Monday, July 28, 2014

What is Your Mission

Everyone knows the great philosophical question, "Why are we here?" That is not what we are talking about today. Instead, the question becomes, "Why am I here?" This question brings up more questions: Is there a point to this thing I call life? Do I have a purpose? How do I want to be remembered? What is my life's mission?

As we address this the word mission is synonymous with the words calling, goal or aim. So, what is your calling in life, what goals do you want to accomplish and what direction in life are you aiming to go?

Today, I challenge you to ask yourself a question and let that answer lead you on a journey the rest of your life. How do I want to be remembered? When people think about me, how do I want them to think of me? This is where some people say they don't care what other people think about them. I hope that selfishness and narcissism are not part of your character and you don't feel that way. 

How do you want to be remembered? All of us have legacies that will be here after we turn to dust. It could be children, siblings, nieces/nephews, god children, best friends, friend's kids,people we mentor/sponsor, businesses, organizations or even written/video records (newspaper articles, Facebook pages, blogs, books, etc).

Whether we like it or not, we all leave a footprint in this world. We all have an impact on people in our lives and often an impact on people we may never meet. Contrary to how I once felt, what I do matters. What each and everyone of you does matters, to someone or something. Every action has consequences.

I don't care who you are or what you believe in, if you are living your life to make yourself and the people around you better, you are doing something right. If you aren't living your life that way, you are doing something wrong. That said, what do you want to accomplish with your life and can people tell your mission by the way you are living your life? If not, how can I change that? Apply a basic psychological theory from the cognitive behavioral school.

Here is where rational living theory comes into play. It is a theory by Aldo Pucci that says you need to do two things than ask yourself 3 questions before you do things.

·         Step 1 - First, put together a list of your goals.

·         Step 2 - Compile a list of feelings you desire.

·         Know come the three Questions:

·         Question 1 - Is what I am thinking of doing rational?

·         Question 2 - Will doing this being me closer to accomplishing my goals?

·         Question 3 - Will doing this elicit the feelings I want to have?

If you can answer yes to these 3 questions, than it becomes something you can do.

I had a way of doing that before I heard of Mr. Pucci. When I got clean and sober, I struggled with something Mark Lundholm calls first thought wrong. In my case, it was more like first 5 thoughts wrong. I needed some way to focus on doing the right thing, and it was hard because I had spent the last 2 plus decades doing the wrong thing. This was a theory I came up with. I call it the 3 questions that changed my life. If you do not believe in God, than ask yourself the 2nd and 3rd questions only.

This is really simple, anytime you do anything, ask yourself these 3 questions before you do it.

·         Question 1 - If God were standing right next to me, would I do this?

·         Question 2 - If the person I love the most (son/daughter, little brother/sister, niece/nephew, mom/dad, partner) was standing right here next to me, would I do this?

·         Question 3 -  Is this something I would want the person I love the most to do?

If you cannot say yes to all three of those questions, don’t do it. It really is that simple. The person I used for the one I loved the most was my son.  I realized that as much as he loved me and looked up to me he would repeat the things he saw me do. This really helped me make decisions better which in turn helped me make huge strides in accomplishing my life's goals.

Why is what we do so important in accomplishing your life's mission? Because how we act and the things we do speak much louder than what we actually tell people we want to do and how we want to be seen. Imagine I want people to know there is a better life in recovery. I want the community around me know that people in recovery are no longer the people they once were!

What I do, how I act and what I say impact all of that in huge ways. I am always on stage, because I am proud of my recovery and I speak out about recovery, addiction and stigma issues all of the time in the communities around me. Because of that people watch what I do and listen to what I say. They do the same with you, whether you know it or not. What you say and do matters, whether you care or not.

The biggest roadblock standing in the way of reducing the stigma that surrounds addiction, mental health and recovery are the people in recovery. It is not the community! I have found a lot of people who have been very receptive to seeing the positive change that comes with recovery and seeing me for the person I am today even though they know the person I once was.

In order to accomplish a mission, you never waver. You never take your eye off of the prize. If you slip, you get right back up and continue forward while learning from the slip to avoid it in the future. Never back down, never surrender, and never settle. I know you might want to be good, but never forget that you can be great! You can accomplish anything you set your mind to!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Letting Go and Letting God Can Be Tough

There are not a lot of things out there that really worry me anymore. I have found that as my sobriety and spiritual walk have coalesced into recovery I have gotten really good at letting go and letting God. There are some times that I don’t have enough hours in the day and things get placed on the backburner, but I have come to accept these as part of a normal life. I have a relatively stress-free life when you look at everything I do.

