Posts Tagged ‘cognitive behaviour therapy’

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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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‘I’ve tried everything’

December 9, 2010

How many times in life do we feel or say, “I’ve tried everything”? 

Have we though?  Or is this the voice of our internal dialogue once again telling us things that are not true?  The following is a story from a fitness program I work with, but has great application in any area of life including recovery, business, marriage, relationships, schooling…

Motivational speaker and author Anthony Robbins once told the story of a man at a seminar who was extremely frustrated with his lack of results in marketing his company. The befuddled businessman said that he had tried everything but nothing worked. Here is the exchange that went on between the two of them:

Robbins: “You’ve tried EVERYTHING???”
Attendee: “Yes, I’ve tried absolutely everything!”

Robbins: “Tell me the last HUNDRED things you tried,”
Attendee: ” I haven’t tried a hundred things.”

Robbins: “OK, then just tell me the last FIFTY things you tried.”
Attendee: “I haven’t tried fifty things.”

Robbins: “Alright then tell me the last DOZEN things you tried.”
Attendee: (getting somewhat embarrassed) “Well, I haven’t tried a dozen things.”

Robbins: “I thought you said you tried EVERYTHING! So tell me then, how many things have you tried?”
Attendee: (Shrinking back into his seat), “Two or three.”

Obviously the man got the message loud and clear (Hopefully you did too).

Why do we fall for this?  Is our subconscious panicking?  Are we unknowingly looking for an excuse to quit or rationalize failure?  Are we lazy?  Are we simply lost in self-deception?

I have fallen into this trap.  For this very reason, I seek out outside voices, both written and spoken, to challenge my inaccurate internal dialogue.

Ciao.

Chaz

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A perfect day

November 14, 2010

How could a cold, rainy, dark, November day be perfect? When its spent on the sidelines of my son’s soccer game.

There I stood. It was well over an hour now and the field lights had come on. Soaked players sitting on the covered bench. Shivering with their sleeves pulled down over their hands to keep warm yet eager for their next shift.

It is a critical game for positioning for playoffs. We’re playing a team comparable in skill and standings. One of our team snipers, a kid from South America, just had fired a bullet of a shot from about 30 meters out whistling past the opposing goal keeper and rippling the mesh. His father standing beside me ecstatically cheering and congratulations his son in Spanish.

There I stood, on this cold, darkening, Canadian November afternoon, warm in my thermal boots, jacket, hat and umbrella, elated at my son’s team success that included an impregnable defense line of which my son is a part.  4 young teens that opposing teams dreaded for their ability to break up offensive plays.

My son, an average-sized new kid on his team, never backs down to any play or player.  His key skill is his ability to read the field, strip the opposing player, and put the ball in the right place for the midfielders and forwards to do their job.  Humbled by what he felt was a demotion to defense on this team he is new to this season, I was so blessed to be able to be there to support him through and help him understand the importance of proving himself in this role so he had a chance at the forward positions he excelled at on his teams in previous seasons.

After the game, we had dinner and a DVD planned at my house. I realized at that moment that this was a perfect day. It didn’t require my son to be the star of the team. It didn’t require that we be standing in a tropical paradise. It didn’t require that we had reservations for the best restaurant in town or a trip to Disneyland. Dad’s hamburgers and a DVD were all we needed.

I looked around in the closing minutes of the game in which we won 1-0 and what felt like currents of gratitude flowed through me. In that moment, all the amazing blessings in my life at that moment began to come to mind and I felt overwhelmed with how remarkable life was.

Ironically, the state-of-the-art turf field is located only blocks from where I used to hook up with drug dealers a few years ago. Only a few years ago, I was not in a physical or emotional state to care for my kids. And now feeling a flood of elation over life on life’s terms better and more pure and trustworthy than the cocaine rush and alcohol numbing of years ago.

I could now be there for my son to watch and help him grow and mature as a contributing member of a dominating soccer team and life.

I used to mire in self-pity over only seeing my kids once or twice a week. Now, I feel like the most blessed twice-weekly parent on the planet. I am able to do more with and for him in a couple of days a week than many parents do full time.  I love the life I am blessed with. I take less and less for granted. Even a cold, rainy, November day is something to be grateful for.

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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We become what we practice

August 25, 2010

One of the strengths of AA and 12-step recovery is the opportunity to practice over and over the principles of this approach to recovery.  Abundant meetings in most areas make is possible to receive a continual steam of support and input for prolonged periods.

Was this not how we became sick and alcoholic in the first place?  We learned something by observation or experience, we did it once, then repeated over and over for a prolonged period?  Until our patterns of thought and behaviour became so entrenched, they were our defaults?  They were part of who we were.

So why would it not take the same to change?  We practiced thoughts and behaviours of self-pity, escapism, resentment, anger, envy, and potentially a hundred other dysfunctions until they wove together to make up the fabric of who we had become.

I did 90 meetings in 90 days at the same daily meeting.  A lot of people have asked, “Didn’t it get boring and repetitious”?  It would have if I let my old thinking tell me it was.  But gladly, I had some support from those who had travelled the path before me who compelled me to try to learn something new each day.  Even if the same people spoke again and again.

