Don’t Keep Your Dreams in a Bucket–Live Now!

file0001598488759 1024x682 Dont Keep Your Dreams in a Bucket  Live Now!

Following is a guest post by Rachel Heslin

Back when I worked for an organization affiliated with the local school district, my boss would hold annual team-building retreats.

Unlike some of the clichéd corporate “team-building” that’s had a bad rap for being superficial and boring, these retreats were small and intimate and truly did help those of us who worked at different school sites get to know each other better. There were fun little ice-breakers and silly games that lead to honest sharing and discussion with some wonderful people about how we help those whose lives we touch.

During one of these retreats, the very last “assignment” was to write a list of 5 things we wanted to do before we died.

I was surprised to discover that I had no desire to participate.

These so-called “bucket lists” sound really great

You think of all these amazing things you’d like to accomplish then make plans to actually do them. It can bring a sense of adventure and expanded possibilities to your life, and who wouldn’t want that?

It’s not that I have done everything I want to do, even though, on paper, I actually have done a lot. And there are most definitely still a lot of things I’d like to experience! The reason I didn’t want to write out my Bucket List is that my focus has shifted from Doing to Being.

I am assuming that everyone reading this has seen the movie, It’s A Wonderful Life. If you haven’t, please consider this a spoiler alert. In a nutshell, the plot is about a guy who is a really decent human being but life keeps throwing him curveballs that consistently derail his plans.

The first time I watched it, I found it to be one of the most depressing films I had ever seen. I couldn’t figure out why it was touted as being such a heart-warming movie, because from my perspective, all I could see was a guy who never had the chance to pursue his dreams. I found that idea heartbreaking.

And yet, years later, I get it.

Let go of expectations

A lot of what I have been doing the past couple of years is learning how to let go of expectations of what I think my life “should” look like. I like the idea of exploring, of seeking new experiences, of stretching beyond my comfortable boundaries.

But it seems to me that framing interests in the form of a Bucket List implies, “If I do these specific things, I will be happy.” Which also implies the reverse corollary: “If I don’t do these things, I will die unfulfilled.” And it is this potentially corrosive assumption that I dislike.

Because, like the journey George Bailey experienced in his own Wonderful Life as he looked back and saw with new eyes and an awakened heart the meaning of all he had previously thought pointless or wasted, what I have learned is that happiness isn’t about specific things you may or may not have done in your life.

It’s about how you live it.

Rachel S. Heslin has been fascinated since childhood by how we reconcile the thoughts in our head with the lives that we create. Her warmth and compassion are fueled by a delighted curiosity about ever-expanding possibilities, and she loves to help others identify and deeply connect with their true strength in order to have a powerful impact on the world. Her upcoming book, The Obstacle IS the Path, is scheduled for release in early 2015.  For more information, visit her at

Photo courtesy of hotblack

button print gry20 Dont Keep Your Dreams in a Bucket  Live Now!
pinit fg en rect gray 20 Dont Keep Your Dreams in a Bucket  Live Now!

Media: Tell the Addiction Recovery Story!

027 004 1024x738 Media: Tell the Addiction Recovery Story!

Last week, actress Kristen Johnston accepted two awards in Los Angeles from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

One was a special recognition award for her work educating the public about addiction and substance use issues.

The other award was a 2014 Voice Award, which she accepted on behalf of Greg Williams for The Anonymous People

The Anonymous People’s Voice Award was one of 10 films selected from 125 entries and represents its fifth national award.

A teary Kristen

Johnston cried when she accepted her special recognition award, but not happy tears. She said, “I’m furious that it takes a celebrity’s death to make people care about addiction, about depression.”

“It’s time to stop focusing on the entertainment community, as if it’s a problem only we have.”

Johnston talked about traveling the country after her book, Gutscame out. During all the events and appearances, “I’ve never met one celebrity there but I did meet thousands of recovering addicts,” she said.

Thank you, Kristen, as always, for pointing out what so obviously needs to be said.

As we perch on the edge of entering September and the 25th National Recovery Month celebrations (more than 500 scheduled coast-to-coast!), the focus needs to be on the 23 million regular folks in recovery.

A great many of those folks will walk, march, dance and yes, step to the microphone in public and say, “My name is Beth Wilson and I’m a person in long-term recovery from the disease of addiction. What that means is I haven’t had any alcohol or marijuana since May of 1991 and my life is ON FIRE!”

The media’s diversion tactics

I’m a former media person so I know well that “if it bleeds, it leads.” The 24-hour news cycle, including social media, seems to eek out every piece of negative, dysfunctional, stigma-loaded story angle when a celebrity goes public with addiction and/or depression.

While that may be a blanket statement, it is true that celebrity deaths like Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman, treatment admissions (too many to list), and multiple treatment stays (again too many to list) get scrutinized. I get it, to a degree, since they often live their lives very publicly amid mayhem and destruction.

