Posts Tagged ‘twelve steps’

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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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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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Whats with “God as we understand Him”?

September 28, 2010

I hear ongoing concern and even debate over “God as I understand Him”.  For those not familiar with the 12 steps or AA, “God as I understand Him” comes from the wording in the third AA step.  Specifically, “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him”.

Those who have a clearly defined understanding or belief of who God is, appear often to find this challenging or offensive.  I suppose I understand.  Yet even among people of the same faith systems, do we not all know God only as we understand him?

Do any two Christians, Muslims, or Jews understand God the exact same way?  What about our various denominations, sects, and cultures of any major faith?  Do they not all have very distinct view of what they presume to be the same God?  Are there not members of major faith systems who profess the same God yet some feel God is a God of violence while others feel God is a God of peace and kindness?  Clearly a difference in understanding.

Others are concerned that AA, which certainly appears to have been rooted in Christianity, was tainted when step 3 was changed from “God”, to “God as we understood Him”.  On one hand, I understand their concern over the morphing of their specific belief that yielded results into something compromised for broader appeal.  On the other hand, I don’t understand where this is still not an honest statement because we all can only believe to the degree our understanding allows us, can’t we?

My understanding of God changes continually as I feel he reveals more to me of who he is and how he works.  I believe in the same God I believed in many years ago when I was going nuts with anxiety, depression and ramping up for active alcoholism.  But I understand God today a lot differently than I understood Him then.  This does not mean God changed.  It means my understanding changed.

I used to believe the philosophies and theologies of men who sought to package and sell God to me through their organizations.  And much of what I understood has indeed proven to me to be correct.  But the understanding I had of God through this set of perspectives did not help me get sober.  In fact, their input based on their understanding barely helped me at all.  Some of them even told me that God did not work a certain way or through certain people or organizations that turned out to be the very people and organizations who did indeed help me get sober and recovering.

So were they really interested in helping me find God and seek his help, or were they more interested in my conformity?  Perhaps I will never know.  Nor do I resent them for trying.  They were likely just trying to share God as they understood Him.

One day, I am sure greater truths will be revealed.  And we may find out which understanding of God is correct and incorrect.  Maybe there is a “Road to Damascus Experience” awaiting us and thus we ought to use wise caution in saying who God is or isn’t.  Until that day, how can any of us not be limited by our experiences, cultures, perceptions, and basic natures in our understandings of who God is and how he works?

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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“Your momma’s too thin; your daddy’s too fat…”

September 6, 2010

 

… Get over it”!  (really guys? That simple?)

 

Remember the Eagles song, by the same name?  It was about getting over whatever it was that one had to complain about.  Part of the lyrics were…

Complain about the present and blame it on the past, I’d like to find your inner child and kick its little ass.  Get over it”!

Not a ringing endorsement for self assessment and dealing with what lies beneath, now is it?   Nor was my upbringing in a tough, blue-collar neighbourhood.  Nor was coming from an ethnically-proud family whose heritage has a word that best translates, “shear, unrelenting fortitude”.  I have a family member who prides himself so much on this fortitude, he refuses dental freezing.  Nor were a hundred other small or large influences.

So with these biases, how could it come easily for me to as, “whats up with this Inner Child thing”?  It didn’t.  Until after years of recovery, sobriety, and personal growth, I did not have a good explanation why some parts of my internal dialogue have not yet quieted completely.  I still have a faint voice telling me negative things and constantly suggesting I think and analyze everything to an extreme.

Granted, it has quieted significantly and I have learned to dismiss its most preposterous directing.

This set of perspectives and explanations has really helped me find reprieve from the unrelenting internal dialogue that quietly seems to want to direct traffic in my life.

If you are tired of the constant internal dialogue, and are looking for some reprieve, you may find this as helpful as I do…

http://www.acoarecovery.com/

http://acoarecovery.wordpress.com/2010/08/22/the-introject-bad-parent-voice/

Ciao.

Chaz