic and I realised that I haven’t posted for an exceptionally long time, so I have made time this morning to sit down and catch up a little and do a little self reflection at the same time.  And the idea that has kept coming to me over the last few days is the idea that “If you’re not growing, you’re dying”.  It keeps coming back to me in my personal and professional life, and has made me think deeply about my own growth as well as the growth of my Recovery Coaching clients.  You may believe the statement to be true or may refute it wholeheartedly, but it’s definitely worth thinking about.  Because would you rather be living a life of stagnation and mediocrity, or do you want a life of purpose and fulfillment.  I can honestly say that the more I do to push myself and grow, the more satisfaction I get from my life.  And as a coach in the field of recovery (from addiction and substance abuse) I see incredible development in the individuals who dig deep to discover what they want and how they plan to achieve it.

So ask yourself the questions, “Who am I?” and “Where do I want my life to be in [three] months?”  The truth is that a lot of us don’t really know who we are or what we want.  We get so caught up in just getting by and staying on top of things that we forget to dream and aspire!  Sadly we also tend to lose touch with who we are and the things that feed our souls.  This is especially true for people in early recovery!  Through the compulsive cycle of using or doing, people have forgotten what makes their heart sing, what values drive them and what principles guide them.  It’s ever so easy to sit around and pay lip service to principles like honesty, integrity and tolerance that are identified as an essential part of the recovery journey, but it’s completely different (and often pretty challenging) to actually incorporate them into our lives and use them to aspire us towards our goals.

Understanding and determining our values is also difficult, but essential.  Especially since during active addiction our one true value is often our substance of choice.  It’s what gets us out of bed in the morning and determines the course of our day!  And that may sound uncomfortable and even irritate you, but the truth is that in active addiction we are driven by our behaviour patterns and habits.  The challenge in recovery is to develop new ways of doing things, and retraining our brain to respond differently to life events that would of sent us into the arms of our addictive substance or behaviour.  So the way I see it recovery is about growth!  It’s about deciding where you want yourself and your life to be in the future and then developing action steps to achieve this.

Recovery capital is essential in the journey.  Whether this be in the physical, emotional, mental, social or spiritual sphere it’s important to determine where you have resources to support you in your recovery and where you may need to build your capital.  And everyone’s recovery capital is different!  Where one person might choose to attend NA/AA meetings as part of the spiritual/emotional capital, another will identify that team sport serves and supports them in the same way.  And this is illustrative of the idea that every individual needs to determine their own recovery plan, that is as unique as they are.  Because my dreams and aspirations are ever so different to the next person, so to will be my recovery.  So in Recovery Coaching we share tools to support individuals’ recovery, but it is up to every person to determine what they need and want moving forward in their lives.  As a recovery coach my role is to challenge my clients to understand where they are, and support them in their journey to where they want to be, whether this is personally or professionally.  And during this process to take personal responsibility and accountability for their actions.

So recovery is about growth for me!  It’s about solutions-driven, forward-focused movement that is driven by principle and guided by spiritual principles.  It’s about creating a life that is determined by purpose and feeding one’s soul with activities that bring joy and fulfillment.  Every step that we take towards the life we dream of is growth…and is exciting and stimulating.  I use these practices in my own life and the more I do, the richer and more incredible my life becomes.  I continue to learn and develop personally and professionally as I strive to incorporate principles into my life, live by my values, excavate my dreams and build plans to achieve what my heart desires.  And at the centre of all this is continuing to build my recovery capital so that I have the resources and support to move towards my aspirations.  Because I honestly believe that “if you are not growing you are dying.”

For more information on Recovery Coaching please visit http://www.recoverycoachingsa.com or email me on leighanne@recoverycoachingsa.com

Til next time

Sober Something

A Cookie-Cutter Cure…

There’s something that I really want to talk about today, and I fear that isn’t going to win me a popularity contest in the world of recovery.  But sometimes it’s important to speak up on issues that have such an impact on our lives and those of the people that we care about and love.  Over the past few months I have been working at SHARP Recovery Centre in Johannesburg, co-facilitating a Recovery Wellness Group.  It’s a new approach to recovery in South Africa, working with people in a place of wellness rather than treating them as ill and destined to a life of misery because they are afflicted with a disease, but I talked about this at length in my last post “What if I fall!?”  Today what I would like to talk about is the general lack of concern that recovery professionals seem to have for their clients.