When is the public going to say, “Enough, already!” When will thousands of viewers besiege general managers of local news networks–and their corporate counterparts–with letters, emails and phone calls demanding two things:

1. Stop the incessant–and insensitive–reporting about the train wreck of addiction without balancing said reporting with facts about the disease of addiction, and

2. Start reporting about the amazing nature of recovery because as we know, recovery works for millions in this country each and every day.

Now, I’m not placing the responsibility of telling recovery stories solely at the media’s feet. Each of us must share our recovery stories publicly, whether to extended family, coworkers, groups with whom we’re engaged, or from a podium.

How else can we change the nature of how addiction is portrayed in this country?

There is much to be done, but the terrific work of Kristen, Greg, Faces & Voices of Recovery, and the thousands of recovery carriers in hundreds of communities across the country is a fabulous start.

Recovery Month in September gives us momentum; let’s ramp it up. Where will you be sharing your story? One place I’ll be is the Big Texas Rally for Recovery in Austin on September 13.

Photo courtesy of butkovicdub

button print gry20 Media: Tell the Addiction Recovery Story!
pinit fg en rect gray 20 Media: Tell the Addiction Recovery Story!

Like a Phoenix, We Can Rise

IMG 5787 1024x682 Like a Phoenix, We Can Rise

The events of the last week–the passing of Robin Williams and our beloved greyhound Baylor, as well as the civil and social crisis in my home state of Missouri–sent me on a nocturnal search for my journal. I have years of trusting my gut at 3 a.m. when it says, “Get up and write.”

The beauty of gut writing lies in its therapy. Without fail, after my mind purges, I finally sleep.

So it was a few nights ago.

Time passages

From my journal, edited a bit for clarity:

Time shifts slowly sometimes, like the moments in a sleepless night. Time can also take a monumental leap forward with no pause for explanation. Each progression is maddening in its own way.

Sleep eludes me this night, due in part to an aching hip but more because of an aching heart. But what is it that really calls me from sleep?

I think it’s a lifetime of deep thinking; some might say depressive thinking. I grew up a brooding sort and sometimes, though I strive to find the bright light, darkness calls. I may peek into those ebony-laced shadows, as I am tonight, but’s it’s been a long time since I stayed for long.

And still I rise, wrote Maya Angelou. How is it that she rose, often bloody and torn, that others do as well, while some succumb to the darkness?

What keeps me from going there, into the black crevices of depression, when Robin Williams couldn’t stay out?

Brain circuitry, chemical imbalances, both of which I say I understand but I really don’t. I do believe that mental illness, of which addiction is a part, forever alters the game of life.

That part about time? Each second is a trial or a blessing, depending on the level of balance.

So much to learn, but more we should stop

There is so much to learn about what makes us–those with a brain disease or imbalance–tick, but knowledge and empathy is not nearly enough. There is plenty we can do to help but maybe there is more that we should stop.

Stop being so quick to judge, to gather a head of righteous steam.

Stop offering incendiary opinions, especially when a public microphone is offered.

Stop contributing to hateful rancor with name-calling and race-baiting.

Stop ignorant shouting from street corners. 

Stop pretending you know the whole story; chances are you don’t.

Instead, start leading with love. Let love guide your words, thoughts and deeds.

When you find yourself in the blackened shadows of a mean-spirited mindset, rise up instead and find your way back to the light. The light is where you belong.

Rise up, beyond appearances, beyond what you think you know. Rise up toward the willingness to believe you don’t have all the answers.

We’ll never know for sure why Robin couldn’t rise up one more time. We may never know for sure why the maelstrom in Ferguson, MO, happened the way it did.

But here’s what we can know: Our own phoenix is ready to rise. Answer the call of your own why, then do something different to illumine your light.

I’m convinced it’s the only way to feel peace.

Photo courtesy of Oleander

button print gry20 Like a Phoenix, We Can Rise
pinit fg en rect gray 20 Like a Phoenix, We Can Rise

Love is Glass Bookcases and Rainbow Bridges

final12 1 1024x673 Love is Glass Bookcases and Rainbow Bridges

Two interesting questions were posed to me yesterday.

1. What were the things I noticed when I first entered recovery?

2. As a person in recovery, what do I try to pass on to those new in recovery?

A giant glass bookcase

I don’t remember much about my first 12-step meeting. But I do recall a massive glass bookcase on one wall that contained all the literature the group used. I was given a blue book from the bookcase.

That group closed down a couple of years later and I gave no thought to the bookcase until it showed up in the lobby of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence in Kansas City where I had been hired as the director of prevention services.  (The organization is now called FirstCallKC.)

