Healthier Relationships

Healthier Relationships

“Each of us has a right to voice our opinions and ideas reasonably, without criticism or ridicule.” – Reaching for Personal Freedom

Sounds simple enough, right? But how well does it work when others want to express their ideas about me and my behavior? When they’re not particularly happy with me?

I recently did something without running it by someone close to me and they felt hurt. Whether I should have run it by them or not isn’t the point. Inadvertently, as a result of my behavior, regardless of whether I think I hurt them, they felt hurt. That’s the point. And our program teaches us what to do when we hurt others. We work step 9.

But the real growth comes from living amends. Learning what to do the next time. Or, perhaps more importantly, how to put myself in the best position possible to take the right action the next time.

In this situation I’d been traveling and not making my program, my daily deal, and my meetings, my number one priority. On top of that, I hadn’t been sleeping enough, and was really out of my element. Even my connection with my higher power wasn’t where it usually is. This will always put me in a very vulnerable state, usually resulting in me reacting from a place of fear rather than responding from a place of love.

So what happened when I was confronted? You can probably guess.

I became defensive, justifying my behavior, unable to respond to their their feelings I proceeded to attack them, listing off several of their shortcomings in an attempt to shift responsibility and ended the conversation with some random threat to our relationship. And you know what I told myself the whole time? I was doing this in the name of setting healthy boundaries, standing up for myself and letting them know I’m not to be judged, blamed, controlled or called out. Pretty healthy response right? I think not.

Now let’s consider how how I’d handle the situation if I were spiritually centered. This is what I aspire towards, and how I would reasonably respond to a situation like this if my own house is in order.

Coming out of faith (rather than fear), connected to my highest power, I would be able to respectfully listen to their concerns, without reacting in defensiveness, criticism, or judgement.

Next, when they were done speaking and asked me why I did what I did, I’d simply answer them as follows:

“Thanks for sharing your feelings with me. I need some time to think about it and reflect upon what you’ve said. I plan to do some writing and reason it out with my sponsor. Let’s chat tomorrow about this. Again, I appreciate you bringing it to my attention.”

This is called gracing the space, giving me some time to consider their feelings, so I can find my part and evolve into an even better version of myself.

How I respond or react is entirely dependent upon how spiritually connected I am at that moment. When I consistently and diligently put my program first, stay in the center of the lifeboat, write and send out my gratitude list, dance, sing, play guitar, smile, laugh, play, work, sleep, clean house, carry the message, meet my responsibilities, plug into my higher power, and get to my meetings, my relationships stay healthy, I respect both the person I’m becoming and the one I’m relating to and… ILML!

Life Gets Lifey

Life Gets Lifey

Lack of power, that was our dilemma.” AA, pg. 45

I’m part of a group of individuals that sends out gratitude lists back-and-forth, between each other, on almost a daily basis. This morning I received a gratitude list from someone who works a rigorous 12 step spiritual program of action. In it, she said, “I don’t try and control things as much as I used to.”

It made me think that, although the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous were correct in the fact that lack of power was our dilemma, particularly with regard to alcohol, I’ve found that in long-term recovery, it’s lack of control that seems to be at the root of many of my troubles.

Whether I’m willing to admit it or not, I tend to want people to do the things that I want them to do, act the way that I want them to act, and speak to me the way I would like to be spoken to.

I also tend to want situations to go the way that I want them to go, how I think they should happen, Because I believe that would be the best outcome not only for me, but for everyone else to.

And I’m very clear as to what I would like to happen with regard to the health of my body. I’d like to always be strong, healthy, slim and attractive.

Well, at 57 years old I’ve finally begun to realize that life doesn’t always turn out exactly the way I’d like it to go. As I often say, without my ability to manage, direct and control everything, life tends to get lifey.

More often than not, people have an inclination to do what they would like to do, rather than what I would like them to do.

Things that I’ve planned often turn out differently than I hoped.

And my body, well, it has this weird way of getting older and, well, heavier. LOL. I also noticed that the older I get, the more I experience strange aches and pains, some of which have actually required medical intervention.

So you see, my ability to control people, places and things is really just an illusion of control. As they say in ALAnon, I’m really only in charge of what’s happening inside my hula hoop. And even then, at least when it comes to my human body, I’m really not in complete control of that either.

What I have learned to control is the amount of energy I put into becoming the best version of me I can possibly become. That includes doing things that positively feed my mind l, body and spirit. In these situations, the only one I’m battling for control with, is my DisEase. He would certainly prefer that I spend zero time taking care of myself spiritually, emotionally and physically because the more pain I am in, the more likely I will hurt others and hurt myself.