Of course I am not throwing a net over every single recovery worker or treatment centre in the country, this post is about my personal experience, the people I have been working with and what I have seen in my time in the industry.  What strikes me most is that people in recovery who I talk to, tell me about how they are made to feel like just another bed filler in the treatment centres they have been, with seemingly little concern as to their true mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.  And if they relapse and return to for another round of treatment all the better, because there is no discount for returning customers.  It’s almost as though it’s lucrative for the clients to stay “sick” because what organisation doesn’t like loyal, repeat customers.  Rather than supporting clients through treatment and developing effective, individualised aftercare plans, clients are returned to the “real world” in a highly vulnerable state, normally told to attend 90 meetings in 90 days, and then left to their own devices until the “pink bubble” they are living in pops and they are faced with difficult situations, triggers and urges…and no real coping strategies to deal with them.

Following their time in treatment facilities clients bemoan that they are subjected to the same ideas, theories and programs over and over again.  The fact that this recovery regimen didn’t work for them the last time is often put down to the fact that they didn’t do the work, because if they had they wouldn’t be back in treatment.  The client is viewed as flawed and broken, but what I am saying is perhaps it’s the system that needs to be re-evaluated.  Because if making someone do weeks and weeks of step work and search for their Higher Power was really that effective, surely people wouldn’t be constantly walking through the “revolving day of recovery“.  What people in recovery need during and after treatment is not someone judging them and waiting for them to slip up, but people who support and honour their recovery work and the path to recovery that they choose to take.  I want to see the people that I work with grow, develop and succeed in their lives, not be a long-term source of income for me.  After completing a series of coaching sessions, I want to see them take the tools, strategies and techniques they have learned and apply them to their lives.  And though a set of plans, goals and life strategies may work for one client doesn’t mean that they will work for another.

Where one person may choose to put a heavy emphasis on personal development, another may choose to attend a mutual-help group.  A sponsor may resonate with one client while rebuilding a spousal relationship may be more important to someone else.  Dictating what someone has to do to achieve long-term sobriety seems laughable to me, especially since I failed miserably in the traditional recovery arena.  Chastising me for being unable to find my Higher Power simply pushed me to find a different approach to my recovery and in doing so I began to question how one approach can be seen as applicable to every person with a substance (or behaviour) abuse disorder.  The people I meet in recovery couldn’t be more different and so we as recovery professionals need to be prepared to tailor-make systems and plans that are as diverse as the clients that we serve.  Clients shouldn’t be viewed as a payday who can be treated with a one-size-fits-all recovery plan, because that’s the easiest option for us!

The field of recovery should be client-centred and driven by the individual needs of the people that we are assisting.  Dictating recovery policy to someone who has a substance abuse disorder (SAD) and more likely than not a very strong adapted child in their egoic makeup, will most likely lead to rebelliousness and disobedience (even in adults).  I believe that it is our responsibility, since we have chosen to assist people with SADs, to take the time to really get to know our clients, to explore their options together and then to give the client the support that they need to live their recovery in a practical, forward-focused, solutions-driven way.  Surely our aim should be to empower individuals so that they go out into the world and live a purposeful, fulfilling life, not replace one dependency for another (no matter how much healthier we believe it to be).  Rather than becoming reliant on a program or a person, my focus is to assist a client to get to a place of growing personal power, so that they become equipped with the life skills to move confidently forward in their recovery.  I have no desire to see anyone fail, but should they trip occasionally I see my purpose as being to give them a hand up and then set them on their way again, not rub my hands together as they generate another income stream for me.

