Jan 17

Consequences

As we begin to heal and rebuild our lives we have a tendency to expect everything to suddenly fall into place.  It can be frustrating when the consequences keep coming.  Recovery is a miracle but it isn’t a magic bullet, we may still have lessons to learn and some may come with a price.

Even though we might feel, and be, very different people than we were when we began the healing process we sometimes find that our choices from the past and certainly those we are making in the present have lasting repercussions.  In some cases the fall out isn’t even the result of own faulty thinking but from the decisions of others, from circumstances and events that may be utterly outside of our control.  After all of the progress we’ve made it can seem unfair that life continues to feel like a struggle.  This can be a challenging time for those who have worked so hard to repair the damage of the past.

For me the lesson usually lies in paying attention to the seemingly little things that come up in everyday life.  Often what seems very small at first can grow into something truly life changing.  As we mature in our recovery we are actually held to a higher standard.  Our choices hold more weight than they ever did before, our responses more meaningful and our thoughts far more powerful.  Even our consequences can feel more intense at this new level of awareness.  This is really a good thing, we have an opportunity to do, feel and think differently now.  So we will continue to be presented with situations that help us to grow and use what we have learned in every area of our experience.

We don’t get to pick and choose where we will apply the principles of recovery – they apply to everything.  Honesty is honesty, just because we aren’t lying about the big things anymore doesn’t mean we can lie about little things without at least internal consequences.  We can’t practice morality, forgiveness, responsibility or acceptance only when it suits us or where we think it’s important because we are beginning to understand that in the end everything is important.  Not that we should “sweat the small stuff” but that we don’t take the small stuff for granted anymore.

Understanding the importance of the seemingly small moments in life is a part of the journey.   Striving for progress not perfection in all things, we are gentle with ourselves when we falter.  We accept any resulting consequences without resentment and turn them over to our Higher Power.  We begin to celebrate even the smallest victories and all the progress we have made this far with new hope for the future.  In time we realize that not only our greatest lessons but our greatest blessings can come from the knowledge that there are no little things.

 

Jan 12

ANGER

If holding on to anger is like drinking poison the obvious question is how do we keep from being angry?  Much like any other emotion anger can sneak up on us without much warning.  How could we ever hope to keep it from happening when we can’t see it coming most of the time?

For me the emotion of choice early in recovery felt more like fear but in truth the two are just slightly different reactions to what we consider negative circumstances.  Emotions are responses, often natural and healthy, to what’s going on around and inside of us.  We need to feel them and work through them to be healed. This is where our quote comes into play…

“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.”  ~ Unknown origin

It is not in feeling emotions but in holding on that the poison begins to enter our systems.  The original feelings and events are magnified and multiplied as we play them out in our heads over and over again.  The initial flash of anger left unresolved turns into resentment, bitterness, hate and violence.   Fear grows into worry, grief, paranoia and depression.  In time we are consumed and the spiritual maladies run rampant.  Life becomes unmanageable and to some extent we are in fact dying, at least on the inside.

In recovery we learn that every challenge in life presents an opportunity for healing.  As we begin to let go of our need for control and admit our powerlessness we find that our initial reactions and emotions can be felt and addressed most effectively by connecting with the true Source of peace and power.  They are simply signposts along the journey that mark areas for growth, for practicing forgiveness and acceptance.  We finally begin to understand that we really cannot change anyone or anything until we change our own thinking.   Our emotions are a gift, tools to help us recognize the need for change.  As we begin to heal the obsession is lifted and we realize that fear and anger are only fatal if we refuse to let them go.

Dec 31

Resolutions or Recovery?

I’m not sure I believe in New Year’s resolutions. They’re fun to make and talk about but they just don’t seem to have any staying power.  I love the concept, love the idea of a fresh start I just don’t know if we take our resolutions very seriously.
“Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.”  ―  G.K. Chesterton

A resolution is so easily broken in the busyness of the new year, more like a wish than a choice. If we don’t stick to it perfectly it’s over, we throw it away and forget it. They just don’t seem to last. If you’re looking for change that lasts spend some time thinking about recovery instead of resolutions as you move into 2013.

Recovery is a choice, something that we work towards and experience every day. It is much more than a wish, it’s a way of living. What do you really want in your life? How do you want to live? What choices will you make? What will you create?

This year I choose recovery. I choose to be healthy. I choose to be happy, to forgive, to heal and let go. My recovery doesn’t have to be perfect for me to believe in it. As a matter of fact it will never be perfect. It’s a work in progress – a process – a choice that we make every day. One day at a time, recovery always works, if you work it. It’s true… Believe it.  Believe in yourself!  And have a happy and safe New Year!

