Every so often I get in self-pity and start looking at those people who got sober after me who are in relationships and…I’m not. Or I look at those who were sober before me who still are with their significant others and think, “Why do they get to be in a relationship and not me?” The answer comes in the form of, “You had a relationship of 14 years and you did not take care of it as you should have.”

Then the “what ifs” and the “if I only” bombard me. So I take a deep breath and remember what I was taught in treatment: Everything is the way it’s supposed to be. May be not the way I would want it to be or how it should be, but the way it’s supposed to be. I take comfort in the thought that I was lucky enough to have had a loving relationship instead of thinking that I no longer have it.

So I begin practicing being grateful for what I have regardless of what is going on around me. I remember that I can choose to be happy or miserable. And today I have that choice because I’m sober and I have a program of recovery. I have tools I didn’t have before coming to “the rooms.”

I don’t know if there is a romantic relationship in my future but I am grateful that I had one for a long time. I am grateful that I get to have a relationship with my family while so many other people can’t. I am grateful that I get to stay sober by helping other people recover. I am grateful that I have a relationship with myself and I am aware of what I’m feeling. And most of all, that I don’t believe everything I think.

Five years have gone by since I got sober and what do I have to show for it? Staying sober is what! I still struggle with not looking at the people and things that are no longer in my life and count them as losses. But instead, I remind myself that I can choose to be grateful that they were in my life at all.

Being grateful is a practice that I know works to make me feel happy. I don’t know how A.A. got it so right but research now shows that when I practice being grateful on a daily basis, I become happy regardless of the circumstances around me. I used to think that in order to be grateful I had to have all the externals lined up. It was a never-ending race to the next shiny object.

What’s changed? My perspective. I haven’t stopped enjoying the comfort that money brings but I am now aware that whatever is outside of me can only bring me temporary happiness at best. Sure, if I didn’t have money to eat or pay the bills, having money would ease my suffering but the realization that material things do not bring lasting happiness has helped me shift my attention to working on my inner peace.

Again, I haven’t given away my material possessions or taken a vow of poverty but I am more aware that I needed to get down from the hedonic treadmill and enjoy the journey and not the destination.

I used to set a goal and reach it by any means necessary and once I got there, I was so happy for a little while…. and then on to the next. This behavior is not bad, what is not helpful for me is thinking that doing this would eventually bring me lasting happiness.

The change I’ve made is enjoying the journey. Whatever happens today I can choose to find the blessing or…as I write this, my old thinking creeps up and tells me, “You’re jinxing yourself and something terrible is going to happen! Stop!!” But I can now remind myself that my worst fear has already happened and I survived it.

It wasn’t easy moving forward with my life after this happened. It took lots of meetings, increasing my anti-depressants, and lots of therapy but I’m still here. And I can choose to live in the past and wonder innumerable, “What ifs?” or just enjoy life as it is. It is a practice. I end this with a prayer that pops up daily at 7:15 pm on my phone:

May I be safe.
May I be peaceful.
May I be kind to myself.
May I accept myself as I am.
May I accept my life as it is.

What If?

Posted: January 31, 2015 in Uncategorized

“Why does she need somebody else?” My nephew asked me in reference to my sister’s significant other the other day. This is what I asked my mother decades ago when I questioned her need to have my step-father in her life. She told me, “you’re going to grow up, move out, have your own family and then, who is going to keep me company?” I didn’t like her answer but in my young mind I understood what she was saying.

I told my nephew something along those lines and I added that he has a special bond with his mom that nobody is going to take away or change. I assured him that she will always love him and have this special connection with him to which he said with a big smile, “you’re right!”

And then he said, “but what if it doesn’t work out and he leaves?” I told him that I would be there for them, that his mom having a significant other didn’t change that either. He seemed relieved.

I am so grateful that today I have the clarity of mind that emotional sobriety brings to be able to soothe my nephew’s worries. He was only a baby when I was in active and addiction and since I got sober I’ve been making living amends to them by being a constant in their life.

Already Complete

Posted: November 15, 2014 in Grace, Growing
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I am already complete. I am just chiseling away at what I am not.

The above quote has so many implications for me. It reminds me that I don’t have to wait until fill-in-the-blank happens to be happy. I can be happy now. It is a daily practice that I choose to take upon myself…or not.

It reminds me that I am a good person trying to get better from my disease of addiction and not a bad person trying to be good. This is important to me because if I believe that my past behavior makes me a bad person, why would I bother to make an effort? I used this excuse for years, “This is who I am. That’s how I’m wired.” Now I know that I was scared to let go of the survival skills I developed growing up.

Being an angry person and shaming those who did not conform to my wishes, was a great tool to get what I wanted when my charm and good manners did not work. I believed that if i didn’t have my anger to protect me I was going to become a doormat.

I have learned that “hurt people hurt people.” That my life is better when I choose to believe that people have my best interest at heart, that once I set a goal, the universe conspires to help me. It may not happen the way I thought it would. It might not come in the shape I imagined but it comes if I remain aware.

I’m not saying that my Higher Power satisfies my every whim or I don’t have to do the footwork but I have let go of the outcome. My needs are met on a daily basis, I want for nothing. Everything is the way it’s supposed to be.

