Surrender in Sobriety

Good morning, everyone! I hope this is a glorious day for each of you. Today’s search term I have chosen to address is “surrender in sobriety.”

When we surrender, our sobriety moves along much more smoothly. When I say surrender, I am referring to giving in to sobriety, or letting go of trying to manage our drinking. There are many points along the way where surrender will aid the pursuit of sobriety.

The first thing to surrender is the pretense that all is fine for us. To quote my book Opening the Gates of the Heart: A Journey of Healing and the verse Surrender of Pretense, “I am no longer able to maintain the pretense that all is fine behind my gate of false bravado and politeness. It is time to let others see the pitted and rusted metal that is me. It is time to come out from behind my gate”

Once we give up the pretense that all is fine, we need to next surrender our thought that we can manage our drinking and stay sober through our own willpower. This is a myth. People are told all the time by friends and family, “You are a strong person. Just exert your strength and you will be able to stop.” It doesn’t work that way.

We need to give up our efforts to manage our drinking, to become sober, and turn to others and a higher power for help. We need to give in to the process that occurs in sobriety. This means letting go of trying to manage and control everything, of being in charge of everything.

After giving in to our efforts to manage our drinking, we need to next surrender to a higher power in our lives that will guide us, if we allow it to do so. This higher power can be anything we want it to be: nature, God, Buddha, our favorite place to be. The point is, we stop making liquor our higher power and allow something outside of liquor and ourselves to guide us, to support us, on an on-going and continual basis.

The next thing we surrender to is a major part of the process of sobriety. This includes looking at ourselves and our behaviors, our actions, and then apologizing if it has harmed another person. We give in and realize we are not perfect, nor is our behavior. This self-appraisal is a major step to freedom and peace-of-mind. The process then includes an on-going look at our behavior, catching ourselves when we act or behave poorly. By doing this, we can right our wrong immediately; this will help tremendously to maintain our sobriety.

We now surrender to the positive things that will come our way when we have surrendered all the things I have discussed above. Sometimes we feel we are undeserving of the good that comes our way, but if we have surrendered to all the things I have discussed, then we are worthy of the good. Welcome it in.

The photo and verse above are from my book, Opening the Gates of the Heart: A Journey of Healing, which is an accounting of my journey of healing in sobriety. It is an excellent source of guidance for you to use through the feelings that surface in sobriety. Many claim they use it as a daily meditation guide. My book is available on this site, under the “Products” tab above. When you order my book, I sign it specifically for you. You can see examples of the pages under the “About” tab; then go to “The book.”

What are some of the things that get in your way of surrendering to sobriety? Or, have you found surrender to be easy? Please leave a comment and let us know.

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Living in Gratitude

Good morning, all! Today I would like to talk about gratitude – how to live with it every day, how it benefits us to do so. One of my images from my book Opening the Gates of the Heart: A Journey of Healing is Visions of Gratitude, as seen here on the right.

Visions of Gratitude

The verse that accompanies this image is: “When I look with eyes that appreciate, everything around and within me is more pleasing, more beautiful.”

This has been my experience. The more I look around and appreciate all that I have, all that is in my life, the more pleasing life is in general. The more pleasant it is. The more grumbling I do about things, the more anger and dissatisfaction I feel. It’s my choice, and I like to feel good, so I choose looking with appreciation at all that I have.

We can all practice looking for the good in our lives, looking for things about which we are grateful. It starts from the moment we wake up… we can be grateful simply for waking up to have another day to live to our fullest, to experience life and all it presents.

Even if we are in the middle of hard times, we can be grateful that 1), we can feel the pain, because when we feel pain, we also feel joy when the pain clears, and 2), we can be grateful that from the difficult time, we will grow our spirit, our character.

When we express gratitude for all that we have, our demeanor is one of cheerfulness, of happiness. We are a joy and a pleasure to be around. We set a good example for others to show their gratitude.

Today, I am grateful for my home, my warmth, my kitty who is my companion, my health, my job… I am especially grateful to be an alcoholic because it led me to recovery and that led to healing that has occurred in my sobriety. Recovery has led to all the peace and happiness I have searched for all my life.

What are you grateful for today in your world? Leave a comment and share with us your joy and gratitude.

