Heart Connections

How Your Thoughts Impact Your Recovery

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Courtesy of Gretchen Rubin’s Facebook page. http://buff.ly/1VK7cj1

 

I read something recently that turned my day around completely and allowed me to start over. Who says a 24-hour period begins at midnight?

Recovery often presents itself as an insightful opportunity to choose mindfulness and reclaim your sense of self-worth, which, by the way, never left you. Your thoughts simply caused you to temporarily misplace it.

From the mind of Jon Kabat-Zinn

“It is a big step toward reclaiming our lives when we realize that, no matter what their content, good, bad, or ugly, we do not have to take our thoughts personally.

“When we don’t automatically take them personally, or believe the stories about reality that we build from them, when we can simply hold them in awareness with a sense of curiosity and wonder at their amazing power given their insubstantiality, their limitations and inaccuracies . .

“Then, in that moment at least, we are already free, ready to act with greater clarity and kindness . . . ”

~ Mindfulness for Beginners

Think about the stories you tell yourself, often repeatedly, on any given day. As a storyteller, I usually have multiple versions of each story and lots of drama involved with mine!

What happens when you stop and tell yourself the story is nothing more than a script you’ve written? What happens when you step away from being the person writing the script or telling the story and become a spiritual being watching the person with the story?

Recovery grows sweeter again.

Here’s what happened to me over the weekend

I stopped. Just stopped the story.

I clearly saw the story’s insignificance, even its untruths. And, as an observer, I saw without judgment so that I began to loosen the ropes of self-condemnation that often tighten around me.

The last part of the above quote, “ready to act with greater clarity and kindness,” are true action words, like one long verb. As I reflected further, I remembered that I’m not hanging out in this world to accumulate things or to get what I think I deserve.

No, I’m here to give–kindness, charity, comfort, compassion and love.

Here’s the most critical part: I must hold myself in the center of givingness. The observing me has a much easier time staying in the middle than my ego does. In fact, staying out of the center is probably the reason why the ego pushes me to stay busy doing.

Just be-ing tends to ruin the ego’s day. The spiritual brat in me loves to stick out her tongue at that thought! Progress, not perfection!


UNITE to Face Addiction update: If you’re reading this early on Monday and you’re still at home, set your DVR to record the Dr. Oz show before you head out. On today’s episode, Dr. Oz will give a behind-the-scenes look the Rally on October 4th. You’ll get to see great clips with the artists and members of the crowd. Don’t miss it!

 

We Ended the Silence

final songIt’s been a week since 25,000 hearty souls gathered on the National Mall in Washington, DC to UNITE to Face Addiction. Finally, I have a bit of breathing room to write here.

These final weeks leading up to one of the most thrilling moments of my career have stirred a myriad of emotions for me. I’ve done precious little journal writing, but here is a peek inside my thoughts and feelings:

Sept. 20: Right now I’m asking myself how I feel about the day that is fast approaching–the day that has been little more than a square box on a calendar.

I think about the people I’ve known who are gone too soon because of addiction. We are so often marginalized as bad people who just couldn’t get it together.

Years ago–I wasn’t very far into my own recovery–I stood in front of my aunt’s casket while the family whispered in shamed tones. I gazed at her lifeless body, so small in an enormous satin pillow bed and I thought, how sad that I was probably the only person in the funeral home who truly understood the torture that my aunt experienced.

Much more recently, when my old high-school friend died under circumstances that his family can’t or won’t acknowledge, my heart broke thinking that the measure of his life is forever marked by the tragedy of addiction. Never mind that he was a gifted scientist, devoted father and a funny, funny friend.

Sept. 22: I remind myself about how we’ve changed norms around smoking, HIV/AIDS, breast cancer and other formerly shamed-filled health conditions. It sometimes helps when the feelings of “oh, what’s the use?” creep to the edges of my mind. Doubt is a persistent companion.

Sept. 27: I can barely believe that we are this close. I have this jittery, nervous feeling that probably comes no where close to what Greg and Jim are feeling right about now. Our eyes have been on the prize for so long that the real prize–ending the silence around addiction–seems nebulous.

How many people have suffered endlessly and needlessly because they felt no hope? That they had no options? That no one cared?

In desperation, how many people take their own lives because they can no longer endure the agony of addiction? My heart hopes beyond hope that we’re going to turn this massive ship around. My soul knows the truth of our mission and my whole being breathes gratitude for the part I’ve played.

Sept. 30: Tom Hill writes that a little more than 10 years ago this country was on the brink of passing constitutional amendments that would make same-sex marriage illegal. Today, the opposite is true as gays and lesbians are free to marry whomever they choose in any state.

Our goal is quite lofty as well. Legislative measures that provide insurance coverage on par with other medical conditions. An overhaul of the justice system so that offenders get treatment services mixed with their sentences.

