“It is easier to protect your feet with shoes than to carpet the whole earth.”

“You know, if it wasn’t for that lousy job of mine, I’d be a lot happier.” I heard myself say that this morning. It wasn’t that I felt resentful or angry… well, okay, maybe just a little bit resentful…

I recognize this thought as one of many past complaints: “I’d be happy if only…” As if my happiness is contingent on other people and my present circumstances. I used to love to put the blame on others for the way I was feeling.

If the boss asked (told) me to do something I felt was beneath me, I’d get upset and question his judgment. I tried to stay in control by protesting, loudly declaring my opposition to his unfair decision. All the while it was I who was controlled by the boss.

But is trying to stay in control going to produce happiness? Well, think about it: Every time someone steps out of line you try to control what they’re saying or doing. That can get exhausting – not to mention frustrating! Controlling yourself is the best you can hope for…

And first thing in the morning is the best time to set the tone for the entire day. I have plenty of thoughts drifting through my head, but I know they’re just thoughts. That’s all. And I am learning to be more aware of them. I have made the happy discovery that my thoughts don’t have to control me if I remain vigilant and aware of my mental activity. And this has made a big impact on my own state of mind – my own happiness.

I have come to realize that I can choose my thoughts if I am aware of them. But as an addict, I seldom want to let go of certain thoughts… especially the ones that are angry and resentful! There’s something addictive about thoughts that stir up negative energy. They seem to feed the story in my head that I can gain control by feeling angry and bitter towards other people.

But the opposite is true… In fact, I can be held captive by my negative thoughts and feelings!

I have decided that today I will accept the world for what it is. There’s no point trying to change other people. And my circumstances are what they are… it’s important that I accept my life as it is. If I want to be happy, I will work on my attitude; this is where happiness begins and ends.

If it is happiness you want, change yourself, not other people.

Are you still digging?

Imagine that you’re behind the wheel of a powerful BMW. You’re trying to drive up a muddy hill in the rain. Unfortunately, the car has rear wheel drive, and you’re having a hard time getting it to move forward.  You’ve been spinning your wheels for over an hour, but to no avail. The more you ‘floor’ it, the more your tires spin in the mud. In fact, you’re beginning to wear deep ruts in the muddy surface. So, you do the only thing you know how to do: You gun it even more!

Eventually, one of the rear tires is completely buried in the mud.  The frame of the car now rests on the wet surface of the hill. You finally realize you can go no further. You’re stuck. And you need help.

Have you bottomed out yet – or are you still digging?

I tried for years to wrestle my addiction to the ground, but I couldn’t do it on my own. The harder I tried, the worse things got. “Bottoming out” is when I stopped digging. I’d lost everything, and my marriage was crumbling. It wasn’t until I’d had enough – digging in that hole – that I finally gave up and asked for help. I wanted out.  But I knew I couldn’t do it on my own.

The first step of our recovery begins when we admit we are powerless over our addiction, that our lives have become chaotic and unmanageable.  At this point – when we admit to our powerlessness – it’s time to get help. And we decide to put our faith in a Higher Power.

God will never take away your ability to choose freely. That is why bottoming out is so important, so pivotal. When you decide to stop trying to get ahead on your own steam, you are then able to look up and begin climbing out of your hole.

Everyone has their own ‘bottom’ – a point at which we decide to stop digging. Free choice means we decide when enough is enough. Some addict’s ‘bottom’ is death, and that is their choice. God is there, waiting for us to ask for help.

Are you ready to stop digging and reach for the rope that is extended to you from up above?  Climbing out of your hole is the wise thing to do. When you combine God’s will with free choice the result is wisdom. There’s only one way we can succeed: Freely choose to let go and let God.

You must choose to stop digging and start living.

