Monday, January 30, 2012

Acceptance-And What We Must Suck Up

I know, I know, the correct terminology is accepting those things we cannot change.  That sounds so noble and peaceful.  But lets face it, a lot of us, especially early in sobriety, are not really looking to be noble and peaceful, we just want to learn ways to suck it up. 

And you know what, sucking it up works just fine, until you can make peace with the things that are out of your control.  Personally, I'm much better now at just accepting most things I can't change, but sometimes something comes along that really does stick in my craw.  I've learned over the years that drinking won't change the things I don't like in life, whining about them doesn't work, temper tantrums-waste of energy!
So, I just suck it up until I can make peace with it.

Making peace with things we can't change, that's a huge part of acceptance.  For me personally, its pretty easy to look at the other side of the situation.  I may not always agree with the other side, but I can at least understand their point in my head, if not my heart.  Once I have at least an intellectual understanding of something I really dislike, its easier to just let go of it.

People are a great example of this.  Personally, I have a real problem with judgmental and/or prejudiced people.  A lot of my problem is because they only see what they want to see, they refuse to consider other opinions, or take anything other than their beliefs into account.

But you know what, that is their problem.  It is not up to me to make them better people.  I don't have to hang around with these people.  Depending on my life situation at a given time I may have to work with them, or be neighbors with them, but I don't have to spend personal time with them.  What works for me is realizing that's where they are on their journey through life, and that's okay.  They must be there for a reason.  Its not where I am, so I just stay away from their negativity.

We also can't change other people's attitudes about us, at least not overnight.  Those of us in recovery, all we can do is stay strong and show every day that we are doing the right things and that we are on the right path.  Eventually, most people will come around as they see us making the effort.  Those people that have closed their minds  and hearts to us; we really don't need them anyway.  We don't need their negativity dragging us down.

A lot of times, we may have been what closed their minds.  We all did things when we were active in our addictions that hurt others, as well as ourselves.  We may very well have hurt others to the point that they can't forgive us, and that is something that we have to live with.  

It is also one of the most important things that we need to accept.  WE did ALL those things.  Granted, we did most of them under the influence of mind-altering substances, or when we were so wrapped up in our addiction that our thinking was distorted, but WE STILL DID THEM.  I have lost some sober friends who decided well, it wasn't ME that did that, it was the alcohol, cocaine, insert drug of choice here. 

That is a load of crap!! It was still Me or You.  We did it, and we have to admit that to ourselves.  I find it very helpful,especially when random memories of things I really don't want to remember come to me, to realize, that's who I was THEN.  The person I am now would never do those things, and would never live like that. 

We need to accept and remember who we were, but now we get to live with the knowledge that that person is in the past.  That person helped make us the strong person we are today,  but it is not who we are anymore.   I saw this somewhere, I don't remember the author but I think its very appropriate "Don't Judge Me By My Past, I Don't Live There Anymore!"

That's what we have to do with ourselves and with others.  Live in the moment, don't deny the past; but don't dwell in it either, and just stay away from the things that we know in our hearts are bad for us.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Balance-Pagan Blog Project

As my first post for the Pagan Blog Project I wanted to talk about balance.   It means so many different things in our lives.  Its not just the balance between light and dark, good an evil, male and female.  It is also having balance in our lives and our hearts.

I know I struggle with keeping balance in my life, between work, study, housecleaning, spirituality, everyday mundane things, and just plain me-veg-out-now time there never seem to be enough hours in the day.  I know I have decided that if I didn't have to work, I would have enough time to balance everything else in my life perfectly!!  Unfortunately, I really do like to live indoors and to eat, so not working is not an option. lol

I have truly been amazed though at how my life and the things in it seem to find a way to balance themselves if I am just open to it.  I've been battling stomach issues that I knew were exacerbated by the varied times my job has me scheduled.  For many reasons, I was reluctant to go to them and ask to change my hours; now they have come to me and offered to make my schedule exactly what I wanted!! It is a loss of approximately 8-9 hours per week but one I can easily live with.  Because of the timing of those hours, I actually free up approximately 20+ productive hours in my schedule.

The sad part of this, is that like so many others, I at first didn't recognize this for the blessing it is. When they came to me and said we want to do this because we know it is too much for you, my initial reaction was negative.  I was unhappy that they had decided to do this, even though they talked to me first and I said yes do it, I was still unhappy because they had made the first move, not me!!  But this is balance- relinquishing control sometimes. I personally feel this was Goddess saying, "Enough already, foolish mortal-I will get this done for you!!"

Balance is not always what we want it to be.  So very often I hear people say, when they have been having a period of good times "I know something bad is going to happen".  These things are not truly bad things, it is the Universe saying, "Okay, you've enjoyed your reward for the last life lesson learned.  Here is your next lesson."

In the same line of thought, some people wonder when their luck will change for the good.  I truly believe these people are either not learning the lesson that they are being taught at the time, or they simply are not appreciating what they do have.  Perhaps if we all remembered the blessings that we have in our lives during the bad times, we could learn our life lessons with a little less pain!