An end to discriminatory workplace, housing and educational practices that keep people with addiction from obtaining entry into those systems.

News coverage that no longer glorifies the horrors of drug use. An elimination of practices in the film, television and entertainment industries that normalizes drug and alcohol use.

Celebrating recovery from addiction just as recovery from cancer or heart disease or AIDS/HIV is celebrated.

Can we do the same in 10 years? I do not know.

Oct. 4: I’ve written 10.04.15 so many times, typed it countless more, never feeling the immense significance of its meaning until today.

It’s here. I’m hopped up on three hours sleep, caffeine and pure, old-fashioned excitement.

Please, God, bring us people today. Keep the rain in the clouds if you would, and let those buses roll into DC.

Open the hearts and minds and wallets of all those present–and watching the livestream online–so they may heed the call to be a part of the journey to End the Silence.

It’s Time.

It’s Time to End the Silence

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See the photo above this post? It was taken last week on a sultry summer afternoon near the foot of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

Now imagine the grassy area that you see stretching toward the Washington Monument filled with tens of thousands, maybe upwards of 100,000 people on October 4, only 70 days from this writing.

Can you see them on both sides of the reflecting pool? If you look closely at the photo, you can make out the World War II Memorial which looks like it’s right next to the Washington obelisk. Actually, it’s about halfway between the Lincoln and the Washington monuments.

About three quarters of a mile past the Washington Monument lies the Capitol Building currently encased in scaffolding. From the U.S. Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, the National Mall stretches nearly two miles.

Can you picture the scene on October 4th? People from every state in the nation, every walk of life, every diverse background, coming together to form a united bond against the common enemy: addiction.

It’s time; it’s our time

The UNITE to Face Addiction Rally is all-systems go for October 4th. I hope you’ve heard about it by now; I’ve written about it here a couple of times.

What is UNITE to Face Addiction? It’s a transformative event that will make history as thousands come together to ignite and build a movement to address one of the most pressing health issues of our time.

UNITE to Face Addiction is a grassroots advocacy initiative bringing together people, communities, and organizations working on addiction solutions across a wide spectrum. We are coming together to let the nation know that addiction is preventable and treatable, that far too many of those affected have been incarcerated, and that people can and do get well. Addiction can no longer be ignored.

October 4th is our day; it’s our time. At this writing, we are 70 days away from October 4th, the day 50,000+ people descend on the National Mall to help the 22 million Americans with addiction, to stand up for the 23 million in recovery and to end the silence around the crisis that kills 350 people every single day.

That’s right. One person, usually a young person, dies every four minutes from an alcohol- or drug-related incident.

It’s our time.

The National Mall

My sweetie and I wanted to get a taste of what it might feel like to be at the Rally on October 4th.
Sitting on the steps beneath the Lincoln Memorial, I could almost hear the echoes of all those who took their place in history while leaving the memories of their causes on the Mall.

I thought about how the ground had shaken with the footsteps of marchers for civil rights, women’s rights and gay rights. I thought about how the water in the reflecting pool had collected all the tears shed for lives lost when breast cancer and AIDs were shameful secrets.

The very air around us absorbed decades of cries demanding freedom to live with respect and dignity, free from stigma and discrimination, deserving of empathy and respect.

Soon–in less than 70 days–people in recovery from addiction, their families and friends and entire supportive communities will take to the National Mall to stake our well-deserved place in history.  It’s time to end the silence that shrouds addiction and come together as a single unit demanding solutions.

It’s time to let the nation and the world know that we are Facing Addiction. It’s time to Recover Out Loud.

Join us, please. For more information, go to FacingAddiction.org.

Surrender to Recover; UNITE to Face Addiction

5057210527_b5d69ae811_zHave you ever wondered why some people “get” recovery and other people–actually, most people– don’t?

I’ve asked myself that question for years. Come to find out, so has my dear friend and recovery mentor, John.

Don’t you love honest and transparent conversations with people you love?

Miracles and a servant’s attitude

I’ve known John for more than 20 years. I’ve always appreciated his direct, often matter-of-fact way of looking at recovery from alcoholism and other addictions.

He’s the one who taught me about the ickiness of self-pity (“Sometimes we sit in our own s*&t because it feels warm.”).

I’ve admired his compassionate nature and his dedication to the active growth of his spiritual life.

Last week, I learned something new about John, and it’s a biggee. I learned that as a man in long-term recovery, he never gives up on people who are so very sick with addiction, even when their lives are at risk. He never lets go of hope.

“How can I?” he asked me. “I don’t know when God is done with them.”

John believes in miracles and in being a servant of God.

The gnawing, haunting question

So, why do some people stay in recovery while a majority of people don’t?

John and I drilled deeply into the why behind never drinking or using drugs again. Or maybe a better question is why do some people surrender completely and some never do?