So again, just for today, like most of the days over the last 17 years of my life, I’ll make my recovery a priority. Because when I put first things first… ILML!

How to Overcome Problems

How to Overcome Problems

We all need to share some of our problems from time to time. However, I soon realized that dwelling on them week after week, with no movement towards recovery, was not helping me.” — Hope for Today

Reading this inspired me to write about my experience, both in dealing with recurring problems, and helping out others in dealing with them.

Below I’ve listed a few examples of the most common ones I’ve come across. When reading them, ask yourself if you’ve ever had any of these problems, or heard others complain about them.

GREEN (finances)

‘I’m not making enough money. I’m worried that I can’t keep this up financially. What if the next deal doesn’t happen. I’m homeless, with no place to sleep. I’ve no money even for food. No matter how much I make, I can’t get ahead. I got screwed on a deal. My client/boss isn’t paying me. I want more. I bought things I can’t afford. I’m losing my home because I can’t pay my mortgage. The medical bills are killing me. The creditors keep calling. I lied/was unethical/cheated to get ahead financially and now I’m in real trouble. The industry I’m in is on the decline. I’ve maxed out my credit cards. My credit score is terrible. I lost $100 from my pocket. My phone was cutoff because I’m broke. I now have to live in my car. My phone broke (again). My car got repossessed/towed. My wife makes more money than me. Everyone else seems to be making more money than me. My brother/sister/mom/dad/friend won’t loan my any money. I didn’t get the raise I was supposed to get. I didn’t get the promotion. I can’t afford an engagement ring. I can’t afford a wedding. Others at work are terrible people and affecting my financial situation. I got demoted. My work hours were cut back. Paying for rehab for my kid is bankrupting me. I was laid off. I was fired. I had to quit because I hated my boss. I declared bankruptcy. My lifestyle cost is more than I can afford. I’m scared I’ll lose everything.’ And the list goes on…

PINK (relationships)

‘I’m really unhappy in my relationship. She’s leaving me for someone else. She’s acting aloof. She never initiates sex. She cheated on me. She rejects me when I make sexual advances. She spends all of our money. She doesn’t love me the way I want her to. We don’t have sex often enough. She won’t get a job. She’s not raising/disciplining/taking care of the kids the way I want her to. She’s not keeping the house clean. She doesn’t like my friends/family. She drinks alcohol. She doesn’t let me surf. She smokes pot. She’s bipolar. She’s using sleeping pills. She’s rude to me in front of others. She tries to control me. She dresses slutty. She dresses too conservatively. Her breath is bad. Her friends suck. She doesn’t do anything to make our relationship better. She smokes cigarettes. She’s getting out of shape. She watches reality TV. She embarrasses me. She has differing political views. She’s religious. She’s not religious. She may not be right for me. I’m unhappy with her. And the list goes on…

Health (red)

I feel really sick. I have trouble sleeping. I’m depressed. I have anxiety. I’ve been ill so much this year. I’m exhausted. I have no energy. I can’t wake up in the morning. I have high blood pressure. I have high cholesterol. I’m anemic. I think I have heavy metal poisoning. Maybe there’s mold in my house. My allergies are terrible. I have hemorrhoids. I have canker sores. My knees/shoulders/arm/head/legs/stomach hurts. I’m breaking out. I’m losing my hair. I’m overweight. I can’t exercise because it hurts. My neck is killing me. I hear ringing in my ears. I have vertigo. I was diagnosed with a horrible chronic illness. I have an inoperable tumor. I was told to get my affairs in order. My mom/dad/sibling/aunt/grandparent/child/friend died. I’m devastated. I’m mentally suffering. I can’t breath. I have to go on oxygen. I’ve been prescribed heavy pain meds and have to take them. I’m heading to the hospital. I need to smoke pot to relax. And the list goes on…

By no means is this list of problems comprehensive or complete. But it should give you a pretty good idea of how much blaming we do, as humans. In fact, I would go so far as to say that these types of problems, thought about and spoken out loud, definitely contribute to the problems themselves. They may even help to manifest a problem, where one never really existed, except in our mind.

On the other hand, many times these problems are facts, grounded in concrete proof of their existence. Someone truly may be sick and diagnosed with an illness. There may in fact be infidelity in a relationship. We may have actually lost a job, and our ability to support ourselves may be in jeopardy. So what are we supposed to do in these situations?

