Living in the moment

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I have found in my own discovery that the pathway to peace is living one day at a time, in the present moment, in the here and now. Life teaches me that principle when I worry or fret over the future or spend time in remorse and regret on how life once was. I become agitated and discontent, and I realize quicker that I have to get back to the moment. I’m no philosopher, guru, nor scholar but it’s the same lesson that Paul spoke about after his conversion to Christianity when he penned the words, ” do not worry about anything, except pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for what He has done.” Living in the moment can be a real challenge for me. The three areas that I find most useful are prayer, fasting, and meditation. That’s radical for an unquiet mind, but if I want to continue to grow then I must be willing to do what once was far fetched and other worldly. I prayed before, I just didn’t trust and believe. I’ve been hungry before too, but it was forced, and my old thinking was that meditation was just for monks. What I found is that the combination of these take effort and displace my own chaotic, fear driven thoughts,……..but take heart. There is hope for the self driven, garden variety folks like me. The good news is that I don’t drink anymore, but no amount of willpower could take the urge away. I spent countless hours trying to figure out on my own how to gain serenity and peace and in my search found that forcing my mind to let go of old ideas and live in the here and now works better for me. But what about retirement, the 401k, and the kids’ college funds? Then onto the mortgage, the bills, the car payment, and the stock investments? I’m not proposing that preparing for a stable financial future is not important, but in the past I’ve driven thru people on my way to live my life, work my job, and live my dream. The bottom that I had to hit to realize that ‘going places’ doesn’t matter as much as slowing down, appreciating what I do have, and enjoying this very moment in my life does makes a difference. The thought of picking up a drink doesn’t even sound like a good idea anymore, especially when I’m present in the here and now…..good day!…b

 

 

 

 

 

The Cost

imageMy high school health teacher did a study on what a person could save in cash in a lifetime if they didn’t drink or use drugs. I should’ve raised my hand back then and said what I thought….”nothing in life is free, even the lessons.” I knew that I would have to learn the lesson the hard way before I could move forward in life. Otherwise,  I stay trapped in feelings and thoughts that take me on an endless journey to nowhere, ruminations that are just in my head. Something I felt wasn’t quite “normal” about life, whatever normal is. I was already grossly overwhelmed and disillusioned with what I thought were injustices brought on by greed and selfish desires, and fighting those ideologies cost me everything at one point. My job, house, family, career, cars, and accounts all awash in bankruptcy and despair.  So what did I do to kill the pain? The same things I had always done which I later learned is the definition of insanity. Then I began landing in jails, psychological and addiction institutions, and having harrowing near-death experiences. I found there are no geographical cures, either. A large price to pay to keep a monster inside of me fed with booze and pills. Many of us who have struggled with addictions have to lose it all in order to seek help. It’s just a fact of denial. To some it could be gambling, spending money, food, gaming, technological gadgetry, or porn. I don’t always want to level my pride and do the soul searching work that it takes to live happy and free. It’s that simple. Everyday, I must take the initiative for my own recovery. After all, no one can do it for me. Yesterday, my son and I were on the water fishing when it dawned on me that I had to lose everything just to find some peace. Today, I’ll give everything away just to keep it. A small price to pay to learn the lesson of the “high cost of low living”……good day!….b

Diversity

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It’s been called the spice of life. Sometimes it’s not even skin tone, it can be how I think, respond, or act towards people just like me. I’ve found it interesting how some of the most diverse groups of people can get together and share experiences over a cup of java to give each other hope. People who ordinarily wouldn’t mingle. The reason is simple: we understand each other on a level that most who haven’t struggled with the disease of addiction can even comprehend. We are doctors, lawyers, nurses, artists, musicians, sellers of wares, and vagabonds. Vagrants so filthy that even the River Jordan couldn’t wash us clean. We are from the north, south, east, and west. All over Mother Earth people are getting sober because one man reached out from a phone booth in Akron, Ohio back in the 30’s. Diversity is something for me to embrace, not shun. I am a spiritual being having human experiences and I need the help of others to guide and teach me. I want to learn new ways to cope and live, and sometimes it’s the people that come from the hardest of places that teach me the most. I have a long way to go, but the place I started is the same place most begin. I was down, hopeless, and could not, for the life of my living soul, solve the drink question on my own willpower. The book answered the riddle when I read, ” if you can’t quit entirely, or stop once you start, then you are probably alcoholic.” Today, my home group is C.A. The reason is because my addiction reached beyond the bottle. It’s an all-inclusive fellowship for addicts and alcoholics alike. Once I found the freedom thru working the steps, I began to reach out. My journey takes me almost anywhere now. I may spend an afternoon at the park on a Sunday poring thru the book with another who’s still perplexed by the same questions I had. If my mind is closed to what others have to offer, I cut myself off from the LightSource. The old “I know it all” mindset doesn’t work anymore. We are all fearfully and wonderfully made, each of us having hope to offer the new man regardless of who we are or where we’ve been…… Good Day!…b

