Don’t Leave it to Chance

“Choice, not chance, determines one’s destiny.” Author Unknown

I came across this quote in one of the recovery web pages that I follow. For many years I would have said it was chance that determines my fate in life. I would have said you’re dealt the cards your dealt and you just have to make the best of it. I didn’t really bother, let alone believe in setting goals because life is going to steer you to go through the rapids or the waterfalls whether you like it or not. Some people are winners because that’s how the universe wants it for them and others, well, you know, karma can be a real downer.

I’ve come to look at things differently now.

I see that in the short term, for example, when I am feeling depressed or down, I can sit and wallow in my self pity and sadness. Or I can do something about it. I can go for a walk, go to the gym, talk to someone. Yes, I have to accept it, but I know that I have a choice to stay in my depression or act. The exercise or a phone call are action and action is what is needed. I make a choice and act.

When I was in the bitter morass of my disease, I knew I was harming myself and that I couldn’t get out of this alone. I accepted that. Once I stopped fighting, I was able ask for help. The assistance of others, my Higher Power along with my own determination helped to raise me out of a pit of my own making. Continued work on myself with the help of my Higher Power and my friends in recovery help to ensure that I stay this way. Had I really believed in fate, I probably wouldn’t be here any more to write about it. My recovery is not the result of the flip of a coin. It is the result of my choosing to move forward and co-create this new me with the help of my Higher Power.

I continue to choose to work with my Higher Power to re-create a new me. I am not the same person as I was when I came to the program. Ask those who knew me then. They’ll tell you.  I know that I have made big changes in my life and I know that my choices and my efforts have done a great deal to ensure that I did, in fact, change. I continue to change. I am not content to let the status quo remain as it is. I believe that my destiny is to ask, learn, grow and share as I make my way down the river.

“I may not command the wind, but I can direct my sails.”

This applies to all aspects of life. Things happen. I can’t control other people, places or things. But I do have a choice: I can do nothing and things will stay the same, or I can make a change and shift where I am going in life. And yes, it is a great responsibility. I can no longer blame my family, where I live, my friends for me state. Part of becoming an adult it taking responsibility for the decisions, or failing to take them in the past. I do have control.

Grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change.

The courage the change the people I can.

And the wisdom to know it’s me.

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Who Are Your Friends?

There’s the old say: you are what you eat.  It makes sense, if you eat garbage you can’t expect to have the body of an olympic athlete.  The movie “Supersize Me” demonstrated just how quickly that change can take place.  There’s also another truism:

“Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future”  -Dan Pena

Hanging around with the same five or six people will keep all of you at the lowest common denominator in terms of interests, pursuits and goals. If I try to improve myself, those friends of mine will often, unconsciously and without malice, hold me back from reaching new goals. I do it to myself as well: I wonder what the ‘group’ will think if I do this? By the time I hit bottom in my addiction, I was mostly hanging out with others who used the way I used. If I was going to survive and recover, I needed to get away from that environment.

There was a study done years ago on fleas.  A bunch of fleas were put into a jar and the lid was put on.  After a few days of bumping their heads, the fleas learned to jump only as high as just below the lid of the jar. When the lid was removed, these fleas didn’t jump out of the jar.  They stayed at their level because the believed they couldn’t jump higher than they were jumping. Even subsequent generations of fleas only jumped as high as their parents because well, that’s only as high as fleas jump.  However, if you took one of the fleas from this jar and put it into another jar where the fleas were jumping twice as high, it didn’t take long before the flea learned to go far beyond its former limit.

day242The message for us is very similar. If we stay in an environment where limits are put upon us by social pressures and our own beliefs then making permanent changes in our lives is very difficult. For those of us in recovery, making the choice to be clean and sober is often regarded with skepticism by those we hung around with. It’s important in the beginning to seek out others in recovery to help us and encourage us to move forward. We don’t necessarily drop our old friend, but we spend less time with them. Our common interests are changing. As we move forward in our recovery, they may see the results and want the same, or not. Ours is a program of attraction; it can’t be sold.

I have little in common with those who are still in their disease. I hope someday they will receive their own gift of desperation and find recovery.  I will gladly help in whatever way I can but it’s up to them. I am grateful for my friends in recovery. It’s a very different group of people from my old group. And they continue to assist and challenge me in my recovery. They help me soar in my recovery, showing me that I can not only jump, I can fly, higher than I ever thought was possible.

 

Become the Exception

My next birthday I will turn 60. Hard to believe that I came into this world so long ago, though apparently, I didn’t want to: I was a breech birth (sorry Mom). Soon I’ll be eligible to collect a pension and receive all sorts of discounts.  So I am supposed to be winding down my life and live comfortably in retirement. Only, that’s not what I want to do.  I want to be one of the ‘exceptions’ that comes into my own as I enter my golden years.  Fair warning, I am not planning on slowly fading out of this life by preparing for the next!

I have been doing a lot of reassessment of my life and where I want it to go.  What do I like? What do I see myself doing? Where do I see myself doing it? The type of questions that I answered back 40 years ago when it was suggested that I would make a great teacher (I spent many years involved one way or another with education) or mortician (oh yeah…like that was really going to happen!) I just want to know where I want to go in the next chapter of my life.

I have never been known to follow the regular path. I have been an exception to the rule.  As a teen, I complained that my younger brother didn’t have as many responsibilities as I did when I was his age. My father would look down at me and tell me it was because I was an ‘exceptional child’.  I really didn’t appreciate his response then, but I guess I was. Throughout life I gravitated to various positions, not really having a full-time career since I left teaching elementary school at 28. Lots of contract work, freelance, seasonal business and now settled in the south as a landlord and B&B owner in a country where I had to learn a new language and culture.

What I have been discovering in the past few weeks of investigation is that I can choose to be an exception to the rule. I can forge ahead and create new pathways for myself rather than follow well trod path of others of retirement age. Recovery had taught me that if I want to fulfill my dreams, then I had better work for them and not expect them to arrive at my door. I have some longevity in the family and I don’t want to spend the next 30 to 40 years twiddling my thumbs waiting for the grim reaper. I want to be the exception.

I am working on the next phase. I am working on my writing. I will continue to question and seek new answers because that’s what an exception does. I want to be the guy that the devil worries about when I awaken in the morning and I want to die sliding into home plate in a well used body. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t happen if I’m sitting in a rocking chair watching Netflix all day long.

There are exceptions to every rule in life. Some kids make it out of the ghetto. Some horses with lousy odds win the race. Some ‘seniors’ begin a new career late in life.

Dare to try. Change beliefs. Step out of the comfort zone. Be the exception because, as far as I know, this is the only life we get; I intend to really live it.

Where will your road take you?