Tag Archives: change

Keep It Simple

For some of us, overthinking things is easy. Getting caught up in our thoughts and living in our heads comes naturally. Besides, the longer I spend thinking about things, the more time I am able to dedicate to not taking action, not doing anything, not stepping into new/different/uncharted territory, not making a change.

I can, with very little effort, go around and around on something in my head for so long that what I’m pondering on could have been dealt with already. It could be behind me. I could be stepping outside my comfort zone and working toward a better life, but instead, I’m living in my head.

Part of the reason we live in our heads, part of the reason we refuse to take action, has to do with being comfortable. We’re comfortable in our chaos and confusion and poor choices. They are familiar. They might hurt us and they might hurt people around us, but it’s easier to continue living this miserable, comfortable life than it is to venture into the great unknown. There’s a reason we fear the unknown – it’s unknown.

Who in their right mind wants to journey into a place where nothing is familiar? Where life is uncertain? It’s a crapshoot. There are risks. But there are also rewards. We’ll never figure out what those rewards are, though, if we don’t take the risk of doing things differently.

And don’t tell me you don’t fear the unknown. Yes, I hear you. Some of you don’t fear the unfamiliar, per se. You’re perfectly fine taking a new job or moving to a new city or leaving your friends and support group behind, but the one thing that goes with you wherever you are is YOU.

Change your surroundings. Change your job. Change your people. Buy a new car or a new outfit or an entirely new wardrobe. Change every circumstance of your life if you want, but real transformation is never going to occur if you don’t change yourself. And that’s where fear of the unknown kicks into overdrive.

I don’t want to get better because I don’t know what I’ll be like without drugs. I don’t know how to go to work everyday without my liquid courage. I don’t know how to enter that boardroom and give my presentation without relieving the anxiety and the pressure before I step into the room. I don’t know how to watch the big game without knowing who I’m supposed to be rooting for based on they payout I might receive.

This crutch that I’ve lived with for so long helps me be who I am. It defines me (because I let it define me). I rely on that fix just to get through the day. How am I ever going to get through the day without it? How am I ever going to know who I am without it? How am I going to hang out with my “friends” if we’re not busy chasing the next hit? (You’re not! Sorry, not sorry). What do I do when I don’t recognize myself anymore?

These are valid questions. They have answers. Many of the answers will come only when we face life without our disease riding shotgun (or, more accurately, when we make it stop driving the car). Some of these answers will be found in the experience, strength, and hope of others who’ve gone before us. They’ve been giving us these answers in meetings, if we’ve been attending them. Chances are we just haven’t been hearing them because we weren’t yet ready to hear them.

One of the other big pushes for not addressing our own crap is that it’s so much easier to tackle the flaws which are SO apparent in others.

Jesus said it like this: “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a long in your own?…Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” – Matthew 7:3, 5

The Big Book says that, “we are there to sweep off our side of the street, realizing that nothing worth while can be accomplished until we do so, never trying to tell [another] what he should do.” – 77-78

What it ultimately boils down to is actually quite simple. There’s nothing we desire more than to be in control. Fear of the unknown is about control. Our inability to cope is about control. All of our addictive tendencies and our inability to give them up can be linked back to control. We want control, or at the very least, perceived control. But when we have the power, when we are in control, our lives go horribly wrong.

That’s when we need to turn to the steps and turn to God. I know it sounds crazy that the solution for getting control of our lives rests in giving control over to a higher power, but look at where you are now. You’ve given control to your addiction – to your disease – to something outside of yourself which isn’t capable of making you happy. Perhaps it’s time to give control to somebody who can make you happy.

And so we turn to the first three steps. If we fail to understand and achieve the first three steps, we will ultimately fail to master any of the subsequent steps. These steps are about coming to a place where we find peace with God through the disciplines of submission and conversion.

When we live into these steps we have the opportunity to move from powerlessness and brokenness into honesty. From self-reliance, doubt, and shame to dependence on a power greater than ourselves and hope for the future. From playing God in our lives and the lives of others to letting God be in charge of our lives and trusting that God is more than capable of making our lives better if we’ll let that happen.