Adjustments

 

I’ve never played hockey in my life but then again I’ve never had a formal golf lesson either. I had much rather watch his genius on skates than watch the golf channel any day. My father bought me right handed clubs when I was 13. The problem was that I am a natural left hander. It’s never been a handicap because I’ve just learned to adapt to a world made for right handed people. The desks where I sat in priamry school were for right handers as well, and the scissors were turned inside for my left hand. I knew  even then that perhaps I was different. I always have. That small little boy was already wracked with fears and insecurities and couldn’t color within the lines.  I felt like I had to put my crayons into someone else’s box at the end of the day. From the world I knew as fear, anxiety, and anger, I have grown and learned to embrace my individuality more. When I looked back on my life honestly, I began to grow from those introspective moments……my mother had been sick all  of my life with an autoimmune disorder that eventually killed her way too young. I always feared the most when her conditioned worsened. I got angry and turned inward because I did not learn the coping mechanisms that so many do before tragedy strikes. So I fought, ran, pushed, and pulled myself as best I could. Trying to find some control in an uncontrollable world is tough. I had to make adjustments, and found it to be even tougher. We all do, at least those of us who have surrendered to the idea that we can escape these obstacles we face without being scarred and mangled in some sordid way. Emotional sobriety occurs when I do what I say I’ll do, and turn the rest over to God. In early sobriety, I would call a friend in the program and rant and rave like a lunatic. He would always remind me that what works is working with others. I had to make adjustments and get out of my world. I had allowed the outside world to determine how I felt on the inside and for me that is fatal. When I learn the lesson that I have to make adjustments and not excuses , then I can move forward with the life lesson….good day!…b

Why I am

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My memories and experiences are the only ones that  I can share with you honestly. For a long time, I had no idea who or what I was. I idolized people and stuff and made muck out of most of it, but now I learn something new everyday. Where there once was darkness, at this moment, has become a sphere of light.  Others experiences along our journeys I learn from as well. We all share these to give others hope. It’s why I am. I listen to the stories of transformed lives, and think to myself, “God, you really are so powerful.” It’s not that I never believed in God, I just lived for so long as if He didn’t exist. We laugh at our tragic but comic stories of how we actually make it out of situations alive while drinking; heads shake and laughter erupts when someone shares an experience of which we can so relate. That’s where the common bond is formed, and out of that springs forth relationships with people that I ordinarily would never have known. I’m grateful for those who reached out to me. I had never known true friendship until I got honest and started being a friend. Now, I can call almost anyone in my phone when I am sideways, and because they are centered, they offer me suggestions to get me right sized. It’s simply God working thru others to help me when I can’t help myself if I embrace it. I don’t want to go back to that old guy. I enjoy life much better today with soda water and a twist of lime but thank you. I’m reminded of those who convinced themselves that they could go back and drink like normal men, one with 12 years, the other with 7 years sobriety. They simply stopped doing what worked. I don’t judge them, and I understand them better than most. They both helped me early when I was  drying out. The book tells me that I have but two choices: seek a spiritual solution or go to the bitter end. Since I’ve already traveled on the trail of tears, now I’d rather continue to “trudge the road of happy destiny”……good day!…b

 

