Surrender

See Ya, 2015; Look Out, 2016!

Happy-New-Year-2016-Quotes

Are you ready to take the annual leap, the deep-dive plunge into 2016? Not that you have much choice, since the clock ticks the same for everyone, but are you ready?

It’s easy to shrug your shoulders and reply, “as ready as I’ll ever be,” and that’s fair. Maybe you’re the sort of person who likes to roll with the flow and see what happens next.

You’ll get no judgment from me. I say go with what feels best for you, but please, let that be a mindful decision.

Be mindful about your beginnings

The final days of 2015 give you a chance to frame how you want 2016 to begin.  You decide what you want to leave behind and what you take into the new year.

It’s kind of like moving from one place to the next. When you’re packing, you pile up things to toss, things to donate and things to move with you into your new space.

Again, let these be mindful decisions.

So, where’s your head these days? Are you rushing to complete an impossible task list? Are you trying to do everything just right so your boss, kids, best friend and significant other are happy with you? Does the word stressed describe you pretty well?

Please do yourself a favor and use today and tomorrow as Stop It days. What are Stop It days? These are times when you raise your right hand to whatever is stressing you, like you would raise your hand to stop traffic.

You are stopping traffic, the traffic thoughts in your head that not only drive you crazy, they eventually crash and burn, taking you down too.

Stop It time is a real solution to hammer home the notion that you have to quit doing some of the things you’re doing. Stop It time gives you a chance to surrender the thoughts, attitudes and behaviors that no longer serve you.

[bctt tweet=”Surrender your mental debris by 11:59 pm on Dec. 31 so that Jan. 1 is a sparkling slate ready for the 2016 YOU! “]

Go to your happy place

I’ve had a phenomenal 2015 filled with lots of adventures. Nothing impacted me more than UNITE to Face Addiction on October 4.

The memory of standing beneath the Washington Monument on the National Mall with 25,000 people passionate about addiction and recovery is seared into my soul. Knowing we made history with the formation of Facing Addiction, the nation’s first organization to comprehensively address America’s number one public health issue, still chokes me up.

As 2015 draws to a close and I ponder next year’s possibilities, I’m going to my happy place–the beach!

Yes, my sweetie and I will ring in the new year on the Emerald Coast of Florida. The forecast calls for daytime highs in the mid-50s to low-60s and rain. I’m packing sweats, a rain jacket and a stocking cap.

I don’t care because I’ll be in my happy place, the place where I find release and renewal. It’s a perfect combination to begin a new year.

My prayer for you is a happy place where you feel your own personal release and renewal. New beginnings are the best and I wish only the best for you, my valued readers. I appreciate you and can’t wait to see what 2016 holds for all of us!

Drop Your Black/White Self–Embrace Gray!

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Originally published in July 2010; reprinted here while I’m on a tiny hiatus this week working on the UNITE to Face Addiction campaign.
In the July edition of O, The Oprah Magazine, Martha Beck describes the either-or, black or white personality type (http://www.oprah.com/spirit/Martha-Becks-Problem-Solving-Strategies-Decision-Making-Advice).You know, the person who, when presented with two options, can make a snap decision and by golly, not be persuaded off the point.  It’s the car buyer who says, “I’ve driven Fords all my life, never had a problem, had 10 of them, why would I buy a Chevrolet now?It’s the consumer who buys the same brand of bread, milk, ice cream or potato chips even when presented with another brand at a lesser cost  because he or she has always purchased that kind.  It’s the traveler who would never contemplate flying to a destination even though driving by car takes a thousand times longer.

Responding to dual-emmas

Republican or Democrat.  Aisle seat or window.  Baseball or football.  Mashed potatoes or baked.

Beck writes that “limiting ourselves to one answer means we often stop seeing what’s actually happening” and that we tend to make these decisions based on our history of always responding in the same way.