I think that we need to consider that a “cookie-cutter cure” for substance abuse disorders doesn’t work.  And like so many other industries we need to put the client at the top of the planning model and develop strategies that are uniquely designed to consider their requirements, not simply “enforce” a top-down system on them that may not address their specific character, culture, socio-economic situation, personal desires and professional aspirations.  We need to listen to the clients and find out what they want, even if you consider addiction to be a disease.  Even a cancer patient is given options when it comes to their treatment.  Treatment and care at any stage of  substance misuse and recovery needs to be a place where people feel heard and supported, not disregarded and stigmatised.  Of course these are my opinions formed over my years in recovery and now recovery coaching, but for me the client is the centre of the model and everything after that is decided in an accountable, collaborative relationship where trust, honesty and many other spiritual principles govern the direction that their personal recovery plan takes, which should be as unique and special as they are.

drseusstodayyouareyou

‘Til next time

Sober Something

Inspiring Challenges and Disguised Opportunities!?

I am not afraid of Mondays!  I start the week excited by new opportunities, focusing on the infinite possibilities that could come my way.  I’m not going to sugarcoat it by saying that everything is perfect, because that would be self-denial of the highest order.  Building a business is no walk in the park and I’ve been exploring alternative income paths over the last few months until I am more financially stable.  But as I was working through “The Values Factor” by John Demartini I came across this wonderful quote that he had used to begin a chapter, which resonated deeply with me on this Monday afternoon.

we are all faced with a great series of oportunities

Too often when we are faced by impossible situations in our lives, we simply throw up our hands and complain that it’s just too difficult to carry on.  And as someone with a substance abuse disorder and shockingly developed coping skills before I started my journey, I would have had the white flag up before I had so much as looked for the opportunity in the challenge.  In his book, Dr Demartini talks about “inspiring challenges” and as I was reading through the chapter I was struck as to how our addictions could be seen as just that.  Overcoming an addiction to anything could be seen as an impossible situation, but when you scratch the surface just a little and start to take those first steps into recovery you start to see the enormous opportunity that lies within.  I haven’t completed the book and I haven’t done all the work, but for a long time now I have seen my addiction as an incredible opportunity for personal growth and development.  Choosing recovery was the first step to turning the adversity of addiction into the opportunity of recovery.

Addiction in ourselves or a lived one might seem like an impossible situation, but if you just look at it from a slightly different perspective, you may just find that there is enormous potential for self growth and personal empowerment.  If I look back to  my life seven years ago it was a patchwork of mildly fulfilling relationships, halfhearted commitment to a job that was not particularly purposeful and a shocking sense of personal depth and assurance.  But I took the necessary first (very tentative) step towards an ever so faint glimmer of distant hope and life has never been the same.  At the time I didn’t know whether I had what it took to live a sober life or whether I had the necessary skills and tools to take me through the recovery process.  The fact is that at the time I didn’t, but instead of letting the challenge of recovery overwhelm me I chose to look at it as a the beginning of a wonderful adventure.  And even though I didn’t know it at the time, my shifting values took me in the direction that I needed to go.  Because when I was drinking my values were to go out, drink, have a great time and to hell with the consequences.  I wasn’t interested in personal development, training or further education which I am now.  I was certainly not interested in nurturing my personal and professional relationships, which are a core value in my life at present.

When I started to do value work recently it became very clear to me that even though I thought I had certain values, I wasn’t living my life by them.  And many of the values that I believed were mine are simply societal norms and ideas that I’d adopted as my own.  It’s not easy to admit that “getting drunk” was a value, but it must have been since I spent all my time, money and energy pursuing it!  And over the last seven years my values have continued to change as I grow and develop through my personal and professional pursuits.  These days when confronted with a challenging situation I look at it completely differently as to how I would have in the drinking years.  Fear and flight are not my go-to reactions, because I have developed far healthier coping skills.  Instead of simply avoiding potentially difficult situations with a drink or two, I have learned to evaluate and assess the situation and choose a way of dealing with it, rather than running away.

And I ran for years, to all sorts of interesting and exotic locations, where human interactions were kept to a minimum through tings like small expatriate populations, language barriers and distance from home.  It’s an honest revelation when I look at it now, and can see the reasons that I did what I did and chose the paths that I chose.  By having fewer relationships meant that there were less potential situations where I would have to rely on my interpersonal skills and coping mechanisms.  I spent years avoiding conflict and confrontation, seeing it as harmful and destructive.  I never understood how anything emotionally tough could be a chance to grow and develop emotionally. But now I see the potential that lies in previously terrifying close and personal exchanges.  I no longer shy away from difficult conversations, and have begun to be more conscious of how any situation can be a source of learning and growth.  These courageous conversations bring emotional depth and intimacy unlike anything I could have imagined before I started to change the way that I looked at life.

