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.
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