What Do You Want?

“The indispensable first step to getting the things you want in life is this: decide what you want.” Ben Stein

When I first began my journey in recovery, I had a pretty good idea of what I didn’t want in life. I had enough of the guilt and shame. I was over feeling foggy in the mornings and  depressed most of my day. Self-pity was my constant companion in my isolation. I was, as they say, sick and tired of being sick and tired.

My first decision upon arriving at recovery, was to get off this merry-go-round and stay off of it.  This journey into recovery has lead me to many other decisions. These decisions have created a new life, one that does bring me a great deal of happiness, joy and freedom.

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But I had to decide. I couldn’t stop my disease and continue to indulge it. I couldn’t continue consuming and be in recovery at the same time. Making a decision is choosing a door. It’s like you’re in a room with many doors and you’re weighing the pros and cons of each possible door. Staying in the room is not an option: not making a decision is also a decision. If I stay in my indecision of addiction, I am deciding for addiction. Not making a decision is deciding to maintain the status quo. I can’t move forward and stay in the same place. In order to change, I had to decide to change.

Making a decision is walking through a door, closing it behind you and moving forward. It eliminates all of the other possibilities that were available. At first I was frightened. What if I made the wrong decision? What if things don’t turn out the way I think they should? This could all turn out to be a disaster! Or so I thought.

At the moment of my decision, any door would have been an improvement over where I was: stewing in my own filth. I am learning that there are no wrong doors to choose. Each possibility comes with it’s own set of promises and challenges. Each provides an opportunity to learn and grow in life. My decision to open the door to recovery has allowed me to get to know myself, my strengths and weaknesses, my character defects and my attributes. I am no longer stuck; I am moving and growing.

My recovery program allows me to know who I am and where I want to go in life. Every day I am presented with options. I now weigh these options as to whether or not they are moving me toward fulfilling my goals and decide for or against these options. Yes, sometimes my choice could have been wiser. Sometimes I am lead off course. Sometimes I find pain and other times I discovery pleasure. But knowing where I want to go in life allows me to steer toward that goal. Regardless of what happens,  I am learning.

And it all started with a decision.

Managing My Life

When I broke my leg, the mending of the bones was done with a titanium plate, screws and some time for it all to knit together. In seven weeks I was cast free and was hobbling around pretty much normal. However, the process of the healing of the tendons and ligaments that were stretched, ripped and misaligned was a much longer process.  It took several months of physio therapy and exercise to gain back strength and heal the soft underlying tissue. So while it looked like I was healed from my broken leg, no more cast or crutches, there were still a lot of underlying issues that had to be looked after.

When I came into recovery the First Step talked about my need to admit my addiction and that my life had become unmanageable. Cutting out those substances that brought me into recovery was one thing. The process of learning how to manage my life, well, that is still ongoing. The main problem seemed to be solved: I wasn’t consuming, but like the underlying soft tissues, my life was still far from manageable and I needed some more recovery time for that to happen.

For many years leading up to recovery, my addiction was my method of dealing with most everything. I was now without anything to cushion my personality and some unpleasant character traits from an unsuspecting world. My therapy, my work at managing my life, consisted in continuously working the steps, going to meetings and meeting with my sponsor.

Even with a few years in recovery, I still find myself doing things that aren’t responsible management. For example. I procrastinate. I put things off. I don’t take the time to complete the task when it first comes up and it then becomes a mountainous deed that Hercules wouldn’t be able to tackle. I am unsure why I do this. I know–I can see the waste of time. How much time do I waste? Too much. I allow a small item to take up a whole lot of space in my head and waste a lot of time thinking about doing it, not doing it, how to do it, why to do it, when to do it etc. Time I could use in a more productive manner ‘if’ I would only attend to these little items as soon as they come up.

I am grateful that I have a recovery program that allows me to see these faults, shortcomings or whatever you wish to call them. And it gives me tools to deal with them on a daily basis. Sometimes just realizing how much time I’ve already wasted thinking about something I should have done is enough to motivate me to do it. I am grateful that there are fewer things that I procrastinate about. And I’m grateful that my program teaches me to look at other areas of my life that I wish to improve and use what I’m learning to improve those situations as well.

I doubt that I will ever get out of life management therapy. I spent a lot of years in my disease of addiction and it will take many more years of recovery to smooth out the ripples and waves that I made. It’s a task that I take on gratefully because I have seen the results in many areas of my life. It’s still one task at a time, one step at a time and one day at a time.

 

Limiting Distractions

As I was going over some of my writing from last week when I was away, I saw in the space at the top of one page I had written: “Most of what’s happening around me isn’t important, it’s a distraction. I can choose what’s important for me.” To be honest, I don’t remember writing it. It’s in the middle of five pages of script. I’ve been reading a lot of material lately with respect to self improvement, so it probably stems from there. And it has caught my attention over and over again in the past couple of days: “Most of what’s happening around me isn’t important, it’s a distraction.”

I was reminded of the 80-20 rule which basically says that 80 percent of the time I am involved in things that aren’t important to me and it’s only the things I do during about 20 percent of my time that help me move forward. The idea with eliminating distractions is to change the percentages more toward more of what is giving me results. Over the past couple of months I’ve been learning what my distractions are and changing my habits.

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Probably the biggest distraction and time waster for me is my cell phone. How many times a day do I pick that up to check on something? Sure it’s handy, but it is also a tool and not a master that must be attended to every time it beeps and chimes. I eliminated a bunch of apps that are a distraction. And in the morning I leave my cell on the night stand until I have finished my morning meditation, journal writing and walking the dogs. There is just so little that has to be dealt with right as soon as I get up.

Another distraction I have been whittling down: Facebook. I can waste hours going through stroking egos by giving likes to notifications and videos, and making comments. Again, Facebook or other social media isn’t the culprit, it’s the time and attention that I lavish on what is mostly a distraction. Netflix is another distraction for me, especially a series. No longer do I have to ‘tune in next week on the same channel’ to find out what happens next. I don’t even have to click; automatically it opens the next episode. Before I know it, I’m investing another 42 minutes into it. I’ve limited the amount of news I read daily. I choose the videos I watch on Youtube, I stay away from Instagram and Twitter. So what has happened as a result of my limiting my ‘screen time’?

I have written more in the last two months than I have ever written before. Little of it is publishable, nor would I want it to be. But, if I want to call myself a writer, then I have to write. I am reading some of the classics of literature that somehow I failed to read in the past. I am organizing my home to be more conducive to writing and my other goals, including moving my desk to a more pleasant place. I’ve joined the gym again and work out regularly. And I am organizing my priorities. I am working on increasing the 20 percent: focusing on the areas where I wish to grow. I’m creating large windows of time in my day by eliminating distractions and focusing on what is most important for me.

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