I’m usually envious of people who easily make decisions about where to sit on Southwest Airlines or which side dish they want with their steak dinner.  Plus there is a part of me that is hyper-critical of my inability to choose one side of the fence.  It’s the “what if the grass is greener?” syndrome.

Admittedly, I am minimalizing what Beck calls “dual-emmas.”  Her article discusses deeper life decisions, like whether to begin dating two weeks after a major break-up.  There is a camp of people who would emphatically say either, “Life is short, go for it,” or “Are you crazy?  Why would you do that to yourself so soon?”

[bctt tweet=”Gray gives you permission to not be black or white. #BeYou”]

Then, there is the camp where I live:  “Uh, I don’t know.  If I didn’t, would I . . . on the other hand, if I did, I think I might . . . but what if I . . . and on the other hand, I think . . .

My problem is I think too much and then I run out of hands.  My life is full of dual-emmas.  I can see both sides of situations and have spent much of my life saying dumb things like, “Let me be the Devil’s advocate here,” only to discover that the Devil doesn’t need an advocate.

Learn to be a both-and person

In recovery, I’ve convinced myself that my old journalism school training of considering situations objectively has become a detriment.  Seeing something from multiple angles can be exhausting.  I’ve often wondered if considering multiple outcomes makes me kind of wishy-washy; just make a decision, for God’s sake!

Now though, Beck gives me permission to not feel pressured into being an either-or person.  I can be a both-and person!

I don’t have to force myself into black or white.  I can be gray!

My friend Cathy Dunn, a very wise woman, says, “Gray gives you permission.”

Now that is a statement of freedom.  All these years I thought the color gray was dull and lifeless.  What an epiphany to realize that gray actually is the direct route to a technicolor life!

Thank you Martha Beck, and to my pal, Cathy, may you be blessed with a rich palette of shades of gray.

Photo courtesy of gamerzero

K.I.S.S.: Keep It Simple Sweetie

_DSC0862One of my early recovery mentors was a diminutive woman named Shirley Rapp who lived and breathed the 12 steps.

Shirley, who died a few years ago, wrapped her recovery around me when I was new and scared. She’d say, “Now honey, you’re gonna be alright. All you have to do right now is stay sober and God will take care of everything else. Just keep it simple, sweetie.”

An acronym of love

I don’t think KISS–originally known as Keep It Simple, Stupid–is talked about much anymore. I never liked that version of the acronym anyway. Shirley’s version–Keep It Simple, Sweetie, is much gentler and more loving.

When you’re new to recovery, keeping things simple is a really, really good idea (not a bad plan for long-term recovery either!) but attaching a derogatory term like stupid only emphasizes a recovering person’s low self-image and esteem.

Instead, using sweetie eliminates the negative connotation. It’s softer and helps me take it easy on myself.

Most recently, Keep It Simple, Sweetie has opened my eyes to the beautiful surroundings of working the 12 steps all over again with a woman who reminds me a little bit of Shirley.

Step One: Powerlessness and Unmanageability

Working through the steps with a couple of decades of sobriety is an interesting proposition. For instance, I didn’t really understand that honesty is involved in becoming aware of my lack of power and seeing how my life is unmanageable.

Digging into what honesty means is daunting. Think about this one: Dishonesty includes the delusion of control.

Being honest implies telling the truth which is fairly easy until you begin to consider all the lies we tell ourselves, like: we’re happy when we’re not, we’re satisfied when we’re not or we’re okay when we’re not.

So, are you completely honest today?

Acceptance is the key

The trick is to do this work with no judgment. Any thought I have like, I should know this already with 24 years in recovery needs to exit the head space.

Instead, I keep it simple, sweetie. Go easy, be loving, be gentle. Listen to the words of Melody Beattie as you say then aloud:

We do not move forward by resisting what is undesirable in our life today. We move forward, we grow, we change by acceptance.

And these words:

Overcome not by force. Overcome by surrender.

Just as I never really thought about Step One including honesty, I also didn’t realize that it included acceptance.

