Posts Tagged ‘affairs’

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Do it scared, do it hurt, do it depressed…

December 27, 2010

I am revisiting the notion of not letting fear, pain, depression, anxiety, or any other invisible inward feeling stop us from doing what we feel is the next right or wise thing to do.

For most of my life, I let unpredictable, unreliable inner feelings act as a traffic light telling me what I should or shouldn’t do next.  I was naive enough to believe those feelings and would often shy from important things in my life that needed to be done.  Important things like filing my taxes on time, opening mail, completing a home project, working out, or fulfilling a promise made to friends or family.

Instead, I often felt paralyzed by fear, depression, or anxiety.  Feeling so overwhelmed that the easiest thing to do was to procrastinate the task and escape into sleep, tv, or in the old days of active addiction and alcoholism, I would drink or drug.  None of these escapes were of any value.  I was seldom rejuvenated and the task avoided was still there.

Then one day, years ago, I was listening to some teaching on pressing through fear or other overwhelming feelings.  A simple suggestion was posed, “Why don’t you just do it scared”? 

‘It’ being the task that you would otherwise avoid or procrastinate on.  So I began to think back and ask myself, how many exams did I write in school while scared?  Pretty much every one.  Or when I was starting out my career and doing interviews, how many interviews did I do scared?  Pretty much every one.  And how many sporting events did I play scared?  Again, pretty much all of them.  So I realized I could, and often have, done many things while scared.  So why not continue in this?

How was it the first time any of us walked into a room of AA, NA, Al-Anon, OA, or any 12-step program, scared?  I would bet all of us.  Yet what did we find on the other side of that fear?  Sobriety?  Help? Hope? A new beginning after repeated failures and painful losses?  Yes, absolutely!

I believe  that  fear and other negative emotions are tactics often used by the sick/addicted part of our thinking to self-preserve the sickness or addiction.  Somehow, it is like our unrecovered self has a mind and agenda of its own, and it wants to continue to live and grow.  So it suggests to us that we should remain immobile and avoid certain tasks.  Often, the very tasks that will give us the most growth, recovery, and victory in the shortest period of time.

I post this because I find myself in a bit of a post-Christmas funk.  My mood has been heavy for a few days since Christmas and some things are bothering me.  I am home early from work and I have some financial matters that really need attending to.  And at this moment, my mind is doing everything to avoid these matters.

So my determination was to acknowledge and expose these feelings for what they are by sharing them on my blog, then press past the anxious feelings and just do them.  Which is the next and only thing on my list of things to do tonight. 

If re-living feelings of fear and anxiousness similar to those I felt at many important moments in my life is the worst it can be, then I know I can handle it.  I just need to keep it simple, shut the brain off, turn the body on, and do it.  Scared, anxious, depressed, overwhelmed, or whatever.  It is do-able, even if I am not comfortable.

Ciao.

Chaz

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Grateful for a sober, recovering Christmas. Wishing you one too.

December 24, 2010

I am so grateful to be spending Christmas in a functioning state this year.  In fact, each Christmas since I got sober has been wonderful.  Not meaning perfect, but I have learned to find the wonder and value in virtually all circumstances.

Christmas has been unfolding positively.  Will be seeing various branches of our families throughout the season.  Anxiety has finally quelled enough for me to be able to enjoy the simple things in life.  Like a non-lavish Christmas.

Although I recognize that many do not celebrate Christmas as recognition of the birth of Jesus Christ, I am glad that this day that started as a Christian holiday could become something so positive to so many people.  Sometimes we Christians lose the positiveness of Christmas in our insistence that Jesus birth should have remained forefront.  Well it seems it didn’t.  Not at the moment anyway.

But having gone off track from the original intent, it really isn’t a terrible tangent we have taken.  This really came to heart and mind as I left work today for a few days off for the Chirstmas season.  I found myself sharing hugs and sincere wishes for a great Christmas to people I would normally not have this type of warm interaction with.  Some of whom I barely know.

