Opening the Door to Change

When I was still in the throws of my addictions I only had a faint idea of what I was really doing to myself; the physical, emotional and mental harm I caused, not only to me, but those who cared about me. Part of that is because I spent most of my time seeking out and planning out the next ‘party’ and part of it was because of my ‘buddies’ at the time. I hung around folks who acted like me and thought like me. One of the first ‘suggestions’ I received in recovery was to step away from those people, places and things that were part of my life that I wished to leave behind; close that door and open a new one. Simple enough advice, but why did it take decades to realize it?

In order to change how I was living, I had to change how I was living.

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I replaced my barstool for a chair in a meeting room and changed what I thought about by listening to and reading recovery literature. I started to listen to others in recovery. I started to talk to others about what I was going through. I helped out with cleaning up after the meetings and did some socializing with the new people I was meeting. I got myself an excellent sponsor and I began to study the Twelve Steps of Recovery with him. Over the course of the next six months I changed a great deal. The change was gradual, almost imperceptible to me, but very obvious to those that I hadn’t frightened off in the previous years. I changed my perspective, what I was looking at, and everything changed.

G.I.G.O.: Garbage In: Garbage Out…..or…..GOOD IN: GOOD OUT!

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Every one of us is the direct result of what we put into our bodies, minds and spirit. Western society’s fixation of fast cheap food had pushed obesity to the extreme. You simply can’t have a healthy body if you continue to put unhealthy food into it. Same with the mind. If you want a healthy mind, be aware of what you are putting into it. What are you watching, reading, listening to? Who are your buddies? Where are you spending most of your time? As the saying goes; tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are!

It takes mindfulness, conscious action and a determination to build the life you want to have. I used to put the cart ahead of the horse. I thought that if I had x, y, and z then I would be happy. I have discovered that happiness is the result of living according to my values and principles. Happiness is the realization that I am living right. When I am happy, the x, y and z will come to me, or, more likely, I will discover that I while I may ‘want’ those things, I really don’t ‘need’ them.

Yes, I had to leave my old buddies behind when I came into recovery. I found new ones who honoured my recovery and who helped me along the way. I let the old buddies know where I was and what I was doing and left the door open for them to come through but made it clear that I had no intention of walking back through that door and onto my old barstool. And as long as I continue to pursue new ‘Good’ to put into my body, mind and soul, I know that I will continue to move forward in life.

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The ‘Tim’ of the past is gone.

One of the most profound lessons I had to learn in recovery was that I had to let go of the ‘Tim’ that I knew in order for a new person to emerge. This is a lesson that I repeat daily, asking my Higher Power to ‘relieve me of the bondage of self’: to free me from my ego’s enslavement. If I wish to continue to grow today I must shed the old skin of yesterday and I do that by being mindful and aware of the people, places and things I’m spending my time with. Only by this daily renewal do I continue to move forward in this incredible journey of discovery that is life.

IS PRAYER STILL A THING?

Someone asked me a while back if I still pray since I don’t believe in God. One would think that I don’t pray. After all, it’s a religious thing isn’t it? But the fact is, that I do pray. I still pray a lot. It’s just that my notion of what God is has changed so much since my youth, that I don’t want to equate it with the God of the Bible or of the Roman Catholic Church in which I was raised.

I don’t see God is a magician who makes things appear and disappear. I don’t treat him as my last hope, turning to prayer when it seems that there’s no way out of an impossible situation. Nor do I see God as some sort of a Santa Claus who has lists upon lists of who is naughty and nice. God doesn’t measure my ‘faith’, nor are my petitions granted only if I attain a certain level of devotion. God is not Facebook and doesn’t respond to the number of likes he gets.

My understanding of a “Higher Power” has changed over the years and I believe that trying to define God, puts limits on whatever “It” happens to be. Sufficient to say that as long as my “God” doesn’t stare back at me when I look in the mirror each morning, I’m good. So if I don’t pray to God, then why would I pray?

The function of Prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” Søren Kierkegaard.