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How to Conduct a Self-Appraisal

Good morning! I hope your day is filled with lightness and joy. Today the search term I want to address is conducting a self-appraisal. This is a look at ourselves, a performance evaluation if you will, and it has great benefit.

The purpose of a self-appraisal is to determine how we are coming across in the world. It is a way to assure we are treating ourselves and others with kindness, tolerance, and respect. Many believe that this is an exercise designed to beat ourselves up, but that is not the true way to do a self-appraisal. Let’s look at another way to do one.

The first thing to do when conducting a self-appraisal is to identify all of our positive points. List out in writing all of the things that we like about ourselves, all the things that others say are positive about us.

We study this list to praise ourselves and to realize that we are good people at our core. We don’t do it to brag or flaunt our positive points. Rather, we are humble about our goodness and we see our positive points as gifts.

Next, we take a block of time – a week, two weeks, or a month – and list out all of the positive things we did during that time period. We are looking at all of the positive actions and behaviors we performed during this time period. We are not braggarts in this exercise, nor are we demeaning or disregarding of our behavior and actions. Once these positive points are identified, we sit with them, being with them, allowing them to sink into our consciousness and awareness.

Then, to continue our self-appraisal, we turn our attention to our negative and less-than-desireable actions and behaviors. This is done in a fact-finding fashion. In other words, we do not identify these things so we can beat ourselves up or feel guilt and remorse, although these may surface.

When we identify our negative points, our poor behaviors – and we all have them – we resolve to be responsible for our behavior by owning it. To own it, we first become aware and conscious of it, then we do whatever is necessary to change it. This part of the self-appraisal involves either apologizing for our actions or resolving to not repeat the behavior. We do not apologize if it will be hurtful to another; we simply change our behavior.

We are totally honest in this part of the self-appraisal, not cutting ourselves slack or giving excuses for our bad behavior and actions. The point is to shine the light of consciousness and awareness on them. Once we have done this, we own it, as I said above.

Bad behavior includes gossip, by the way, as this is spiritual assassination of another. We stop engaging in this behavior as a way to apologize to the one we denigrated. Often, we have done something that was mean to another, they reacted in a predictable, human way, and we are now resentful of their response to our meanness. If this is the case for us, we let go of the resentment and apologize, if it’s appropriate.

The benefits of a self-appraisal are that we feel more peace, more freedom of mind and heart. We become more gentle, tolerant, and respectful of people. Inside, the feelings we have for ourselves improve, become stronger and more positive.

I cannot say enough how freeing doing a self-appraisal is. We will be amazed at the benefits we experience. It will make us better people, less angry and bitter toward others In fact, the article I wrote on going from anger to forgiveness spells out the entire process and is something you will want to read. You can get it by leaving your name and email to the right. So leave them now and you will receive the article, which will further this process of the self-appraisal.

Armed now with the way to do a self-appraisal, we can now enjoy the peace and freedom we experience.

 

 

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The Benefits of Compassion

Good morning to you all! It is the wee hours of the morning and I just popped awake, so I got up. I’m armed with a cup of coffee in me, and am ready to write. : ) This morning’s search term I chose is compassion. Let’s see where that takes us.

Webster defines compassion as sorrow for the troubles of another coupled with the desire to help. It also defines it as having pity, and here I disagree. Pity is also defined as sorrow for another’s misfortunes, and goes on to say it implies a slight contempt because the object is regarded as weak or ignorant. I don’t think people want pity, especially because it implies ignorance or weakness, yet I believe compassion is desired by others when they are suffering.

It is possible to feel compassion for someone who is ill or experiencing difficult times. For example, I am currently care-taking a woman who is unable to be independent in her life, and I show her compassion. I think, “What if this were me? How would I like to be treated?” So I show her a mixture of kindness, gentleness, and patience – all components of compassion.

The benefit is a feeling that I have done something good for another, and that feels satisfying emotionally. It feeds my spirit, my soul. The benefit to the other person is that they feel nurtured, cared for and about.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of compassion is that it leads to forgiveness – of others and of ourselves. Let me explain how I discovered this. I spent 38 years angry and bitter about my up-bringing and the damage it did to my psyche. Then, through the process of my recovery in sobriety, I was lookinig at the relationship I had with my parents at the time, and I began to think about what they had endured in their lives.