These steps are the basis of a program of change, of transformation, of surrender. We work these steps not only to discover who God is and what role God can and should play in our lives but also to figure out who we are. And then, as we progress through the steps and work to live a new life, we reflect on these three steps in our morning meditation and whenever hardships arise. These three steps act as a simple reminder of the order life should take.

I can’t.
God can.
I think I’ll let him.

That’s it. In their simplest form, those are the first three steps. Those are words to live by.

Whenever life is overwhelming. Whenever you’re faced with more than you can handle. Whenever you don’t know what to do. These things will all happen – more frequently than any of us would desire. When they do, rather than turning back to unhealthy coping mechanisms and diseases which keep us wrapped up in a warped sense of reality, turn to that simple mantra.

It won’t fix everything. It’s not magical. But it is a good reminder that my own best thinking has been the bane of my existence, and it’s high time that I recognize my inability to effectively control and manage my life.

When life seems unmanageable or confusing, many of us unknowingly complicate matters even further by trying to anticipate everything that could go wrong, so that we will be prepared to respond. [Keep it simple] reminds us that we can’t control every possible outcome to ever situation and that trying to do so makes our lives more difficult and more stressful than they already are…We can relax and try to be more gentle with ourselves, trusting that by putting one foot in front of the other, we will eventually get where we are going. – How Al-Anon Works, 66

Never worry about anything. But in every situation let God know what you need in prayers and requests while giving thanks. Then God’s peace, which goes beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your thoughts and emotions through Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6

I can’t.
God can.
I think I’ll let him.

– Alex Walker

New Year, New You

What…a load…of crock…

New Year, New You. All you have to do is look around. Do it. Look around. This phrase is everywhere. There are newspaper articles, health magazine write-ups, Pinterest boards, television news spots – even entire categories at bookstores and on cooking websties – devoted to those four words.

New Year, New You is all about the latest and greatest in the worlds of fitness, health, nutrition, organization, wellness, money management and more. That comes as no surprise given the propensity this time of year to manifest interest or rededicate time and effort toward achieving or striving toward goals founded in those categories.

According to a 2015 Nielsen study, these are the top ten New Year’s Resolutions as of 2015.

  • Stay fit and healthy
  • Lose weight
  • Enjoy life to the fullest
  • Spend less, save more
  • Spend more time with family and friends
  • Get organized
  • Will not make any resolutions
  • Learn something new/new hobby
  • Travel more
  • Read more

Let’s be brutally honest here. For the most part, these goals are at best broad, vague, and open to interpretation and at worst unrealistic and unlikely to be maintained. While statistics vary, of the minority of the population who set resolutions, approximately eighty percent will have failed at keeping their resolutions by February. Less than a month.

That’s why my favorite category up there is those who resolve not to make a resolution. It’s a lot harder to fail at that one. The odds of someone who has no intentions of making a resolution turning around and setting a major goal in the first month of the year are drastically less likely than the odds of someone who made a resolution dropping the ball.

But really, as arbitrary and nondescript as most of those resolutions are, they’re conceivably manageable, so why is the general propensity to simply not keep them? Why do we find ourselves year after year setting the same resolutions and forgetting about them completely by March?

Well, for starters, this New Year, New You phenomenon is nothing more than a watered down kick in the pants. The whole concept of a New Year’s Resolution is a fabricated sense of urgency designed to motivate us to be different based on nothing more than the number at the end of the year growing larger by one. January 1, 2018 is no different than any other Monday, unless of course you got the day off from work because it was a holiday.

There’s about as much motivation in becoming a new you in the new year as there is when your mother, father, sister, brother, significant other, friend, flight attendant or parole officer tells you that it’s time for a change. If you haven’t hit rock bottom, your habits, addictions, and compulsive behaviors are going to stay right where they are.

People who set New Year’s Resolutions often do so by first looking back over the previous year – or years. When we look back, things don’t always look so good. We’re unhappy with how we spent our time or our money, so we resolve to change that. But it’s hard not to keep living in the past. It’s hard to do something new – something different.

