Recovering the River

It’s been over a year since I posted anything on this site.  It just wasn’t in me. And I did very little writing at all. I could enumerate any number of excuses and reasons why, but they matter little. What does matter is that I have been using the past two months of lock-down to do some soul searching and realized that I need to write. I’m writing primarily for my own benefit. Blog writing helps me define thoughts and refine ideas in a way that journal writing alone does not.

I will be changing, only slightly, the focus of my writing. My main interest in this blog has been the sharing of information for those of us in recovery from addiction. I plan on broadening the field, still including thoughts on recovery from drugs and alcohol addictions. In addition, I plan to look at other facets of human existence and seek out alternate approaches to living that may be beneficial to a wider range of people and interests.

These past two months of isolation and restrictions have not been that difficult for me. I haven’t had to keep children entertained while working via the internet. I have’t lost all of my income due to shut down. I have food in the refrigerator and access to plenty of toilet paper. I am quite content to be here in my apartment, watching Netflix, and YouTube, and reading books on my Kindle, or sitting outside and watching everything green up again. I am grateful for all that I have received in this ‘interesting’ time. I know that I am one of the fortunate ones.

About six weeks ago I saw that I needed to do some ‘stuff’  or ‘different stuff’ from vegging out. I could make better use of all of this time I had on my hands since I didn’t have guests to tend to or laundry to do or rooms to clean. I started out by picking up my journal which I hadn’t done in quite a few months. Then I started doing some meditation, not a lot, just 10 minutes or so every morning, which gradually let me to download a meditation app on my phone. And I happened upon a one week program on-line that allowed me to do a sort of self-study retreat.

One of the results of this program is that I knew that I needed to return to writing. It is something that has given me a great deal of pleasure. The process allows me to better understand my thoughts and ideas. I thought about writing a novel, or get back to it, and I did some work on it, but that didn’t seem to be it. I looked at perhaps writing a book about personal growth, or spiritual growth or something like that. I also registered with an online freelance writing website.  Slowly it dawned on me, that I didn’t have to seek to do anything new. I had been doing the type of writing that I needed to do right here in this blog. I needed to get back to it. So, here I am, back at Recovery River.

I am not sure how this will all materialize. I won’t be a rigorous in my publishing schedule as I was before; an article a week, perhaps two? I do know that I prefer to give myself some structure so we shall see how that works itself out. Meanwhile, I thank you for reading along. I invite you to share your thoughts about this blog with me.

We’re all recovering from something and we navigate this river together.

Evolving Personality

You and I are shaped by our environment: the family we have, where we grew up, the people we hang around with, the job we chose or fell into. All of these things work, sometimes very subtly, to mold us into the persons we are today. The environment helped to shape our experiences and those experiences our helped to form our personality. And so here we are, very unique personalities. And there’s not much I can do to change that is there?

“If your environment is disorganized, so is your mind. Everything is energy. Your environment is constantly influencing you whether you’re aware of it or not.” Benjamin Hardy

In his book Willpower Doesn’t Work, Benjamin Hardy posits that if we change our environment, we can change our personality. While the current self-help trend focuses on changing our personalities to become more of who we want to be, Hardy tells us to focus on what in our immediate environment is preventing us from changing. If I want to become an organized person then I need organize my environment.  I want to become a student of life, then I have to organize my space so that it is conducive to that study. If I want to be a successful person then I need to hang out with successful people.

I’m don’t know who first said it, but the idea is that if you want to know who you really are, look carefully at the five people you are closest to. Change your friends and change your personality. It’s not a far stretch for me to see the results for this suggestion. When I first came into recovery I had few friends and the ones I did have were those who were as in need of recovery as I was. I had to get new friends. I needed to change my environment to find success in this new way of living.

men having their haircut

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If you don’t want a hair cut, stop hanging around the barbershop. Will power alone will eventually weaken. Strength will fade with time until it seems like a good idea to get into the chair and under the clippers. I had to change my environment: where I was hanging out, who I was hanging out with and what I was doing in order to have any success with sobriety. I am grateful that early on I learned that I didn’t have to be a martyr. I didn’t have to make it more difficult for myself. I didn’t have to test my new found way of life.

“Surround yourself with people who remind you more of your future than your past.” Dan Sullivan

When I first came into recovery I was told five things: Don’t consume. Go to meetings. Get a home group. Get a sponsor. Work the Twelve Steps of Recovery. All of these five things were instrumental in changing my environment. I was hanging around with people who were living what my future could be. The bar stool philosopher had to give way to the meeting room student if I was going to have any chance at this thing called sobriety.

I had some misgivings about leaving friends behind but I soon discovered that those who really were friends were glad that I was making this change. The backroom buddies only missed me when they saw me on the street and they suddenly realized that they hadn’t seen me for a while.

I am still working on changing my environment. For the most part right now it is the mental environment. I am changing how I think by focusing on what I am thinking about. I am reading and studying quality material rather than simply passing time with social media or the endless task of finding the perfect thing to watch on Netflix. With time the changes to the environment and therefore the changes to me are happening. I am a work in progress taking the next right step for the evolving me.

Tough Times; Times of Growth

I brought a friend home from the hospital yesterday. She had the fourth operation on her back to replace a spinal disc with one made of titanium. It’s part of a series of replaced discs that will allow her to continue to live independently and pain free–once it heals. Until then she will have to go through a lot of pain and three months of recuperation. However, had she not had the operation, she would go through many more months of pain and suffering with no guarantee that the spinal column might be completely severed by the shifting vertebrae. Kind of a hard spot to be in, especially having gone through it three times previously.

A few things come to mind. First, sometimes we have to endure a great deal in order to make it through the present challenge. It may be physical, mental or spiritual pain that we are enduring. And like any change, it brings discomfort and few of us relish being uncomfortable. But we must keep our eyes on the end result to help us keep our sanity. If all goes well, in three months, or however long this challenge should last, life will establish a new normal. We’ll find a new comfort zone and hopefully the pain we experienced will be a memory and we can be grateful to have lived through the experience.

Second, I am struck by the difficulty in accepting help when we are so used to being independent. I was thinking this morning that we all know that infants and elderly need our assistance. But I think that we must remember that all of us are dependent on everyone else. I can’t do it all, and I never could. I rely on the ‘kindness of strangers,’ as well as that of my family and friends. I needed people when I was going through difficult times in my life and I need them to share the wonderful times as well. When we share our interdependence, we help to balance out the good times with the challenging ones. I willingly assist you and later you assist me.

Third, no one likes to give up control. Placing ourselves into the power of another is very difficult for many people. I want to control what is happening to me. Yet, there are times, such as going under the scalpel of a surgeon, or getting strapped into the seat of a jet that we do give up complete control of our lives. But we usually don’t do this on a whim. The people upon whom we rely are trained professionals. There still are risks, but they are minimized by their experience.

All of these three: passing through an ordeal, relying on others and giving up control all are part of trust: trusting others, trusting the process and trusting life. And they have to do with taming our egos as well. ‘I can’t do it all and I never could,’ is a good lesson to practice once in a while. It is also a lesson that we survive everything that comes our way. It may not be the manner in the which we had envisioned or in the time frame that we were hoping for, but we get through it. I am reminded of the character in the movie ‘The Most Exotic Marigold Hotel’ in which the young entrepreneur says “It will all work out in the end. If it’s not working out, it’s not the end.” Whatever it is, you will make it through.

group of people holding hands together

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