Posts Tagged ‘family’

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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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‘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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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