~ Jane

Dec 13

Faith Never Sleeps

Faith is a key ingredient for making miracles.  More than desire, more than perseverance or even hope, it is faith that does the heavy lifting in recovery.  Saying that we’ve turned our lives over to a Power greater than we are doesn’t mean much if we don’t believe…

So it turns out that having faith is a full time occupation.  While desiring, hoping and persevering are so very important they are still things that we must do.  Our desires might change, hope might be fleeting and our drive may falter at times but faith is a constant.  It isn’t something we do, it’s something that we have.  Not only in the beginning while working the steps or in a prayer meeting.  Not just something we practice when things are good, or when things are really, really bad but something that consumes us and moves into every corner of our lives, every minute of every day.

This isn’t to say that we won’t have times when we’re confused or afraid.  This is where all those other tools we have gathered must be applied.  Neither does it mean that we won’t be faced with challenges and sometimes what might be considered weakness or even failure by some.  It is in our difficulties and trials that we find our greatest opportunities not only to use what we have learned so far but even more important – to lean on God.  These are the moments when we notice that something is different, the shift has occurred, the psychic change, that we really have been remade.  We have come to believe that there is peace available even on the battlefield, even in the eye of the storm.   Being able to find peace in the middle of the struggle is a miracle for us, unheard of, seemingly impossible at one point in our lives – and yet somehow we have found it.  Knowing that it is available and expecting to find that comfort is faith.  “We have come to BELIEVE…”  This is powerful; we have finally found something that lasts.

It is so often said that recovery is a process.  That is a blessing.  Far more valuable than if we were to receive the gift just once because we get to live it every day through new and wondrous experiences that wouldn’t mean quite so much if they were easy.   Our newfound strength grows and evolves in ways that we can’t quite imagine at the start.  Not knowing exactly what will happen next and believing in the value of that process is part of becoming who we were truly meant to be.   My prayer for you this holiday season is that you will be utterly convinced and convicted to live in faith and the peace it brings 24 hours a day.

Blessings to All ~ Jane

Dec 04

Extraordinary Moments

What makes something extraordinary?  What makes something meaningful?  Or beautiful?  Or important?  And what needs to happen for us to see the ordinary, the meaningless, the ugly, painful or unimportant circumstances as extraordinary moments in recovery?  Maybe a little time and just the right amount of light…

I’ve had some time over the last few days to look back on the events 2012 with some time and fresh lighting.  It’s been interesting for a variety of reasons.  For one thing I’ve been stuck in bed for a week and that is rare and humbling.  In every area of my life – home, work, volunteer stuff, family stuff, holiday stuff, etc – somebody has to pick up my slack.  Not so easy for a usually very able bodied recovering co-dependent.  Of course there have been opportunities to practice my program.  Physical recovery can be enlightening like that.  Let go… Be grateful… Be humble… Be patient…  All good stuff but the best stuff has been in the unlimited amount of time for reflection.

It has been an extraordinary year.  I mean completely out of the ordinary – busy, crazy and kind of sad with a fairly consistent undertone of crisis.  There have been many, many opportunities to practice patience and perseverance.  Far too many situations that required letting go.  Lots of endings and disappointments that demanded closure and even more that don’t need to be listed for you to get my point.  Does any of that sound familiar?  If it does I’m hoping that you’ve had a chance (or get the chance WITHOUT having to go under the knife!) to sit back and review your experiences in a different light.

Here’s what I mean:

Most of the year I “managed the unmanageable” to the best of my ability by putting out fires, working the Steps, working with others and working out.  It was actually pretty effective.  I thought I had made it through relatively unscathed but as it turns out prolonged stress (no matter how well managed) will show up in the body one way or another.  I believe that.  It’s a fact that excessive stress releases too much cortisol and there are plenty of physical maladies that can follow.  Even when we’re doing the work, taking the proper steps, breathing, meditating, accepting and believing that we’re okay sometimes it isn’t quite enough and we can’t help but wonder what we missed.

This week I found what I’d been missing.  Looking back I see so many miracles that had gone unappreciated this year.  Some of them were big and powerful but many more were small enough to go virtually unnoticed.  In moments of grief, even in death, comfort came from the most unlikely sources.  Fears and disappointments, even some nightmares played out but nearly all were followed by opportunities for true healing, with lessons and intimate, life changing discussions that would have never taken place in any other circumstance.  Painful lies and abuses were brought into the light but the truth that followed was almost sacred.  Every crisis has eventually passed in one way or another leaving a new level of respect and appreciation for the ordinary day in its wake.