Keeping balance in our lives and our hearts also means recognizing the good with the bad.  Its not always the obvious things either.  When we lose someone we love we think of the positive that they have moved on to Summerland.  But many times the good that can come out of a loss is unknown to us: the driver that sees a roadside memorial for someone killed by a speeding driver who then slows down, the nurse who has a smile for a cranky patient because she saw how bravely her last patient faced their end,  the child who lost a friend to violence and went on to become an anti-violence crusader.  The list goes on...

I really believe that if we just look for it, we can find the balance in even the most negative of things.  Lush new growth comes from the ashes of a forest fire.  There is a plus for every minus, it is up to us to find it and to keep the good in our hearts!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Acceptance and the Change It Can Bring

Since I am new to blogging and would like to do a good job I am setting a blogging schedule for myself.  Fridays and Mondays my posts will focus more on sobriety issues, Saturdays my post will follow the Pagan Blog Project, Wednesdays will be book reviews for the Pagan Reading Challenge, and the rest of the week is yet to be determined.  So, since it is Friday, let me begin:

I really want to discuss acceptance today and Monday.  Acceptance is the core of the first step for both the 12-Step Program of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Pagan 13-Steps that I follow.  Let's be honest, without acceptance, there can be no real change.

The whole point of sobriety is not to stop using whatever substance, or performing whatever action we are addicted to, it is to gain control of our lives and to become better people!!  Obviously this requires that some changes be made.

The first step to making a change is noticing that there is a problem and that something needs to change.  for most of us, that part was easy, life sucked!! Something had to change.  Now, comes the slightly harder part, realizing that WE were what had to change.

I know many of us, sometimes for years, thought the problem was with: the landlord who wanted his rent, the utility companies that wanted their money, the employers who expected us to not just show up for work, but to be clean and sober while we were there, and to not be too hung over or jonesing too badly to work.  I mean really, what was wrong with them!! Couldn't they see we were hurting??  How about a little understanding? Cut us some slack already!  Sound familiar... I'm pretty sure it does.

Eventually, we started to realize the problem might just be with us.  Now came the hard part, accepting that WE were the problem and that WE had to change.  For me personally, this acceptance came easily, I had known for a long time that I was out of control.  Unfortunately, I didn't care.  I quite literally wanted to drink myself to death. I didn't have the guts to just slit my wrists or take the bridge, but I sure didn't want to live any longer.  Drinking myself to death seemed like the easy option; I mean, I was really good at drinking!!

Fortunately, Divinity had different plans for me.  I was eventually diagnosed with depression and went on medication for that.  Within a very few weeks I realized that there really is a lot to life, it truly does have a lot to offer.  With my depression under control, the urge to drink was gone, it totally disappeared.

Of course, just being on an anti-depressant and not being depressed (for probably the first time in my life that lasted for more than a few weeks) was not enough to keep me sober.  It worked for a few months, actually not quite 2 years, it worked for, but then the drinking came back.  Now I had to accept that not only was I clinically depressed without meds, I also was an alcoholic even with meds.

Suddenly, it wasn't so easy to admit I was a drunk.  It felt like being a failure.  I was perfectly cool with depression being a chemical imbalance in my brain-take the pill, straighten out the balance, all is well.  There is no such cut and dried treatment for alcoholism or any kind of addiction.

After losing literally everything I owned a few times, and a really great relationship, I finally knew I had to change myself, I had to want to be a better person.  Wanting to be a person who didn't drink wasn't going to be enough.

Once I accepted this, and realized that I could become not just sober, but a better person, I was on my way to a sober and productive life.  I chose to not give in to my alcoholism and to be a better person and to do whatever it took to make that happen.

This same principle applies to any behavior or attitude you might want to change about yourself.  First you have to recognize that there is a problem, an inconvenience that is ongoing and always seems to happen to  you.  Once you accept what the issue is you can decide to change this behavior if you don't like the consequences, or you can decide  the pleasure obtained from this behavior is worth the consequences.

This is a rather simple example, but it does illustrate the point perfectly.  Someone who is frequently late and wants to be more punctual must decide first what makes them late.  Do they take a way to work that is always slow due to backed up traffic?  Do they run around getting everything together at the last minute?   Do they put off getting up or getting ready until the last minute?  Are they just easily distracted by other things when they are trying to get ready? Do they just lose track of time?  Or perhaps just not allow enough time to get ready or for travel?

This person has already taken the first step by accepting that they must change something in their behavior if they truly wish to become more punctual.  Next, they must decide what  part of their behavior is causing the problem.  If they just lose track of time, perhaps they could set an alarm for the time that they need to begin getting ready.  If they have trouble getting everything they need together before they leave, perhaps they could set everything aside ahead of time so it is all together when they get ready.  I'm sure you see where I'm going with this.