It’s also hard to stop living in those memories of the past. When we start thinking about how we’ve spent our time and our money, it’s easy to become convinced that changing that not only isn’t probable, it’s impossible. It becomes easy to look back at our shortcomings and deem them failures. And no sooner have we deemed our shortcomings failures than we extrapolate that sentiment and decide that we, ourselves, are failures. And if I’m a failure, then I certainly stand no chance at succeeding in carrying out these new endeavors I’ve resolved to complete.

But negative self-talk isn’t the only thing hampering our success. Many of us who set resolutions do so for the wrong reasons. We aren’t motivated to change because the impetus for setting these goals in the first place was effectively peer pressure. We jumped on the bandwagon. Oh, look, a new year is coming, and all of my friends are setting resolutions. I guess I should do that, too. I mean, after all, there are things in my life that need to change.

Guess what. That kind of motivation isn’t motivation at all. The only thing it’s motivating is the assurance that you’re going to jump off the bandwagon just as quickly as you jumped on. Yes, research does indicate that those persons who undertake a new endeavor and make it a habit are much more likely to continue that new habit at a higher sustained level than those who merely dabble, but the odds of your compulsive self being the one who pours time and effort into bettering yourself based on a new year’s resolution are slim to none.

It’s that very same research which supports the practice of going to 90 meetings in 90 days. As a matter of fact, that practice even serves more than one purpose. Not only does it generally solidify the habit of attending meetings, it also ensures that people are going to meetings regularly at a time when they are bound to struggle the most.

So that’s tip number one. If you really want to commit to making a life change, go all in. Don’t wait for some arbitrary date, like January 1, to decide that you’re going to get sober or stop eating everything you see. While special dates are easy to remember (Trust me, a guy in my home group celebrates his anniversary on Valentine’s Day. He doesn’t forget it, and neither does anyone else.), they aren’t necessarily motivating.

Your first day is going to be the day you’re done. For me, I was done lying. More than anything else, that’s what I gave up. That doesn’t mean I don’t lie anymore, but it does mean that I’m not constantly working to cover my tracks. That was the ultimate motivation I needed. You’ll know what it is you’re ready to be done doing.

And as for being successful, most people don’t get sober right away. It’s a process. During the height of my disease, there were several times when I merely white-knuckled it. I knew that I had control. I knew that I could quit whenever I wanted to. But those months were some of the crappiest months of my life. And, of course, I went right back to it.

Then, a time came when I entered recovery. I began the recovery process. Now I realize this is different for everyone, but I definitely started the program and didn’t get sober right away. I struggled with white-knuckling. I struggled with turning things over to God. I still struggle with that today. I had lapses and relapses. That’s pretty common. It’s also tip number two.

Don’t beat yourself up, and don’t quit just because you’ve had a relapse. Relapse isn’t failure. For almost everyone it’s just part of the process – especially the early phases and stages. If you can forgive yourself for relapses early in the program, I think you’ll have much better odds of getting back on the horse and attending to the program rather than returning to your disease because you’ve branded yourself a failure.

The bottom line is that wherever you go, there you are. That may seem a bit obvious, but it matters. That means that the me I take to rehab is still me. The me I take into a new marriage is still me. The me I take to a new state to get away from a bad relationship or to keep from hanging around a bad crowd is still me. You take you with you everywhere. The only person you have the ability to influence and change, then, is you.

You don’t need a new year to affect change and bring about a new you. What you need is the desire to be somebody different – a desire to do things differently – a desire to be different. If a new years resolution spurs you toward real life change, great. Good for you. You are the exception to the rule.

The rest of us will just keep waiting until there’s nothing left to do but get better or die.

– Alex Walker

Into the Great Wide Open

It all started with a podcast entitled, “This Episode is Sugar Free.” Now, that title alone only communicates so much. For me, it led to more questions than answers. Are we talking about diabetes? Is this an opportunity to not be false or sugar coated at all? Is it going to be bland and boring? Is it chock full of certain artificial sweeteners which are known to make people run quickly to the nearest restroom should they eat too many as has often been the case with sugar-free gummy bears? (Side Note: If you need a good laugh, go read the customer reviews here.)

