I meet so many people who have stopped! Stopped drinking..stopped using drugs…stopped addictive behaviour…and they truly want to stay there. But there is a vast divide, the Grand Canyon of good intentions, that separates wanting and doing. I want to live a fulfilled and purposeful life, is a far cry from attaining that life. It’s a great start, but in between the wanting and the doing is where the real work lies. Who doesn’t want mature, healthy relationships with their spouse, kids, family and friends!? A great job that you look forward to, even on a Sunday evening!? Meaningful interests, hobbies and pastimes, that bring fun, adventure and balance into the everyday!?
There are not a lot of people who I know that don’t want these (and more)…yet talking about something and actually doing it are extremely different! So how does one bridge the divide and start to achieve these ideals? A good place to start is reevaluating one’s values…those things that get me (and you) out of bed in the morning. What feeds your soul, and makes you come alive? What makes the hours of the day slip away unnoticed? For me values are quite different from principles… I don’t get out of bed to be honest and live with integrity, but rather to pursue my work as a Recovery Coach, spend time with my partner, study and live courageously. My principles of honesty, integrity, courage and compassion (to name but a few) come into play as to how I undertake to live to these highest core values.
So in order to get from where I am at any present moment, towards where I want to be, takes practising my principles…and there are a couple I find extremely challenging. Especially patience, forgiveness, acceptance and tolerance (of myself and others). But armed with my little bag of principles and clear in my values, I take the initial steps towards closing the gap between wanting and doing. Somehow, just this personal awareness and understanding of what guides my personal compass towards where I want to be, gets me that little bit closer. Of course I need to be crystal clear in what it is that I am striving for…and I have to be extremely honest, willing and open about whether this is realistic and achievable for me, as well as the opportunities and obstacles that may exist!
So knowing my values, practising my principles and setting SMART (specific-measurable-achievable-realistic-time bound) goals are some of the ways that I managed to move from being stopped to staying stopped. I also came to understand that stopping was not enough…I needed to build up a set of resources, #RecoveryCapital, that would support me in quest to stay stopped! I needed to find activities, pursuits, undertakings, interests, hobbies (still battling with that one), and relationships that were supportive of me in recovery. Because if recovery was going to be less exciting, fulfilling and meaningful than active addiction, what was the point? And initially it was less exciting, less fun, less invigorating than drinking, dancing and general inebriated adventure. But slowly, a step at a time, the journey started to unfold for me some of the greatest joy, love and fulfillment I had ever experienced.
The little things started to have more meaning than I could ever imagine…living in my integrity and showing up when I said I would show up was so much better than I believed it would be. Being present in relationships and noticing what was going on with my loved ones has brought me countless blessings over the years. Getting to know (and love) myself, is one of the most fulfilling relationships I’ve ever had. And it all starts with just a couple of practical, little actions. The changes don’t happen overnight, the relationships don’t miraculously fix themselves from one day to the next, but armed with just a few tools, a whole lot of awareness (achieved through complete honesty with myself), a set of clear goals (even around what I wanted from my personal relationships), I have managed to walk across the bridge between stopping and staying stopped.
And there have been days when the bridge has been nothing more than some rope and some shaky planks, and others when it’s metal and concrete. But I keep my focus firmly forward, not letting the past pull at my ankles like terrifying trolls that live on the river banks. Because one of my biggest learnings has been that hanging onto the traumatic events of my past does not serve me. I have taken the time to learn from them, but then I have thanked them for their teachings and laid them down along the road, so that they cannot sabotage me or what I want from my life. I have stayed stopped by learning to say yes to certain people, places, thoughts, beliefs and parts of self and no to others. I am not perfect, I don’t always get it right, but I have the conscious awareness to know when I am slipping into self-defeating thinking. And that awareness is like a razor-sharp knife I use to cut the sneaky tendrils of guilt, shame, fear and blackness that sometimes endeavour to envelop me.
And so I continue to be vigilant as I move from being stopped to staying stopped, always equipped with by bag of tools should I need to mend part of my bridge, fortify an area of weakness or build up my inherent strengths. It might just mean stopping and looking at the view from a different perspective, giving my values a good shake up, reevaluating my goals and action plans, or simply enjoying the slight swaying as life continues to become more fulfilling, exciting, purposeful and adventuresome than I could ever imagined before I stepped out of the mist, took my first step onto the bridge and started to narrow the distance between wanting and doing.
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