That very basic example highlights how acceptance can lead to change.  Of course, it doesn't have to.  I have accepted that I am just not a very neat person.  Although I like things to be relatively picked up I am perfectly content if there is a stack of books and paperwork scattered all over my bed and the floor next to it.  Once or twice a week I straighten everything up and am very proud of how neat it looks (for about 5 minutes).  But I have decided that to me personally, it is simply not worth the effort to keep my books and papers perfectly organized all the time.  I'm actually quite happy with my clutter a lot of the time.

Since I live alone, no one else has to deal with my clutter and I don't have to deal with someone who is truly bothered by clutter.   But very frequently in life, we have to accept things in others that we really don't  like or aren't comfortable with, and they have to accept the same in us.  That is the part of acceptance I'm covering in Monday's post.

Blessed Be!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Thank You to Two Unnamed Witches

     For my first blog, I want to start out with a thank-you to the anonymous witches who created and posted A Wiccan 13-Step Path.  I honestly don't know that I would have been able to maintain my sobriety without them.  The steps, copied directly from the website are:

A Wiccan 13-Step Path

by two unnamed Witches 1

1. We admit that we have a problem with _____, and NOW is the moment to reclaim our Will and Balance. 2
2. We come to believe that the Goddess and Magick, outside and within, can restore our Balance and Will, so that we may feel whole again. 3
3. We will become open to receiving help from the Goddess, and from others who want to understand.
4. We name the Darkness and the Light; the weaknesses and the strengths, within us, and recognize where they have become disruptive; we realize that ______ cannot fill our void or restore our Balance.
5. We seek to restore Balance, and learn to let go of that which disrupts us.
6. We make a list of ways we have acquiesced to oppression and repression, and how this has caused us to harm ourselves and others.
7. We will say NO to these oppressive and repressive ways, and attempt to live in Balance.
8. We become open to change, and realize that it is necessary to cultivate patience.
9. Having experienced these changes, we continually seek Balance in our lives through our connection with the Web of Life.
10. We continue to be conscious of our Will, our actions and our thoughts; acknowledging our mistakes, and enjoying our successes.
11. We use the events life brings us as lessons for growth, and accept our mistakes as part of life.
12. We believe that we are doing the best that we can, in the Now, and this is enough.
13. We accept ourselves the way we are, trust ourselves, and deeply realize that health, happiness, freedom and love are Her rituals.

1. The authors choose to remain unnamed at least in part since they feel that their own current inertia in these matters renders their own need for credit trivial. These steps are listed as suggestions based on the spirit of Charlotte Kasl's 16-step program; use or adapt at will. 2. Fill in the blank yourself. Alcoholism, or simply any facet of one's life one has difficulties dealing with.
3. The words in Step 2 and Step 3, "the Goddess" may be substituted with "the gods", or with the name of any specific divinity. Indeed, the steps can be adapted for just about any spiritual persuasion.

     As a pagan, I had serious issues with some of AA's 12 steps, which can be found here:  Now, I am by no means bashing those 12 steps.  They have helped hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people over the years.  But, let's be honest, they really are not designed for pagans, atheists,  or other non-Christians.
  I personally had a very hard time with the 3rd step : "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him."  I wasn't hung up on the terms: God vs Goddess, I am perfectly capable of making that adjustment, it was the turning my will and my life over part that I couldn't get my head around.
 As I understand my goddesses and gods, they really don't want my will or my life.  Those are the divine gifts that THEY GAVE TO ME!!  They want me to do well with them, and to do good, but they are my gifts to do with as I will.  Saying that I wanted to give them back, even just for caretaking, felt like I was insulting the Goddess.  Worse, it felt like my thinking when I was looking for an excuse to keep drinking: "This is how I was made, I must be meant to be a drunk."
   The idea of following that step, to me, felt like ducking all personal responsibility for making myself a better person.  I wanted the help of the Goddess to stay sober and to make myself a better person, but I knew that it was my battle to wage, and my own little self that had to do the work; I couldn't just say "Here, take me and make me well."
 I do understand that is not the intent of Step 3 in AA, I am merely saying that's how I interpreted it.  And since I am the person who has to live my life, that interpretation at that point in time, was very crucial!  Step 3, on this 13-Step Path just resonated with me: "We will become open to help from the Goddess, and from others who want to understand."  This is exactly what I was looking for: help becoming the best, ok maybe not the best, but definitely a better person than I was at that time.
   Once I found these steps, my sobriety was no longer such a struggle.  I look at these steps almost every day, and think about how I can better live by them.  The things that disrupt me, that take away my peace, I let go of.  Frequently, that means making amends, even though amends are not specifically called for in these steps.  That is a decision each person must make for themselves as they reach that point in time.
   I currently have 3 years and 9 months sober, and as time goes on, I occasionally find myself remembering old hurts or inexplicably feeling guilty.  At those times, I look at these steps and at my recent actions and I can tell, with a clear mind, if I need to change something in my life, apologize for something I've done, or just acknowledge the bad feelings and then let them go.
   Although I still have some things about myself I am working on changing, overall I can say that I have come a long way.  My sincerest hope for this blog is that it can help at least one person in one small way.