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

Making the Time

Making the Time

Peace of mind is the opposite of anxiety.” — Dictionary.com

I was writing in my ALAnon workbook “Reaching for Personal Freedom” this morning and wrote down,

Doing Step 8 and working with a sponsor to identify who we should make amends to, and then going out and making those amends as expeditiously as possible, is vital to the recovery of our peace of mind.

For me, the word recovery has always had a slight stigma to it. In my mind it’s typically associated with recovering from the effects of drugs, alcohol or other addictions.

Although I’ve been sober and quit taking drugs and alcohol long ago, the type of recovery I’ve always been seeking is exactly what I wrote down: peace of mind. In fact, that’s the reason I gave up drugs and alcohol in the first place.

What’s important about this little epiphany is that it may never have come to me had I not been doing the daily deal. I’m so grateful that I step up for myself each and everyday, because when I MAKE the time to do my recovery rituals, not only do I discover new and wonderful things, but… ILML!

— JamieQ

Focus on the Here & Now

Focus on the Here & Now

“It’s difficult to stay in the present… I start living simultaneously in the past and the future.” — Adapted from Hope for Today, p.158

Every time I feel uncomfortable, it’s frequently because I’m upset about something that has already happened or worried about something that may happen. More often than not I’m in both places at once, thinking about the past and scared about the future. Sometimes my thoughts go like this, “Oh my God, look what happened. Now what’s going to happen?“.

Books have been written about the importance of staying in the moment, where neither the present nor the past exists, and for good reason. If I’m interested in being a piece, comfortable in my own skin, and enjoying life one moment at a time (which I am), it’s best for me to give both the past and the future to my higher power, and keep my focus on the here and now, where everything really is fine and… ILML!

— JamieQ

Loving Life is a Miracle

Loving Life is a Miracle

It’s impossible to feel like life is full of miracles while addicted to drugs and alcohol. But getting, and staying, sober wasn’t all I wanted—I wanted to love my life so much that I’d feel like shouting it out every day!

Today I do, and it’s amazing. Here are the three steps it took (and continue to take) to become someone who spends most of my time loving life, being happy, joyous and free.

The first step was for me to decide that, since I was now sober, becoming a life lover was my next top priority. More important than making money. More important than accomplishing other tasks. More important than putting others’ needs above mine. I became willing to take any and all positive actions I could to love my life. Not just like it, love it!

Once that commitment was out of the way, the second step was to have a consistent morning routine which included meditation, connecting with source, mirror talk, singing, dancing, showering and straightening up, exercising, reading and listening to things that are uplifting, writing out what your grateful for, and taking a written inventory of my last 24 hours and writing down how I felt at that moment. Sounds like a lot? It is. Nothing great happens without commitment and work. I spend a lot of time and do a lot of work each day to love my life, and it’s 100% worth the investment.

The third, and perhaps most important, way to assure that I would love my life, and continue to do so, was to share my passion for loving life with others and help them discover how to be a life lover. I do this in meetings (AA, AlAnon, NarAnon and Life Lovers) and with everyone I meet. There’s a sign on the front door to my office “If this door is locked we’re out loving life!”, and notes all over my home about gratitude and loving life. As we’ve heard many times, “We have to give it away to keep it”.

Today I choose to believe that EVERYTHING is a miracle, because when I live in that frame of mind… ILML!

When I Align I’m Fine

When I Align I’m Fine

“When things are the darkest, say thank you. Because God has put a rainbow in every cloud. And though you can’t see it yet, it’s coming.” – Oprah recounting advice from Maya Angelou

If you’re like me, and have actually chosen to believe the everything in life happens for a reason. If you have actually chosen to trust the your personal higher power has your back. If you have actually chosen that, no matter what happens, your feelings won’t be a hostage to it, but that instead you’ll insist on being grateful, then you’ve discovered one of the secrets to ALWAYS loving your life.

When I align my will with my higher powers, aka want exactly what’s happening right here and now… ILML!

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

Program Based Direction

Program Based Direction

“Faith without works is dead.” AA, p.76

Surrendering, turning it over, trusting our higher power, having faith, letting go. These actions are fundamental in my desire to love life. Seeking the spiritual solution always leads me to greater abundance.