I realize that just making it through isn’t enough, whether the day is wonderful, tragic or boring the miracles must be recognized and celebrated if we hope to find peace.  We don’t always get to choose what happens next.  It’s a dynamic world and it won’t always go as planned but God is always there with at least some small gifts to console us if we choose to receive them and let them grow.  It is the wonder, the acknowledgement of beauty and the deep heartfelt gratitude in every single experience that brings enlightenment…. I know I’m not quite there yet but it sure is nice to get a little glimpse of it every now and then.

Sending love and prayers for appreciating the extraordinary moments of recovery no matter what the day might bring.  Namaste

~Jane

 

Nov 08

FEAR: Understanding Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and Depression are most often rooted in some sort of fear.  We may not even realize the exact causes for our current state but fear usually plays a part in why we can’t seem to break free.  It is expressed and felt in different ways, situations and times so it can be hard to recognize…

I’ve spent a decent portion of my life living in fear without even knowing it.  Mainly of the worrying variety, mostly in relation to codependency and the people I love most.  Usually it doesn’t really feel like fear at first.  It might feel more like anger, general anxiety, confusion or helplessness.  It is an unmanageable and often unreasonable emotion that can take on a life of its own sometimes.  Building and gathering steam as I feed it with my own thoughts.

I believe this is where depression starts.  When we feel that we have utterly lost control and become consumed with our negative thoughts to the point where nothing else really seems to matter it begins to grow without requiring any more real effort on our part.  Grief, abuse and addiction are just a few of the many ways that chronic fear, anxiety and negativity can begin to sneak in and take over our lives.

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”   ~ Marcus Aurelius

It’s common to feel trapped and stuck in our negative emotions and thoughts, especially when we have been subjected to trauma of some kind.  We often feel that we no longer have control over our feelings and circumstances.  We replay events adding more and more emotion as time goes on and the pain grows.  This is where step-work can be helpful.  Depression and anxiety are spiritual maladies.  No matter how valid their root cause may be, it is our unhealthy and prolonged reaction that does the most damage.  It is in admitting our powerlessness that we find the Power to relieve the pain.  In learning to let go we choose to see what is still good in our lives and we begin to make changes that lead to healing.  Filling that emptiness with something more powerful than we are, with something good, drives out fear and fear is most often what keeps us stuck in destructive thinking patterns.

Since fear can express itself in so many ways we must be able to recognize it if we hope to address it.  Understanding and admitting our circumstances and our emotions is a crucial step in recovery.  There are many acronyms for the word FEAR.  It is a loaded and complex little four letter word that explains much about the path to spiritual, emotional and physical maladies of all kinds.  So let’s have a look at the two that seem to be most common and why they relate:

Frustration – This may be where it all starts.  Some sort of pain has come into our lives and we become frustrated with trying to fight it off.  Isolation, addiction and obsession are common reactions to prolonged frustration.  Rather than finding acceptance we fixate on the source of discomfort and whether truly severe or exaggerated it begins to draw our consistent attention.

Ego – Human beings tend to identify with everything through the false “self” of the ego.  It refers to the part of the mind that processes information and forms our perception of ourselves and everything that our lives touch.  It creates the explanation, the drama, every story and all of our attachments even though it doesn’t necessary speak the truth.  This is where the idea that our thoughts create our reality stems from… we believe that what we think is the full reality and that begins to express itself in the way we live whether we are right or wrong in our perception.

Anger – Believe it or not anger is almost always an expression of fear as well as being a very strong factor in creating more fearful emotions in its wake.  Some people get upset and cry while others become increasingly angry.  When anger comes into the mix it is very hard to see things clearly, creating pain and sickness as it grows.

Resentment – Resentments stem from unaddressed emotions.  Maybe there are conversations we need to have to put things right, people we need to forgive (including ourselves) and circumstances that we must accept before we will find relief.

Those four words do a lot to explain the fear in our lives and the different ways fear can relate to anxiety and depression.   Four more words that always get my attention further the explanation:

False ~ Evidence ~ Appearing ~ Real

This very much relates to the Ego as explained above.  If our thinking is faulty and unhealthy our circumstances will continue to follow that path.  We do not have to accept our fears as our ongoing reality.  They do not need to define us.  We do have access to a Power far greater than we are that can lift us out of the pit.  Understanding that our own thoughts are continually fueling our suffering and blocking comfort breaks the cycle.  We are no longer helpless.  We do have a choice.

Explore the website and previous posts for more information on holistic recovery and working the Steps.   Look around and be inspired to choose healing.