That last sentence gives me great peace of mind when I start to fight with reality. Again, it does not mean that I don’t change what needs to be changed, it means that, “I am responsible for the effort and not the outcome.”

That’s Ridiculous!

Posted: November 1, 2014 in Uncategorized
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I started a new job early in the year. It has been a wonderful experience going to work at a place where people LOVE what they are doing. I’ve gotten close to a few coworkers. In particular, a lady with a great sense of humor and years of experience in the field I am working in now. She has been there for me to answer all my questions.

I was surprised one day when this lady, who I adore, made fun of me in a staff meeting. Most of my peers were there and most of them looked perplexed too. One of them laughed out loud but he usually behaves like a jackass so it did not bother me.

In few shorts seconds I allowed her to make me feel small, like when I was eight years old and a neighbor, another lady, laughed at me because I was “flying”, pretending to be Superman. I hadn’t felt this humiliated in a long time.

So what did I do? I regressed to one of my favorite behaviors. I stopped eating lunch with her. I stopped asking her questions. I pretty much only interact with her when I have to. That is very mature of me, right?

I was told, when I started working there, not to feel bad if I ever had to go in somebody’s office to cry my eyes out in frustration over being overwhelmed with my caseload. I haven’t yet. But I definitely felt like crying that day. I guess I had put her on a pedestal and I was reminded then that she is still a human being.

If talk to her and I allow myself to get close to her again, I am giving her power to hurt me. But if I stay away from her, I’m also missing out. It sucks trying to behave like an adult because I know I should clear things with her but I don’t want to do it because I would feel uncomfortable and vulnerable.

I am praying for her in the meantime.

Afraid Of Failure

Posted: April 17, 2014 in Fear, Uncategorized

I was watching a TED Talk while walking on the treadmill at 5 a.m. the other day. I was half asleep so I don’t remember the name of the speaker but I remember that it was about overcoming the fear of failure.

The speaker proposed that you asked yourself three questions. The first question is, “What if I fail?” What’s the worst that could happen if you do what you are terrified of doing and then fail? List all the possible outcomes. Are they still frightening you?

Then ask yourself, “What if I do nothing?” What if what you want most is being your own boss but you are too afraid of trying, how are you going to feel in 10 years about doing nothing? If you happen to still be around.

The last question is, “What if I succeed?” How is your life going to be different if you are successful in doing what you set out to do? That can be scary. As Marianne Williamson says, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

You might be wondering how could anyone be afraid of success? Perhaps is not success that you are afraid of but of change. Change can be scary. That’s why many times you tend to recreate the life you had growing up not because it was healthy but because it’s familiar.

But you are still afraid of failing after pondering these three questions. Maybe redefining success as not drinking or using today could help you as it has helped me. Perhaps the question is not if you are going to fall because you are but are you going to get up again?

One of the many benefits of being in recovery is that you don’t have to face life alone. You can go to a meeting and ask for help. You can call your sponsor or a fellow addict/alcoholic. You can pray.

Or you can do nothing, that’s okay too. Some only change at the rate of pain they experience. They cannot change or risk failure until the pain of inaction surpasses the pain of change or the fear of failure.

What if you fail? What if you do nothing? What if you succeed? Only you know the answer.

I’m Bored!

Posted: April 7, 2014 in Addiction, Grace
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I was driving home with my nephew after going to the movies. He was sitting in the back of the car, as he’s not old enough to sit next to me. It was a 10-minute trip from the movie theater to my place.
Suddenly he asked, “I’m bored! What should I do?” This is probably an appropriate question for an eight-year-old kid but it got me thinking about growing up and my recovery.

Before being in active addiction, I was always doing something. I could not sit still. I had to keep myself busy. I was very uncomfortable being idle. I realize now that I stayed busy so that I did not have time to reflect about my life.

Another reason for my behavior was that I did not believe people could love me unconditionally, their love had to be earned. So if they couldn’t love me for me, at the very least they were going to need me. I made myself indispensable and then complained when they asked for my help.

Once in active addiction, I was able to relax or at least I thought I did. I felt like I had all the energy in the world, I felt invincible. Drugs were working for me. It didn’t matter that I knew full well that I was jeopardizing my health.

Then, they stopped giving me the desired effect I had experienced initially. I chased that feeling for some time. By the grace of God and thanks to the help of my partner at the time I went to treatment, not without trying to quit on my own first. I just couldn’t stop.

I completed treatment and came back home but I still had a hard time being by myself. I hated being alone. A sponsor told me to seek the presence of God during those times of loneliness. I went to a lot of meetings. I listened to many recordings of A.A. speakers. I just couldn’t be alone with my thoughts.

It took some time, many hours of therapy, and medication too but I began to experience a psychic change. The need to have noise around me went away slowly. I started to enjoy silence for the first time in years.

I am not bored anymore, I am now in peace and serene. I don’t need to have chaos around me to distract me from my pain. I can tell God how I am feeling. I can embrace my distress.

“I’m bored! What should I do?” I told my nephew that it’s okay to have nothing to do. I gave him permission to just be.