My name is Sherri and I am a recovered alcoholic.
I am also a lover of life, a coach, a mother and a happily married woman. Not many get to say that, but for 29 years I have been involved in a process that has given me a life that I had never imagined. An outstanding and blessed life.
That process? Seeking truth.
In the beginning it was all about blaming others for where I was in life. Wrong side of the tracks. Poor. Alcoholic father and mother. Too many kids, not enough attention. Diagnosis of ADHD. Rape, hunger, neglect, abandonment – if you have been there you know this list is endless, especially when you are trying to justify addictive behavior. The finger pointing was an exercise in trying to preserve some semblance of my own sanity…I had no solutions and so was constantly seeking a source in which to attribute the problem. Alcohol calmed the need to look for a minute, but never for too long. Thus the constant craving to fix myself and my life with alcohol a welcome balm. My brain was in a constant state of panic and protection mode.
When I walked into my first 12-Step meeting, I was terrified and intrigued. At 29, separated from my husband, 4 year old daughter in tow, I had run out of answers. My father had only months before succumbed to the ravages of his short alcoholic life. His untimely and gut-wrenching death shattered my delusions about what and who was to blame and made me look squarely at myself. The controversy surrounding his demise was to rattle the hinges of our family for an eternity and became exactly the shock I needed to seek help. I found it in those rooms and surprisingly through an interesting assortment of souls on varying places in their own journeys. It was in those rooms, with people like me, that I found the courage and the strength to look into myself and seek the parts of my soul that had been dormant or laying low until the storm was over.
My journey these past 29 years has taken me through many stages of growth, discovery and development. It was not an overnight matter. The program I was introduced to was an enticement to continue living with the hope that it would continually get better. However, it took much work and service to others as well as giving up of a lot of old behaviors and belief systems. This, however, occurred naturally over the years…but it was often as if I were continually being pushed through the birth-canal over and over again. Each hurdle brought on short periods of grief for my way of life and the old pieces of “self” that I began to release. It was not a coward’s journey. To rely on a higher power and not mood altering substances of any kind takes courage and perseverance. Was I blessed with both or just sick of the falsehoods I surrounded myself with? I know today that this alcoholic had to be fully awake to the process in order to come out in this place of peace.
The 12 steps as they were originally designed have been adopted to address any number of maladies. They were adapted from religious texts but were purposely designed to be inclusive of believers and non-believers alike. The founders wanted to make a way for all to come to believe in something more powerful than what they had been dependent on, so that they might become inter-dependent and live a happy and useful life. They were designed to be self-sustaining as long as we pass it on to others. I know THAT is what saved my life.
Today, I look back at the challenges it took me to get here and know undoubtedly that the richness of those hurdles and heartbreaks paved the way for an understanding of the blessings I now enjoy. In retrospect, this kind of acceptance of the abundance and blessings of my life, my love for people, my new career path, and my welcoming of joy would not have been possible for me earlier. I had to know the pain to be able to receive the gain.
I have never relied only on that process however. It was what gave me courage to look at myself in the presence of others who would understand and that lifted the need for judgement. Recovery was the mirror that helped me see my true self and gave me the tools to discard that which no longer served the life I wanted to live. It helped me heal the gap that separated me from a full and happy existence. Recovery opened the door to a world filled with amazing experiences, people, places, fragrances, flavors, and delightful ideas that I knew I was starving for. Getting sober gave me the courage to step out into, and claim, that smorgasbord of experience called life and to walk among those who know how to live authentically.
Seeking truth is the hero’s journey. We all have within us that spark that can be fanned to a rich flame when we are surrounded by those who have gone before us. We breathe the same air as everyone on this planet and have access to the same energy as those who astound and perplex us with their success. It is available to ALL of us. The bravest thing that any of us will ever do is ask for help.
What do you need to start your journey of truth today?
Tell me what makes you happy. Not just what you are willing to accept in your life because it is better than what you had in the past. What truly makes you feel the energy rising up in your body and fill your heart and lungs? What do you want to return to again and again because nothing in the world makes you feel the same? Tell me about what gives you wings, creates such powerful emotion that you want to share it with the world. Tell me about what makes you lose all space and time. Go back as far as you have to so that you can recapture that feeling. Sit with it. FEEL it. Write it down and enjoy looking at the words you use to explain the feelings.
This is happiness. When your soul is so filled up that you can’t keep it to yourself. When even the tiniest things bring on joy. Being so grateful for something that you know you can give your life over to it even if only for a moment.
If you are struggling to think of something, tell me why. I want to know. I want to help. I want to create safe space so that you can explore and discover what brings you joy.
Please tell me.
Here are possible ways to bring yourself closer to happiness.
No one can make you happy. Be brave enough to look within yourself for the things that will introduce you to happiness. Doing the things that are in line with your heart will reveal to you what will make you happy. This is an inside job of extreme importance to your health and to the quality of your relationships and your future.
How willing are you to look?
Looking for new way to think, act, or live is not easy for most of us but is often a life-changing endeavor for those brave enough make the attempt. Conditioned by past experiences - nature or nurture, many of us are on autopilot and don’t think about what other choices might be available. Often just a little tweak in our perception can broaden our perspective and improve the quality of our lives.
My office is on the second floor of our home facing our wooded yard. I have positioned my desk so that I have only to look up from my keyboard to feel as though I am in a tree-house. As an amateur bird watcher, I love grabbing the binoculars to get a closer look at the feathered creatures that grace our property. However, as many times as I have picked up those binoculars, I seem to always start from the wrong end and the larger lens. I know better, and could be tempted to blame that action on memory loss from menopause, old age, or something more nefarious. However, I choose to believe that something intuitive keeps inviting me to see the world in a bigger and more expansive way.
