The Freedom To Be

Free to be

C. W. Stratton

The desire to improve our lives is viewed as a normal aspect of our society.  We are constantly presented with ways to become a better person.  Right from birth we are taught how to behave and what’s expected of us to be a productive individual.  Those closest to use who are feeding us information, are going off of their own point of reference.  This doesn’t mean what’s being conveyed to us is inaccurate.  Those individuals points of reference eventually become our own at some point.  This tends to create a continuum that will go through generations.  The cycle continues until someone breaks free of the taught thinking and behavior that has become a so-call “norm”.  When this does occur, that person is immediately looked down upon because they are living the up to the status quo that had been created.

Many times, there are those of us who have no clue why we do, what we do.  We acknowledge that others are doing it, so it must be right.  This can be related to so many different things in our lives:

-Family

-Friends

-School

-Neighborhood

-Relationships

-Employment

We follow the majority in many cases.  This may be due to our personal fear of leading, fear of being expansive, or fear of starting something new outside the familiar.  We want more out of life but we don’t take the required steps to be innovative and original.  As a result, we remain within a suffering state that fuels disappointment, underachievement, and life dissatisfaction.  However, we continue to push along with the crowd in hopes that something miraculous occurs to change our circumstances.

We spend a considerable amount of time and energy improving our “external” conditions, to obtain a sense of freedom, happiness, and to solve many of life’s problems.  Improving “external” conditions will never solve “internal” problems.  At the very moment you feel an internal problem is solved by improving external conditions, something else will arise within which will result in focusing on the external once again; to get that warn and accomplished feeling back.  Working backwards like this is likes being on a hamster wheel; you feel like you’re moving forward but you’re actually going nowhere.  We must learn to control the mind and desires to achieve the happiness we ultimately seek.

First improve “internal conditions” in order to maintain those external things.

Self-Deception

 

masks we wearBy, C. W. Stratton:             The evolution and transformation of our existence is such a wonder yet profound process.  As we recall a number of beliefs we once held, during our early stages of life, this may bring some of us to many thoughts and realizations regarding our current place in life.  There may have been a point in time that we believed we would maintain the old thought process throughout our existence.  Assessing this creates a probable response of, “I was trapped”.  This trap may have manifested as being in a place where we needed to conform to the environment and others in order to survive; not survive in the sense that death was a possibility.  This type of survival is associated with saving face and maintaining a certain reputation among your association or peers.  This created self-deception to the point that a character was created along the way.  The character we’ve created presented as our reality.

The portrayal displayed needed to be maintained at all times, no matter the possible consequences of the deception.  It was like the actor who never goes out of character; even off screen. Over time, the portrayal almost felt like our “true-self”.  Although there were instances where breaking character was appropriate, but the pull to be other that ourselves was much greater.  The deceptive-self (portrayal) was greatly accepted amongst our associates.  However, during this process of self-deception, many of us experienced constant turmoil within.  The turmoil may have gotten so overwhelming that it may have even manifested as an explosion.  These explosions may have been toward those close to us or even towards ourselves.  We became so lost in the chaos, deception and explosiveness that it became even more difficult to get in touch with our “true-selves.”  There are those who have been able to come to the realization of the dangers that self-deception has created, and as result a moment of reflection, perspective and assessment was granted.  Many of us were able to break free of the “trap” we existed in for years.

Breaking free and coming to a state of enlightenment regarding the “true-self” eventually concluded that who we truly are enough, and the need to have that character to validate who we “thought” we were became non-existent.  Coming to terms with this requires hard work, discipline and a sincere effort of “Love Self”.  The evolution and transformation is an ongoing process.  Mara (the evil to that tempts, corrupts, instills fear and negatively influences us) is no longer invited into our lives once this realization is made.  However, we must always acknowledge it exists because the aforementioned were all active ingredients to our “self-deception”.  Taking time to continue working on self and utilizing concepts and practices that feed our true-selves will become the fortress that protects us from that character that we once harbored.  Having the courage to sit with our true-selves, daily, without fear, can broaden our enlightenment and willingness to grow as a person.  We are not perfect beings, but many of us strive to be.  Take off the mask, step away from the stage and lights to acknowledge who we truly are.

The Master Juggler

By, C.W. Stratton

“Life is a juggling act that sometimes  that you drop everything.” ~Linda Poindexter                               

Life is full of transformative experiences. Many of us may not realize this, but even at this very moment, as you read this, the beginning of a transformative experience is occurring. The reason this is pointed out is because we have experiences in our lives where we are not fully present or totally involved. Living in our modern society where everything is rushed and many of us need to be Master Jugglers. Meaning, we must have an abundance of things we are responsible for in order to feel a part of this world, or feel a sense of accomplishment. 

