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?

” Service will keep you Sober!”

I heard this phrase over and over in my first month or so of recovery. My recovery group was hosting its annual convention and I was recruited by the chairperson to be the one to make announcements and provide local information. “Service will keep you sober Tim,” she said over and over to me. I wasn’t quite sure what she meant by this, of course, I wasn’t quite sure about a lot of what was being said at that convention weekend. Everything was so new to me. In reality, I was just glad to be out of the house and have something to do, something to keep me busy and keep my mind off of my problems.

In the years since, I have washed a lot of coffee cups, set up chairs and tables, chaired meetings, and sponsored other men in the program. And I have worked on the annual convention every year since. This year I had the honour of chairing the convention committee. With each commitment, I gain more understanding more of what it means to be of service.

When I am doing service work I am stepping outside of myself and my difficulties, problems and challenges. Doing something, keeping busy, whether its sweeping the floor, setting out books, making coffee, chairing a meeting, reading, sharing, all of these activities are not only vital to the life of the group, they are vital to my own recovery, reminding me that I am not alone and that I can’t do this by myself. Service reminds me that I am part of something and that everything I do has importance in maintaining my recovery.

That phrase that I was told at the beginning, became embedded in my  recovery. It taught me that I need to pitch in because we sink or swim together. It taught me that my personal recovery is very dependent on my group and making sure that my group functions. It taught me that I am not alone and that I can’t recovery alone either.

When I first came into recovery, I came from a point where my world had shrunk to a very small circle of people and activities. Coming into the program and jumping right into service work got me involved. Forced me to meet new people. Allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone and experience a new way of living. Service is not the only part of recovery, but it is one of the key elements: I can’t keep my recovery to myself, I have to give it away.

The service work of this past weekend took me way out of my comfort zone. But as my recovery has grown, so has my ability to take on new responsibilities and challenges. My Higher Power is by my always. And with the enormous amount of service work by the other committee members and volunteers, I participated in an incredible event that will carry me forward in my recovery.

Jennifer R., I thank you for your guidance in my recovery. Service is still keeping me sober. I am grateful.

Stepping through Fear

Fear

Reams of paper have been used to expound on the subject of fear. The more I delve into discovering more about fear, the more material I find. It is pervasive in people’s thoughts and it subtly, and sometimes obviously, colours our actions. It changes how we feel and react to others. It causes arguments and wars. It runs the spectrum from a small anxiety about say, meeting a new person, to full blown paranoid phobias that can paralyze completely.

With all fear is the sense of a threat to me, my self, my ego and I allow it to affect me, how I feel about myself and what I do. ‘What if?’ ‘Maybe?’ My ego is always telling me that dismemberment and death is just around the corner, that everyone is trying to get me, that I will disappoint and that I can never do that! Fear is my ego saying to me: “That’s going to destroy, or belittle me in some way! Avoid it at all costs!” It doesn’t matter if it’s big or small, real or imagined, fear, once it’s in charge is felt the same way and will take charge.

So…What happens?

I stay in my tiny comfort zone. I don’t try new things. I miss out on experiences. I don’t trust others. I don’t trust myself. I don’t risk anything.

So….Nothing happens.

Live in the moment!

When I am in fear, I am not in the present, rather, I am in the future. I am think of what ‘might’ happen. I am in the realm of endless possibilities and I can allow my fears to stop me cold.

“You can always cope with the present moment, but you cannot cope with something that is only a mind projection – you cannot cope with the future.”  Eckhart Tolle

I am learning that I will never be able to cover all the bases, make sure that all the contingencies are in place. I can’t know the unknown; I can’t project what will happen in the future.  My ego says to me that I dare not go and my faith tells me to go boldly forth. Yes faith. I am learning to trust my Higher Power.

When I look back on my life, I can see that my Higher Power has always been there. The fact that I am here today writing this is proof that I have always been looked after by something greater than me. If that is true: I am here today,  and I know it, then why would I think that my Higher Power is going to suddenly vanish and stop looking after me tomorrow?

I am finding it much easier to simply live in the moment: in the NOW and not in the future. I can face and cope with what I need to do right now. Spending time in the future can stop me from doing anything in the now. If I focus on tomorrow I am losing the beauty of today.

Some days I am more successful than others. I usually see when I am focused on fear and can do something about it, like looking at the task at hand, staying in the now. I don’t know if I will ever wipe fear out of my life, but I can open the door to let faith in. Ego may always be there insisting that there are threats everywhere. My Higher Power is always there too giving me the courage to step through fear and move forward, knowing that I can cope with whatever is happening now.

I am grateful.