Acceptance

I really hated the monster inside of me the most. The man I had become. It’s like finding out that all the sticky sweet part of my Cinnabon has stuck to the napkin. The acceptance of a “cunning, baffling, and powerful” disease that is so overwhelmingly insane that it takes an act of Divine Providence to remove it. It feels like being caught in a riptide. I knew I was swimming hard, but every time I came up for breath, I was farther out than before.  Those mental blank spots would hit and I had no defense.  Today, I have to accept the spiritual solution even when I want to feel sorry for myself, blame others, lie about something, or take the easy way.  I loved the ease and comfort I got from the first swig. It was the three day monster that liquor awoke inside of me that  I abhorred. If I were diabetic and I knew I had to avoid chocolate to prolong my quality of life, I would. If I had cancer, I might choose radiation or take chemo to kill the bad cells. I would also take anti-depressants to help me with the blues if I were down. But with alcohol, I lost the power of that choice.   A disease, so insidious by nature, that the only known remedy is abstinence and a daily reprieve thru prayer, step work, meetings, meditation, writing, and working with others. Acceptance of a disease that centers in my mind. A disease that tells me I don’t have it. Yet,  the consequences would happen so quickly, that it really was mind boggling looking back. Acceptance of being powerless over one taste of scotch because after all, it was the engine and not the caboose that always got me.  When I find myself not accepting my circumstances or questioning God, I am usually in conflict with my inner self over something like unreasonable expectations. When I go with the flow, I find that control has always been an unattainable effort. I must accept and trust the process that the steps teach me. I do have the power to take personal responsibility for my part in life now.  The first step toward change is awareness….then…..acceptance…..good day!….b

Hozho

image “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” Upton Sinclair

A fellow in our recovery community introduced me to a Navajo term called hozho that I find fascinating.  Let’s suppose there is a terrible drought, the crops all die, and the well spring dries up. Most of us would pray for rain, right? The Navajo, instead, have a ceremony to restore themselves to harmony with the drought. The system is designed to change the human’s attitude to be content with the inevitable. Hozho believes that harmony can be achieved even when times are hard, and is found only in the heart and mind, in ideas and expectations. It advises that adjusting my reality is a much easier and more balanced way to live than trying to bully the world back in line with my program. It holds that harmony is a choice in stormy weather, one that is not dependent on the return of clear skies……even then, I still hold out hope that game officials will reverse the call and deliver a last minute victory for my side. The concept that things just “are the way they are”, no matter what we do, goes against my ingrained, up-by-my-boot-straps belief that I am the master of my fate. If something isn’t  right it’s just because I haven’t fixed it yet. I only need to think harder, work longer, yell louder—and, by God, beat some balance back into this thing. The core principles of Hozho are the ones I believe help me stay sober: admission of my powerlessness,  acceptance of the what is, and gratitude. When I quit whining for what might have been, my eyes are suddenly opened to how much of what remains is truly good. I then see all the riches in a balanced life: true friendship, music, laughter, the pleasure of a good story well-told, and the thrill of adventure and achievement. There is true freedom and wealth in voluntarily letting go of the trappings of thinking I can change the inevitable……..good day!…b

Getting Away

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Sometimes I have to get away from the fodder and unwind from the squirrel and rat race.  As they say in France, ‘C’est la vie.’ I throw my backpack in the truck, the kids load up, and we ride. We call it ‘roadtrippin’, and nothing can be better for my soul. I’ve taught them that it’s a great big world out there, and I want to see it, too. We turn on ‘Born to Run’ by Bruce Springsteen and in the land barge we cruise down the highway laughing and creating memories. We ‘ve got some funny stories. If the money is right, occasionally we fly, always third class like college kids on daddy’s budget. I don’t own a home on the river, or a condo on the beach, and I wear my clothes so thin you can see the light shine thru.  But, I marvel at the sea of wealth I traverse upon. A quarter of an acre in Sedona goes for 400k, and there are houses there built on the rocky incline of a dangling rock with beautiful vista views of God’s handy work. Usually close to someone’s third vacation home is where I pitch my wigwam. I’ve seen yachts so long and sleek in Boston Harbor that it takes 8 full time employees just to keep them afloat. The sailboats in the Florida Keys are so picturesque that they almost appear serenely surreal. So, I wait for the tide to rise, and float my skiff toward the channel, swatting at knats while catching redfish in coastal Georgia. I’ve made my Expedition a home away from home,  all with a blow up mattress and a quilt right beside the river in southwest North Carolina. Occasionally, we head to the mountains to watch the fall foliage turn into brilliant hues of yellow, red, and orange. That river is where I catch trout with kernels of corn. The same trout I feed my family over an open flame….my son pulls his guitar out, plays some James Taylor, while I sing to the top of my voice. My daughter frolics by the river, playing with those little black crustaceans that seemingly stay stuck in time. Memories are like an education of sorts, once you have them, nobody can take them away. I can do it today, provided the brakes are working and the tank is full. It’s one of life’s great pleasures for a man who once was trapped in a world full of double malt Scotch and nothing but himself. I carry my hammock  in case the idea that swinging between two trees and a good Cuban hits me all with Widespread’s ‘Ain’t Life Grand’ playing in the memory of my mind. I need places where life has not been rearranged by the hand of man……good day!…b

