Courage to change

The courage to change is really the ability to make wise choices.  That’s what the 12 steps are all about.  That’s why we continue with steps 10, 11 and 12.

It takes courage to admit that you are not who you thought you were.  It takes courage to let go of the familiar and decide to explore unfamiliar territory.

One of the things that mindfulness has brought to my awareness is my duplicitous nature.  On the one hand I want to be grateful.  But on the other, I slide so quickly into resentment and anger.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that resentment and gratitude cannot co-exist.  It seems as if gratitude exists on a conscious level, and resentment exists on a subconscious level.  And here’s the problem:   My subconscious mind doesn’t agree with my conscious attempts to change.

I am becoming more aware of the thoughts that pass through my mind.  For instance, I’m wondering right now if what I have to say about this topic will be useful.  And I realize that it’s just a thought – nothing more.  In fact, it’s more like a feeling.  I’m feeling a little apprehensive about my ability to say something helpful.

I am training myself to tune in to the emotions and feelings that come up.  Particularly the negative feelings that are limiting, restricting and dis-empowering.  When I sense a negative state growing in my chest, or my stomach I focus my awareness on the mood (state) that is bringing me down.  I ask questions about my emotional state, trying to uncover the thought(s) that led to this present mood.

With a little practice – and a willingness to let go – I’m learning to bring these ‘hidden’ thoughts to the surface where I can consciously observe them for what they are.

Undesired feelings are neither good nor bad.  They just are.  They are there letting me know that I have unresolved thoughts of which I am unaware.  In fact, my emotional state is a kind of ‘barometer’ indicating my unconscious thought patterns.

If, in the moment, I am willing to stop and examine the thoughts that led up to my unwanted emotional state, I am better able to undo the effect these unconscious thoughts have on my present mood.

Any negative thought that goes unnoticed is a powerful deterrent to change.  You cannot deal with what is hidden.  You are powerless over that which you are unaware.  No amount of inward wrestling with unwanted feelings will bring about the desired change in your emotional state.  The more you struggle with these negative moods, the more powerful they become.

And the less able you are to make wise choices for positive change.

Acceptance of self

Today I choose to lay down my arms.  “Ain’t gonna practice war no more.”

I’ve had some interesting conversations with my wife this week about my declaration to give up being Mr. Nice Guy.  I know what I mean, but she’s not sure…

The positive sentiment behind the phrase “No more Mr. Nice Guy” is my intention to let go of the need for approval from others.  Mr. Nice Guy is not an authentic person; I present this false persona hoping to manipulate those around me to simply like me, and approve of me.

The false persona of Mr. Nice Guy is an attempt to control my environment.  That’s why I lied and cheated as an addict; I wanted to protect myself from others who would not approve.  So it was quite a dance that I perfected over the years – fancy footwork that kept me ‘sedated’ and ‘approved’ all at the same time.

Once I got into recovery, the need to lie, control and manipulate lessened until I came to the realization that this Mr. Nice Guy routine wasn’t in my best interest.  It just wasn’t necessary.  But old habits die hard.

I still catch myself feeling resentment toward others, and I correctly interpret it to mean that I need to gain their approval somehow… which, of course, means that I must rely on Mr. Nice Guy to smooth things out.  The problem with this kind of false front – a mask, if you like – is that it still hasn’t solved my resentment issues.  Anger and fear is still smoldering in the background.

And I usually end up feeling hurt or diminished in some way resulting in more resentment.  Unchecked, this resentment turns into self-loathing and depression.  And the old tapes of “I’m not good enough” or “this will never work” begins to play again leaving me feeling weakened and uninspired.  More and more, I realize that I am my own worst enemy.

So, saying goodbye to Mr. Nice Guy is a good thing.  To put it in more positive tones:  Saying hello to who I truly am, and gaining self-acceptance is the only natural way to experience serenity.

Good bye Mr. Nice Guy – hello Self-acceptance!

Spiritual awakening

Step 12 mentions a ‘spiritual awakening’ in the big book of AA: “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts who still suffer, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

 What is this spiritual awakening?  Is it a pink cloud?  A state of euphoria?  A feeling of ‘oneness’ with the Universe?

Perhaps.  But whatever the emotional state that accompanies this spiritual awakening, there are definitely some outward, measurable effects that happen in the life of an addict.

  • A recovered addict’s life is transformed from insanity to recovery.  The state of continual chaos changes (sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly) to a state of serenity and clarity.
  • A recovered addict’s personality is changed from narcissistic to selfless.  There is less arrogance, more humility.  Less egocentric behavior, more giving back.
  • Obviously, the life of a recovered addict is characterized by a commitment to sobriety.  Gone are the obsessions and the compulsions.  The recovered addict is free of continual ‘acting out.’
  • A recovered addict is free of shame – the shame cycle – that holds the person in a painful loop of using over and over the same drug(s) of choice.
  • The recovered addict feels more worthwhile, more loveable, and more useful.
  • The fully recovered addict moves from meaninglessness to purposefulness.

The spiritual awakening happens on the inside.  Some feel happy.  Some feel content.  Almost all are grateful.  There is nothing to say how you will feel if you experience a spiritual awakening.  You are who you are.  And you will experience it in your own unique way.

Just know that it will effect your thinking and your behavior.  And you will never be the same… ever.

The Sacred Path

For the next ten weeks I am going to reflect on the Sacred Path (the Way) by using the two words “SACRED PATH” as an acronym.  I wish to explore ten aspects of mindfulness that help to explain our journey – our Sacred Path.

As an addict I seek to discover and understand myself better.  In so doing I desire to better understand this journey we call recovery.

Mindfulness is really just a way to gain more awareness, more clarity, and more peace.  All of this is part and parcel of the work of recovery.

Allow yourself to reflect on each aspect in order to better understand your own personal journey of recovery.

SSpiritual Awakening

AAcceptance

CCourage to Change

RRest & Relaxation

EEmancipation

DDecision

PPresence

AAbundance

TTrust

HHigher Power