For a moment, an instant, I shared in warm and happy moments with people with whom I normally only talk work with.  How can that be bad?  I don’t know all the reasons why Christmas has ceased to be a celebration of the birth of Christ.  But somehow, I think God can handle it.

Ya, the commercialism and overspending are negatives.  But who said any of us have to participate in all of that?  Why can’t we focus on the fact that this is a time of year that many, if not most, people in our society are happier, warmer, friendlier.  The cup (of egg nog minus the rum) is half full my friends.  Drink of it and be happy!

Merry Christmas to all!

Chaz

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Whats with pride?

December 6, 2010

Pride gets a bad wrap in the world of alcoholism and recovery.  Pride, it is said, goes before a fall.  Websters defines pride as…

-noun

1. a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.

So what is this insidious thing we call pride?  Thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to?  Doesn’t sound too safe or appealing.  Not a quality others are likely to find attractive. 

So is pride simply error?  Is it a misconception?  An inaccuracy?  Most of us alcoholics allowed pride to keep ourselves locked into destructive ways of thinking and living.  Mainly SELF-destructive.

Where does pride come from?  Fear?  Ignorance?  Both?

And how do we arrive at a healthy form of pride?  Pride that stops us from acting immorally, inappropriately.

A strange thing this pride.  Such a double-edged sword that we use to protect and defend, while at the same time, to commit murder and suicide.

Ciao.

Chaz

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“…would it not be likely that their lives are crap”?

November 24, 2010

Ever have a momentary experience with a very challenging person? 

My wife went through two of these in the last two days and came home upset as a result.  One was with an irreverent receptionist at a dental office who seemed to fancy herself for her brashness and exaggerated snippy and sarcastic comments, all in the paper-thin guise of humour.  She made derogatory comments about our dental insurance plan and a scheduling question.  My wife was so taken aback, that she didn’t even know what to say in the moment and just left.  You know those experiences?

The other was in a business situation in which someone threatened to diss our name in the profession we are in.  They made some completely unfounded accusations about us hiring someone away from them, when in reality, the prospective employee approached us and offered up this person as a reference.

What’s my point?  In debriefing these disturbing incidents with my wife, the question that begged to be asked was,

“If these  momentary experiences with these people were typical of how they are, would it not be likely that their lives are crap”?

It was only natural that my wife and I thought of several retaliatory comebacks to these people.  None of which we are following through on.  Why would we?  Their behaviours are likely to carry their own consequences far greater than any rebuttal or reprimand that we could give.  And how is it even worth our time or energy?  We have a tremendous number of priorities with family, business, home, and life.  Where does correcting, reprimanding, or telling-off a stranger fit amongst our priorities.  It doesn’t.

The threat to bad-mouth us was in all likelihood benign.  Besides which, who is likely to take seriously such an erratic person.  Especially if this behaviour is typical.  Is it not more likely that if she did say anything, that others would just roll their eyes, and dismiss her comments as more bitterness from a disturbed person.  And we have an otherwise flawless name in our profession.  Do we not have confidence in who we are and what  our capabilities are?  Are we going to be dissuaded by one unbalanced, rude, probably sick person?

And for the dental receptionist, we may simply and calmly either find a new dentist, or calmly describe the episode to the dentist at next visit.  Surely, this will not be the first this dentist has heard of the receptionists tone and behaviour.

"My life sucks and I am making sure it stays this way"!

Can you imagine what the families of these two people go through?  If the families in fact still have anything to do with them.  Their kids, their spouses?  Seriously, if these were just momentary samplings of their behaviours, what must it be like to be them or be around them continuously?  Clinically speaking, their lives must suck.