I’m not saying that I go out of my way to find difficult situations, but now when one comes my way I don’t collapse into a pile on the floor or run screaming to the nearest bar.  Instead I use the skills I have learned and developed to address it head on, which means being completely conscious and present in the situation.  It means keeping judgment out of the equation and not instantly trying to defend or protect myself (more accurately my ego).  It means respecting, listening and acknowledging different perspectives and points of view, and then maturely and openly taking part in the discussion.  And instead of letting myself slip into the victim space, I express my opinions and feelings honestly and clearly, so that I don’t walk away feeling unheard and carrying repressed anger.  And the more I practice these techniques that I have learned, the more these brilliantly disguised impossible situations become less and less emotionally and mentally challenging.  And this doesn’t just apply to my personal life, but also to things that happen in my professional life.

So no matter what challenges present themselves, take a step back and try and look at the situation from another angle.  The  opportunities that could be hidden beneath the surface might not be evident at first, but dig a little deeper and you might be pleasantly surprised at the little gems of opportunity that lie beneath.

Til next time

Sober Something

How you do anything, is how you do everything!

This weekend I attended a seminar on Financial Freedom and Wealth Creation…and it was profoundly life-changing for me!  It wasn’t just about how I can make money or what I need to do to become wealthy, it was about the mindset of money.  What struck me the most over the three days was the amount of emotion that we connect to money and wealth.  The methodology is based around coaching and active learning, and the processes that were used were extremely empowering both financially and emotionally.  After many years of personal development I believed that I had broken free of much the emotional baggage that had been holding me back during my active addiction, but this weekend it became glaringly obvious that I have been carrying around a boatload of anger and resentment that are stopping me from moving forward in my life.

In my efforts to not be like certain people in my life, I have chosen to be everything that they are not, including professionally and financially successful.  It made sense to me at some subconscious level that if I was to be true to who I wanted to be this included struggling financially, because it was the antithesis to what I didn’t want to be!!  And yes, I have blogged about letting go of anger in the past, and I truly thought that I had managed to do a damn good job of that.  I might well have let go of my anger in certain spheres of my life, but I will be honest and say that there was a great big wad of it sitting inside me still.  So through the exercises and activities over the very intense three-day event, I was given the opportunity to really let a lot of the destructive emotions and feelings (about more than wealth and money) go!!  To watch them shrivel and die, because they are holding me back from the person that I know I can be was an incredibly liberating experience.

It’s always difficult to take a long, hard, honest look at ourselves and admit that there are parts of ourselves that we are not satisfied with.  Perhaps it’s our relationships, our jobs, our money situation, even ourselves, but it is tough to admit that we are not happy with where we are.  At points over the weekend, I was so far outside my comfort zone that I felt completely uncomfortable, charged with anxiety.  But I put my trust in the processes that were taking place and in myself.  Since I am a huge advocate of the coaching system, I went into everything with an open mind and was profoundly and positively affected by doing so.

More than once during the course of the weekend I was in a very emotionally vulnerable position, as I was slammed with numerous epiphanies.  And the people around me, who were complete strangers, were kind and supportive of my state and held a safe space for me while I explored by feelings of fear, anger, shame and guilt.  The activities are designed to focus on money, but the discoveries went so much deeper than that.  After digging really deep and stepping into my discomfort and fear, I left the event with a completely new outlook, feeling inspired and motivated.  Since one of my most important personal values is education and training, taking a weekend to develop myself is a privilege for me and I loved every minute.

The developer of the course, T. Harv Eker‘s quote was used more than once over the weekend and I truly believe that he is completely correct when he says “How you do anything, is how you do everything!”  And I am certain that this goes for our approach to our recovery.  I thought about how far I’ve come more than once over the three days, and even though the focus of the seminar was financial freedom, I had plenty of opportunities to relate it to my personal journey.  There was more than one moment when I realised that even though I have come a very long way in my recovery, there are other areas of my life I may have neglected because of pent-up feelings I have around certain people, places and this.  So this morning as I sit here writing this blog entry, I feel like my personal development reached a new level this weekend and many of the ideas I was introduced to will serve me well in many other areas of my life too.  After all life is always better with a clear head and an honest heart.

