We know so well this word serenity as it is in one of the most poignant sayings we come across in many recovery groups. When I left the hospital three years ago while in early recovery, and entered into an Intensive Outpatient program my wife gave me a chain with a real dog-tag that had belonged to a soldier, inscribed on it was the wonderful Serenity Prayer. I wear this every day and I have said this prayer and concentrated on its wisdom hundreds of times since.
"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change." One of the key words that strikes me inwardly every time I say, hear or read this line is the word serenity. I have chosen a photograph of a beautiful white swan and that name 'swan' actually feels to me like a very close cousin of the word 'serenity.' A swan is so beautiful to watch as it floats gently across the water with such effortless peace and tranquility.
The word serenity in dictionaries is described with such synonyms as composure, calmness, peace, stillness, tranquility, quietness, patience. Wow. Just think of this prayer's beginning. God, grant me the serenity....... The prayer does not start off and say for instance, "God, grant me the ability, or grant me the means, or grant me a way to somehow accept those things in life I cannot change. No, is says God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. There is such a peacefulness and caring in the use of this word. To me it describes perfectly what is meant by the word surrender. Surrender in recovery is the opposite of giving up, it really means to stop fighting, stop struggling with aspects in life we cannot change.
Serenity, calmness, tranquility, swan, surrender - these are powerful words to utter inwardly to oneself - they are healing words, words of true comfort and so nourishing to the soul. I wish that many people who do not suffer with any addiction issues would also practice saying the incredible Serenity Prayer. The wisdom of the ancients would certainly embrace the meaning of this powerful invocation.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Or, as I have meditated upon quite often, God, grant me the serenity to accept that I am an alcoholic. Or, God, give me peace to accept that I did not need alcohol or any substance to live life freely and happily. Grant me the tranquility to accept that I cannot change the truth that I am such a better and healthier human being living sober.
God, please grant me the serenity to accept that I cannot alter the fact that I am free as long as I never use or drink again. Grant me the realization, the serenity to accept that I certainly cannot change the fact that I am a human being. And, being human I cannot change that I have flaws and weaknesses and lessons to learn. God, grant me the serenity to accept one of the most important things I cannot change and that is living sober and clean is infinitely better than what my life was before. God, please bestow upon me the serenity to accept that life committed to unconditional recovery is the true and honest pathway to live.
Next time, I will explore the next passage to this prayer, "Courage to change the things I can."
We hear, see and speak so many words during any given day. Millions of words are conveyed through so many forms of media today that it is safe to say, humanity is inundated with talk. But, do we trust the words we hear, trust the words we speak, trust the words we see? And, in addition, how does our inner being translate these expressions we are surrounded by?
For instance, when someone says to you, "I love you," how do we interpret the expression? Certainly the answer depends on who is saying it. Even if we trust the person, how does that simple but so important expression affect our inner being. As a person who is and always will be in recovery, and someone that has decided to express words and post them on this blog, how do I really know that what I am trying to say is really being felt by you, the reader? How do I have any assurance that another can trust these words I write? Well, as in many things in life, I have to have faith that there are people out there that are getting something from this. And, as far as trusting the content of these paragraphs, well I simply have no control over those personal interpretations each of you may have when reading this. I have often wondered how can a person move beyond the 'veneer' of their statements and convey the entirety of their feelings beyond the words themselves?
The best I find I can do right now, in this moment, is to feel the meaning behind the words I type. Surely, I can say that I am feeling a lot right now as I write this, but that easily begins to just 'beg' the question. So, let me try this. At this time of year we will hear much about being 'thankful' for what we have in our lives, for the food we have on the table, for the people we know and share our lives with, for the family that we have, for our spouse and loved ones, to be employed, to be breathing, etc. And, each of these we should be thankful for. But often this attempt at trying to get us to see the thankfulness and gratefulness we should have in our life gets quickly altered within the dialogue of our own mind. We may in fact feel no reason to be thankful or grateful for anything at all. Maybe we are experiencing profound sadness at this time of year, overwhelming regret and trepidation, anxiety about what lies beyond Thanksgiving and moving directly into the 'holiday' season.
And, for those of us who chose to not run off to a bar or liquor store, or call one of our old connections to get a fix, or if one's parents have their medication under lock and key, whatever the situation may be - where do we turn within if we are not feeling anything positive at all and the 'words' of giving thanks and being grateful in life enter into ourselves and are kicked around and expunged as soon as we hear them. And, with the good practice that most of us have learned, we can nod in agreement and smile our perfunctory smiles while experiencing an imprisoned world within that seems to have little semblance to the good ole holiday cheer.