Recovery has taught me that I seldom need to retaliate and that the behaviour of the foolish and unhealthy will be its own consequence.  My main responsibility is to myself and my family.  I am not the equalizer of the universe.  I am not the messenger to all who for whom I have a distaste.  And if I have anything to say, it will more often be in a calm, collected frame of mind after processing the initial impact of the disturbing event.  In fact, I am less prone to using words at all, I would just speak with my feet and walk away, leaving them to their own self-imposed misery.

This may sound cold, but a much better alternative to investing time and energy into someone you may never see again or who is not looking to change.

Ciao.

Chaz

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Fortressing a limp

November 6, 2010

Why is change so rare and difficult? I heard a fascinating interview with a doctor this week. He gave an analogy about people who would come to him with back pain who he helped by treating their feet.

Why? Because in these cases, he discovered that the back pain originated in a foot problem, which was compensated for by the ankle, which then was compensated for by the knee, then hip, and by the time they did anything about it, their back had joined the chain of compensating adjustments and now was hurting.

The patients had re-arranged most of their body to keep the untreated foot problem alive. They altered the way they stood, walked, sat, and slept to facilitate the foot problem. They unknowingly built a fortress around the original hurt and protected it with everything they did.

Treating the back did not have longterm benefit. The problem kept reoccurring because the cause was the untreated foot. He analogized this to problems in our lives where we experience a hurt or problem such as a childhood trauma or dysfunctional conditioning by our family, then slowly and silently begin re-arranging our life to suit the hurt; often for decades or a lifetime.

Over years, we have actually created a network of supports to enable the hurt to continue and affect us. We unknowingly choose and get into habits of thought and behaviour that help keep this damage alive. We choose people, build relational dynamics, occupations, living environments, and daily routines that also nurture and protect the hurt. We fortress it. Or we let the untreated hurt destroy our relationships and hurt others. Why?

Perhaps simply because it’s familiar and in a paradoxical way, comfortable? And why can’t we detect it to any degree that we can bring about change on our own? Perhaps because it is so woven into our psyche, it has become effectively permanent (so far).

Then, when one part of the compensating behaviour is challenged (the knee-limp), it upsets the whole dynamic (foot, ankle, knee, hip, back) so we resist it. We may be fearful or confused by the new awareness so we retreat to the comfort of the familiar, even if it is only kind-of working.

After years or decades of this protective behaviour, we have a well-rehearsed limp; physically, emotionally, relationally etc.
It is no wonder that we recovering alcoholics, ACOAs, codependents, ragers, etc. cannot affect change on our own and that the journey of change requires time, effort, and lots of support. Equally sick people in our lives often resist change as much as we do because it takes them into the less familiar as well, so they may not want us to change. And they too have fortressed in their limps with compensating behaviours.

I am grateful today for the numerous voices that I can listen to that help me see more of the root causes of my problems, rather than just the symptoms. I am grateful today for the company and influence of healthy people who are also on journeys of recovery, who don’t need me to continue limping in order for them to remain comfortable. I am grateful today to God for bringing these people and circumstances into my life to help break the fortresses around my pains and dysfunctions. I know a freedom and contentment like I have never known. I feel like a freed captive.

Ciao.

Chaz

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“… at best, nobody will ever take another word you say seriously ever again”.

October 26, 2010

A dialogue from Bugsy, the 1991 movie portraying the life of legendary mobster, Ben Siegel, came to mind today. 

In particular, the dialogue between Siegel, played by Warren Beatty, and Meyer Lansky, played by Ben Kingsley, in which Siegel tells Lansky of his seemingly hair-brained plan to fly to Italy in the midst of World War 2, work his way through elite Italian society to get close to  and assassinate Mussolini. 

Lansky’s response to Siegel was to ask him to promise never bring up this grandiose plan ever again because if he did, “… at best, nobody will ever take another word you say seriously ever again”.

I remember all the grandiose plans I would state to people pre-recovery.  What I was going to do, where I was going to go, who I was going to be.  It was not so much the fantasizing during my drinking, but more the self-deception due to my alcoholic thinking whether drunk or sober.