For me–and for John–the willingness to surrender our lives every day is a beacon that guides our travels. Oh, we continue living as willful, bull-headed people, but we make sure that the Power that guides us is bigger than our wills.

People who surrender are willing to change, to accept new ideas, thoughts, beliefs and actions. They stay open to learn new things. Perhaps above all else, they are honest with themselves.

Honesty, open-mindedness and willingness–those are the essential elements that drive my life in recovery. Millions of people never reach the H.O.W. of recovery though. I believe the layers of fear, shame and self-loathing are wrapped too tightly, making it hard to break free.

Society doesn’t help–doesn’t do a very good job of ripping those layers away from the outside. If it did, maybe my brothers and sisters who struggle with addiction would find the inside work easier.

We’re working on it, though. There’s a nationwide campaign underway to help people understand why it’s necessary to treat everyone with addiction with the same love and hope that John shows his friends.

UNITE to Face Addiction

Lapel StickerUNITE to Face Addiction is a grassroots advocacy initiative that is demanding solutions to a national health crisis that impacts more than 45 million people directly.

On October 4th, the group will mobilize on the National Mall in Washington, DC to let the nation know that addiction is preventable and treatable, that far too many of those affected have been incarcerated and that people can recover.

We can eliminate the shame and stigma that can keep people with addiction trapped in a cycle of self-destruction. It’s not their fault . . . finding fault is not the point. Finding solutions is the point.

We have to make recovery mainstream so that more people and their loved ones have a welcome and broad entry point. It’s about time, don’t you think?

I’ll be on the National Mall the first weekend in October. I’d love to see you there too.

We are–and will–UNITE to Face Addiction.

Photo courtesy of Portland Prevention

What Do Josh Hamilton and I Have in Common?

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The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is human connection. ~ Johann Hari, Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs

Baseball lovers hold mighty big dreams as they follow their teams through the valleys and peaks of a 162-game season–and then maybe score seats to a World Series game.

My year was 1985–an eternity ago–when my Kansas City Royals came from behind to beat their Missouri nemesis the St. Louis Cardinals in Game Seven of the I-70 Series.

I caught the World Series long ball again in 2010 and 2011 as a newly minted Texas Rangers fan living in Dallas. My sweetie and I were able to attend several games courtesy of Major League Baseball (and their work with our former employer, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids).

That’s how I first connected with Josh Hamilton.

Josh’s dramatic rise and fall . . . and rise

One of the detriments to a public figure’s life is that everything is revealed and nothing is sacred. When I entered recovery, I worried about my employer and friends learning my deep, dark secret of addiction (Thank God we’re making HUGE strides to eliminate that stigma; more about that in next week’s post.).

But Josh had the media, including so-called “citizen journalists” circling him constantly as he trudged through his early recovery days. I tip my hat to anyone who deals with public sobriety with grace and dignity. Josh certainly did.

And his fans rallied behind him. Who cares whether they selfishly rooted for his bat or for his personal life. I’d like to think it was more of the latter than the former.

[bctt tweet=”I’d like to think that everyone in recovery from addiction is surrounded with love that is kind, gentle and unconditional.”]

Before the 2010 Series, one of my former Partnership colleagues wrote in an online journal, “I will be rooting for Josh Hamilton because he is living proof that drug addiction is not hopeless and those suffering from this disease are not helpless. Recovery is possible with the support of family, friends, professionals and in Josh’s case, caring, thoughtful teammates (who celebrated their ALCS Championship without alcohol out of respect to Josh’s recovery).”

The recovery path of Josh Hamilton hasn’t been an easy one, as is the case for so many. Maybe he distanced himself from unconditional love or maybe he succumbed to temptation.

There’s no point in picking apart why his disease came out of remission. The only person well-served by that exercise is Josh himself. But once again, the media–God bless them–scoured through his life.

A few of them found and wrote about what I know to be true about Josh–and I’ve never even met the man. Addiction is a disease that fries the brain’s circuitry and causes people to make bad decisions that put their wellbeing and those they love in grave jeopardy.

The truth about addiction

Only someone who lives with MS or cancer or heart disease can truly relate to someone else living with MS or cancer or heart disease. They don’t need to know the specifics; they just know what it’s like. The rest of us can only sympathize, love and offer support.

The same is true with addiction. Only someone with addiction can really get what it’s like to live with addiction.

That’s the bond that Josh Hamilton and I have. I may never meet him, but he is my  brother in recovery.

The very best thing anyone else can do for us is sympathize, offer support and surround us with love. That’s the key to addiction recovery.

Fortunately, after a disastrous move to Anaheim to play for the California Angels, Josh is back with the Rangers. He debuted with the team earlier this month . . . to a standing ovation of support.

He responded with several days of consecutive hits, including a pinch-hit, walk-off double to beat the Red Sox.

Coincidence? Not if you have faith in the power of human connection.

Photo courtesy of Keith Allison