A Time of Reflection
Happy New Year's Eve, Everyone! It is hard to believe that 2019 has almost come and gone, but it is even crazier to believe that there are merely hours left in the 2010's decade. Looking back, I would describe the 2010's as being The Decade of Lost and Found. I believe decades are universal shifts in everyone's lives. In the beginning of 2010, my life was changed forever by my dad being incarcerated for 7 months, which resulted in me getting caught in the wrath of my cousins' drug addictions. I literally have never been the same after that. I had many struggles as a result of that, particularly a 9-year codependency problem to my cousins. Having a codependency problem and adult children of alcoholic issues on top of the normal struggles of a middle schooler and high schooler made life very difficult. I felt suicidal many times. Unfortunately, but fortunately, I hit rock bottom the summer after high school when my one cousin was released from 6.5 years in prison and failed to follow my rigid idea of recovery and reuniting with me. I finally found counselors who could help me, and after that, I slowly started putting my life back together by putting iodine on the wounds, going to self-help meetings fervently, starting college and getting on the President's List, and even found a faith that works for me called New Thought-Science of Mind. It took me almost a decade to get my shit together, but as a Zen proverb says, "When the student is ready, the teacher shows up." I still feel like I am just putting my life back together because I have a long way to go. I no longer have any resentment towards my cousin. I sent him a 20 dollars in the mail for an engagement present with a letter explaining how I feel about everything. I am happy that he is putting his life back together, even if I am not apart of his life and his life does not conform to the path I once selfishly laid out for him. I am 99% sure that I will not be attending the engagement festivities or the wedding, but I will send a generous gift when the time comes.
I am already affirming that the 2020's will be a better decade. In the 2020's, I am going to continue doing well in college, graduate college, earn my master's degree, get a job, buy a house, continue on my spiritual journey of recovery and as a student of New Thought-Science of Mind, become a Science of Mind practicioner and later a minister, and possibly publish a book for real. I might even meet my soul mate (slim chances because I do not know if I ever want to be with anyone, but you never know.) Th 2020's will be full of peace and prosperity.
Ringing in the New Decade Right
Happy Holidays (Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanza, etc.)!
On this Christmas Night, I received the news that my cousin who I had a codependency problem to is getting married to his girlfriend of about a year and a half, whom he started a relationship with during the final months of his incarceration . While I feel slightly awkward, needless to say, I am actually happy for him. This morning, I said in my affirmative prayer that his path is being Divinely Guided where it is meant to go and that he and his girlfriend are going to have a beautiful holiday. Sure enough, it is and was. It is the Universe's will, not mine. I have no desire to control or fix the situation. I only hope and pray that it works out for them. That is the beauty of codependency recovery: I can be happy and serene regardless if someone I love is making a choice that I agree with or not. In my reading today by Melody Beattie, it said "Faith does not always give us the miracles that we want, but it always gives us the miracles that we need."
That leads me to the subject of today's blog: came to believe in and conscious contact with our Higher Power as we Understand Our Higher Power. This topic came to me from a video I ran across on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/campanellasmotivation/videos/1400658840112124/.
Step 2: "Came to Believe that a Power Greater than Ourselves Could Restore Us to Sanity"
Whenever Step 2 comes up in my homegroup, we always end up talking about our experiences with the religions we were raised with (including peoples oh so scary Catholic School experiences back in the day lol). Many of us were first introduced to God as a condemning or punishing God; that is NOT the God/Higher Power of recovery. Rather, the God/Higher Power is unconditionally loving and personal to each individual. The 12 Steps, recovery, and this blog ARE NOT about religion. They are only intended to provide SUGGESTED tools for recovery that are applicable to everyone. The key words in Step 11 are "AS WE UNDERSTOOD HIM" (I prefer replacing "Him" with "God" or "Higher Power" to make it sound more inclusive but the 12 Steps were written back in 1935). Your Higher Power as You Understood Your Higher Power can be the God of your religion (if you have one) or merely the Higher Power of Your Understanding such as the Universe (mine), nature, saints, loved ones who have passed, the recovery program itself, the book of your recovery program (my counselor actually knew someone who asked The Big Book for help and thanked it at the end of the day), gemstones, etc. There are many paths to one destination. It is all the same Higher Power, but there are many different concepts and paths. Remember that 12-Step programs are spiritual programs , not religious programs, and recovery is a spiritual journey, not a religious journey (even though religion may help some on their journey). "Spiritual" means to have an awakening to your personal spirit/soul/self. Different things speak to different souls.