But there’s a balance between giving it to God and getting up off my ass and taking some action.

Too often, especially prior to thoroughly working a program, when things got difficult and I felt overwhelmed I’d give it to God and let it go, when in fact, some action (aka works) was required. God isn’t EVER going to do for me what I can do for myself.

So the question is, how do I know if there’s something I should be “doing,” and if there is, how do I know what “it” is?

By first asking my Higher Power, “Hey God, is there something I should be doing? And, if so, what is it?”

If I don’t intuitively know what to do, and am unsure if I should be doing nothing, I call my sponsor.

A good sponsor will provide clarity in moments if confusion. Mine helps me to distinguish when I’m giving it to God versus evading responsibilities or being lazy. By following my sponsor’s program based direction when I’m not sure what, if anything, I should be doing… ILML!

— JamieQ

Solution Consciousness

Solution Consciousness

“Inspiration comes from solution consciousness.” — Ananda Sangha

Here’s what happens when I’m thinking about the problem for more than 5 seconds:

  1. I get upset about the problem.
  2. I blame myself or someone else.
  3. I feel frustrated.
  4. I play the victim.
  5. I feel self-pity.
  6. I want to escape from my situation.
  7. I attempt to control, dominate and manipulate people to get them to change.
  8. I whine and complain to others.
  9. Feeling upset, I may take action that inevitable hurts me or others.
  10. I never find the solution because I’m focused on the problem.
  11. Lacking faith, I feel hopeless & angry.

Here’s what happens when I’m thinking about the solution:

  1. I get hopeful that this can be solve.
  2. I get creative about how to solve it.
  3. I open my mind to new ideas.
  4. I ask for help from others.
  5. I get excited that I can solve this.
  6. I turn it over to God if I can’t figure it out, which is a great solution, until such time as I’m inspired with another solution.
  7. Naturally, I invite abundance in.

So the question is, “How do we live in the solution, so that whenever an obstacle arises, we perceive it as an opportunity, never getting upset or frustrated?

My solution is simple, and works every time when I’m consistent in practicing the following actions:

  1. Sleep 8 hours.
  2. Get to bed before 10pm.
  3. Awake before 6am.
  4. Listen to inspiration words on arising.
  5. Meditate.
  6. Stretch/do some yoga first thing.
  7. Connect with source.
  8. Affirm ILML and am excited for the day.
  9. Make my bed.
  10. Do some light exercises.
  11. Turn on some fun music – dance and sing while getting ready for the day.
  12. Shower, brush my teeth, hang up my towel nicely on the rack, use mouthwash, shave, get my hair looking good.
  13. Have a conversation with myself, talking to both “Big Me” and “Little Me” telling them I love them and they are awesome.
  14. Straighten up the bathroom.
  15. Straighten up the bedroom.
  16. Straighten up the house.
  17. Smile and laugh. A lot.
  18. Compliment others. Often.
  19. Keep my mouth shut, unless I have something nice to say.
  20. Dress nicely in unwrinkled, clean clothes that match and reflect the very best me I can be as I go out in the day.
  21. Engage in hobby at least once a day (play guitar, surf, do some art, write some poetry, knit, garden, play with kitty, etc).
  22. Reach out to others to see how they are and let them know I love them.
  23. Bring my spiritual backpack to the coffee shop. Read out of the books, highlighting things that resonate. Journal about how things are going and what’s happening in life. This infuses my mind with great ideas and let’s me take an inventory of the great stuff in life and the areas I can improve in.
  24. Engage in my responsibilities to the best of my abilities to reflect the fact that I’m self-supporting through my own contributions.
  25. Eat healthy throughout the day, but not late at night.
  26. Encourage others to be their best.
  27. Don’t offer unsolicited advice.
  28. Don’t help others if they can do it themselves, unless they ask and it seems like you’re not enabling them.
  29. Eliminate caffeine after 3pm.
  30. Yell out ILML! throughout my day.
  31. Drink plenty of water.
  32. Get to, and participate in, a 12 step meeting where I can hang out with my tribe and share intimacy (into me you see), and gain life wisdom.
  33. At home, take a bath before bed, letting the day wash away and soaking in the hot water to calm my mind.
  34. Be thankful for another great day of life.
  35. Read in bed until I fall asleep, remembering that today well lived creates a life of wonderful yesterdays.