How you do anything

‘Til next time

Sober Something

You (don’t) complete me!?

While I was drinking I was incapable of having anything that resembled a mature,fulfilling relationship…  I simply didn’t have the faith in myself to get involved with anyone for anything more than a few weeks, and nothing that could be considered a relationship.  Let’s be honest here in that our choices in active addiction are hardly what would be considered reasonable and well thought out.  I’m sure that I am not the only one who’s made some pretty dubious decisions late at night…  But that being said, I am not the kind of person who likes to air their (long-past) dirty laundry in public.  Actually I have been thinking about writing a book about my journey for many years and as much as I know a little “dirty laundry” could possibly be good for sales and readership, that is not the kind of message I want to put out into the world.  Yes, I have my share of scandalous little tales, but besides taking ownership of my past indiscretions, it’s not something I believe needs to be rehashed for public consumption.

What I do want to talk about today is relationships in long-term sobriety.  So often in early recovery we hear that it’s not a good idea to get into (or leave) a relationship in the first year.  As for me, it took more than six years before I was ready to take that step.  The main reason was that I wanted to become someone that I would want to be with…and clearly that took some time!!  I didn’t want to go into an intimate relationship hauling the cargo that I had accumulated over the years, and have to deal with that while I was finding myself as part of a couple.  When we’re vulnerable and scared, often the natural thing seems to be to find someone to share our unease and pain.  And when we are not alone, perhaps it doesn’t seem quite as frightening.  But I decided for myself that bringing my insecurities and pain into a relationship, wasn’t going to bode well for anything lasting.

Now let me be completely honest, I am not saying that I am some sort of emotionally superior being, who has no insecurities, vulnerabilities or moments of personal discontent.  That’d be incredibly inauthentic and arrogant of me!  I am not close to being an Eckhart Tolle who has mastered the spiritual art of living in the now, free of the pain of the past or the anxiety of the future.  What I am trying to say is that I worked incredibly hard for a long time to be honest about where I am in my life and learn to accept myself.  I looked around at the people I know and paid careful attention to those who were in happy, healthy relationships and those that were toxic and destructive.  I made conscious choices about the type of partner I wanted to be and decided on the things I wanted to take into a partnership.  It might sound clinical and unromantic, but I was not prepared to be an emotionally-driven, reactionary player in this game of hearts.

Of course we have little or no control over who we choose to love, but I knew who I wanted to be when Cupid took the shot!! And all those years of personal development, self-evaluation and hard emotional work finally paid off.  After spending long, lonely nights putting my demons to rest, I met an incredible man.  The truth is that there were lots of emotions, insecurities and anxieties in the early stages of being together, but I didn’t bring my recovery into our relationship.  I wasn’t trying to learn about who I am at the same time as getting to know him.  Of course it’s challenging to find your true place in a couple, but it wasn’t about finding myself as well.  It was just the normal stuff that most of us go through in the beginning of being with someone!

Yes, I checked my phone a dozen times an hour (our first year was spent in a long-distance relationship) and went through the roller coaster of feelings that my friends explained are completely normal.  I wasn’t finding it hard because I was in recovery, I was just going through the spectrum of emotions that get thrown in our paths when we are in the initial stages of being together.  I did attend a lecture a couple of weeks ago about relationships and the stages thereof.  It was based on the Imago Theory, which was a little too Freudian for my tastes, but the psychologist talked about how in the early stages of romance we feel like we have always known this person we find ourselves with (based on our familial experiences).  Following this romantic period, we’re bound to enter into a power struggle and if couples do the necessary work, perhaps 5% will be lucky enough to be part of a conscious relationship.

lets agree to be honestBut listening to the lecture I began to understand that if we know ourselves well enough before we find someone to be with, we are far more likely to be successful in our choice.  Communication is key from the very very beginning, and although I do not have a man who showers me with romance and we don’t feel like we’ve always known each other, I consider myself beyond blessed to be in a partnership that is authentic and honest.  Instead of sweet nothings, we talk about real situations and for me that is far more important than platitudes.  We both know what we want from each other, we are not living in some fantasy land believing that everything is perfect, but we are incredibly happy.  Sometimes the conversations can be a little scary, but we’ve discussed a range of topics that are very real possibilities in any couple’s life.