I’ve always just plowed through the first step as it’s written: I am powerless over alcohol and my life is unmanageable.

There’s a fairly famous story in the book Alcoholics Anonymous called “Acceptance Was the Answer” (fka “Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict”) in which the author describes finally getting to the core understanding of how it is possible to stay sober.

Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept my life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.

Indeed, acceptance is the necessary response to  all my problems–real or perceived–today.

Now that’s what I call keeping it simple, sweetie.

Photo courtesy of scottsann

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

Ho-Hum About Recovery? Notice Your Words

It’s our responsibility in recovery to use respectful, honest, health-giving words. We can no longer use defeating, shaming, or derogatory words. ~ Touchstones: A Book of Daily Meditations for Men ©1986, 1991 by Hazelden Foundation.

Well damn. There’s that three-letter phrase that all-too-often kicks my butt: “responsibility in recovery.” Whenever I read the words or hear them, I revert to a dirt-kicking kid who whines, “No, I don’t wanna be responsible (add a foot stomp for emphasis).”

The Touchstones reading says that we have a responsibility to use words that are positive, or “health-giving.” We’re even told the kind of words we can’t use–not shouldn’t use–but can’t use.

Or else what? That’s my question; maybe yours too.

Or else we lose recovery? Possibly, in a manner of speaking. I may not drink alcohol again if I speak badly of myself or others, but I know from repeated experiences that I will probably end up consuming a cocktail of bitterness laced with guilt and regret.

And those are the things that could cause an addiction relapse.

The power of words

[bctt tweet=”The words you use are the thoughts that become your experiences. #PositiveWords”] If you’re a Tony Robbins fan, you’re probably aware of his Transformational Vocabulary approach to describing experiences.

Tony says the words that you use to describe your emotional state become your experience.

Speaking of words, the Global Language Monitor reports there are 1,250,109.8 words in the English language, as of January 1, 2014. (By the way, the millionth word was Web 2.0, which seems like two words to me, but hey, tomato/tomahto.)

Robbins claims there are more than 3,000 words in Roget’s Thesaurus for various emotions. Of those, 1,051 words represent positive emotions and 2,286 are for negative emotions.

Let that sink in for a minute. We are more than twice as likely to describe our emotions with negative words than with positive words. Remember: The words you use are the thoughts that become your experiences.

Is this hocus-pocus language stuff true?

I believe my state of being–of how I show up each day–tells the tale. Lately, I’ve been agitated, short-fused, impatient and overly sensitive. I haven’t been sleeping well and I’ve been jumping into work most mornings without my usual quiet journal time.

When I go back and look at the language I’ve used to describe my feelings, the phrases are I’m not worthy, I’m not good enough, I’m not smart . . . you get the idea.

Well, jeez, it’s no wonder I’m all out of sorts! It’s time to turn this ship around!

I read an article recently that made me realize I’m practicing irresponsible recovery, the opposite of what the Touchstones reading advises. See what you think: “Do You Have an Addictive Personality? There’s Hope for You” in TheElephantJournal.com.

Author Monique Amado lists 10 ways we can improve our recovery lives by focusing on what we do want instead of what we don’t want. You’ll see why I’m enamored with this whole language thing.

1. Acknowledge that you can’t go on like you have.

2. Change your thinking by replacing disempowering thoughts with empowering thoughts.

3. Become aware of the words that are coming out of your mouth.

4. Stop saying mean things to yourself.

5. Start saying kind things to yourself.

6. Be intentional about your action.

7. Tell someone.

8. Notice.

9. Be gentle with yourself.

10. Don’t give up. Ever.

If you want to go a little deeper into what Monique wrote, be sure to click the link above the list. It’s really great stuff. If all 10 are too much to tackle, focus on the ones I’ve highlighted in bold, and especially on #10.

As a wise woman said to me recently, you’ve got to learn to love yourself. Do not ever give up on you.