In my life, whether fact or fantasy, how I approach the situation doesn’t change. The way I see it is as follows:

Negative thought will create or exacerbate my problem; positive thought will help resolve or eliminate my problem.

Now, finding a way to be positive in the face of adversity is never easy. Whether it’s the death of a loved one, our health, a relationship issue or our finances. Each of these things has the power to take us down.

I’ve personally been, and overcome, many challenging problems. The death of several very close loved ones, a terminal brain tumor, infidelity and the destruction of a marriage, to name just a few. And my ability to stay positive in the face of these events was always directly proportional to the amount of time I spent engaged rituals which improved my state of mind and helped me both love and appreciate my life. The key here is that I was doing these things on a regular basis PRIOR to the occupancies of the problem.

By consistently engaging in behaviors which keeps me in the attitude of gratitude, I’m better prepared to more graciously handle (and overcome) the problems that used to besiege me. In other words, equanimity will be available to me when I most need it.

Today I do the daily deal almost every day of my life, and, as a direct result of investing that time, I get to be happy, joyous, free, and… ILML!

— JamieQ

One Interpretation of God

One Interpretation of God

“From low to high, the levels of consciousness are: shame, guilt, apathy, grief, fear, desire, anger, pride, courage, neutrality, willingness, acceptance, reason, love, joy, peace, enlightenment.” — Power vs. Force by David R. Hawkins

I was texting with a friend this morning about our concepts of a higher power. I said:

I love that we get to choose who or what our higher power is. Mine is love, gratitude, compassion, happiness, etc. It’s also my higher consciousness, as opposed to my lower consciousness.

His response was:

Yeah, I notice mine changes constantly, but I really dig the idea of higher vs lower consciousness.

Having been a guy with very low self esteem, angry at myself and the world around me, I used alcohol and drugs to deal with my thoughts and feelings. As a result of how I felt, my behavior was often self-centered, unkind, and destructive. I was operating from a place of shame, guilt, apathy, grief, fear, desire and anger. In other words, I was fully connected to, and acting out of, my lower consciousness.

After doing the daily readings, journaling, gratitude lists, meditations, fellowship, and service work for many years, I began to start practicing and experiencing a healthy sense of pride, I became more courageous, started becoming more willing to evolve, opening up to the idea of acceptance, and ultimately I began to experience more love, joy, peace and enlightenment. In other words, I started moving away from my lower consciousness and began connecting to my higher consciousness.

For many of us who are not comfortable with religion, the word God is so intrinsically tied to religion that it’s difficult for us to connect to, or even believe in, the idea of God.

Though these days I’m cool with the words God and Higher Power, I still interpret those words as “My Higher Consciousness.” It just makes sense to me. Others interpret them as they choose, so I believe I have a right to my beliefs. And I’ve discovered that the more diligent I am at consistently practicing rituals which keep me connected with my higher, rather than my lower, consciousness, the more ILML!

— JamieQ

Change = Abundance

Change = Abundance

“Change is the one constant in our life and yet it causes us the most unrest.” – In God’s Care

Why is change so scary and uncomfortable sometimes? Even when we’re firmly walking on this spiritual path of recovery, knowing abundance is shining upon us?

I can only speak for myself, but I’m a man of creature comforts. I order the same drink everyday at Starbucks – Venti Chai Latte, 6 pumps, extra hot, no water, no foam, with cinnamon and whipped cream. Always a Belgium waffle at Izzy’s deli. Always a James salad at Penne Pasta Cafe (yeah, they make it special for me :-).

So when things change, I’m naturally throw off. No chai today? Out of syrup? No tomatoes for the salad? The sky is falling!!!

Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but you get what I’m talking about. So when there’s bigger changes and challenges, like illness, death, loss of income, and relationship changes, it can get dicey for a guy like me.

Luckily, at 56 years of age I’ve had a ton of experience with change. I’ve seen how handling change with an openness in my heart is so much more peaceful and comfortable than reacting to it. So I’ve come up with a way to limit my reactions to unexpected, typically alarming changes and respond to them with open arms, welcoming in a different, perhaps even more wonderful, experience.

I’ve used this exercise to great success, but I’ll warn you in advance that many people , in hearing about it, have told me they feel it’s pessimistic, negative, catastrophizing and unnecessarily creates fear. Regardless, that’s not the case for me, so here it is.

