All posts by Bill R

Think, think, think

Think, think, think.
AA Slogan

Before recovery it used to be stimulus then reaction. Recovery has given me choice. I no longer have to react. Recovery has changed the pattern to: stimulus, pause, then response.

I have to ask myself: “What would a mature, serene person do in this situation?” Although the diseased default first thought is to do X I have a choice. I can pause, I can think about the tools I have learned in the program. I can ask the God of my understanding what I should do in this moment. So after that pause I now have a choice – I can do Y – what a mature and serene person would do.

By no means am I perfect at this. Sometimes it escapes me so I don’t pause. At times I will pause but I will still do the default reaction of X. My pattern is changing as time goes by though. I am learning to pause more, to reflect on what I should do in this moment. Sometimes I even include other people in my process. What a novel thought – including wise others who can guide me on the most useful way to go.

So my suggestion is this: Before you act, think, think, think.

Yours in recovery, Bill R

Take heed – live your life on purpose!

heed: to give consideration or attention to
Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/heed

I don’t know about you, but my autopilot is broken – it takes me to deep, dark places. My default setting is to come from a place of judgment, looking for the negative in the world. The funny thing is that what you seek is what you find. If I look for the negative that is what I will find. If I look for the good I will find that as well. It all comes down to focus – what am I paying attention to? Some of the things that I need to pay attention to are:

  • circumstance – What are the facts of my current situation? If I can’t express it through by describing it through one of my senses there is a good chance there is a judgment in there as well. “It is raining” is a fact. “It is raining, this sucks” is a fact followed by a judgment. Am I labeling things as they truly are, or am I imposing my judgment on the situation?
  • thought – What are my thoughts around my circumstances? Am I judging or in a place of non-acceptance? Am I caught in any form of stinking thinking? Am I remembering a past hurt? Am I projecting my thoughts of what could happen to the situation at hand?
  • feeling – What emotion am I experiencing regarding my thoughts? The 7 base emotions are: sad, mad, glad, afraid, embarrassed, lonely, guilty. Something like jealousy is an emotion like anger coupled with a thought. Try to label just the emotion. Is my emotional reaction right-sized to the current circumstance? For instance, being slightly annoyed at your waiter for being slow is one thing, but being rageful is not right-sized to the situation.
  • action – What action do I undertake that is motivated by my feeling? Is acting from a place of intense emotion the best course of action I can take? You can be angry about how someone hurt you, but if you act from that place of anger you may be punitive. Respond to being hurt, but try not to respond from the place of anger.
  • result – What is the outcome of your actions? Just doing the action does not guarantee that we get the result that we want. It is up to us to do the leg work and cultivate an environment that can manifest our desired outcome, but the resulting outcome is in our Higher Power’s hands. Do the work and turn the result over to God.

It is my belief that life is meant to be lived on purpose. When I am adrift on autopilot I will get taken to dark places. I strive to pay attention and give consideration as to what the best course of action is. Sometimes I need to be satisfied with what is the best possible action given my current state of mind.

Take heed – pay attention and try to act from a place of calm and serenity. You’ll be amazed at the change you will see.

Yours in recovery, Bill R

When is judgment proper and healthy?

God created humans in His own image. 1

We have emotions, we have passions. We can pass judgment on others. A better question is should we pass judgment on others? This question brings to mind a quote from The Dhammapada:

Let none find fault with others; let none see the omissions and commissions of others. But let one see one’s own acts, done and undone.
Verse 50, The Dhammapada

Having the capacity to judge is a God-given talent. As humans however, we are not God. Judgment of others should be left in God’s hands, where it belongs. It is in our nature to judge others – accept that. Take the higher road however and resist the temptation to judge others. Focus your judgment on yourself: on what you have done, and what you have failed to do. Judgment is not about eternal damnation – it is seeing things as they truly are. See yourself as you truly are and ask yourself could I have acted more loving towards myself and others? If you have fallen short in any way, try to do better next time. Remember it’s about progress and not perfection!