Nostalgia

Screenshot_2015-09-07-12-59-33-1I think about life ahead and life behind and I’ve surmised that both can get my mind twisted if I stay in either place too long. It’s a disease that centers in my mind and keeps me trapped in yesteryears and a future that may or may not even happen. A disease that tells me that I shouldn’t feel this way. Those feelings that keep me trapped holding yesterday’s junk. That rock I carried with all my regrets, shame, and guilt got heavy enough for me to finally have a desire to drop it. Then those weird feelings of nostalgia would come back up, and I invariably want to retreat, pick the rock up and ease into the comfort of numbing them. I’ve always been sensitive to ways of the world, and I’m enough of a man to admit that sensitivity isn’t a weakness, it’s how God made me, an asset to help me empathize with how others feel, too. Their experiences I learn from, and those I incorporate with my own to be helpful to those who struggle with mental illness and addiction. I believe we all have talents and gifts that are spiritual, given by God to show others the hope that lies within us. I don’t struggle with sharing my feelings and experiences today. I once hid behind them like I learned when I was a child. After all, it’s my childhood of origin experiences that have shaped the man I am now…..I’m powerless over the use of mind altering chemicals. I use them, and they completely make my life unmanageable. Like driving back home, I can’t stay stuck there very long. I drive by houses, churches, people, and grave sites with feelings I don’t always understand. Sometimes, the road gets rocky, and I get blindsided by the death of a friend or a call with bad news. I’m grateful I have friends and a program that helps me stay sober. Mostly, I’m grateful to God who has given me a new way to handle old problems. I’ve learned to pause when I want to retreat inside myself. I don’t have all the answers, some days I don’t even understand the questions, but I do know that staying stuck in my past is no way for me to have peace and contentment today….Happy Friday!…b

 

 

 

Obstacles

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“If its your job to eat a frog, its better to do it in the morning. If its your job to eat two frogs, best to start with the largest one first”-Mark Twain

What some of us find out in life is those challenges we once thought to be obstacles, turn out to be stepping stones to a place of understanding and tranquility. I didn’t grow up in chaos, but I sure did enjoy the rush it had to offer me. Always teetering on the seawall of disaster, its the rush I got from walking that fine line without fail. My whole perception of life had been like that, and then I found out it was my perception that was warped. I had to learn the hard way that people weren’t out to eat my lunch. I’ve weathered broken bones, broken hearts, and a broken spirit all with the understanding that what once was an unfortunate turn of events has turned out to be my greatest resource in helping others to overcome their pain, heartache, and struggles. Their experiences give me hope, too. I had to come to grips at some point in my late thirties that bottles really were making all my decisions. I based my entire life around that next fix no matter if it were a cook out, an outdoor outing, ballgame for the kids, or some life event. Learning to overcome my fears has been a huge asset. Learning to live with and thru them, an even larger one. I met a priest who introduced me to his friend who had been sober a decade. We ate dinner that night over water, and I remember feeling like I wanted to crawl out of my skin. I started attending meetings, sharing, and asking for help….. I pray to God daily, now. I believe He answers my prayers, even when the answer is no. So I started the journey we call recovery. Just like turkey hunting, I did everything a man shouldn’t do in the woods with a loaded shotgun. I came out empty handed each time. I gave up trying. I surrendered…..and today those obstacles are turning into opportunities for me to experience life in a new and joyous way!…good day!…b