To my utter amazement, they were right.  New gems of truth and enlightenment began to emerge out of the same people at the same meeting day after day.  Why?  Perhaps it was because I was changing.  The repetition I heard was slowly breaking down the walls of my old thinking.  And my follow-through on a daily basis began to establish new patterns that further opened my mind.

Learning through practice and repetition is one thing that has kept me in the rooms of AA for a number of years, even though I can’t get any more sober than I was the day I first sobered up.  It took a long time to weave the old fabric, it is taking a long time to weave the new one.  Practice, practice, practice leads to progress, progress, progress.

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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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We don’t need to understand pain

July 31, 2010

I used to make painful moments and circumstances in life far more painful by expecting to understand the pain.  I rarely do that anymore.  Pain is inevitable in life.  It just happens.  Nobody is exempt.  We choose whether or not we want to turn it into suffering by complicating it.

I used to complicate pain all the time by reading deep meaning into it while it was happening.  Even though this never helped.  I would want to know all the reasons why.  I would want instant clarity.  I felt an injustice was done on me if God or someone didn’t deliver clarity of reason to me right away.

Today, “it just happens” and eventually passes.  It goes away in time, every time.  So I am more prone to just grit my teeth, focus on something else positive, and let it pass.  The amazing thing is that some clarity or lesson usually follows at some point shortly thereafter.  I “let” more be revealed rather than “expect” it.

And if pain is getting me down, I have the secret weapon of surrender.  I turn it over.  Let go, let God.

Life is way better.

Ciao.

Chaz

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Lies from my internal dialogue.

July 23, 2010

Most of us have one.  An internal dialogue that is.  Seems most of us prone to alcoholism, addiction, depression, or anxiety have a fairly outspoken and unrelenting internal dialogue.  For many of us, it becomes our closest and most trusted companion. So close, many of us don’t even recognize as it speaks to us.  So trusted that we follow its advice, even over a cliff if it told us to.

A breakthrough in my recovery from addiction, anxiety, and depression came when I learned I no longer had to follow the guidance of my internal dialogue.  I could take a break from listening to it until it got wiser and more trustworthy.

I found that the advice that those who had more sobriety and whose recovery I admired gave me different advice than my internal dialogue.  So one day, I decided to take a chance and listen to them instead of my old friend inside my head.  I figured following their advice couldn’t be any worse than the advice I was getting.  They were at peace, I was not.  They had prolonged sobriety, I had not.  I wanted to die, they did not.  They could laugh and enjoy life, I could not.  So what did I have to lose?  My misery perhaps?  It was worth the risk.

Lo and behold, the very first day was a success.  Someone suggested attending an AA meeting a day for 90 days straight.  My internal dialogue balked,  “Only real losers do that.  You don’t need to.  You’re too busy”.  

I eventually got to the point where I would actually speak back to the dialogue in my head.  I would say, “fine, you sit here and debate about the viability of a meeting, the rest of us (body parts) are going”.  And off we went.  Not once did I regret going to a meeting in those 90 days.  My internal dialogue was wrong 100% of the time with respect to meetings.  Instead, the thinking I borrowed from others who suggested I do 90 in 90 turned out to be 100% right.  Every meeting was a new adventure and new lights came on.

My burden of depression and anxiety began to lift measurably.  I remained sober and began to help others do the same.  Yet this was just the beginning.  Now, years later, I am finally learning to be able to trust my internal dialogue much more because it has grown up and recovered a lot.  Not completely, so I am cautious to discern each bit of advice that my head tells me.  But it is reliable far more often than it used to be.

Now, instead of casting a dark shadow on so many things, my internal dialogue helps me see positive and light, even in painful situations.  My internal dialogue is learning to tell me the truth.  This is one of the powers of recovery.  An AA reading states it, “Intuitively, we will know how to handle situations that used to baffle us”.  And, “We will know a new freedom and a new happiness”. 

There is such freedom and serenity being able to trust that your own thinking isn’t constantly setting you up for failure with its lies and negativity.

Ciao.

Chaz

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And acceptance is NOT the answer to all my problems today.

June 15, 2010

I am going to take a position here.  I so often hear the above quote (pre-modification) taken to what I feel is an extreme.  I don’t know, nor will any of us know, the full context of what the author meant and felt when he wrote this. 

For me, acceptance is NOT the answer to all of my problems today.  Acceptance is, however, extremely helpful in most situations and helps me remain sane and functioning so I can find the answers.  But acceptance is not my source.  I do not place my reliance on acceptance.  Acceptance is not God and page 449 (or 417 of the newer edition) of the big book is not holy text.

This quote is merely the experience and observation of just another fellow journeyor on the pathway of recovery.  Most certainly, it is a valuable one and worthy of sharing.  And certainly has tremendous practical application to us alcoholics given the way we broadly tend to try to control circumstances in our lives.

To me, acceptance is but a principle that God has shown me.  God is the answer to all of my problems today.  I need to connect with him more than I need to connect with acceptance.   God will use what he chooses to get me through what I need to get through.  In some cases, it may include acceptance.  In other cases, it may mean taking a stand and not accepting what is happening.

I will not accept mistreatment of my wife or kids.  Nor will I accept being tempted by drugs, alcohol, infidelity, or untruthfulness.

Perhaps these were not the intents of the author.  We will never know.  But for me, I can’t quite give this simple wise quote the deification I often hear others giving it. 

Ciao.

Chaz