Notes

  1. I use the word God and the pronoun His merely as a shorthand. Please substitute the appropriate words for your Higher Power.

If I do what I always did, I’m going to get what I always got

If I do what I always did, I’m going to get what I always got.
Slogan heard in a recovery meeting

I need to do things differently. If I attempt to go on autopilot I’m doomed as my autopilot takes me to deep, dark places. I have a choice today because of recovery. I don’t have to go with the default dark thoughts and feelings. I can take action, something different, because my old way of doing things have brought me to depression.

Depression can be viewed as being in the habit of (addiction to) feeling bad. The truth is that feelings are not in isolation. They are in a relationship with thoughts and actions.

  • Feelings influence our thoughts and actions.
  • Thoughts influence our feelings and actions.
  • Actions influence our feelings and thoughts.

I’ve got some good news and bad news.

  • Bad news – you can NOT directly control your feelings. It’s just flat out impossible.
  • Good news – you can directly control your thoughts and your actions, which greatly influence your feelings.

Accept the fact that you can’t control your feelings. Have the courage to change your thoughts and actions. That is the way to a better place.

Move a muscle, change a thought.
Slogan heard in a recovery meeting

Yours in recovery, Bill R

Accept what is…

When I argue with reality, I lose — but only 100 percent of the time.
Byron Katie

Reality is what it is. When I fight the reality of my present moment I will lose. I need to accept what is and make it the foundation for the future. Acceptance is not about resigning and giving up the fight. It merely mean to see things as they are, not as I perceive them to be.

All of us have things about our present moment that we don’t like. A certain amount of dissatisfaction is part of the human experience. I don’t like the fact that I’m visited often by negative thoughts and dark moods, but to deny and not like those things is not truly helpful. I need to accept what is: I’m visited often by dark and negative thoughts. What do I do with that then? I need to accept that as my current reality. That is my present, but it need not be my future.

I can put into play better thoughts and better actions that have the possibility of creating a better future for myself and those around me. The future has not yet been written. I can have an influence over that future with what I do and what I think. I need to put in the work and do those things that have the potential to lessen my suffering. The outcome is in God’s hands, but I can do my part in creating that better future.

I have to humble myself, clean house, and trust in the God of my understanding. By doing these things persistently I have a real shot at creating a better future, but first I need to accept what is. May you have the courage to accept your present moment without judgment and work towards creating a better future.

Yours in recovery, Bill R

Why am I here?

Many of us face this existential question:

Why am I here?

For me this depressive the question Why? is crazy making. I can jump up on the mental gerbil wheel and go around seemingly forever. The question Why? creates suffering for me – I need to let it go.

OK, so Why is not healthy for me, what other existential question can I ask myself that doesn’t create suffering?

The question that I choose to ask myself is:

How am I to live my life?

I could potentially go down many different paths on that simple question. What does my Higher Power say on the matter?

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
John 13:34, NIV

You certainly can have your own conception of God and you need not see your Higher Power in the same way that I see mine. You don’t have to buy into the rest of Christianity – it is fraught with many apparent contradictions, and even I struggle with it. I just bring my focus back to John 13:34 – that is the essence of what I’m supposed to be doing in my life.

I am a flawed human being and I fall short of that ideal each and every day. I say that not to beat myself up but rather to state things as they are. Just because I wasn’t as loving as I could be today shouldn’t prevent me from trying again tomorrow to come closer to the ideal.

It’s my responsibility to keep my focus on loving others as He has loved me. I need to seek with prayer and meditation to discern what that looks like today in my life.

I firmly believe that the present moment is not about the Why but rather the How. When I remember to do that my life is so much easier. When I go back to the Why I suffer. I have a choice today and I choose to focus on the How.

Yours in recovery,
Bill R

Fear

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
Frank Herbert, Dune

I recently watched the film Dune and was struck by this mantra given in the first half of the movie. Most of my fears are imaginations or are irrational. Is it rational to be afraid of being attacked by a tiger on the streets of New York City? No, that is definitely not rational. If however, I was walking in the jungles of India, at dusk, then it is a rational fear for me to have.

