Self-Care: Groove on the Good Things
Date: May 20, 2020
For more than 60 years, I have had the pleasure of being a newspaper reporter, being a political campaign consultant for over 100 congressional and gubernatorial campaigns, owning several businesses, leading a national non-profit in the addiction recovery field, and serving in several DC government leadership positions.
Most of what I have learned has been from watching other people.
Top performers are surprises. They are not necessarily the smartest, best-educated people. But they have a common trait: They manage their time, their work, their contacts, their learning, and their boundaries. They are always learning. They never think they got it made.
By managing themselves, they are usually great leaders as others learn from them by example. By breaking down their interests and duties, they face one thing at a time, stay within healthy boundaries, do not let fears or intimidation dictate their results, and celebrate their successes while acknowledging and learning from the things that don’t seem to work out.
Here are some key points I have learned by watching these “winners”:
- Boundaries – Training our brains to address one thing at a time brings the maximum energy possible to a given issue or situation. Circumstances often make us shift priorities, often without notice. But recalibrating the order of work is better than meshing issues together.
Focusing our mental energy allows us to use all our knowledge, instincts, and resources on our current issue. These include our history and our observations as well as our dependence on spiritual guidance.
- Check-in – The best winners I have known are not solo fliers. They have developed networks over time. And the keep in touch. Before making major decisions, they connect with their dependable network. Sometimes for facts, sometimes just for reassurance and the joy of connection.
- Journaling – There is something about putting your thinking down on paper that makes the picture come alive. It is also useful to record your feelings, giving them a place to process.
I like the language used in many meditation practices about “keeping our buckets full.” As we trudge through the work of the hour or day, we also stay conscious of our personal buckets.
- Keep your nourishment bucket full. Feed your body, mind, and spirit. For me, at age 82, I find myself eating less, but it’s important that I space it three times a day – just smaller helpings or meal bars. And I have learned from others how meditating and attending my recovery meetings keep me connected and in balance. And peaceful sleep comes with your work and self-care in place.
- Keep your love bucket full. It is vital that we exercise our passions as well as our knowledge. Always remember that a full bucket of love starts with us loving others, loving our work, loving our lives, and loving our relationships. It’s funny how this love comes home to roost.
- Keep your gratitude bucket full. Perhaps the biggest lesson I have learned from others over the years is that the true winners in life also seem to be the most grateful. And many keep daily gratitude lists.
So, review the sour things when necessary, but groove on the good things.
Date: May 13, 2020
Being teachable is not a natural skill.
We come into the world completely self-centered and omnipotent in our own infant minds.
We are told that when a baby is carried into a room full of light, their instinct is to believe they caused the light to come on. The cry of a baby is full-fledged fear at the idea they do not control their surroundings.
Due to various circumstances, we gradually surrender our narcissistic views and learn first to accept and then, hopefully, to seek teachers in our lives. They are there to be found in every realm of life: work, play, and relationships. Teachers can guide our physical, mental and spiritual behaviors.
Early life provides specific teachers fulfilling specific roles, including parents, baby-sitters, school teachers, college professors, and career mentors. But life provides many more opportunities to learn, usually from those who teach by example.
As life advances, and expectations of competency and mastery increase, many drift toward the view that “I got this.” It often becomes a matter of pride to “know” and a humiliation to “ask.” This tendency is especially prevalent among people experiencing addiction. As we isolate more and more, we increasingly see ourselves as in control and unilaterally responsible for our well-being. Assistance from others is not only a nuisance but a threat to our lifestyle.
Recovery often begins with a crisis or intervention that penetrates our isolation. Ideas we never contemplated gradually become acceptable. Examples of others on a recovery journey suddenly have great meaning and we try to adopt their new defenses against taking the first drink or drug.
New possibilities and worthy ideas confront us and we learn from our new “teachers” how to accept change and cope with challenges without misusing substances. As we benefit from new principles of survival and self-care and develop fulfilling recovery-based lifestyles, we may forget the value of learning and instead become isolated in a new “protected” sanctuary of recovery friends and associates.
Stopping dependence on substances is a major victory. But it should be only the beginning of building a new and rewarding life. Accepting the experience of others (being teachable) is a tool that puts us on a proven path to recovery. But the real rewards come from continuing to live with the tool of being teachable.
Cultivating a life-long practice of learning is both work and joy. First, we must “become willing” by letting go of the idea that we are complete in our knowledge and that learning new things might make life more difficult.
But one axiom has benefited everyone who uses it: “When I become willing, a teacher will appear.”
Date: May 6, 2020
A primary psychological symptom of addiction illness is isolation.
This symptom can precede dependence on alcohol or other drugs. On the surface, it can appear as distancing one’s self from a situation, placing a shield between one’s soul and the “outside” world.
The root causes of this type of isolation can range from shame and embarrassment to one’s inside world view. At some point, most individuals with addiction disease feel ill-equipped to deal with life’s demands, frustrated by interpersonal relations, or simply unworthy.
As the disease advances from “at-risk” stages to full dependency, isolation becomes entrenched – forming a wall, reinforcing faulty thinking, and strengthening denial. Pain associated with this separation becomes severe. The intuitive need to medicate this pain drives us to even more drinking and drugging.
While healing from addiction requires significant internal transformation, it is the connection to others that restores the appropriate arrangement of human beings on the common mission of survival and wholesome living. Human beings are born to rely on each other. Few images of life are as distracting and false as the lone hero building a future through fierce independence and self-reliance.
A major reason Twelve Step groups are effective is that they provide a platform for connection. When a person suffering from addiction sees and talks with another sufferer, the healing begins.
A useful direction is initiated when one alcoholic or addict opens up to another who shares the feelings of addictive pain but has begun the path to recovery. In time, and as trust is rewarded, the individual learns to open up to a small group in recovery. Trust is awakened as a useful tool, rather than a foolish risk.
Continuing the healing, connection expands and multiplies to restore family and work relationships. As mature recovery develops, the person on the recovery journey sees everyone differently, replacing fear with a new knowledge that we are all family, and that we share our experience, personal growth and hope with all our spiritual siblings on this unique and wonderful planet.