 

More detailed resources for working through painful emotions with the 12 Steps:

The Steps

http://www.emotionsanonymous.org/

Oct 27

Within Your Reach

I can’t help but wonder exactly how many people’s lives have been touched in some way by 12 Step recovery.  So many beautiful people broken and then incredibly remade by working the Steps.  In his desperate effort to save his own life and reaching out to those close enough to touch Bill Wilson really has played a part in saving the world….

I am especially moved by the young people I have met in recovery circles.  I can’t really imagine the challenges they face in rebuilding their lives in this culture.  And yet, they do.  I have been blessed to witness the transformation of seemingly hopeless addicts into some of the most inspiring people I have ever met.  Honest, hardworking, maybe still a little crude, but funny, clever, humble, full of hope and love, they’re the real deal.  Reaching out to others as a part of their own healing – their mission is simply to touch the lives within their reach and carry the message.

“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

Step Twelve is a mission statement.  A call to all those who have been healed to live a better life…. Not just to be sober, not even just to be a sponsor but to be a better friend, son, daughter, spouse, parent, employee and co-worker, genuine, vulnerable and imperfect.  There is more than sobriety here, as if that weren’t enough, there is more than recovery from grief, depression, abuse and all the other physical and emotional expressions of the spiritual malady – we are not the only ones affected by our healing.  The spiritual awakening heals the world one person at a time.

We don’t have to go to some remote and dangerous place on the planet to make a difference.  Look around and be encouraged.  Every single day that you work your own program for recovery you are making all the difference.  If you have never read the book Bill W. consider putting it on your list.  His biography is a story of hope for all people.  It’s pretty clear that he had no clue, not even a hint of understanding in regard to the number of people that would be carrying the message of the hope he found.  How amazing, the difference each one of us can make in this world just by doing what we can for the people within our reach.

Today I thank God for one brand new little girl I know who is blessed to be alive and well, beyond perfect in every way, living in a home with two of God’s most precious displays of living a healed life.  I am grateful to know them, inspired by all that they have done and blessed to have witnessed the miracle.

Oct 24

Co-dependency

Most of us didn’t start out thinking we were co-dependent.  We certainly weren’t trying to be but at some point doing the right thing, helping and being responsible turned into doing the wrong thing, enabling and trying to take responsiblity for things that were completely outside of our control. Recovering from co-dependency means learning to let go of our unhealthy attachments to other people.  And that is not as easy as it sounds…

“Letting go doesn’t mean that you don’t care about someone anymore. It’s just realizing that the only person you really have control over is yourself.”  ~ Deborah Reber

For me, the problem with co-dependent behavior is that it is so inexplicably entangled with love.  This may not be the case for everyone, but for many, co-dependency is most frequently played out in relationships with the people we care about the most.  For better or worse, whether family or friends, these are the people we share our lives with and usually they are the subject of our thoughts for the majority of our waking hours.  Our own happiness becomes secondary, unimportant, dependent from moment to moment on someone else’s state of happiness and well being.  It’s easy to say, “Detach, let go, move on… “  But when you’re talking about your spouse?   Your parents?  Siblings?  Your own children?  Then it’s not quite so easy to do.

Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint where our co-dependent behaviors began to take root.  In some cases they go all the way back to childhood.  When the trauma of alcoholism or addiction, mental or physical illness or abuse is present in the family of origin co-dependency is extremely common.  As children our feeling of safety depends primarily on our parents, their relationship with each other and the knowledge that we are cared for.  In situations where we become the care-giver or have been over exposed to the burdens of the adults in the home that inner child isn’t allowed to develop fully or mature in a healthy way.  Our coping mechanisms seem to follow us into our adult lives and they don’t usually serve us well.

There are of course other causes for co-dependency.  Relationships that involve abuse or addiction are common triggers for unhealthy thoughts and reactions at any age.  This can also lead to a long list of self numbing behaviors which happen to include turning to drugs and alcohol ourselves.   Interestingly enough the reverse is also true.  The unhealthy relationships and situations involved with substance abuse can lead to co-dependent behavior that must be addressed in sobriety.  Grief, depression, eating disorders and many other difficulties can be involved in the cycle as well.  No matter which came first the link between co-dependency and addiction is important to note, especially because the road to recovery is so similar.

Programs like Co-Dependents Anonymous and Al-Anon follow the same 12-Step path that has proven so successful for alcoholics and addicts all over the world.  It seems that these steps can work to address all sorts of emotional disturbances and spiritual maladies in the same way because our thoughts and behavior can become an addiction in and of themselves.  Working the steps, having a sponsor and being involved in a recovery minded community provide support and direction as we move toward healing.