I must separate the rational from the irrational – the true from the imagined. If the fear is irrational then I need to focus on the reality of the present moment. Where am I? What am I feeling emotionally? Is it helpful for me to act out of that place of irrational fear? No, it is not helpful for me to act from that place of imagined fear.

What about facing rational and true fears? Courage is not having no fear, but rather facing your fear and acting anyway. If you truly do have to walk in the jungles of India at dusk, wear a backwards facing mask as that greatly diminishes the chances of a tiger attack.

Ask yourself “what can I do, in this moment, to protect myself from this true and rational fear?” Don’t give into the fear. Choose to act from a place of serenity and calm. You’ll be amazed at the results you will see.

Yours in recovery, Bill R

When we are disturbed, something is wrong with us

It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us. If somebody hurts us and we are sore, we are in the wrong also. But are there no exceptions to this rule? What about “justifiable” anger? If somebody cheats us, aren’t we entitled to be mad? Can’t we be properly angry with self-righteous folk? For us of A.A. these are dangerous exceptions. We have found that justified anger ought to be left to those better qualified to handle it.
Twelves Steps and Twelve Traditions, page 90

I need to remember that if I’m disturbed with something or someone I need to look within a see what is wrong with me. How am I thinking about my current situation? Is my thinking mature, serene, and sound regarding this circumstance? Am I looking to see where I’ve fallen short?

I say these things not as another opportunity to beat myself up but rather as a point of reflection. Is there anything that I could do that would be better than how I handled it before?

Improvement is possible only if I can recognize how things actually are and not how I think they should be. Accepting my part in my circumstance is the place from which I can grow and become better.

Could I give in to justifiable anger? Of course I could but would that be helpful and useful? Not very likely. It is far better for me to examine where I fell short, where I’m upset because that sticking point is where growth can occur. Have the courage to look within. It may be scary to look within, but that is where healing occurs. Good luck on your trip within.

Yours in recovery, Bill R

Metaphor for my depression

OK, I’m acknowledging and admitting in public that I have depression. I choose not to say that I suffer from depression, as I believe suffering is a choice. Here I mean the Buddhist interpretation of suffering, the mental and emotional anguish that we put ourselves through when we don’t accept the present moment for what it is.

Pain is part of the human experience, suffering is optional.

I choose to say instead that I have depression, or that I sometimes experience the symptoms of depression. This simple change of the words I use to describe my condition allows for space for the possibility that someday I won’t have depression, or that I don’t experience the symptoms of depression.

Why all this talk about words? Well words have great power. If you read Genesis, God first spoke “Let there be light”, then light existed. Words are the first step of creation. The words I choose to use help create my reality.

Many of us view life as a series of metaphors. Some view life as a race, others view it as a game, still others see it as a constant struggle. What metaphor do I use to describe my depression?



As I mentioned in a prior post, humans are dualistic beings. I see myself as two beings in one:

  1. a wounded inner child
  2. a mature outer adult

My depression shows itself by a lack of energy, a lack of progress, and a lack of emotion. The swing is not moving.

The depression is a manifestation of my wounded inner child. It is sitting in the swing. It is petulent and drags its feet in the sand. Sometimes it goes so far as to pump its legs in the opposite direction to prevent progress.

My outer mature adult is smaller than the depression. I can’t give a single push to get the depression swinging. I have to time my pushes, and consistently apply positive actions in my life. I have to encourage the inner child to lift his feet. After that I can encourage the inner child to begin pumping his legs so swinging isn’t relying totally on my smaller outer self.

It’s not a perfect metaphor mind you, but it is fairly consistent with my experience with my depression. I am hopeful that consistently giving gentle pushes I will emerge from the depression, free and happy once again. This future is possible for you too.

Yours in recovery, Bill R