So which lens do you look through?
When looking through the small end of the field glasses, what we see will always appear closer – because that is where we are focused. But what about all the things that are just outside our field of “vision”? I am notorious for attempting a difficult task and getting frustrated because I am only focusing on one way of doing the thing. In the past there were many times I have thrown up my hands (or thrown what I had in my hand) and said “there has GOT to be a better way to do this!! Yet for many years my limited vision kept me from going any further. My vision changed when I learned to expand my focus and look for all the possibilities.
How many times in history have we read about how others have persevered because they felt that they could make a “better mousetrap”? They believed that they could improve on the gadget or the process in a way that would make something easier, faster, or more fun. Being curious has always driven humans to explore – whether it be the mystery of their own minds or vast new environments. Taking a cue from the master of curiosity, Leonardo da Vinci, I began to see how I could apply this curiosity to my own life and use curiosity and perspective as a way to improve my life and my relationships. (If you would like to learn more, read the book "How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci" by Michael Gelb)
It pays to listen to what you are thinking. One of the wonderful things about journaling my thoughts is that I can whine about my problems or brainstorm solutions without burdening others overmuch with my drama. Asking myself on the paper “what other ways can I see this?”, or “how can I solve this problem” focuses my vision on new ideas. The fruits of this choice came at 3:00 a.m. one night many years ago. I was lowering my aching body into a hot bath just so I could get back to sleep – chronic pain zapping my life energy. Surprisingly, my thought process shifted to an entirely new perspective that changed the way I thought about my pain. Out of my mouth came words of gratitude to my aching body: “thank you for being so resilient and reminding me you are here and waiting to be cared for”. It was a revolutionary thought for me! Rather than seething with anger and fear, I was giving my body thanks. It was no longer my enemy - but my friend. Now THAT is a new perspective!
No matter what we feel we are struggling with or what has frozen us to inaction, allowing ourselves to step back and observe from another viewpoint can be wildly enlightening. Grab pen and paper and ask yourself some of these questions and see what happens:
Yes, there IS a better way!
There are countless quotes about happiness on the internet, and every one of them come from the point of view of the person who is quoted. Though we can’t know what causes another joy in their lives at all times, getting to know another who seems to always feel good can provide a lot of clues. When a person is happy “in their own skin” they carry that into the world – it is as if everything they get close to is improved in some way by their presence. We are drawn to them because they seem to have an insider’s access to something magical.
Being happy is a choice we make, not something that comes to us without effort. Happy people are grateful people. They are the ones who look for what is right in the world. No one person deserves to have more happiness than another, and it is achievable by anyone. You cannot “catch” someone else’s happiness for more than a short time but you can take cues from their behavior. How do they carry themselves…are they standing tall and looking you in the eye when they speak? If you observe them communicating with someone else, how do they behave? Do they reach out and touch the other person, lean closer? Are they smiling most of the time? Do they intuitively know what to do to make others feel at ease?
How you see the world, your thoughts about yourself and others, and how you behave are an indicator of your level of contentment. If you aren’t experiencing the kind of feelings you want to…check yourself. Whatever keeps you from enjoying your life and feeling at peace is something to take note of. For instance:
Want to find ways to enjoy more happiness? Then ask yourself what was the last thing that you did that made you feel like a giddy kid? What kinds of things make you smile and your heart feel full? When do you feel you’re at your best? What smells good, tastes good, sounds good to you…and why? If you could do one thing for the rest of your life you are not doing now…what would it be? If you had everything you needed right now with nothing to get in the way…what would that look and feel like?
Focus on the things you need to add to your life to give you the life you want. Write it down on paper and own the dream, because when you can start checking off the things you have been ignoring or putting off, you will be on track to your own version of happiness.
What will it take for you to be happy too?
We teach others how to treat us.
No matter where we go we leave the energetic trail of our moods along the way. The energy we show up with carries a message to others…whether or not we realize it. The message may be intentional or unconscious – but we are always projecting it into the universe. Whether the lesson lands in the lap of the checker at the grocery store, our children, or our peers at work, we teach others how to treat us, even when that is not our intention. Witnesses learn from us everywhere, and if someone is in a vulnerable place, our demeanor, extended forward, has the power to lift up or destroy. Because we effect one another so easily, we have a responsibility to take the lead in any encounter.
How do you do that if you are in a crappy place though? If the first thing you focus on is how much you regret, how do you get past that? And why does it matter what others think anyway? Taking responsibility for our thoughts is the first step and that takes waking up to what we are putting out there in front of us. Finding a way to shift from grouchy to grateful has its perks. When we do, our energy becomes uplifting and so does the message we hear and project.
Some of us are addicted to negative and catastrophic thinking. If your life has been one of challenge and strife, if you are going through something that is painful, or overcoming some other trauma, it is difficult to feel like moving out of it. Yes misery does seem to love company – we just don’t realize sometimes how much we invite into our world by our own thoughts. If we are constantly talking about our troubles to others, we only feed the beast. What can we do to switch from thinking that hurts us to thinking that teaches us?
Here are some ways you can begin to take back your own energy and switch to more positive behaviors:
Everyone has their own path to walk in this life, things to overcome, to greet gratefully or regretfully, and to learn. We have the choice each day to continue on like we have been living or we can choose to grow. Trying on a new way of thinking changes our perspective and fuels a desire for better things.
What will you learn today?
Every blog I share comes from the heart and has a challenge or a question within it to help others explore new ways of thinking. I hope that as you read the blogs you would consider starting conversation by commenting. We can learn so much together!