It was self-deceived because I seldom ever followed through with the stated plans.  My behaviours, in fact, worked completely opposite to my verbalized intentions.  How badly I harmed my credibility in those times.  How sad it was for the people in my life to not be able to believe the words that came out of my mouth.  Yet the saddest part was that I could not even see it.  And truth remained hidden from me largely because some things were indeed working out.  But it must have been largely by fluke because I was not often following through.

One noticeable change for me in recovery is my ability to believe my own words.  This is partly because I less often state things that are unrealistic.  And partly because recovery has taught me to align my words and behaviours so they are moving in the same direction more often than not.

As an ACOA (adult child of an alcoholic), I have also come to grips with the fact that I used to over-commit because I didn’t want to let anyone down.  I was completely unrealistic.  Yet this urealisticness was the very source of me then letting people down.  Weird eh?

Being credible to ourselves and others is an amazing gift of recovery.  We more often are able to say what we do and do what we say.  Nothing more complicated than that.

Ciao

Chaz

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Where do I put this?

September 23, 2010

So when we are hurt, and we know self-pity is not the place to go, where do we put the pain?

Our understanding begs for some satisfaction.  The problem bounces around our head and often forms a resentment, anger, sadness, and robs us of our time, focus, and energy.  Then self-pity gets ahold of us and sucks us in like a vortex.  Or… what?

What is the alternative when you feel the pain, sadness, and the thin edge of the resentment wedge?  I ask this because as much as I have written about it in past, it has come to visit me again in the past 2 days.

My elderly alcoholic father is living like a cave man.  In squalor by choice and habit.  Unreasonable and unruly.  In isolation.  He won’t accept help from the staff at the senior’s facility he is in.  He insists on staying shut in his room with his tv, magazines, and mess.  Porn pin ups on the same walls as family pictures.  Insisting that life should come around to his way of thinking.  Mad at everyone, blaming everyone.  The room stinks and he is ok with that.

So my mind says to me, “This is what you get”?

Just the other day, I had a business transaction with a father who is grooming his adult son to take over his business.  Dad is mentoring him along.  Showing him how to make a decision in a large transaction.  Parenting him in a way I would have preferred to be parented, and in a way that I am endeavoring to parent my own son.

My mind is trying to say, “This kid has this kind of Dad.  Look what I get”. 

Some pretty toxic thinking on my part isn’t it?  If I were to let these thought have free reign, they would lead me to very dangerous places.  Self-pity is not an option.  Nor is resentment.  Nor is envy.

Gratitude and surrender are my weapons of choice.  Even so, they do not take the pain of disappointment away completely.  It is an uncomfortable place to be.  But better than going further down the road of negativity and into depression or worse.

So this is very much a journey and we don’t “arrive” as far as I can see.  Just for today, I am grateful that I was not left to follow in these same footsteps to this same destination as my father.  I am grateful to be someone different, even though I started out down this same road of alcoholism and self-centredness.

Ciao.

Chaz

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Powered by Gratitude

September 17, 2010

In the past 2 years, I have been discovering the amazing depth and power of gratitude. 

I’ve discovered gratitude at levels far deeper than can be expressed by words alone.  I am talking about the gratitude that we live, rather than say.  We express it in our actions by doing and the choices we make on a day to day, moment to moment basis.  We begin to see so vividly that the blessing we have received and recovery we have experienced are truly rare and amazing, that gratitude permeates our subconscious and becomes one of the foundational influences of our entire outlook on life.  We don’t just think about it in our conscious mind, we move to feeling it in our emotions continuously.

The power is that we are far less fearful, far more hopeful, and we discover new energy and motivation in life because we feel grateful for everything, and anxious for little.  We can do and achieve things that we used to fall short of.  Why?  Because the negative thoughts that always stopped us in our tracks are now nudged out by gratitude for each moment, each person, each event, and each physical item in our lives.