Unfortunately, we end up trapping ourselves when we only judge our worth by our responsibilities. 

In recovery, we must take a healthy risk by stepping away from these things, for a moment, to see what we are actually doing. Others can see us juggling and they may applaud us, or even go as far as throwing something additional to our way to see if we can continue juggling. We become so excited by the applause and cheers, about how good of a job we’re doing, many of us are incapable of saying “enough” or “it’s too much.”

In many instances we don’t verbalize being overwhelmed because we are fearful of letting others down or we may feel if we were to stop juggling, everything would “fall” apart or we are doomed to return to the destructive behaviors we have worked so hard to discontinue. Remember that in recovery, the promise is “freedom”. 

In this sense, we define freedom as the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved. Typically, we equate being imprisoned or enslaved to active addiction. Now that we’ve made a conscious decision to be a part of the recovery process, our continued efforts should also reveal other ways in which we imprison ourselves. 

Going back to the analogy of the “juggler”, he/she is poised and focused on the task at hand, even as spectators throw additional objects for them to continue juggling; the persons locked-in. This individual experiences what is called “myopia”.  

This is a term usually referenced medically; relating to the eye. In this this case, it’s the lack of foresight or imagination. Meaning, we don’t see anything beyond what’s in front of us. Just as the juggler.

Dangers can arise if we continue this process in our lives, using it as a way to protect us from returning to old behaviors. You know the thinking, “If I stay busy, I’m good” or “I don’t have time to think about using or not.” 

These are the messages we convey to us that can inevitably have a negative impact on our recovery. 

Staying busy doesn’t equal recovery, just like treading water doesn’t mean you’re swimming. 

We feel we are in a safe zone when we have many responsibilities that we hope will distract us from the real fears that exist within us. Things that we attempt to be the Master Juggler of, are:

1. Job (s); some of us work multiple jobs.

2. School

3. Relationships

4. Being a wife or husband

5.  Parenting

6.  Peacemaker

7.  The voice of reason for friends who are struggling

8.   Going to meetings

9.  Personal recovery

These are just a few. In many cases, we are juggling the aforementioned all at once. This seems like a heavy load to carry, but we feel this is essential to our continued efforts to remain clean/sober. We may be able to juggle these things for a period of time, but we will have those moments when we are alone and realize we have a lot on our hands. 

However, we wouldn’t dare verbalize this to anyone because we have become so attached to the responsibilities that it begins to define us and our recovery. We have moved further away from the freedom that we seek.

Stepping away for a moment is essential to obtaining a better perspective on our lives and on our recovery. Acknowledging the need for reflection in our lives can bring about a transformative experience. Speaking to individuals who have multiple jobs has always been interesting. They are asked if the need to do the extra work is for financial reasons. Many have relayed they just enjoy the work. 

Is it actually a joy to work 12-16 hours a day and not leave time for self-care? 

Eventually, they go back to the statement, “I like to stay busy”. This isn’t to say that every individual who works multiple jobs in addition to other responsibilities will fall short in their recovery, this is about awareness and being honest with ourselves about who the Master Juggler really is.

“Letting Go” has been a statement used in the recovery process. 

This statement is relayed when we are faced with difficult or emotional situations that hinder our process. The statement is true when it comes to “juggling”. Sometimes we have to let something fall in order to gain something greater. That something may be a significant tool to build upon our recovery. 

The transformation occurs when we obtain the courage to “let go” of the thing that has burdened us and not allow us to grow in the recovery process. We may not know exactly what that thing is, but we must, once again, step away to observe our circumstances clearly in an effort to fully embrace the transformative experience. 

The experience is enlightening and it even takes a huge weight from upon us. It’s like the “Ah ha” moment. This isn’t something to fear, it’s something to embrace. When we do this, we will truly begin the path to Freedom.

Most jugglers begin with a couple of things to see if they can handle it, or to obtain a rhythm to keep going. Over time, additional objects are handled, after they feel they have mastered the initial things at hand. As recovering people, we tend to take the opposite approach by beginning with the most difficult. As a result, a number of things occur;

1. Things are taken away from us (not by choice).

2. We lose certain responsibilities due to neglecting them.

3. We burn out and just give up.

4. We become too overwhelmed and drop everything.

5. We verbalize that things are too difficult, so we stop pushing forward.

6. We say “what’s the use” and return to the destructive behaviors.

You can be a Master Juggler of things in your life, but we must realize what we can actually endure. 