But the point of the entire post is that instead of rushing in (or out) of a relationship in early recovery, I can recommend doing yourself a big favour and learning who you are and what you truly want.  Then based on this you can start to make decisions that involve the heart and emotions of another person.  I cannot comment too much on the getting out, since this is my first serious relationship since forever, but I can say that there is nothing more empowering than knowing yourself really well before trying to look for someone else to complete you.  Being complete before you look outwards for something means that that other person only makes life more exciting, fulfilling and fun.  Don’t look outside for love and happiness, find it first in yourself and then look for someone to share it with.  If there is a void that needs filling, find ways to fill it by yourself, because expecting someone else to vanquish the emptiness is not necessarily going to lead to long-term emotional stability.

The man I am with doesn’t make me happy, because I am already happy in myself.  He is an incredibly wonderful addition to my world and most definitely brings joy to my life, but he is not the fountain of my personal fulfillment.  Of course I speak only for myself, when I say that by getting over my past and not rushing into any sort of intimate relationship until I was someone I wanted to be with, has been well worth the wait.  Because after all I really do believe that life is better with a clear head and an honest heart.

Til next time

Sober Something

“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy…”

I didn’t sleep last night and lay in bed thinking about my personal goals and values.  Since moving back to South Africa three months ago I have poured my heart and soul into my coaching work and it has been an incredible experience so far.  I’ve learned a huge amount in a short time and have met some people who have reinforced how important this work is since so many people are battling addiction and searching for personal empowerment.  But at the same time there is resistance to change and people still cling firmly to the traditional treatment and recovery models in South Africa.  So I’ve had to actively pursue alternative employment, because as much as I believe in what I am doing, passion and dreams don’t pay the rent.

It’s been oh so humbling to put myself at the mercy of the job market.  And it’s also been a little soul destroying.  As a language teacher I have years of excellent experience and have literally been able to work where I chose.  Not so much the case when I’m looking at other areas that will utilise my skills and experience.  I am committed to the employment search, but at the same time I am having to give up a good chunk of my personal business plans (for the time being).  Life’s like that – give and take, ebb and flow – but it doesn’t mean that while I have been in this priority shift it hasn’t been challenging.  Pragmatism is essential in this case, because my anti-motivation is the thought of having to leave home and work abroad.  So I am prepared to do whatever it takes to stay here even if it means a cold, hard dose of nine to five work in the meantime while I slowly develop and build my coaching business.

There have been plenty of exciting developments, but they’re not at the money-making stage yet and one cannot live on promise and hope.  So as I lay there last night trying to get my head around the idea, thinking of how this all fits in with my core values which include personal relationships, learning & education and coaching & training, I experienced some strong emotional reactions.  The longer sleep eluded me the more dramatic the situation in my head became and the more upset I got.  But as the sun rose this morning and I had the opportunity to talk it through with the person whose insight, wisdom and intelligence always helps me find my answers, I understood that this journey was never going to be an easy one.  That I would face challenges along the way and that instead of throwing a spectacular self-pity party, the best thing to do was reconcile what I have to do in order to be able to do what I want to.

That instead of looking at having to approach my dream from a different direction, I needed to look at the idea of a new job as a learning and educational opportunity, which is definitely in line with my values.  That I should take the opportunity as one that has been put in my path to help me develop further relationships, both personal and professional, and that perhaps the job was the universe’s  way of showing me a slightly different way of getting where I want to be.  So I did spend a good part of my day shifting my perspective so that I could look at this fork in the road from a different angle and come to a place of calm peace regarding this particular situation.

