Be Good to Yourself

I’m not sure why, but I find it so easy to be hard on myself. I often feel that I don’t measure up to what I should be doing and where I am in life.  I still sometimes ‘should’ myself into depression and anxiety. Could’a, would’a and should’a are all expressions that pull me out of the present moment and drop me unceremoniously in the past…PLOP!

Part of it has to do with my impatience. I want what I want and I want it now. If I don’t get it, which is often, it’s because I didn’t do what I needed to do. In other words, my procrastination doesn’t help with my impatience and visa versa. And then I just get down on myself. My program tells me what I need to do: the next right thing.  What is the next right thing? I’m learning it’s what I ‘know’ I need to do. I have to remember that ‘Easy does it’ still means I need to ‘do’ it! It takes time to find the balance, but it is possible to get to an equilibrium in life.

I need to remember to enjoy life. Play, joke, go for walks, see a movie, chat with a friend, go out for dinner,  walk on a beach, climb a mountain, hug the dog.  Life is meant to be lived and we are not a glum lot. Keeping up my spirit is important.  I have a tendency to isolate myself from others, not participate in activities and events. Here too I need to find balance.  My mind, all alone, can be a very dangerous space if I spend all of my time there.  Getting out and enjoying life, playing, creating are ways that I find the happiness and joy in my life.

Another way to be good to yourself is to stop looking at how far you have to go to get to the goals you have in life. Rather, focus on how far you have come.  Yes, there is still more work to do in my life of sobriety, especially when I am starting out. I constantly remind sponsees to be grateful for how far they have come in their program. I have to remind myself sometimes how far I’ve come too. Like my sponsees, I still have to apply my program on a daily basis, but I have come very far. I regularly see my character flaws grow and blossom and I think I will never be through with them. I have a choice though: I can become morose about how much work I still have todo, or, I can look back and be grateful for how much I’ve changed as a result of my program of recovery. I am not the same person that walked into that first meeting. That is something to be grateful for.

Finally, give yourself time. We didn’t become addicts and alcoholics over night and we can’t expect to stop one day and find everything is back to normal the next. It just won’t work that way. It takes time to go through the steps of recovery. Be patient with yourself and your progress. Even a relapse can be a very important learning experience.

In order to be a success, all I have to do is get up one more time than I fall. So as long as I’m trudging that road, putting one foot ahead of the other, I’m heading in the right direction and doing just fine!

I am Grateful.

 

Focus

“Turn your face toward the sun and the shadows will fall behind you.~Māori Proverb

There was a stretch of lawn that ran alongside our gravel driveway on the farm. It’s here I learned to ride a bike. My father supported me and got me to pedal and my mother was several yards ahead of me encouraging me. ‘Don’t look down. Look at me,’ my mother encouraged. And when I finally stopped worrying about falling over and focused on my mother, where I was heading to, I learned to ride a bike.

I remember when I first heard someone say that we need to stop calling things problems and start calling them challenges. Ha! I thought, as if changing the word will change the reality of the situation. If I don’t have money to pay the electric bill, that’s a problem. Calling it a ‘challenge’ isn’t going to get the bills paid. I’ve since learned I was wrong.

Wherever I focus my thoughts, that’s where I end up. Focusing on the problem, the fact that I didn’t have the money to pay my bills, created a useless vortex spiraling downward. When I shift my focus to finding ways to get my bills paid, it creates a mental shift toward the solution and away from the problem. It’s like learning to ride a bike: I need to focus on where I wish to go, not be afraid of where I am. I look ahead to where I am going. If I focus on my feet I won’t see what’s ahead.

Focusing on the solution doesn’t change facts, but it can alter my mental ability to work with those facts. A problem is the tree in the path of my bike. Focusing on the problem only, I am going to hit the tree. Shifting focus to a solution is finding a way to avoid the tree.

It’s not easy to make the shift in perspective. There’s a lot of negativity in the world that focuses on darkness and shadows. News media might throw in a ‘feel good’ story into their reports once in a while, but it’s blood and guts that more often make the cut and ‘entertain’. I have learned that if I continually say how hard something will be to accomplish, or how much trouble it will be, or how many ways I can fail at it, I won’t even take the first step toward the solution. I have to focus on success, on resolving the challenge if I have any hope of getting off the ground.

Look toward the sun. See the realm of possibilities. Focus on the positive. Doing this might not change the facts of a situation, but they will change my mental outlook toward a solution and there’s a greater likelihood that I will take the first step.

Where do you want to go in life?

Do It Any Way

There are no shortcuts in recovery. It’s not a buffet of items I can pick and choose. Rather it’s a recipe that I need to follow on a daily basis in order to get the results of happiness, joy and freedom. Initially I may not like doing a step or part of the step but leaving it out is an open invitation to return to the life I had before. Leaving out the sugar or substituting salt is going to alter the results of your mother’s chocolate chip cookie recipe, regardless of how much love and care you put into their making. The same is true of a recovery program: “If you want what we have, then you do what we did.”

Is it always easy? No. There are times when I want to skip an apology to someone I had an argument with. I don’t always feel like praying. What if the meetings are boring? Why should I do it all? I’ve been in recovery a month, or a year or ten years. I’m doing fine. Right? How do you think the cookies taste without the sugar?

“Do it anyway: do it any way!”

Larry was a friend of mine in recovery who often said this. A recovery program requires trust. Even if I don’t understand what is happening, even if I don’t believe it is going to work, even when I don’t have any desire, I need to do ‘it’. And I need to find a way to do ‘it’. ‘It’ has to get done. ‘It’ is part of my recovery work.

What is ‘it’? Perhaps it’s working the next step. Perhaps it’s making amends for the argument I was in yesterday or last year. It might be sitting down to pray or meditate. It could be looking into the real reason why I’m depressed or why I avoid social situations. It’s that which gnaws and knots our stomach. We all have an ‘it’. And if we’ve been in recovery even a short time, we won’t have to dig very long to know what that ‘it’ is: the next right thing I need to do.

If you ask anyone who returns to the program after a relapse if they were ‘thoroughly following their program the answer is always ‘no’. They left something out of their program that was vital to their success in it. In going to meetings you will run into members whose recovery is much less than happy, joyous and free. They too are living without some of the ingredients of a healthy recovery program. They aren’t doing ‘it’.

I’ve learned to trust the Twelve Steps as my guide. I learn to go over and review them regularly because I don’t want to go back to where and how I was living before. I can’t guarantee that I’ll still be in recovery ten years from now, but I don’t need to. If I keep doing the next right thing, if I live my recovery today then I will be okay today. Tomorrow is another day.

Today I’ll do it anyway/any way because I want recovery.  I am grateful that Larry was a part of my recovery. RIP big fellow!