Just because the other juggler has eight items in the air, doesn’t mean that it will work for you. 

It’s like the old saying; what got me clean, may get you high. An important aspect of the transformative experience is to acknowledge what you can handle and embrace it. This is not a competition or a race, our goal is to live life to the fullest and experience with every fiber of our being. 

One Day At A Time. For us Master Jugglers, One Object At A Time.

DON’T USE, NO MATTER WHAT!

Legitimate Fear

Fear

By, C.W. Stratton

All of us have experienced some form of fear on one level or another.  Being able to identify legitimate fear becomes problematic for some.  Fear is the unpleasant emotion or belief that something or someone is dangerous, likely to cause harm or a threat.   Another definition suggest that the feeling can be experience weather the threat is real or imagined.  Focusing our attention on the feeling itself has the likelihood to limit our ability in determining if the fear is actually warranted in a given situation.  Obviously there are legitimate reason to experience fear.

*A barking dog exposing its fangs running in your direction.

*A car barreling down the road in your direction as you cross the street.

*Someone threatening you with a weapon or causing physical pain.

*An event or situation that can result in loss of life.

The fear that many of us experience aren’t typically associated with the aforementioned.  After assessing a given situation thoroughly, we may find that our fears aren’t connected to dangers or threats at all.  Some of our fears are associated with others and how they may respond to certain discussions we may be involved in.  We may be that individual who lacks self-confidence, whereas fear becomes a constant feeling at unexpected times.  Given this being a individuals reality, we must realize that lack of self-confidence doesn’t mean there are dangers or threats that will become of harm to the person.  The fear becomes the fear of a feeling that one may experience if we relay a message to someone and they don’t respond in a way that we had depicted in our minds prior.  A result, we begin to condition ourselves mentally to avoid certain conversations, situations and interactions.  Think about some of the ways and things we associate with fear:

*Change

*Changing careers

*Letting someone down.

*Being wrong.

*Asking for help.

*Following your dreams.

*Speaking up about what you believe in.

*Addressing an issue with someone who may have hurt your feelings

*Challenging a statement of someone that you know is inaccurate.

*Stepping outside of certain conventional practices.

*Rejection (avoid hearing that huge word “NO”).

These are only a few things that we associate with fear but as we can see, there’s no real danger, harm or threat involved in these.  However, we hold on and identify the feeling as fear, and in turn, it prevents us from making the progress that we say we desire.  We become paralyzed by the illegitimate fears.  We rob ourselves of the opportunity to communicate our wants and needs; we remain in the comfort zone of stagnation.  Is the zone really comfortable?  It’s just a familiar place to be that’s consumed with discomfort.  It’s time to challenge ourselves (our views, perceptions and ideas of reality) and become more confident and comfortable with who we are as people.  Being able to identify the feeling you are actually experiencing in a given situation is critical to progress; it’s not always fear.  It could possibly be other feelings you may subconsciously refuse to identify (inadequacy, insecurity, shame, or guilt).  It’s time to identify and conquer.

 

Searching the Bookshelf from Within

By, C.W. Stratton

Bookshelf

Searching and reading so many books about ways to improve our lives and how to overcome obstacles that we may face, has created so much confusion and increased uncertainty.  Trying to put all the pieces together from the books, social media posts, eBooks and blogs becomes overwhelming.  All the “How To” books lead us in so many different directions.  Going to the bookstore searching for “that right book” is like searching for a needle in a haystack.  When trying to narrow down our choices, we rely on those author names that we may hear in the media.  You know, the authors that relay how great their books are and how helpful their own words were for them.  This is by no means an avenue to discredit those author that spend countless amounts  of time dedicating their craft to reach those who may benefit.  The are great author out there who have been helpful and transforming many lives.

How do we sort through all the titles and advertisements to improve our situations?  It’s a lot of work for many.  The average individual is searching for something specific to their experience.  We want a fix to our circumstances and many want to situation resolved in an instant.  This isn’t realistic by any means.  Just as the our struggles and obstacles in life occurred over time, so does resolving them.  Yes, there is material out their that will be helpful but we must sort through the mess that’s before us; not the books, the mess within ourselves.  If we can get to that point, our search for the right material become less overwhelming.  We may then be able to find something that’s specific to our experience, which will eventually guide us in the direction we desire.