The more I live the work that I am doing in my personal and professional life, the stronger I become.  Of course having someone in my life who is able to hold a safe place for me to experience my emotions and then take my hand while I find an alternative way of getting to where I want to be is something I am grateful for every single day.  The thing is that there are times when I am faced with tricky situations that I have to be very vigilant about slipping back into my [addict] default position which was victim!!  Instead of lamenting that my course is not a clear and unencumbered one, I need to look at the new opportunities that this little detour presents and see it as an unexpected adventure along the road that I have chosen to walk.  Taking some time today to just shift my focus slightly and how I could align the situation with my personal values has left me feeling empowered rather than helpless.  It happens constantly that we need to reevaluate where we are and where we are going and by doing this simple activity and coaching myself today, I have come to terms with where I am and what I need to do to move forward from here without feeling stripped of my personal power.

And in closing I always like to remember this quote “I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy – I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.”

‘Til next time

Sober Something

worthit

 

Whatever we think about and thank about…

This week I had the immense privilege of attending a Dr. John Demartini talk in Johannesburg.  Over the years I have heard people mention him and never really been too curious about him, possibly because of all the hype that goes with being endorsed by countless household names.  For some reason that often puts me off something a little, and that’s something else that I was exposed t this week, but more on me and my “rebellious child” later.  When I saw him standing next to the stage I again wondered what all the fuss is about, as he is a seemingly unassuming man who you’d possibly walk past in the street.  But if I was ever caught of judging a book by its cover, I was well and truly at fault of it on Tuesday afternoon.

From the moment the man opened his mouth and started talking about how knowing our core values can determine our truth purpose in life, I was mesmerised.  And there are not that many people who truly take my breath away.  I’m often a little too quick to get irritated by the things that apparent experts advocate, but Dr Demartini blew me away with his authenticity,  knowledge and dare I say, pure genius.  The hour that he was on stage was over all too quickly and left me wanting more…a sensation that I am all too familiar with and I am sure you can relate to.  But this longing was a thirst for information and further insight into his ideas and processes.  It was an emotionally charged experience for me and I was conscious of the tears that flowed freely during certain parts of his talk when he shared how we do not need internal motivation when we are living our true purpose.  That when we are true to our core values we are inspired to undertake the work we have chosen and deeply engaged in what we are doing.  

I can only admire a man who has read close to 30,000 books, is passionate about the work he does and has made it his life’s mission to help people discover their unique purpose and personal magnificence.  I’m still debating trying to scrape the money together to attend his “Breakthrough Experience” later this year.  I’m also working through the book on my own, but this has always been something that is more challenging for me to do, especially when I come across something that I find difficult to relate to.  But I have definitely caved out some time in the next few days to do the work around determining my values.  I’ve always thought that my core value was integrity, but listening to him speak I came to realise that family, education, personal connections and knowledge are also values that I saw more as areas of importance.  I understood that values were more based along moral lines, traits that are central to who we consider ourselves to be.  But if I think more along the lines of how I can align my work with what is intrinsically important to me, it suddenly makes a lot more sense to me.  So I am excited about doing the work over the next couple of days and really pinpointing what it is that gives me purpose in life.  I have a fairly good idea, having done a lot of work over the last eighteen months around purpose and personal power.

Something else that I was introduced to in any detail this week was “Transactional Analysis“.  I’ve heard the term being tossed around, but never explored it any further and then attended a session on Friday afternoon about it, with the central idea being that we strive for a situation in relationships of “I’m okay!  You’re okay!”  It was an interesting hour and is another thing that I am going to spend more time looking into over the coming days and weeks.  It’s about what part of our self we approach relationships, interactions and conversations from and the ego state we are in when we do.  Are we approaching situations and people as a parent, an adult or a child.  The crux of the theory is that depending on what ego state we are in, will depend on how others react and relate to us.  And going back to my initial mention of “rebellious child” I see myself so often to wanting to accept the endorsement of people and ideas, because I don’t want to be another blind follower.  