On a practical level, I have found gratitude helps me maintain a happy marriage, a fun and functioning relationship with my kids, physical fitness, success in my career, and better relationships with everyone in my life.

Again, why?  Because I have let go of so much self-pity that kept me only seeing the negative in each circumstance.  Filtered through fear and self-pity, I would virtually always see the half-empty glass.  My mind would automatically nit-pick the imperfections in my job, my home, my wife, my family, and my health.  Even if I didn’t say it, I would allow the thoughts in my mind that would then translate into behaviours that limited me.  Or worse, led me to give up.

Gratitude on the other hand, especially when we live it rather than say it, keeps us focused on the half-full portion of the glass.  Gratitude leads us to become excited and energized because of what we do have.  So we make use of the blessing of the half-full part of the glass and build a better life for ourselves with what we do have, rather than remain immobilized looking at what we don’t.

An example on a practical level would be times when I decide to act in gratitude for my wife by doing something as an expression of this gratitude.  This may be rubbing her neck while she works at her desk, or telling her I love her at a time when I don’t normally, or doing some of her share of the household responsibilities, or taking the kids out so she can have some peace for a while.  When I determine to act in gratitude, I am careful not to speak it as well.  I feel I don’t want to taint the purity of the expression.  And by doing, it has such an impact on me and her, that the most amazing feelings in both of us begin to emerge.  And our marriage functions better and better.

Another example is my fitness routine which includes cycling for about 10 kms a few times a week.  Self-pity would have me complain in my head about the cold, the rain, dogs, traffic, sweating, and how hard it was.  Gratitude on the other hand focuses on the opportunity to be in shape, the beauty of the area I cycle in, the fresh morning air, the compliments from others, and the feeling of accomplishment that only comes from knowing I completed a task fully.

When I let gratitude guide my thoughts and express itself in my actions like riding longer or pushing harder, I have better workouts and cycling than ever and get better results, which then fuels more gratitude and more action.

Gratitude expressed only verbally will do some good.  But gratitude internalized so deeply we constantly feel it to the point that it becomes one of our defaults of perspective, then expressed in actions, can take us to new heights in every part of our lives.  It has freed me from so many of the shackles of negativity that limited me.

I encourage everyone to seek gratitude beyond words then act on it.

Ciao

Chaz

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Life lessons from my coffee pot

August 18, 2010

I never know where the next lesson in life will come from. 

Today’s was from my coffee maker that occasionally malfunctions by letting grounds clog up the drip passage then overflow onto the counter.  Sometimes, like this morning, I switch the coffee maker on and go attend to other tasks in a different room.  Unknowingly leaving the pot to overflow onto the counter, into the drawers and cupboards below, and all over the floor.

"It just happens"

When I discover the mess, which of course then alters my morning routine considerably, I find the first place my mind goes is blame.  “If Procter-Silex could only build a reliable coffee maker!  Inept bastards”! 

Or get agitated at my family for having chosen the drawer beneath the coffee maker as the stationary drawer for the household, which of course now is all stained by spilled coffee.  Then come the mental images of hurling the coffee pot at the wall to show how unjustly I have just been treated by Procter-Silex, my family, Maxwell House, and of course the coffee pot itself.

Then, thankfully, only seconds later, I catch myself.  How is it anyone’s fault?  Does this sort of thing not just happen from time to time in any of our lives?  And how long really will it take to clean it up?  5 minutes at best?  Can I not do that?  Am I prepared to surrender my serenity over spilled coffee?  Will I even remember this mishap in a month, a year, 10 years from now?

I then proceeded to ask myself, “Instead of feeding my anger, what small thing can I do right now to improve this situation”?  To which I answer, “Unplug the coffee maker and put it in the sink for cleaning”.  So I do, and what happens?  Life is immediately much better.  In fact, gratitude begins to well up that I do have a coffee pot and sink, and this mishap isn’t sending me into a rage or out drinking.  Gratitude begins to displace anger and I begin to laugh.