As the conversation evolved, it became rather familiar. The conversation was about things in our life that are like sugar – things we like or enjoy or use to cope – things we might be better off giving up altogether. Things like substance abuse, impulse control and behavioral addictions. This might look like drugs, alcohol, aggression, stealing, gambling, food, sex, pornography, work or exercise, just to name a few. Many of those are fine in moderation, but something happens when they take over our lives. We become dependent upon them to survive, so we want to carry them with us into all future endeavors. And this is where the blog picks up.

“Some things are not going to be able to go with you into the future. And if you’re like me, sometimes there’s this moment of, like, “I can’t imagine my life without that.” And so what you’re really dealing with is a crisis of imagination because those grooves get worn deep, don’t they? You get used to your world being a particular way.

I need imagination here because I’m so stuck. This thing has its claws so deep in me. These grooves are worn over so many years that the idea that I can live without that – the idea that I could be free – is even hard for my mind to imagine it.

Sometimes it’s about taking one step and then one step and then one step and then one step and just gradually growing as you move from one place to the next.

What you really need is a death and a resurrection.

…the thought of ‘how would you get through today without that’ is just like, “I don’t even know how I’d get through the next hour.”

You have to tap in to what it is you want more…to a vision of what you want your life to be…”

Perhaps this is where you are. You’ve been living with something or someone for so long that you simply cannot imagine life without it or without him or without her. But you’re not a vinyl record. It may seem that way. It may seem like the needle is stuck and your world is simply playing the same part over and over again.

Well, guess what. Life doesn’t have to be that way. But if you want something different for your life, if you want to change, if you want something better, something more, something different, you’re gonna have to do something different.

Make a decision. Figure out what it is in your life that you want to be different. Figure out what you have to do to make that happen. Get rid of who you have to get rid of. Get rid of what you have to get rid of. And get help. You can’t be expected to do this on your own. You won’t be able to do this on your own, so don’t. Reach out. Find people whose experience, strength and hope can spur you on toward a better future.

It is hard to imagine what your life could be like without “it” because you’ve lived with “it” for so long. The way we get through the next hour, the next minute, the next moment is to “make the very best of every precious moment we are given” (How Al-Anon Works, p.73). We must work together to remember, or to figure out, what life is like when we are capable of experiencing the full range of human emotion.

Take one step.

Do the next right thing.

Then another, and another, and another.

– Alex Walker, with excerpts from Robcast Episode 37, “This Episode is Sugar Free”

Did you feel the mountains tremble?

via Daily Prompt: Heard

And we can see that God you’re moving
A mighty river through the nations
When young and old return to Jesus
Fling wide your heavenly gates
Prepare the way of the risen Lord

Did you hear what I said?

You know what – maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. Maybe I heard you but I wasn’t listening, or I heard you but I wasn’t paying attention.

Is there anything more annoying than knowing full well that someone wasn’t paying attention to you, yet they are still capable of parroting back to you whatever you just said?

When we’re in active addiction, how much do we hear? How willing are we to actually hear and heed the words being spoken into our lives? So often those words are true, but we are unwilling to accept them. We hear our friends and loved ones tell us time and time again how our behaviors are affecting them. How our acting out is out of control. How what we’re doing, when we’re doing it, where we’re doing it, who we’re doing it with, and how we act as a result of it hurt them. We are hurting our friends, our family and ourselves. But we don’t want to hear it, so we don’t.

Some of us are acting out because of what we’ve heard. We’ve heard all our lives that we’re not good enough, or we’ll never amount to anything. We’re not pretty enough or strong enough or smart enough or good enough. Nobody has ever loved us, and nobody could ever love us. If you want to be cool or successful, you have to do what everybody else is doing. Well by golly, if that’s drugs or alcohol or sex or porn or gambling, acceptance matters more than anything else, so I’m in. Let’s all go jump off the bridge together.

But then what happens when we get sober? Suddenly we start to become a new person with our own thoughts and opinions. The people who have been enabling us, provoking us and taking care of us no longer fit into the roles they’ve been playing for years. We have a new voice. We want to be heard. And for some inexplicable reason, those people are now on the flip side of the coin; they don’t want to hear us. They don’t want to hear what we have to say. Everything changes when we come to the realization that everything we’ve been hearing from everyone in our lives with regard to our addiction or compulsive behavior has actually been true. That doesn’t mean that everything anyone says about you is necessarily true, but those people were right about that thing. We just had to come to a place where we understood that the truth was, indeed, true.

