Yes, I can easily "make the argument" that my life has some big emotional challenges. I can focus on those challenges - and in focusing on them, amplify them and make them more intimidating. That's almost effortless, because those troubles are quick to present themselves to me every morning.
Alternately, I can choose to make the effort to switch both my focus and the emotional impressions I want to carry with me - to ones of gratitude. Today, June 10th 2019, is the 35th anniversary of my resolve to build a life of recovery, sobriety, and learning to live clean. So despite the challenges I have, today is another day to deliberately practice gratitude.
I was quite specific about "deliberately practice gratitude" there. I've had a few moments in my life where I've felt gratitude spontaneously - just a few. What I've found, again and again, is that if I don't just wait for gratitude, I can feel it much more frequently. When I put that effort in, to hunt for or cultivate gratitude deliberately, I benefit tremendously from it.
At one time I was walking down the street in New York city with some Masters Degree Program classmates. I told one that I was a drug addict, and was met with outrage that I should say that about myself. They refused to believe it, and encouraged me to “never put yourself down like that!”
For me, it's not a put-down - it's an acknowledgement of something in my life. That acknowledgement is actually empowering for me. What I used to practice was innocent unawareness, and then denial that I had a problem... which made the problem much worse.
The idea that addiction is a spiritual disease is helpful, useful, and tremendously positive for me. It’s positive for me because I've learned so much about know how it works, and I know that if I live according to that knowledge, and keep learning, then my life can be great.
I consider addiction as a single disease, regardless of it’s particular manifestation. Thus, there are only surface differences between someone with “gambling addiction” or someone else with “alcoholism”, or “drug addiction”, or a “video game addict” or “workaholism” or - you name it. Looking at addiction this way helps me see unity. From this perspective of unity, of common elements, I can create compassion. This compassion is for anyone experiencing the pains of addiction - including myself at any given moment.
At 35 years of learning “how to live clean”, I still detect addictive processes working within me, on a daily basis. They are subtle, and insignificant perhaps, for anyone else. Yet for me, from learning how to know myself for these years, I treat them as familiar friends, as servants. They show up to give me an important message. They tell me that I'm somehow "off base", or out of my center of wholeness, of spiritual wellness.
This awareness is more than just a passive noticing. It helps me, moment by moment, choose to focus on positive recovery actions, rather than sliding backwards, unaware, into relapse and using.
Those positive recovery actions include reaching out for connection with others walking the same kind of road, and putting all other differences aside. Thus, I see the “me” inside your story, and the “you” inside mine.
I’ve had so many gifts of authentic fellowship, with so many people, as a result of starting and continuing to learn how to live clean.
I've learned and today practice a variety of tools for living clean. They help me strengthen my recovery, my inner peace, and alignment with "all good things".
One of the first and foremost is to say "Thank you".
Thank you, for all of my teachers. Thank you for teaching me.
This is something I say to myself on a daily, sometimes moment-by-moment basis. I do this especially when I see myself going into resistance, or forming a resentment against someone else. It helps me keep my heart and my mind open and receptive.
Thank you, even for the teachers who didn’t know what you were teaching me at the time - or what I was learning from your teaching. Thank you for your commitment and courage for teaching me the lessons that showed me my ignorance, impatience, intolerance, lack of acceptance, arrogance, and immaturity.
While that's not been comfortable to do, it has brought me comfort. The paradox is that I gained freedom - freedom from pains and problems that I didn't know I was creating for myself. I didn't have any idea how I was doing that painful stuff, until I humbled myself in those moments.
Thank you, to all of those of you who have helped me and anyone else seeking recovery. I appreciate your courageous honesty, your generous sharing, your vulnerability, and the honour of your friendship.
Thank you, all.
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