So, it is difficult to trust words because we often do not see the actual interpretations of those words - a large hidden chasm of alternative implications and meanings loom just beyond the surface. And, worse yet, the pain and suffering of our souls can go unnoticed by others -- even those closest to us. After all, as recovering addicts and alcoholics we are quite familiar with saying things we don't mean and finding that trust again within ourselves and with others takes time, patience and forgiveness.
The best practice I have found during my years of recovery is trying to blend the outside world with my inner being. Better yet, I endeavor to integrate who and what I am inside with how I express and interrelate with others in my life. Simply stated, I begin with complete honesty - honesty with myself and honesty with what I express to others. It is the best I can do and it is a very important aspect of staying on the path of recovery. And, if we even for a moment take that word 'recovery' out of the equation, this is a tremendous start for anyone in life - unconditional honesty.
Trust can only begin with believing in the honesty of our own thoughts and expressions. This may in fact be a giant step of faith for us. We may have been accustomed to living around others we never were able to truly trust or have grown unsure of our own words -- especially during early recovery. Our addictions created incredible deception with those around us and it should be a fairly easy feat for us to understand that the road back to being trusted and trusting ourselves in not a quick journey.
Words will become safer for us and easier to utter as we practice unconditional honesty. I know that when we begin to finally have confidence in our own honesty will we attract others in our life that we can also trust and believe in. Words that we hear and see each day will still need to be interpreted in our own minds and it may be that many of those expressions will be disregarded because they are the articulations that come from someone with an agenda and may be deceptive, and not to be trusted at face value.
This is why I have so cherished being around the many people in recovery these last three years of my life. The words and feelings that I have heard from people struggling to free themselves from the throes of addiction have been so very powerful and moving. I am grateful to be with such people. And why have I come to emphatically trust so many of these expressions from others? Because I know in my own heart and mind that they are real and sincere. I trust such words unconditionally and I thank the people in recovery I have had the great pleasure of sharing my struggles, triumphs and thankfulness with.
To begin to answer this title’s question, when it comes to alcoholism and addiction, love has a lot to do with it. The photo I chose to insert on the left here is very self-explanatory, especially if one thinks of the word love. When you look into the eyes of this beautiful dog you feel its tender soul, you can easily imagine wanting to shower this animal with affection. And, as soon as trust is formed between you both, in return, the dog’s love and devotion towards you would be apparent.
And, for any of us who now have or have had a pet in the past, nothing more needs to be said. We know just how wonderful this kind of friendship can be.
However, when it comes to love and human beings, matters get quite complex. Each one of us that has entered into some kind of recovery treatment program will attest to the fact that during our addiction we inflicted a lot of pain, despair and mistrust on ourselves and onto the important others in our life – our children, spouse, partners, friends, coworkers. They were all affected and hurt by the destroying aspects that go hand-in-hand with addiction. And, this is not even to mention the great financial harm that may have ensued as a consequence of our compulsive intoxication. Quite frankly, the love that may have once been there for us may be gone, diminished or being held back, waiting to see what happens while we are in recovery and after. And, who can blame them. Broken trust, lies, deception, these are not easily forgotten and this is one of the great issues we face.
Throughout the early days of healing we may desperately need and want understanding, forgiveness and warmth from those same people we pushed away and wounded deeply. That is why our treatment plan is so crucial during this early period. We cannot expect those individuals we hurt to just come around and ‘like’ us again – it may happen, but it certainly should not be asked for or expected by anyone upon entering a treatment program. We have a lot of work to do and a long period making amends before we can or should anticipate any kind of love in return. The people we meet and share our pain with in our meetings are vital. It is here that we receive support and advice from professional counselors and seek friendship and offer friendship to the others who share in our recovery.
So, again, what’s love got to do with it? I can confidently attest that one of the inner issues some of us have experienced which contributes to alcoholism or addiction is that we were denied the love and nurture we needed at some point in our life. Or, better yet, we denied ourselves true affection and care. We may have been incapable of assimilating this emotion being offered to us and kept it blocked from our inner being. Or, we simply could not find a way to truly accept who we are and care for our own creation as a living person on this planet. Drinking or using is often a replacement for love and affection, plain and simple. We then incessantly try to fill this void with the dubious and treacherous effects of alcohol or drugs. And, if we listen to our inner dialogue during our most dysfunctional state, I guarantee we will understand more about what is truly lacking within us.
How can we really honestly love others if we have not found the pathway within to caring, nurturing and accepting ourselves? I think it may be impossible. I’m not speaking of some kind of narcissistic type of love, but a real comprehension and realization of the significance of our own being, our body, our mind, our emotions our soul. Often, this is missing within ourselves. A major component of recovery is to find this pathway within and realize that our alcohol use, drug use, etc. was just a miserable attempt at caring for ourselves. Perhaps our upbringing contributed to this, maybe we had terrible parents or siblings or a miserable childhood. It is for each to discover or uncover this truth within and somehow face it. But, foremost in our recovery is to seek that avenue towards embracing who we are, forgiving what we have done, and speaking softly and kindly to ourselves with an empathetic heart and non-abrasive tongue. Then we will be capable of sincerely giving to others because we found the pathway to finally caring for ourselves, to ultimately love and embrace who we are in this universe. In summary, love has quite a lot to do with it.