What I realized is that they were abused themselves in harmful ways, and they were just repeating that behavior with me. When seen in this light, I began to feel sorrow for their troubles, their experiences, knowing how difficult the after-effects of abuse are. And they never learned to examine the feelings associated with their misfortunes. I began to feel compassion for them.

I re-visited that space of compassion many times, as I thought about the effect their up-bringing had on mine, and I found my anger and bitterness melting slowly away. Eventually, I realized I was feeling forgiveness for their behavior, knowing they knew no other way. That did not condone their actions and behaviors, of course, but forgiveness does not mean you condone anything that happened, it just means you pardon it.

In a similar fashion, we can feel compassion for ourselves over our difficulties, our misfortunes, and even our bad behavior. After-all, we knew no better or we would have done differently at that time. We were most likely wounded people ourselves. Instead of feeling pity or remorse, however, we can allow ourselves to feel compassion for our ignorance, our woundedness that led us to poor behavior.

We can feel compassion for the damaged person that we perhaps became through our experiences in life. Yet, that is not grounds for excuses over our behavior or actions. We feel compassion for ourselves, learn the lesson, and move forward in our life, resolving to not repeat what led us to compassion in the first place.

So, there you have what I believe to be the benefits of compassion, with forgiveness of others and ourselves high on the list. In what way do you show compassion to others, to yourself? Leave a comment and let us know.

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Respect for the Rights of Others

Good morning, all! “Respect for the rights of others” was searched for four times, and I wish to address that today. To look at how to do this, it is necessary to look at what I believe another’s rights actually are. So let’s discuss them.

Cultivation of Differences

First, the biggest thing we can do to respect another is to tolerate one’s differences. In fact, we can celebrate the differences of each other, encouraging others, and ourselves, to greatness. The differences of others is what brings richness to our lives.

The second thing we can do to respect another is to treat them with kindness and consideration, just like we would want to be treated. When I say “consideration,” I am referring to consideration of one’s beliefs and one’s feelings.

It is the right of another to be treated as a worthy being, simply because they are living on this earth. We each are inherently worthy and we can respect that of another.

Acknowledging one’s individuality is another way to show respect for them. We spend lots of time trying to get others to be like us, to think like us, to act like us. Is that because we feel insecure about who we are ourselves?

If we respect someone’s individuality and cultivate their differences, think of the harmony that would be created among us. Similarly, if we respect OUR individuality and cultivate OUR differences, think how we would shine in the world.

So, armed with these things – tolerance, cultivation of differences, kindness, consideration, and encouragement of individuality – we will be showing respect for others’ rights.

What actions do you take which show respect for another? Leave a comment and let us know.

 

 

 

 

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The Power of Willingness

Good morning and Happy New Year to all of you out there! I hope you all have a wonderful year in 2013! I want to start the year off by talking about willingness, but before I do, I’d like to address the person who searched for “sometimes living is worthless.”

To you who searched for that, I’d like to say, yes, sometimes it feels like living is worthless. There appears to be no hope, nothing to do that will improve the situation. That is what it was like for me anyway, when I was praying to God to let me die in 2005.

The operative word there is “feels.” It “feels” like living is worthless. The thing is, it is a feeling, and if we allow them, feelings will come and go. They pass if we just hang in there and wait for them to do so. What worked for me when I felt living was worthless, was helping someone to get through what I had gotten through in my suffering.

In other words, I was helped through that feeling by being useful to another, and I was useful to another by sharing my story with someone who was struggling with the same feelings with which I had been struggling. It worked for me to talk through these feelings in an effort to be of service to another. When I realized that by sharing how I made improvements in my life I was helpful to another, I began to feel that life WAS worth living. Perhaps you can gain something from that and your feeling that living is worthless will ease.

Let’s move on to willingness. In fact, willingness applies in the situation above, because one has to be willing to be of service to another, willing to let the feeling of worthlessness travel through.

Webster defines willingness as acting and giving readily, cheerfully, gladly… voluntarily. I found that asking the Universe for the willingness to be willing to have willingness was useful to get me to the point of having willingness. Unfortunately for my mental health, I had to be beaten down to the lowest low emotionally and with my drinking, before I was able to gain the willingness to do something about it all. I was so bad off, I became willing to do whatever it took to feel better.