I envision the worst case scenarios in my life. The changes that might occur, which I have no power over, that I think would feel devastating, paralyzing and may throw me into a deep depression. The worst things I could imagine happening. Death of loved ones, loss of my job or home, blindness, divorce, etc.

Then I look at how I might react in fear, pain and hurt. This reaction would most often be considered “normal” by others. Then I ask myself to imagine responding completely differently, from a place of acceptance, love and belief that everything will be just fine. I walk through the experience and feelings of loss, letting go of the fear and sadness and choosing to handle it with grace and optimism.

This isn’t an easy exercise, but it’s been a great one for me. It’s empowered me to live life feeling that I can handle any change that happens, knowing my life won’t fall apart.

I still get thrown off my guard. I had never imagined one of my children might be paralyzed for life, and recently that almost happened. My son came down with Guillain-Barre Syndrome and was paralyzed. Gratefully he recovered in only 3 weeks. But even in that situation I was able to respond in love, faith and the knowledge that somehow things would be ok. The doctors were awesome and he’s running 5 miles a day and found his calling through the process – he’s now in school to be a doctor.

When I live in faith and am open to change, I invite even more abundance and love into myself and others, things end up working out great, and… ILML!

— JamieQ

Awaken with Abundance

Awaken with Abundance

“There are some who live day to day concerned about not having enough for happiness and security. This causes anxiety, worry and stress. But this doesn’t have to be. Instead, if we trust the intelligence of the universe, and practice living carefree, we can live fearlessly, without worry or focusing on lack.” — Living Carefree, A Meditation with Deepak Chopra

Wow. Can you imagine never having to fear lacking anything? I felt like that way as a child, but since having my own children, the overwhelming sense of responsibility has put (and kept) me in financial fear.

The voices of fear and faith can have an overwhelming effect in my life. Faith says “Everything’s going to be great!” When I believe this, I feel so good. But Fear says “This is going to be terrible. Your in big trouble.” And when I’m listening and believing it, I feel scared, exhausted and upset.

Deepak’s meditation suggests that we encourage the kinder, more loving message to dominate our thoughts by repeating this: “I move through my day lighthearted and carefree, knowing all is well.”

I’ve been listening to this meditation on YouTube everyday lately, along with his meditations on Overcoming Obstacles and Gratitude, and I must tell you that its awesome! I’ve been more optimistic, efficient and have had more energy since I began doing this. I start off listening in bed, and eventually take it into the bathroom while getting ready for my day. I awaken and fill my mind up with good thoughts, before the bad ones can even start up.

When take the time, first thing in the morning, to intentionally focus on positive messages that reaffirm the boundless abundance and love in, and all around me, I awaken with the belief that it’s going to be a great day, and ILML!

— JamieQ

The Green Zone

The Green Zone

The mind is an unusual thing. Unlike our hands, lips or eyes, our minds aren’t quite as easily controlled. At times they take off on their own, regardless of what we may, or may not, want our minds to do. Thinking, “Grab that cup of coffee,” always works for me. But thinking, “I want to feel better right now,” rarely works in the same way.

So what can we do? How can we tame our feelings when they are out of control? How do we stop destructive thoughts that recycle over and over, like a merry-go-round in our brain?

Here’s my solution: once I’m aware of what’s happening, and I’ve decided I want it to stop, I pick up my bag of recovery tools and inject a strong dose of the solution from each tool into my mind.

Like an engine revving too high, way into the red zone (where everything is NOT okay), I need to bring it back down into the green zone (where everything runs smoothly), before it blows up my life.

Each of the tools I employ are designed to get me out of anger, hopelessness, worry and a feeling of victimization and return me to a place of gratitude, hopefulness, peace and a feeling of abundance.

The actions I’m speaking of are outlined here in this website and in many of my blog posts. Each one is an actual concrete, physical action that requires me to stop what I’m doing and invest time into using the tool, which then results in a positive shift in my perception.

I no longer need to sit around when my mind is thinking about upsetting things, or when I’m feeling down. I’m not interested in being unhappy for even one extra second than I have to. The program offers me a huge array of options to get out of misery and into happiness. And I can do it as quickly as I want, whenever I’m ready.

My feelings and thoughts are not the result of what others are doing to me, or what’s happening in my life—that’s a lie I used to tell myself to play the victim. I now recognize that I have 100% control over my thoughts and feelings. Not 99%, 100%.

The faster I recognize my discomfort, shut my mouth, grab my tools and get back in the green zone, the less destruction I create for myself and others, the more fun I get to have, and the faster I get back into the place where… ILML!

—JamieQ