That list may seem long, but the truth is, we already have a long list of things we do each day. The more that list is comprised of items which invite solution into my life, the more ILML! — JamieQ

Doing the 4th in 1 Day

Doing the 4th in 1 Day

“We want to look our past in the face, see it for what it really was, and release it so we can live freely.” — NA, Page 28

I love the concept in program that tells us to be careful of what we are focusing on, as it grows bigger. I’ve heard that we ought to focus our magic magnifying glass on the good stuff. To stay out of the past and future, to live in the moment. I love that stuff. In fact, I live by it.

That said, there’s a lot to be gained by working a thorough 4th step. To dig deeply into the past, with the help of a loving sponsor, in an attempt to uncover, discover and discard our past clouds of darkness that prevent us from being the best person we can be, and fully loving life.

If you’re a newcomer, I’m a big fan of tackling this enormously productive endeavor in 1-2 days max. Did I suggest doing your 4th and 5th step in one or two days? Yep. I sure did. That’s because I’ve seen so many people struggle with this process, dragging it on for weeks or months, stewing in the pain of their shame and guilt of what they’ve done in the past, and the resentment towards those that hurt them long ago. Many of these actually went out before completing their 4th.

It may not seem easy to find someone willing to spend 4-6 hours with you, perhaps for two days in a row, but trust me, there are plenty of people in the program willing to do it. Most of us love to help others. That’s because being of service helps us stay sober. This person need not even be your sponsor, provided it’s a loving member in recovery who’s working the type of program that you admire.

For those of us who have done many 4th steps, it’s a bit different. I, myself, always have some type of 4th step workbook going on. This year I’m working out of AlAnon’s Reaching for Personal Freedom, and I love it. But if you’re approaching the 4th for the first time, my suggestion is to do it the best you can, but don’t let it drag on. Keep in mind that the goal is to finish them all, and then be able to help others work their steps. And it’s after step 9 that the promises begin to materialize in a powerful way.

By carefully examining my past I can finally discover the truth about it. I can see it for what it was. For once and all I can forgive those who hurt me, even if what they did was unacceptable. For once and all I can forgive myself for what I’ve done, even if what I did was unacceptable. I can finally let go of all the hurt, pain, sorrow, and fear, and start fresh today. I can finally be free to experience a life beyond my wildest dreams, one in which I can wake up each morning, and with all the earnest at my command, yell out “I LOVE MY LIFE!!!, and mean it, from the tips of my ties to the top of my head.

— JamieQ

From Problems to Promises

From Problems to Promises

“… ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.” — Deepak

Every one of the 12 step programs contains promises. Although each set is a bit different, they are all predicated on the promise that, provided we embrace the principles, ideas and steps of the program, and consistently practice them in our lives, we will become happy, joyous and free.

I’ve had the great fortune to work with many people coming into the program. I’ve seen how broken many were. Many come in with issues like homelessness, jail, divorce, poverty, devastated families, and grave illness. When I came in, I was hurting so badly yet keeping all my tears on the inside. Each of these issues individually can seem very difficult to overcome. Combine several of them and it seem impossible. Could the program really heal their lives? Did it heal mine? Yes it did!

I was tired of being a prisoner of the past and the only way I could have a great future was to try something different, regardless of how much I doubted it would work, or even how much I didn’t want to do it (that was my case in the beginning). But, as they say in many meetings on closing, I kept coming back.

Very slowly, I began dipping my toes into this new way of life. But like a giant redwood tree, that grows strong because it grows slowly, it took me time to fully understand and commit to this new way of life.

As it says in one of the AlAnon readings “There is no situation too difficult to be bettered, and no unhappiness too great to be lessened.” But experience also tells me that “It works only if I work it.” What’s cool is that there’s no limit on how great my life can be or how much happiness I can experience provided I really give 110% to the program, and make it the first, and most important, priority in my life. And every time, without exception, that I do that, the rewards are amazing and… ILML!

— JamieQ