Today, I define willingness as one of the major keys to use to open the gates of my heart when it is closed. In fact, I find willingness to be the key for the basis of everything I do. The power of willingness is remarkable. When I am willing, all sorts of positive things come my way. Often, problems solve themselves with my action and God’s intervention, but I have to be willing to do the work. Then, I have to be willing to allow God to work in my life.

The act of being willing opens doors that might never be opened for us. It’s like, when we show willingness, the Universe knows how to help us attain what we want and need. It opens our mind, our heart. There is great power in that.

How do you show willingness? Leave a comment and let us know.

 

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Taking It One Day At a Time

There is a lot to be said for living one day at a time, whether you are in sobriety or not. This doesn’t mean you don’t make plans or think ahead; you do. But you focus on the day before you; you focus on the present.

I used to spend my time in the past and the future… anything but the present moment before me. Consequently, I missed out on a whole lot of pleasure and goodness. I was angry about the past and kept living it over and over again. I also stayed in the past with my guilt over my actions and behaviors, things I said to others.

I lived in great fear of the future, imagining every detail of what could and would happen in my life. I also created a fantasy life in my mind, looking toward the future with great hopes of this or that happening. I was rarely in the present moment, enjoying what was right in front of me.

Then I got sober and I began the journey to learn how to live one day at a time. You don’t have to have a drinking problem to live one day at a time, only a realization that you are in the past and future and not the present moment.

On my journey, I was taught how to live in the moment by focusing on the next indicated thing to do. In other words, I learned  to go from task to task as it related to my goal or desired outcome. Sometimes, the next indicated thing was to wash the dishes or to take a nap.

As far as planning, I learned to make plans, but to hold them loosely, sometimes changing these plans according to my needs and desires when that moment rolled around. I was taught to make plans but to let go of the outcome.

The result has been that I no longer worry about the future or the past, and my fear of the future is much less. I have learned to accept the things I did or did not do in the past, and I have learned to make plans and let go of how it all works out. It is a most freeing way to live, taking it one day at a time. It has allowed me to focus on the moment, where all the richness of life lies.

How are you at living one day at a time? Have you mastered it or is that something you wish to learn to do? Leave a comment and let us know. And, have a Happy New Year… fun and safe.

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The Art of Gentleness

Good morning and happy almost-New-Year. My cat Izzy is walking back and forth in front of me, looking for pets, reaching out her paw, asking for more, so I pet her with great gentleness. She is so precious. She brightens my life.

This morning, I wanted to write about gentleness of heart, gentleness of spirit. I wanted to talk about gentleness to others as we interact with them and to ourselves as we grow and change. I feel light in my heart when I am gentle with others, when I treat them in a kind, serene and patient way.

The same goes for me when I treat myself with gentleness, with kindness, patience, and serenity. I am more gentle with others than I am with myself, as I forget a lot of the time to be patient with my progress, my attempts to learn, grow, and heal. Yet, when I show gentleness to myself, I progress further than when I am being unkind and impatient.

Bed of Gentleness

This is the image from my book, Opening the Gates of the Heart: A Journey of Healing. The verse is: “Oh, could we not treat ourselves with great gentleness as we go through life learning, growing, healing? Would we then be more gentle with others, too?”

How do I show gentleness to others? It truly is as simple as being kind and serene… patient with them. When I am in that space, I am quiet and assured in my heart, and that is reflected in my actions, my behavior, my words, and my tone of voice. I am relaxed and others, in turn, become more relaxed as well.

And how do I show gentleness to myself? I use a lot of self-talk with quiet, reassuring words that I am okay, that I am doing fine. I show myself kindness and patience, and I act in a serene manner. This leads to a gentler way to approach my thoughts, my behaviors, and my actions.

Do you treat others and yourself with gentleness? How does that feel for you? Leave a comment and let us know.

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How to Manage Resentment

I spent 38 years of my life carrying a resentment against my parents for the things that occurred when I was growing up. I was a bitter, angry person, filled with self-pity. I drank heavily, saying, “You’d drink too if you’d had an upbringing like mine.” The thing is, the resentment was only hurting myself, and did nothing to move me forward in life.

Resentment is defined by Webster as a feeling of bitter hurt or indignation, from a sense of being injured or offended. In recovery circles, it is distinguished from anger by the thought that a resentment means to feel again and again.