Today, I am not feeling that stress-free. In fact, for the last couple of days I have been feeling large amounts of stress. It has to do with a lot of things out of my control and others that are in my control but that could be impacted by things out of my control. There are multiple issues I have coming at me currently.

First thing is the thing fully out of my control. I just got off of vacation and spent a couple of my days off in the hospital. I am seeing a surgeon on Friday to schedule gallbladder surgery. Due to a previous surgery for a hernia, it is possible I could have scar tissue built up that could make it impossible for them to do laparoscopic surgery. IF they can do laparoscopic I might only be out for a few days. If there is scar tissue I could be out for 4-6 weeks. That is a difficult one for me to swallow for multiple reasons.

I am busy. I know that a lot of people are busy, but I have a full plate. I have two children to raise and a family I need to give the personal time they deserve, building both my recovery and my relationship with Christ, a full time job, starting a non-profit, leading up 3 large community events that I am grateful to have teams helping me with, a weekly blog, a monthly community service project, a conference presentation next month, leading a step study, being the assimilation coach at Glendale’s Celebrate Recovery coupled with public speaking, teaching at CR meetings and sitting on two boards plus needing to finish writing my book. I am busy.  

This surgery has me realizing that I am human and once I have the surgery my juggling act is out of commission for a little bit. I cannot always keep umpteen balls in the air at all times without having some of them fall. That is reality for most people. In my world, that reality is unacceptable. I cannot let people down or fulfill my roles. That was the guy I was in addiction and I cannot ever be that guy again. That is the hard part for me to let go of.

No matter how far I am from the guy I used to be, I find that I still judge myself and the people’s perception of me based on who I was years ago in my addiction. I am so afraid that I will let people down and they will see me as a fake. I know that I am not fake. I know that I am not the person I used to be. I realize who I am today and that this is the person most people see when they look at me, but there are times that my depression and anxiety get the best of me and the last two days have been that way.

I realize the insanity of this thinking, but at times it is pervasive and convincing. This past week, as I realized that I may be out for 4-6 weeks due to the surgery if the scar tissue exists really hit me. If I am out that long, I have some major issues coming up:

1.       I am out of work for a month without that much PTO and my bills will still be due.

2.       I love going to White Water and Silver Dollar City with my family every week and that will not happen for a while.

3.       I have a planning meeting that I may not be able to lead.

4.       I have a training I may not be able to go to.

5.       I may miss CR for a couple of weeks and not be able to volunteer like I normally do for a while there or in the community.

6.       I still need several large sponsors and donors for the events.

7.       I need to get people registered and tickets sold for the events and it is getting down to the wire.

I need to, I have to, I must……………………………………..




Will it be 2 days or 4 weeks, who knows? The surgeon will probably not know until the day of surgery. Have bills always gotten paid somehow? Of course they have, and they will this time too. I will still have time with my family. It might not be the most fun time we have shared together, but we will still be together and that is more than a lot of families have. I have people who can step up and fill in for me at work, with the non-profit planning committee and at CR.

Sponsors, donors, registration and tickets? I give that one to God and I pray that the teams who are working on the events continue to do the amazing jobs that they have been doing and everything will work out fine!

I need to slow my roll and remember all I have to be grateful for. I have an amazing wife, 2 great kids, a job that treats me like family and some really good people in my life. I am blessed and there is no surgery that will change all that I have in my life. I know this, but sometimes I have to remind myself about it.

In recovery and my faith I have made monumental changes and the person I am today is the person people see when they look at me. The problem is not the way people see me, but instead the way I am afraid that people see me. I judge myself harshly, not every one else. At times that is the hardest thing to remember. When I remember all of this I can let go and let God do what He does best, which is continue making me a better person!   

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

I Am Not Cured!

I try to stay out of most discussions that I see. I know that I can come across a little strong for some people’s tastes, and I am trying to build bridges between recovery and the community, not burn them. Occasionally, I hear something that I cannot help but address because there is a lack of knowledge in the statement and my desire is that all people have knowledge about addiction and recovery so that they can stop spreading misinformation, half-truths and faulty information. What someone had said was, “Addiction is not a disability because it can be cured. You can’t cure a disability.”