“Love must be learned, and learned again and again; there is no end to it. Hate needs no instruction, but only waits to be provoked.” Katherine Anne Porter

Feeling the love yet? I’m not. At least not yet. I should never look at the news first thing in the morning; there’s nothing but war and bloodshed, and seniors getting ripped off by con artists… The drive in to work isn’t much better as I’m battling it out with all the morons on the road. I was late getting to the office, but I managed to slip in unnoticed, trying to keep a low profile.

I was feeling resentful, irritable and stressed; this is a good indication that I’ve drifted off into an illusion, a place that exists only in my head. Once again, I came to the realization that I am not present, in the moment, here and now. I was in a place where I feel powerless… and the only response for an addict who’s feeling powerless is to ‘act out.’ (Not a good place.)

There is always a void when I slip into the fantasy of fear and hate. And there is only one way to fill the void: Love and gratitude.

The fear and hate (resentment, irritability and stress) don’t need any instruction. Hate is like a default setting that kicks in when I’ve failed to choose another setting. Fear seems to be hardwired into our brains; every time we face a challenge or a change fear kicks in so effortlessly. I don’t think I have to explain…

But love – which is our true and authentic self – requires teaching and training, encouragement and support. Call it what you will, fear and hate seems easier than love and gratitude. Recognizing this reality (and accepting it, as well) frees me up so I can make a free choice to love and be grateful.

I don’t have to remain in the ‘default setting’ of fear and hate when I can freely choose to be in the moment – full of acceptance and gratitude. These two words help to define my concept of love. I can fill the empty void of fear with a different kind of energy: Gratitude. This is something my partner (thank you, Evi) has demonstrated to me over the many years we have been together.

I have enlisted in the “Gratitude Training Program” offered by my Higher Power. It requires at least 10 minutes a day of being perfectly present and fully engaged in the practice of gratitude. It is difficult to do, but each subsequent day gets easier. And it is making a huge difference – especially when it comes to my addiction.

Gratitude is a practice that helps fill the spiritual void in my heart with the positive energy of love. This ‘present moment’ is where I can find my authentic self and enjoy Love’s energy.

You can learn to love by practicing gratitude in this present moment.

“A mighty flame follows a tiny spark.” Dante

I’m feeling quite insignificant today. Small and unimportant, like I don’t matter. Let’s face it; what have I done in this life that has amounted to much? Who have I influenced in my life? I feel as though what I do doesn’t make a bit of difference.

These thoughts never fail to depress and discourage me. They’re the same thoughts and feelings that accompanied my addiction. I became more isolated in my addiction as each day passed. And since it didn’t matter to others what I did or said, then I chose to “medicate.” Besides, my addiction wasn’t hurting anyone… was it?

At the beginning I didn’t have a clue how my addiction would affect the people around me, especially the ones I knew and loved. It wasn’t until I was deep into it and I ‘bottomed out’ that it occurred to me what was happening. This addiction was indeed having a profound effect on my family and friends.

My absenteeism and chronic lateness played a factor. (I was quite isolated.) Mood swings and explosive anger was another. Turning a good marriage into a bad one was the ultimate display of how my addiction affected others.

The ripple effect of a tiny act can have great repercussions for good and ill. I just have to look back and remember what happened. Even the smallest and seemingly insignificant acts of selfishness created a huge amount of chaos in my life and my family.

If my negative acts can have such a strong impact what might a positive decision make in my world?

My feeling of insignificance today is the same one that accompanied my fall into addiction. It’s a lie I tell myself. “I am nothing, and what I do amounts to nothing.” What a load of crap! Where do these thoughts come from?

The truth is: I am not insignificant and my actions do matter. And I can have a positive effect on others when I choose to do good. A simple act of kindness can influence another which could turn their world around and impact and entire community.

I just have to remember the courageous act of an elderly black woman who dared to sit at the front of the bus when the local community required that she move to the back. It not only challenged the status quo, it started an entire movement for black people in the American south.

You are significant. What you say and do is of great importance to us all. You have the potential for great good in the world.