Live Life!

“What if you don’t like your path?”

“Then it’s not your path.”

Jed McKenna,  Dreamstate: A Conspiracy Theory

I remember when I was a kid there was a great emphasis on finishing what you had started. Even if you didn’t like it, you stuck with it because that is what you were ‘supposed’ to do. Quitting part way through was the lazy way out, a defect of character. This went for college course choices, job choices and relationship choices. Once you committed to something, you couldn’t change course.  Stiff upper lip and all that!

I couldn’t disagree more today!

How many people are working at jobs they detest? Are going through the motions in a relationship that no longer fulfills? Living in conditions that are sapping them of their life blood? What good does it do you to keep climbing the corporate ladder when you find that the ladder is propped up onto the wrong wall?

Life is too short. It’s too short to be working at a job you detest, living where you aren’t comfortable and being with the wrong person. To everything there is a season. And when the season ends it’s time to move on. And there’s a lid for every pot; if the lid isn’t fitting, then change lids.

When I look at my life before recovery and now, I see a colossal difference. When I came into the meeting rooms I was at my bottom. I was living in the metaphoric dungeon of life and my addiction kept me in chains. The miracle of recovery showed me that the chains were of my own making and they weren’t locked. The trap door from the dungeon was unbolted and there was a ladder out. According to the old philosophy, I made my bed, now I must lie in it. The goal, I discovered isn’t to “make the best of it” it’s to leave the dungeon all together!

Any change can be very stressful. Because of this some prefer to stay in the dungeon because they ‘know’ it. Some fear what might happen if they do leave. What if they fail? What if they don’t like it? So they sell their health and peace of mind for the sense of security of a job or a relationship or an addiction that is robbing them of really living life.

Again I say, life is short and you’ll be dead for a lot more years than you ever lived. No one on their deathbed wishes they could have spent more time at the office. Get out there!  Try different things! Take some risks! Change the path you’re on if it’s not your path. You don’t get out of here alive, so make sure that you’ve lived while you were here.

 

 

Opening to New Thinking

When I came into recovery I was told to keep an open mind. I was told that my best thinking had led me to the meeting rooms so maybe my thinking wasn’t the best at that moment. Perhaps I had better start listening instead of thinking.

At first I thought, I’m educated. Twelve steps? I can whip through those in a few weeks and be on my way. Higher Power? I’ll choose universal energy, it’s much better than the traditional ideas I grew up with. Make amends? No problem. I just won’t include a few people on the list.  I wasn’t living in my car. I didn’t drink Listerine. I wasn’t pushing a shopping cart through town. I wasn’t like ‘you people’ who really needed the program. I just needed a bit of help to get me stopped then I would be fine.

I had the idea that I was somehow ‘better’ than the other people around me. I had so many reasons why I was different from the others in the room. My situation was ‘special’. I had a set of challenges that no one else had. I heard my sponsor tell me that I was suffering from something very common in the rooms: Terminal Uniqueness. I was so special, living in conditions so different and in a world so ‘unique’ that it was slowly killing me, just like any other ‘terminal’ illness does. But I didn’t get it right away.

Slowly I learned to identify with everyone in the room and stop comparing myself to them. I learned that I had plenty in common with the woman who had lost custody of her children and the guy living at the mission. I began to see that their struggles were my struggles, and their triumphs were my triumphs. Once I pulled my head out of my, um, the sand, and I let go of the idea that I was different, things began to change. I started to feel I was a ‘part of’ and not ‘separate from’.

Throughout our literature I’ve read about how my Ego is at the root of my problem. My ego tells me I’m different, unique, separate and alone. Ego says I am far above or far below anyone else. It Ego that tells me that I ‘deserve’ this and that if you have something, I should have it too. What I didn’t realize when I arrived was that Ego was robbing me of the most important thing in life: connection.

Slowly I have reconnected with others in recovery, my family, friends, a Higher Power and myself. I am no longer alone as I walk this path of life. I thought that I was alone, but I never was. I thought I was different but I discovered many more similarities. I thought I wanted your possessions but I found that I already had abundance. Ego needed to be tamed, humbled, brought down to its right size. Slowly my thinking is turning around and it all started because I started to open my mind and listen.

I am grateful.

Free of Regret

It’s not easy to live life without regrets. It’s much easier to wonder sometimes about the “what ifs” and “if onlys”. Regret is a sadness or disappointment over what happened or didn’t happen in the past. “What might have been?” I can ask myself. “I could have been a better son, friend, husband, father and coworker. I might have made so much more with my life.” If we don’t stop the internal conversation it can lead to the vicious spiral of depression, more regret and relapse.

“The best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago. The second best time to plant one is today.”

The gift of the Serenity Prayer is acceptance of what we cannot change. One of those things is the past. I know that my life would be very different today had I taken another road in the past. I was in a relationship that wasn’t working and hadn’t been working for a lot of years. I knew it, but I lacked the courage and strength to leave. In the end, I was the one who was left behind. I can’t take back those years. I can’t go back in time and change them. So what do I do so as not to live in regret?

I have to accept what happened. I accept that my Higher Power was looking after me during that time and continues to do so. I accept that I had challenges to overcome and some lessons to learn. It’s not easy to learn to forgive oneself for roads not taken but I must. Steps four through nine help us to work through regret. So yes, things did or didn’t happen in the past and today I don’t have to regret those things. Rather I can use them as teaching tools for the present. I prefer to look at all that happened in the past was needed to bring me to who I am today. And I know that what happens today will lead me on to who I am to be tomorrow. I’m learning to trust the process of the program and my Higher Power. Today can I plant that tree I didn’t in the past without guilt, without remorse and without regret.

It’s important for me to remember that: “We will not regret the past or wish to shut the door on it,” is a Ninth Step promise. I have to work all the steps that come before. There aren’t short cuts. Living the steps isn’t all that difficult but it does take persistence. I don’t get a vacation from being in recovery. I live in recovery 24 hours a day. So today I will plant a tree. It may be a while before it bears fruit, but an unplanted tree never will. Trust the process. It works when you work it!