It wasn’t 5 minutes before the entire mess is cleaned and a fresh pot of coffee is now brewing.  And best of all, I have this clear image of how blessed I am to have recovered to the point where these little incidents don’t send me around the bend anymore.  And that lights come on quickly that expose the unrecovered parts of my thinking, the ones that tried to immediately blame and self-pity over the malfunctioned coffee pot.

And let me tell you, the first cup from the next pot of fresh brew was amazing!

Simple, unexpected signposts in life that tell me I am on a better path than I was before.  And deep feelings of gratitude that show themselves in new behaviours and thinking patterns.  And the icing on the cake, joy and serenity return within moments.

Life is way better on the path of recovery.

Ciao.

Chaz

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and the “Life Hands You Your Own Ass” Scholarship goes to…

June 30, 2010

I was at a Grad ceremony recently for a relative graduating from High School.  Our family was pleased and proud.  Our Grad won some awards.  It was exciting and precious.  We are so glad they have completed something and are off to a good start.

The graduation was from a middle-class suburban school that requires parental involvement and place high emphasis on academics, athletics, and social responsibility.  Parents sacrifice to get their kids into this school.  We are grateful. 

The procession of students was narrated by an MC who read the future plans for each grad.  At least 75% stated they wished to attend university and seek a highly trained profession such as medicine, law, business, law enforcement, science, engineering, humanitarian or arts endeavors.

There were numerous scholarships from various businesses, churches, organizations and individuals.  All were awarded based on criteria such as academic achievement, sports achievement, community service, leadership, friendship, and representation of the character of God.  Similarly some awards were for ambitious plans to notable universities and degrees.

I was impressed with the level of achievement so many of the kids aspired to work toward.  And of course, this would not be the time or place to state that some of the more painful and unexpected realities of life are likely to impact and challenge these wide-eyed grads as they set forth on their journeys into adult life.

I wondered to myself, would it not be fitting to offer the “Life Hands You Your Own Ass” Scholarship?  Which would consist of a deferred, rather than immediate, bursary to be presented to the first student to whom the bitter realities of life show up first.  The money could be applied to any of, but not limited to, the following:

  • Psychological counselling (for things such as divorce, parental divorce, assault (sexual or otherwise), unexpected pregnancy, suicide ideation, depression, mood disorders, etc.  Invariably, at least 25% will experience one or more of these within 10 years of grad).
  • Divorce legal fee fund.
  • Single parenthood expenses.
  • Legal defense fund for criminal activity including impaired driving.
  • Gender preference confusion counseling.
  • Drug or alcohol rehabilitation.
  • Pornography addiction counseling. 
  • Disability income.
  • Unemployment re-training.
  • Bankruptcy.

Again, a public graduation ceremony is hardly the time or place to state the inevitability of such painful life issues lurking on the horizon for a large proportion of any population.  I suppose the thing that jumped out is the gross degree of naivety that reveals itself when our kids emerge from the protected enviroment and comfort of middle-class, suburban, family supported life.  They are of course setting their best foot forward with the best of intentions as we would hope they would do.

And having the realities of life served up to us is not necessarily a bad thing.  If dealt with, endured, and overcome, they can be the best thing ever to happen to us.  In fact, they would make us better doctors, lawyers, police, engineers, pharmacists, and business leaders.  I suppose I was sensing the overlooked fact that formal education is not the only thing of importance to becoming successful and influential in life.  And that we easily and simply get what we desire the way we expect it.

Life will show up for our grad and all others.  It may in fact, show up bearing the gift of their own ass.  Neatly packaged in a painful life circumstance that may feel like failure, like being robbed, ripped off, had the rug pulled out from under us.

I in fact, would trust someone far more who endured and survived a painful life circumstance than I would someone who hadn’t.  A year of pain will teach us far more than a lifetime of comfort.

Ciao.

Chaz