We may be awarded many suggestions from individuals regarding which material has helped them, but keep in mind that your reality and experience may be different than their.  Take the suggestions, look at it closely and decipher which parts of the suggestions can be applied to you.  Your motivation to improve your life or circumstances may initial manifest externally but as you continue to search, that motivation manifest internally which help in maintaining the discipline to continue taking forward steps.  The books are in abundance, life is in abundance and your desire to be the best you can be should be in abundance.  Stepping back and looking at the bookshelf, we begin the process of decision making, so step back and look at ourselves and do the same.  There is so much valuable information out there at our fingertips, lets use it.

The search for answers continue!

Self-Assessment

By, C.W. Stratton

Self assessment
During life we will be challenged and even forced to take a real close look at ourselves and our current position in life.  Forced self-assessment can be fear provoking and overwhelming for the most part.  The self-assessment can be catapulted by our interactions with our loved ones, colleagues, friends or other associates.  The results of the self-assessment can bring about fear, shame, guilt and even pain; for some of us.  There are those of us that may harbor these feelings to the point of feeling total defeat and not wanting to improve our situation.  We tend to protect these harmful feelings and thoughts with all we have.
During our illogical phase, which can last a moment or for a significant period of time, we harm ourselves and others in the process.  If our self-assessment indicates that bad decisions, behaviors  or mistakes were made in our lives, we have the ability to resolve and restore.  Making a bad decision doesn’t make us bad people.  That decision can be transformed into a learning a experience that can help propel us to where we really want to be.  The key is not to stay “stuck” in the bad decision or in the feelings that come with it.  Looking within ourselves and finding the strength that we all possess to move forward is such an enlightening experience.
Looking at ourselves (our Inner-Self; is who we are) and acknowledging the natural gifts and talents that we possess is key.  We have the tendency of being more focused on our personality (things outside of ourselves; family, careers, friends, material things, certain behaviors, etc.), opposed to digging deeper to look at our Inner Self.  We can overcome the negative thoughts and feelings that we may have about ourselves by tapping into our natural abilities and talents that exist.  There are those times where we may say we are having a bad day, but what I’ve found over time, it’s really a bad moment that I hold on to for a whole day.  Self-assessment isn’t a bad thing, it an opportunity to see where change and growth need to occur.

Unique Like Everyone Else

By, C. W. Stratton

Wandering  through life aimlessly is a reality for many.  When asking a individual of there current position in this world, the response heard at times is, “It is what it is.”  The phrase sounds cool and slick but when these words are relayed to a individual full of purpose and direction, it’s like a fingernail going across a chalkboard.  There are circumstances in life that can actually be changed.  Having direction, passions and goals are integral aspects of change.  We must broaden our experiences in the world and with others.
Unfortunately, there are individuals who don’t recognize a need for change or improvement.  Associates, friends, colleagues and even family of  such individuals have difficulty pointing out, to that person, that there is a need for change or improvement in their lives.  We will allow that individual to remain in the unproductive state they are in.  Why is this?  We either have difficulty with confrontation, we are selfish, don’t want to hurt that persons feelings, or we let that person remain where they are because it makes our mediocre existence look better than want it really is.  The question posed may take time to actually answer, but I’m sure the response will fall within the realm of the aforementioned.  If we were that individual who was at a “stuck point” in our lives, wouldn’t we want some assistance or guidance to move beyond that place?
Each individual creates their own existence along the way, but there may be obstacles and stumbling blocks on the path.  There are those who have the capability of overcoming them and you have those who have great difficulty with these obstacles and as a result they remain stuck in that position.  Can we find a genuine and sincere way to assist others?  This assistance doesn’t have to be monetary in nature because a few spoken words of encouragement and direction can be of great value.
We tend to get caught up in the reality that we’ve created for ourselves and leave many people left out of behind in the process.  As time passes and our circle becomes smaller, we become so encapsulated that we no longer can see beyond our own existence and not have the ability to see what actually exists outside of ourselves.  In turn, when we make an attempt to step outside of our encapsulated lives, we can’t relate to the other parts of life that we’ve neglected.  We’ve created an existence that’s full of “stuck points” and limitations.  We prevent ourselves from expanding our learning and meaningful experiences in the world.  We have separated ourselves as if we are not like others and we go as far as thinking that our experiences in this world are unique.  Once we break through the barriers we have created and step outside the encapsulated reality we’ve created for ourselves, then we’ll find the truth.