Unlike the clear line of demarcation between sobriety and relapse, co-dependent behavior isn’t cut and dried.  We walk a fuzzy line to create healthy relationships, sometimes with very unhealthy loved ones.  We can’t stop interacting, thinking and feeling altogether and we shouldn’t.  Like the recovering addict we must work the program every single day, paying attention to old thought patterns and behaviors as they crop up and choosing new and better responses.  Combined with some healthy boundaries, self care and holistic healing modalities like yoga, meditation and EFT, 12-Step programs give us the tools we need to detach in a loving way that supports everyone involved.

Remember, your recovery is for you not for your loved ones.  Maybe your concern for someone else is what brought you here but don’t let it be the focus of your healing.  One of the most important lessons we learn is that we are powerless over others.  We cannot control them and we are not responsible for them.  They do not define or complete us no matter how much we love them.  We are no longer rescuing or excusing anyone’s behavior, we are no longer dependent on someone else’s happiness or success, now we are learning to create and experience our own.

For more information on the Steps and co-dependency:

The Steps

Co-dependency Literature

http://www.coda.org/

http://www.nar-anon.org/Nar-Anon/Nar-Anon_Home.html

http://www.al-anon.alateen.org/

Oct 21

Sidewalks

I hope you’ll take a few short minutes to read this lovely share from our friend “Old Chicka” as she relates how Al-Anon has made a difference in her daily walk.  I believe you will be blessed and inspired.  I know I am…

 

I’m a grateful member of Al-Anon.  Before joining this group I felt hopeless, helpless and worthless.  My life consisted of being dragged through one bad dream after another without any sense of how I could better a situation that had gone on, in one form or another, my entire life.

Through this program I’m slowly learning to remain conscious and alert to my deeply ingrained feelings of helplessness, to evaluate each situation, my responsibility in it, and my response to it.  It’s an ongoing process I sometimes fail to apply in time to stop the backslide to where I’ve spent most of my life, but it’s so much easier now to climb out of the despair pit and get back on track!

The following which, pre-Al-Anon, made NO sense to me, is now one of my go-to reflections when my thinking runs amuck:

Gratefully,

Old Chicka

Life in Five Short Chapters

 by Portia Nelson

CHAPTER  1 . . .

I walk down the street. There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk. And I fall in. I am lost. I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.

CHAPTER  2 . . .

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.  I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I am in the same place. But it isn’t my fault. It takes a long time to get out.

CHAPTER  3 . . .

I walk down the same street and there is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it there, and still I fall in. It’s a habit. But my eyes are open and I know where I am. It is my fault and I get out immediately.

CHAPTER  4 . . .

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.

CHAPTER  5 . . .

I walk down a different street.

 

 

 

Oct 19

Stories: Sharing Experience, Strength and Hope

Starting a new page in the Inspiration category to share some stories that inspire.  I have heard some crazy stories…  Some wonderfully incredible and miraculous tales that have encouraged me greatly in my own recovery.  Sharing our experiences is powerful stuff.  Sharing hope with others who walk in our shoes is medicine for the soul.

“Hope is the companion of power, and mother of success; for who so hopes strongly has within him the gift of miracles.”  ~ Samuel Smiles

Now let’s proceed with the understanding that you don’t need to be an alcoholic or an addict to gain insight and healing from the practices of Alcoholics Anonymous.  I have said many times that I think there are very few people on this planet that wouldn’t benefit from applying these principles and they certainly speak to those who are interested in healing or recovery of any kind. One of those principles is carrying the message of the hope we’ve found to others.

For anyone that’s spent time in “the rooms” of 12 Step programs, the words experience, strength and hope have especially significant meaning.  For anyone who hasn’t, let me elaborate…  There are several different kinds of meetings but my favorites have always been what are commonly referred to as speaker meetings.   Exactly like it sounds, someone gets up in front of the crowd and shares their story.  Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes so emotional you can almost hear everyone holding their breath – heads nodding in agreement and understanding with smiles, laughter and sometimes tears.   These are not war stories, not a time to dwell on the pain of the past but to acknowledge the truth of what happened and share hope for the future.

That is what I’d like to do here in this space.  Whether it be healing from addiction, depression, grief, relationships or the numbers on a scale we all have something to share from our recovery that can make an enormous difference to those who still suffer and provide motivation to those who are on the path to wellness.   So no matter what brought you here I hope you will read on as stories are posted and be inspired.

 

If you would like to share your story of experience, strength and hope please email it to jane@janedoerecovery.com.   

You are welcome to include a meaningful quote and or/photo but most of all I invite you to share those moments of clarity, the psychic change, the spiritual awakening and the landmarks that led to healing.  Please know that your anonymity will be protected and is actually preferred so feel free to use a pseudonym.  Thank you for your willingness to share!

 

 

 

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