Archive | July, 2017

The Power of Choice

9 Jul

Back in June of 2014, I wrote a piece called “Turn the Beat Around – Part II.” It was the second blog piece I wrote about music and how so many songs revolve around drinking. At the end of the piece, I was talking about the song “Choices” by George Jones and I mentioned Dr. William Glasser’s “Choice Theory.”   I postponed a more comprehensive discussion about choice until another day. Well, today is that day.

As open and honest I am in my writing, there’s obviously stuff that is off-limits and that I choose not to share here. Not now anyway. Maybe some day. Some of it is too embarrassing or shameful. Some of it would affect other people. Some of it I still need to process. Some of it comes as the layers of the onion peel away.

But as the saying goes, “you’re only as sick as your secrets.” So I have to somehow get these things out and deal with them so I can move on and get healthier. It’s not easy work by any stretch of the imagination, but it is vital. I’m not ashamed to say I go to therapy, I work with a sponsor, I work the steps of a twelve-step program, and I am blessed to have a few people in whom I can confide, safely and without judgment.

In my last piece, “How Big is the Damn Onion – Part II,” I talked about things bubbling up as I spent some quiet, contemplative time at the lake with my daughter. Stuff I had buried down in my subconscious. There’s a show called “Hoarders,” where they follow people who accumulate tons of stuff over the years and can’t get rid of it. Their houses are completely filled from floor to ceiling with stuff. I think I am an emotional hoarder. I hold on to so much crap that I don’t need. Not only do I not need it, it’s harmful baggage. I don’t want to be sick with secrets so I am choosing to let them go.

Dr. William Glasser, the psychiatrist who developed the “Choice Theory” stated that “it is almost impossible for anyone, even the most ineffective among us, to continue to choose misery after becoming aware that it is a choice.” Sounds simple but maybe not. How can it be impossible to choose misery if your life is falling apart? Besides, I suffer from depression. I don’t choose to be miserable…sometimes I just am. So I started doing some more digging on happiness and choice.

There’s a book called “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin. The subtitle is “Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle and Generally Have More Fun. She spent a year chronicling her quest to be happier. She gives the reader tips for different monthly focuses geared to help achieve happiness.

A friend told me today about another book called “Resisting Happiness” by Matthew Kelly. It’s tag line is “A true story about why we sabotage ourselves, feel overwhelmed, set aside our dreams, and lack the courage to simply be ourselves… and how to start choosing happiness again!” I’ve already ordered it and am very curious to find out why I sabotage myself and why I “resist” happiness. Well, maybe I used to, but as I said, I’m choosing not to any more.

Now, five years into my recovery, I’m finally beginning to understand that everything is a choice, starting with my choice to get sober and healthier. Every day I make a choice to stay sober. It is a daily reprieve based on our spiritual connection, as a friend says. I’ve been faced, many times over the past five years, with the choice to go ahead and pick up that drink or not. No matter how many days, weeks, months or years of sobriety I have, it can be gone in a split second with the wrong choice. Don’t get me wrong, the choice isn’t always so easy to make. Alcoholism is cunning, baffling and powerful. It constantly tries to influence that choice in its favor. The Drink Devil vs. the Sobriety Angel.

As for the choice to be happy, I’m not sure it’s quite that simple, but I am realizing that I have much more power than I thought. I can choose to do the next right thing, which can lead me to happiness. I can choose to let go of things which no longer serve me. I can choose to pile on the things I complain about or I can write a gratitude list. I can also let go of things I cannot control by reminding myself of the Serenity Prayer.

My message when I speak to people is that it’s never too late to turn things around. First, however, you have to make the choice to do so. And if somehow, you don’t know what the right choice is, ask for help or guidance. I’m guessing that deep down you may know the answer, but if you’re like me, you’ve got too much old baggage to see clearly down there. That’s why we say “Let go and let God.” Get rid of what no longer serves you and turn it over to your higher power. That’s a huge step right there toward happiness.

I used to think I could find happiness in a bottle. I can tell you definitively that you cannot. I also used to think I could avoid unhappiness by pulling the covers over my head and hiding. That doesn’t work either. Neither of those things allowed me to stand up and be present in my life, one of the most important pieces of advice I ever received.   If you make the choice to stand up and be present, things may not be easy, but you can look back and always feel like you gave it your best shot.

“Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.”  – Aristotle

 

 

 

 

 

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How Big is the Damn Onion – Part II

4 Jul

A while back, I wrote a piece called “How Big is the Damn Onion.” It was about working on ourselves and peeling the layers of the onion to get to the root of our issues. I’m revisiting this concept because I find myself with more layers peeling recently and I don’t really like it. Frankly, it scares me and I worry about my sobriety as some of these major layers peel away and lead to things I thought I had shoved down into my subconscious for good. Not deeply enough I guess.

Today is the Fourth of July. A time when many people are getting out their red Solo cups (another piece I wrote a while ago) and there is a lot of alcohol consumed. I feel like I am totally surrounded by it. Tomorrow is my daughter’s sixteenth birthday. I’m finding it stirring up a lot of things for me. First off, I can’t believe how quickly time has flown since my life changed when I became a mother with her birth. It makes me think of my own sixteenth birthday and I REALLY can’t believe how quickly time has flown since that day over 30 years ago. My mother managed to arrange a surprise party for me and gave everyone where I worked for the summer t-shirts to wear that said “Martha is 16 Today!” I still have mine.

My daughter’s request for her birthday was to celebrate it with two of her friends and me at the lake. A beautiful, serene place where we are enjoying time on the water and some simple things like making s’mores at a fire by the lake, getting ice cream and just relaxing – something I don’t do very often. But as I relax and unwind, I peel more of the layers of the onion away.

I had a bad drinking dream the other night. It was the kind where you wake up in a sweat thinking it was real. It was most likely prompted by a thought that came into my head about celebrating my daughter’s birthday and not being able to toast her with some champagne. Same with her wedding someday. These are the times when being an alcoholic can frankly suck.   But they are also the times when it is crucial to remember the simple saying: “One day at a time.”   When I first got sober, I was completely overwhelmed by the idea that I would never have a drink again. Some sober friends gave me excellent advice and reminded me that all I had to do was not drink for today. Don’t worry about tomorrow or the future. I also remembered a friend telling me that she threw away her sobriety after one sip of celebratory champagne to toast her son’s engagement. Her mistake became my lesson and, thank goodness, one that someone reminded me of the other day.

So I bought some sparkling cider and lemonade to toast with my daughter and her friends tomorrow.   We plan to go on a hike by some local falls. We’ll go back on the water in kayaks and canoes. I’ll take some time to write and read. And I’ll continue to peel back the layers of the onion. It’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination, but as I wrote before, it’s necessary to process things and then let them go. I’ve managed to do that with many things but there are always more layers of the onion to peel. As a great friend pointed out, you’ll probably peel away the last layer when you take your final breath in this world.

Happy Birthday America and Happy Birthday to my beautiful daughter. I’m glad I can celebrate both – sober and present.

“I grabbed a pile of dust, and holding it up, foolishly asked for as many birthdays as the grains of dust, I forgot to ask that they be years of youth. ” ― Ovid, Metamorphoses

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