Although I don’t recall the details on how the bookcase arrived, I’m sure my boss (and sponsor and old horse-trader), finagled its arrival.

Odd that I thought about the bookcase yesterday.  Odder still that I related it to the transparency I saw in those early recovery meetings. People shared the raw details of their lives; I was raised to never let people really know what was going on with me.

Today, I talk a lot about transparency and allowing others to hold me accountable. In light of Robin Williams’ suicide, I think it’s critical that those of us blessed with recovery model transparency for others.

People with addiction or another brain disease deserve to feel safe and loved. They can’t know those things if the world is too busy judging instead.

My friend Tess Marshall posted recently to connect, connect, connect. Don’t take no for an answer if you know someone is suffering. Show them how to look beyond the reflection in the glass to the people standing around the bookcase ready and willing to help.

Silent killers

Depression, mental illness and addiction can be silent killers. It’s our responsibility, our duty to reach out, to reach up, to reach back to anyone and everyone who soundlessly screams.

Educate yourself, keep the conversation going and above all, be the love you want to give to others.

I heard an old Wynona and Naomi Judd song today that feels right to close . . . “Love can build a bridge between your heart and mine. Don’t you think it’s time?”
Photo courtesy of Archbob

**A special note about the photo:  Its rainbow colors and brilliant sunset are dedicated to Keeper Baylor, a retired racing greyhound who taught me plenty about building a bridge of love. Baylor crossed the Rainbow Bridge today and my heart is forever grateful. Race on, my beautiful boy.

button print gry20 Love is Glass Bookcases and Rainbow Bridges
pinit fg en rect gray 20 Love is Glass Bookcases and Rainbow Bridges

True Vision Comes From the Mind’s Eye

file2581238453083 1024x720 True Vision Comes From the Minds Eye

I don’t believe that a supreme being tests us–what would be the point?

I do believe that GUS (my conglomerate name for God, Universe and Spirit) wants only good for us.

I don’t believe that GUS conspires with a cosmic event scheduler who determines the situations and circumstances of our lives. Again, what’s the point? GUS doesn’t want us to be stressed.

I am inclined to believe that shit happens. Life happens. Sometimes it appears to happen randomly.  Sometimes it seems as if a lot of crappy stuff happens all at once.

Damn that cosmic event scheduler anyway!

The events aren’t as important as the lessons wrapped inside the events

My sweetie had eye surgery a couple of weeks ago to fix a detached retina. The surgeon didn’t give her many post-op instructions. He said that she could do most anything she wanted with the exception of flying anywhere or visiting high-altitude places for two months.

Then he casually mentioned that the sight wouldn’t return in her left eye for about one month.

You know, a month doesn’t seem like much when you’re coming off anesthesia and you’re simply glad you woke up!

It’s now been 17 days and her patience is wearing thin. Not only can she not see things in front of her, she has no peripheral sight either.

So, I’ve scared her by approaching on her left side. My foot has been stepped on. She’s turned and walked right into me.

She’s reached for something and knocked glass bottles into the bathtub. The quick trip we just took to Austin? Forget about glancing over your left shoulder into the passing lane; that ain’t happening.

A big lesson for her, as it would be for me, is asking for help and then not feeling guilty or upset with yourself when the help arrives.

The bigger picture lesson

There’s eyesight and there’s vision. My sweetie’s experience with eye surgery (She’s healing well, by the way!) has me thinking about maintaining the health of my inner vision.

On Saturday, Unity’s Daily Word was Vision. Love the timing! The affirmation was, I envision my highest good unfolding.

But this piece from the reading really caught my attention, “In my mind’s eye, I visualize overcoming a difficult situation and feel relief. I see a goal being reached and feel a sense of joy. I envision positive results and feel as if they have already manifested. ”

So back to the part about shit happens. Does that mean we’re powerless? Yes and no.

We are powerless over the circumstances that momentarily flatten us like a giant rolling medicine ball. But we are not powerless over our reaction to the circumstance. Heck, with all our positive visualizing, we may be able to alter the circumstances altogether!

Sound far-fetched? I invite you to try an experiment the next time you have a thing come up in your life, whether it’s surgery or an important meeting with your boss.

Visualize yourself already in the situation. See yourself as strong, confident and filled with trust for anyone else involved. Move further into the circumstances.

Tweet: Anytime your inner vision falters, return to “I am good enough. I am worthy. I am a person of faith.” #MindfulMonday @bheretoday

Let those beliefs absorb into your mind’s eye where true vision occurs. I’m willing to bet that the experiment goes along just fine. I’d like to hear about your results so be sure to share them here with our readers.

Don’t forget: I envision my highest good unfolding.

Namaste, my friends.

Photo courtesy of jdurham

button print gry20 True Vision Comes From the Minds Eye
pinit fg en rect gray 20 True Vision Comes From the Minds Eye