Recovery literature says that if you have anger toward someone, to pray for them every night for two weeks. This same literature says that whenever we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, we need to look at ourselves for the cause of our disturbance. Finally it says that we cannot control people, places or things; our response to something is the only thing that we can control. In a nut shell: I am the one who needs to change and I pray in order to make that change. When I take the focus off of the other person, the offense or a need, I open myself up to change. I would have a small god indeed if he needed my help to influence his actions.

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I pray because prayer changes me. Whether it’s rote prayer, meditation, or contemplation, when I pray I move away from my Ego-centrism. Slowly I begin to focus, even just for a second, on the present moment and my connection to something other than myself. It doesn’t matter if I call it my spiritual nature, or my connection with others; prayer takes me away from, well, me. When I do that, when I step away from myself I start to see things for another perspective and that opens me up, little by little, to make a change, a change in me. So, yes, I do pray. I pray for understanding and I pray to accept things as they are.

Prayer allows me to step away from the world around me and quiet my mind for a moment from the challenges I face each day. In these moments I can unite my mind and my heart in a moment of peace. I can do this at a church or temple, by a stream or ocean, in a chair or on a cushion. The how is not important. Being present in the moment and being one with one’s self is prayer however you do it.

I don’t need a Biblical God in order to accomplish this. I only need to acknowledge that I am not the “be all and end all of everything.” In prayer, I connect to the “Spirit of the Universe” or “Higher Power” which more closely aligns with my current understanding of God. This also connects me and keeps me conscious of other people as well. And that, for me, is prayer.

A Forever Change

I receive daily emails from several sources that focus on self development, further education and spiritual growth. Some I read religiously. Others I only check out if the excerpt sounds interesting. Many titles begin with promises of renewal and change. Others list a certain number of steps or items for success in whatever they are promising, should you follow them. I know that there are many ways of changing one’s self to achieve greater success and achievement in as many aspects of our lives. But I feel that many of these articles fail in mentioning one important point: in order to take on a “better version of yourself”, you must also be willing to let go of the old version.

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Most of us lead very busy and full lives. We’re working, looking after our children and families, doing household chores, all of which keep us alive, though not always living a life we would like to live. It’s easy to fall under the spell of ‘Three Ways to Simplify Your Day’, or ‘Finding Peace and Contentment in the Fury’. We pick and choose what is offered and try some of these suggestions in our lives. However, a month or so later we’re back doing things the old way because these suggestions just wouldn’t work in our lives. Or so we think.

I have learned over the past years that if I wish to move forward in my life, I have to let go of the old: there just isn’t room for the newer version of ‘Tim’ if the old one is still around. It’s easy to say but not easy to do. You see, I kind of like the old version. I am used to it. I know how I react to things. I know that it takes time to get used to new stuff but I am too entrenched in the old self to really give the 2.0 version of me a chance. As a result I tell myself that this ‘didn’t work’, or it’s ‘not for me.’ But that’s not really true. It like I am trying to implement a new operation system in my computer while still running the old software: it won’t work.

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What does work for me is letting go of the old, trusting in the process of change. I stop trying to put great expectations on the results and just enjoy the journey. When I first got into recovery everything was new, enticing and also overwhelming. I learned that I had to look at myself differently, as a person in recovery. I had to let go of my former version for the newer one in, get used to it, live with it and get comfortable with it. Hanging around in a bar with my old drinking buddies would not have kept me on the straight and narrow. I had to let go of the me I knew to make room for a new me that was emerging. Putting your dirty clothes back on after taking a shower, you’re still going to smell. Recovery wouldn’t work if I was holding onto my old self while trying get comfortable in my new skin. And I had to trust that the process I was going through would work for me as it had for literally millions of other folks, but only if I gave it an honest chance. And to do that, I had to say good-bye to the ‘me’ I was, and welcome the new whoever that might be.

Change is only possible when we make room for it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small thing such as changing your bedtime, or a life shifting change in profession. We have to let go. We must let go. Otherwise we are bound to fail. Ensure a successful transition to the newest version of ‘You’! Move forward and leave the old behind. Say good-bye to who you were to make a ‘forever’ change.

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