Today, I have resolved my resentment and enjoy a fine relationship with my parents, as well as with others. How did I do that, get to that place?

First, I looked at what was behind my resentment. I found it was usually because I was hurt or disappointed by something someone did or said. I took that hurt and disappointment and ran with it, feeling it again and again, feeling indignant that “this” was done to me. As I mentioned, I was filled with self-pity.

The second thing I did was to conduct a self-appraisal. This involved looking at my positive points first, and then my negative ones, my negative thoughts, behaviors, and actions. What I discovered was that I had very high expectations, higher than, for example, my parents could meet, given their own wounds they received while growing up. They were incapable of being who and what I wanted them to be. When I realized this, I was able to let go of my expectations and enjoy the positive things that came my way.

Also in that appraisal, I discovered ways in which I had gotten the ball rolling on a resentment. In other words, I did or said something to hurt another and they reacted in a human way back to me. I then resented them for how they reacted. But I started the whole affair. I had to learn to identify my part in things, and in the case of resentment, I found it was caused usually by my behavior and actions.

That was an embarrassing thing for me to realize, as I thought I was “justified” in my resentment, but when I saw that I started the whole thing, I had to let go of the resentment. I had to learn to identify what was behind the resentment and it was most often hurt.

It was also because I was disappointed by something and blamed it on the person I thought disappointed me. After doing my appraisal, identifying when I was disappointed, I began to learn not to expect anything from anyone. This way, when something happened that was nice, it was a pleasant surprise.

To recap, my resentment was almost always caused by my high expectations that someone couldn’t meet, or by something I did or said to get the ball rolling. How did I get past my resentments?

Well, after the self-appraisal, I began to develop compassion for others. For example, when I allowed myself to look at my parents and what they endured during their childhood, I began to realize they were just repeating what was done to them. Knowing what that was like, I felt compassion for their childhood, and for them. From this compassion, I was able to forgive. That does not mean I condone what happened; it just means I am pardoning their behavior, having seen its root causes.

I hope this is helpful information that you can put to use now or in the near future. Here’s to the resolution of resentment in your life.

 

 

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Gratitude for Another Day

Good morning and I hope your Christmas day was filled with gratitude – for the day’s blessings and for staying sober. One person searched for Christmas day, their first day sober. Today is their second and I hope it goes well for them.

Visions of Gratitude

Today I’m talking about gratitude for yet another day, and specifically, for my sobriety. I am very grateful for the day of sobriety on Christmas day. There were times in my life when staying sober on Christmas was very difficult, but I made it through by expressing gratitude throughout the day.

I keep my eye and heart on the abundance I am experiencing, rather than the scarcity. For example, my sister sent several gifts for me to put under the tree, and I am so grateful she did. It completed the feeling of Christmas. It led me to feel wanted, appreciated and I am grateful.

If I’d had no gifts, I could have been grateful for the tree and the joy it brings to the room. If I’d had no tree, I could have expressed gratitude for my home, my cat, food, and my health. The point is, there is always something to be grateful for, even if it is the smallest thing.

When I was first sober, I had difficulty showing gratitude for anything. I was too mired in the emotional pain I felt over my past. I went through a period of great anger and sadness over those feelings, those experiences.

It wasn’t until I’d done some healing work that I was able to write a gratitude list, listing out the basic things for which I was grateful. It included things like being grateful for my abilities at renovation. You saw the results of my renovation skills yesterday, in the picture of the van I rebuilt.

I am most grateful for those skills, as I am for other abilities I have. Today, I am grateful for my past, as it has made me into what and who I am today, with knowledge of what it’s like to be abused, so I can relate to others who have been or are being abused, so I can offer words of encouragement, support, so I can relay what happened to me to led me to be grateful for the abuse.

That story is another post. Today, I invite you to make a gratitude list, listing out the most simple and basic things for which you are grateful. When I made a gratitude list, I found that as I listed out those things, I was able to express gratitude for more and more things. It became a self-perpetuating situation, a little grew and grew until I was grateful for every little thing.

I wish for you gratitude for another day, another day of sobriety, if you are a sober person. If you practice gratitude, I hope it lifts your spirits. Have a pleasant day, filled with gratitude.

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