I wanted to scream, “YOU CANNOT CURE ADDICTION!!!” but I controlled the urge. Instead, I carefully thought out my reply. As someone in long-term recovery, I feel that it is my job to educate people and that generally needs to be done with carefully worded sentences. Too little and the point is not made, too much and you become offensive and the point is not heard. I had several questions pop into my head at once:

Can addiction be cured?

What does cured mean?

Am I cured?

Being cured to me means that I can use again. I know for a fact that I cannot use again. I have proven that to myself several times. I have quit using, and then relapsed. Each time that I relapsed, I thought that I could control my use. I was wrong, I lost control. I have discovered I was not and never will be cured. I can, however, control my addiction by not using. I don’t pick up. It is that easy. Okay, maybe not easy at times, but it is doable if you have the right supports.

So, how was I going to explain this without being abrasive and still get my point across? Then it hit me. I thought about one of my friends who is allergic to shellfish. By not eating shellfish, he was able to avoid the allergic reaction and not go into anaphylactic shock. As I thought about him, I realized I was ready to make my point and educate someone a little better about addiction and recovery.

“As someone in long-term recovery from addiction, I guarantee you that I am not cured. As someone who has worked with hundreds and encountered thousands of people struggling with addictions and in recovery I have yet to meet someone that was an addict or alcoholic that was cured of their addiction. I have over 5 years of recovery, but that is because I have not picked up and used. If I were to pick up and use again I would find out that I am still an addict. I am cured the same way someone who is allergic to shellfish is cured. They don’t eat shellfish; therefore they do not have allergic reactions. Just because they have not had that allergic reaction for 5, 10 or even 25 years does not mean that they can now eat shellfish. They will have that problem for life. The same is true for addiction. I cannot nor will I ever use again, because my addiction is controlled by not using but it is in no way cured!”

That was the conversation. It was understood and received well. I made my point and was civil in doing it. I helped educate a “normie” about addiction and recovery in a way that I never could have before. In my addiction, I would have yelled or bullied him into my way of thinking. Imagine a firehouse aimed at a tea cup, that was my way of dealing with problems in the past. Blast anything hard enough, and  the problem disappears. That is what recovery has done for me. I don’t have to yell or cuss to get my point across. Instead, I can use reason, logic and knowledge. It alienates less people and helps decimate some of the stigma surrounding addiction; that we are unable to change.

Never being cured is the conversation we need to have with each other because it is the truth. Thinking otherwise has killed handfuls of my friends and clients. We are not cured, instead our disease is controlled. It is the same with diabetes or food allergies. They can be controlled so that an amazingly productive life can be lived. Thinking of myself as cured could end the productive and joyous life I have built. I am better, but that does not mean that the devil I call addiction is not still in the back of my head. He is lifting weights, running on a treadmill and doing research on a computer getting stronger and smarter. To keep the life I have worked so hard to build, there are steps I must take.

I highly recommend the 5 Pillars of Recovery. With the help of the 5 Pillars, I have been clean and sober for over 5 years when in the past the longest I had stayed sober was for 3 months and 2 of that was residential treatment. The pillars are of upmost importance and here they are:

1. Higher Power- Mine is Jesus Christ. It must be something you can get forgiveness, validation, love and hope from.

2. Sponsor/Mentor - Find someone whose life you want and let them show you how they got it. This is your coach.

3. AccountabilityPartners- Think teammates who share the same goal you do, living an amazing life unencumbered by their hurts, habits and hang ups.

4. 12 Steps/The Bible- This is the game plan your sponsor will teach you so that you can live life to the fullest.

5. Meetings (Celebrate Recovery, AA, BA, Small Groups)- This is the locker room that prepares you for the game we call life.

There are other needs, such as prayer, meditation, community service and changing playgrounds and playmates. Apply the 5 Pillars and liberally apply them in your life and I GUARANTEE you can and will step into recovery!


P.S.- For those who are wondering, addiction is a disability. According to the American’s With Disabilities Act (ADA), “individuals who are addicted to drugs, have a history of addiction, or who are regarded as being addicted have an impairment under the law. In order for an individual's drug addiction to be considered a disability under the ADA, it would have to pose a substantial limitation on one or more major life activities.” So according to the government, addiction can be considered a disability. Recovery is a strength that only those who have struggled with disabilities have!