But I have to admit that after the hour I was again left wanting more information around the topic and a healthy curiosity like that is always most welcome.  The more I surround myself with a balance of positive, healthy activities and relationships the more rich and rewarding my life becomes.  Things seem to flow into one another and each new avenue of interest seems to lead to situations that give me the room to develop on these ideas, thoughts and processes.  My journey never fails to inspire and challenge me, because there are still times when I question the path I have chosen.  But then something wonderfully serendipitous will happen to reinforce my choices and decisions and I am left in a state on wonder.  Learning to trust in recovery has been a central part of my ongoing wellness and the more I trust, both myself, others and the universe, the more I have reason to believe that we all have a very specific purpose to pursue and that we are all here for a reason.  And as Dr Demartini says, “Whatever we think about and thank about we bring about.

think about and thank about

‘Til next time

Sober Something

Bite-Size Chunks and Baby Steps…

Don’t for a minute imagine that just because I am a coach I have all the answers for myself all the time.  There are days where just like everyone else I experience self-doubt, insecurity or my personal favourite, anxiety.  For no particular reason I’ll wake up in the morning feeling uncertain and even a little panicky.  Nothing major will have happened to cause these feelings, but there they’ll be…front and centre!  And even though I know what needs to be done to rid myself of these emotions, I’ll find myself in a bit of a battle.  Until I remember that pushing them away will only make them stronger and more powerful.  That by trying to ignore that I am feeling a bit emotionally vulnerable or mentally anguished is not going to make me feel better; in fact quite the opposite.

Reciting positive mantras and trying to “pull myself together” is not the solution that I know works in these cases.  What I do need to do is check in with myself and try to establish why it is that I am feeling this way.  It’s a reminder that I might need to spend some time in quiet introspection, figuring out what it is that’s gnawing at my insides.  Anxiety isn’t necessarily caused by something out of the ordinary.  A situation or thought that was of no consequence yesterday, may cause uneasiness today.  It depends on whether I slept properly, have eaten, am spending too much time alone or what professional challenges I am dealing with on any given day.  And right now I have managed to identify the reason I am feeling like this…

the truth is that although I would love to be coaching full-time, building a business is not an overnight endeavour.  To wave a magic wand and have a practice full of personally empowered and flourishing clients would be nothing short of magical, but these things take time.  So I am presently looking for a job to supplement my coaching income.  I have every intention of pursuing my recovery business on an ongoing basis, but there are bills to be paid and lofty aspirations, no matter how well-developed, don’t pay the rent.

a goal without a planA business plan and a great vision and mission are essential to the branding of a business, but I don’t have the luxury of spending all my time committed to the success of mine while someone else takes care of the financial aspects of life.  Offering people a service such as recovery coaching is not as simplistic as simply opening the doors and watching a line form outside.  There is a good deal of trust that needs to be established and a reputation that needs to be built.  And these are elements of my business that require time, patience and nourishment.  So back to the job hunting, which is nothing short of disheartening.  For me it’s been a humbling lesson over the last couple of weeks as there are no recruiters banging down my door to even interview me, never mind hire me.  So instead of simply submitting my CV with a whole pile of others I’ve come to the realisation (aided by the nudging of others) that I need to get out there and sell myself.  The mere idea of that curls my toes, because I am not a personal fan of the “hard sell”.  In fact I’ll g so far as to avoid the salespeople stationed around the malls and supermarkets on a Saturday morning who are trying to convince people to try a new product.  But it seems that if I want a job in a market as depressed as this one, I’m going to have to stand out from the crowd.  And voila! therein lies the root of my discomfort and anxiety!

So with just a little soul searching and asking myself the right questions I’ve been able to establish that it’s not just about having to put myself out there, but also the idea that I may have to deal with a fair amount of rejection.  That even though I know that the positions I am applying for are well within my capabilities and skill set, doesn’t mean that the recruiters can see this by merely reading a piece of paper.  By no means am I a wilting wall flower, but there are certain things that I do prefer to avoid if I can and being overly assertive with regards to myself is one of them.  So now that I have identified the source of my upset I am going to spend a couple of hours writing out a plan as to how I should proceed.  I have a couple of ideas floating around in my head, but putting them down into an action plan and giving myself some tasks and deadlines, is going to make this whole process far less intimidating and more manageable.  Bit-size chunks and baby steps need to be the approach to this project of finding myself a source of extra income, just while I continue to build my dream and follow my passion.

It’s not exactly what I want to do, but it is what I need to do to ensure that I have the resources to go forward on this path I have chosen for myself.

‘Til next time

Sober Something