Hello, my name is Paul and today, Sunday November 15th, is my third year anniversary of total sobriety or what I have decided to now call "Unconditional Recovery." I cannot begin this blog without first acknowledging and giving thanks to the many people I owe this celebration to. First and foremost my heartfelt thankfulness goes out to my wife who stood by me during the darkest hours of my/our life and had the strength and courage to see beyond my immediate illness and cast her faith to the future. I simply could not have done this without her continued love and encouragement.
I am also so very grateful to family, friends and coworkers who openly embraced my new sober life and allowed themselves to see me in a new light. And, my journey back from depression and alcoholism would never have been possible without the patience and devotion of my personal therapist who exhibited such remarkable determination while urging me to get the help I so desperately needed and continued to work with me to understand the underneath causes behind my addictive behavior.
And, then there were the wonderful doctors, nurses and counselors who nursed me back to stable health at the hospital before entering IOP and Continuing Care at a Kolmac Clinic. My gratitude to the staff and counselors at Kolmac will never be forgotten. And, finally, last but definitely not least, I want to give thanks to the many wonderful people in recovery I have crossed paths with over the years. We have and will continue to share our intimate struggles and our profound successes as we continue on our pathways, free from addiction and alcoholism, one day at a time.
I have learned that life is so much about sharing and giving, and asking for help when in need and giving back to others and the world we live in. Addiction to any substance is an insidious affliction and often, even in this day and age, misunderstood. Addiction becomes an all-encompassing destructive lifestyle (or deathstyle) filled with torment, helplessness and blind selfishness. And, this disease crosses all boundaries of life - age, race, sex, religion, economic and educational status. And, its prevalence in the world today is unfathomable.
Whether you are beginning your first 24 hours into recovery or your first days and weeks of white-knuckling your way through each minute and hour, this blog is devoted to helping you in some small way. And, for those who wish to continue on their journey of Unconditional Recovery, this web site may serve as a positive adjunct to continuing your healthy and free life.
So, why Unconditional Recovery? The word 'unconditional' is defined as a wholehearted commitment, not limited by any restrictions. I have named this blog using this word because it is something I finally did with my own sobriety and it happened rather early in my recovery. An excellent therapist at Kolmac introduced me to the word during a group meeting and it has stuck ever since.
I used a certain mantra every day for months and then years - initially it was "unconditional sobriety" and since then, I decided to name the blog "unconditional recovery" so that people with other addiction issues would be just as open to reading this blog as someone familiar of course with the word sobriety. It is the unconditional part that means so much to me. Simply put there is no condition to which I will allow myself to use again or drink again - none, not ever.
As I progressed with this notion I realized I was also closing the door on my substance of choice. I no longer was ever going to romanticize my drug or alcohol use again. I was never going to try and stir up that portion of my brain and inner being by recalling what I thought was that good feeling or relaxation or numbness I received from imbibing. Alcohol assumed a relationship with me that acted like it was my friend. But, my relation to alcohol became first a dependent one and finally a poisonous and noxious one and it was killing me and destroying my life around me. So, as I closed this proverbial door to using in any way or form, I also unconditionally gave up thinking about alcohol and the "good ole times" that actually never existed in the first place.
This allowed me to cross over the chasm and no longer hang on any fence, halfway in and halfway out the doorway. I no longer allowed my inner self to imagine what it would be like to pop those ice cubes in the glass and think or feel what that first drink would taste and feel like. I realized that such behavior was still part of the addiction and was allowing a substance, in this case alcohol, to continue to assume some kind of relationship in my life - and, quite simply put, why would I subject myself to such a behavior? Why would I let myself for one moment believe that a substance like alcohol or an addictive pill or pain-killer would ever be a way for me to feel better or to engage in life in a healthy way? Why would I place such power in a substance, a substance that at one point almost destroyed everything I loved about life?
Just as the adage says, as soon as one closes a door, a new doorway or path opens up - well, that is what finally happened. It did not occur in an instant nor was it supposed to. Remember, we addicts and alcoholics learn to love the instant gratification, the sudden change of 'feeling' within, so why would I ever expect a new door to open immediately. But, eventually that door did open and I realized that I had not just closed up shop working in a demeaning environment that abused my very being - I had gradually opened up to a wonderful way to live, free from addiction, not complacent about the perils of addiction - not for one moment of one day - but able to embrace a fulfilling and enriching life. I closed the door to addiction, turned around and said good-bye to that way of life and found abundance, gratitude, inspiration and love.