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

Photo by Thgusstavo Santana on Pexels.com

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.

Essentialism

“When we don’t purposefully and deliberately choose where to focus our energies and time, other people–our bosses, our colleagues, or clients and even our families–will choose for us and before long we’ll have lost sight of everything that is meaningful and important.” Greg McKeown, Essentialism

My life is sometimes not my own. It’s my own fault. I have several apartments that I look after. There is always something that needs to checked on or repaired. Tenants have reasons why the rent is late. The short term stay apartment has to be ready at a moment’s notice. There’s always the pool to vacuum, plants to water, decks to wash. It’s never ending. I can go from one task to the next and not stop. The big maintenance projects, well, they’ll just have to wait for another day. If I don’t watch it, my whole day is consumed with solving little things and not getting to or being too tired to start the things that I really need to do as well as things I want to do.

Life is like that. We go from one thing to the next and one task to the next without really thinking about it: I have to do it. And gradually the day is done and I haven’t accomplished but half of what I wanted to do.  Greg McKeown in his book Essentialism suggests that if we are going to get to do what we really want then we must begin by deciding what is important to us. What is it that I value? What am I trying to accomplish here? What are my goals and where do I want them to take me?

Few people take the time to sit down and make this evaluation. As it often goes, we spend 80% of our time doing things that are not important to us, not essential,  and 20% of our time, if that, doing what is. Everyone will ask us for our time and our talents. There are always going to be little fires to put out here and there. It would probably be a better solution to discover the source of those little fires in the first place.

Essentialism often means saying, ‘No!’ I can’t be everything to everyone. Yes I want to be the nice guy and help out but if it’s not important to me and if it’s not my responsibility, I have to ask myself, just why I am doing this? If it is taking my focus away from my priorities then I can say no to joining yet another committee, or going organizing another office function. And yes, the first time I give a firm no! I may ruffle a few feathers, especially if I have always been the one to say yes. But sticking to the essentials will allow me to use more of my time to on my priorities.

I would rather do one thing well than divide my attention and try to do several things just okay. Perhaps that’s the reason why I am running around trying to solve a whole lot of little problems. Rather than let work, friends, and even family decide where I want to focus my energy, I purposefully and deliberately choose where I will focus my energy.

Essentialism won’t solve all the challenges in life. There will always be things that broadside us when we least expect them. But if we have the majority of our lives organized then the chances of it knocking us of our balance are much less. In the end it will help me to accomplish much more.

What’s important to you?