When people speak, listen. They may just be trying to tell you something.

“Hear, O Israel! the Lord our God, the Lord is One; and you are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your being and all your resources. These words, which I am ordering you today, are to be on your heart; and you are to teach them carefully to your children. You are to talk about them when you sit at home and when you get up. Tie them on your hand as a sign, put them at the front of a headband around your forehead, and write them on the door-frames of your house and on your gates.”
Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Open up the doors and let the music play
Let the streets resound with singin’
Songs that bring your hope and
Songs that bring your joy
Dancers who dance upon injustice

– Alex Walker

People, places and things

People, places and things.

If you’re like me, those words transport you back to elementary school. I can hear the teacher asking, “What is a noun?” Hands shoot up across the room, but the teacher, with her back to the classroom, says, “Just shout it out if you think you know it.” From across the room different children holler out: “Person!” “Place!” “Thing!” In the quiet while the teacher writes on the board, some brown-noser in the room whose older sibling has been feeding them information to make them look smart timidly ekes out the words, “and ideas.”

People, places and things.

People are triggers. Places are triggers. Things are triggers. Some people, places and things are always going to ‘make us’ act out. It’s something they said or how they make us feel or what they remind us of. It’s that this is just how I act or who I am when I find myself with them or whenever I go home to visit my parents or before I go participate in this activity or in conjunction with this or that. It’s like how some people “only smoke when they drink.”

At least, I feel like it started that way.

I needed an excuse. Of course, that excuse could be as simple as that I was home alone and could get away with acting out. It never did take much. Nonetheless, people, places and things became an integral part of who I was and why I acted out and how I acted out and where I acted out and when I acted out.

That’s true of so many of us. It doesn’t matter what our addiction or compulsion of choice or fix or hit or poison is. Addicts, alcoholics, codependents, gamblers, workaholics, those with eating and emotional disorders, and everyone in-between – we all have something in common:

People, places and things.

That’s why many singer/songwriters have written lyrics about what it means to remove ourselves from people, places and things. If we want to be new…if we want to be different…if we don’t want to keep living that way…we must change the people, places and things in our lives.

Van Morrison expressed it this way in his song Don’t Go to Nightclubs Anymore:

Don’t get around much anymore
The smoke has driven me out the door
All night I used to walk the floor
Don’t go to nightclubs anymore

Don’t see my old friend Mose
I don’t run into Mr. Clive
I cut out all that off the wall jive
I don’t go to nightclubs no more…

Alcohol was too big a price
That why I said hey no dice
When it comes to men or mice
Don’t go to nightclubs no more

I had to cut ties. I had to sever relationships. I had to stop doing certain things – going certain places. I had to change the way I saw and interacted with the world. I’m still working on me. In some ways, I miss those people. I miss those places. I miss those things. They were a huge part of my life. It’s like something that was a part of me for so long is missing. I grieve that loss. Just thinking about everything I left behind makes me feel sad. Vulnerable. Inadequate.

I think about what was, and then I realize that I’m looking at it through rose-colored glasses. I’m glorifying my disease. I’m looking at it the way I look at past romantic relationships. All I see, all I remember, all I want to remember is the euphoria. The good times. The boost. The pick-me-up.

I don’t want to remember the grief. The guilt. The shame. The sorrow. The depression. The withdrawals. The lies. The deceit. The cover-ups. The manipulation. The pain. The hours wasted. The false hope.

The truth is that euphoric feelings was negligible. It lasted such a short time compared to how much time and effort was put into getting that next fix – that next hit. If it came at all…

People, places and things.

To get away from my demons. To begin to figure out who I really was. If there was any hope that I was going to change – that I was going to get better – that I was going to become a different person, then I had to be willing to make sacrifices, make different choices, and make changes in my life. Most of all, I had to come to terms with changing…

People, places and things.

– Alex Walker