The reason a "Power Greater than Ourselves" is part of the 12-Step recovery process is it takes a weight off us, especially us codependents who want to control everything. Coming to believe in a Power Greater than Yourself is basically saying, "I can't; someone/something else can." In recovery, I realized that there is power in powerlessness and letting go hurts a lot less than holding on. It is perfectly fine if you do not believe in a supernatural Higher Power upon entering recover. I did not believe in a supernatural Higher Power when I first entered Al-Ateen and Al-Anon, but I found it in Al-Anon. Trust the process; it works. It is also okay for your Higher Power to change over time.
Step 11: "Sought through Prayer and Meditation to Improve Our Conscious Contact with God as We Understood Him, Praying Only for Knowledge of His Will for Us and the Power to Carry that Out"
I never realized that the other key words in Step 11 were "Conscious Contact." In the video I watched, the guy was talking about how recovery teaches us to have "conscious contact" with our Higher Power. Many people pray to a Higher Power in times of trouble and/or go through the motions of their religion, but in recovery, we learn how to have connection to our Higher Power that is far more greater than that. Growing up, I was always taught to believe in the Catholic and later Evangelical Christian concept of God. I was not raised super religious by any means, but I did grow up praying with my mom and going to church every week. As I got older, I realized the Christian concept of God, Christianity, and traditional church every week was not for me. For several years, I did not believe in any supernatural Higher Power because I no longer believed in Christianity, which I thought was the only path to the Higher Power. When I got into recovery, I came to believe in the Universe. Then, several months later, I started attending non-denominational services at the New Thought-Science of Mind spiritual center inside my counseling center about every other week. I now still call my Higher Power "The Universe" and believe and practice the suggested, not mandated practices of New Thought-Science of Mind such as affirmative/scientific prayer, gemstones, Law of Attraction, etc. Today, I consider my faith stronger than it ever was and my contact with my Higher Power as intimate as it ever was. Note: I am only sharing my experiencing to demonstrate how coming to believe and conscious contact works, not pushing my beliefs on anyone. Take what you like and leave the rest. Some spiritual practices that help people maintain conscious contact with their Higher Power include, but are certainly not limited to, prayer, meditation, attending a church/spiritual center/synagogue/temple/mosque/self-help meeting/other religious or spiritual institution, reading an inspirational book, listening to the music of their faith, and spending time in nature. When you have a Higher Power of Your Understanding, it is easier to make and maintain conscious contact. Many of us become addicted to fill a void (lack of sense of self). Having conscious contact with a Higher Power can fill that void (finding yourself). Remember, recovery is not just about abstaining from using; it is about creating a whole new life of yourself. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "When the God of theology and rhetoric is no longer believed in; the God that is the fire of hearts will appear."
Sickness as a Blessing in Disguise
I have been sick with the flu for the entire past week, which is not typical of me because I hardly get sick and never get the flu. Thankfully, I have a job where I can work on my own schedule and my semester ended on Tuesday (had to go in with the flu to take my last final-not fun), so I was able to rest up without any worries. If you saw my last blog post, you know that the week prior was pretty stressful on the home front, which I firmly believe attributed to me contracting the flu. Even though being sick absolutely sucked and I much would have rather been working and making money instead of lying on my couch in pain, the time of rest and solitude really taught me a lot. I believe my Higher Power gave me the flu as a blessing to fortify my recovery because it taught me a major lesson about self-care and helped me reflect on what I really want with my recovery going forward.
How to Care for the Mind, Body, and Spirit
The mind, body, and spirit are all interconnected. The mind is the spirit's way of connecting with the world around us (consciousness), the body is the house or the casing for our spirits to live in during its journey in the world, and the spirit is the essence of who we all are. In order to be our Highest Selves, they must all be cared for. I will admit the week prior, I was not doing a good job at caring for all of them. I was burdened with stress and anxiety over a situation I did not have any control over. I was looking at the past through distorted eyes, beating myself up a lot more than necessary, My mind was obviously out of wack; my body suffered as result by my immune system not being able to work at its best; and my spirit was not aligned where it needed to be. In recovery, the mind, body and spirit all need to be cared for in order to ensure the best outcome, even in difficult times. In fact, the difficult times are when most self-care is needed.
The Body: The body is the casing for your soul; therefore, it needs the utmost care. I can obviously lecture you on the clichés your doctor probably already lectures you about such as eating right, exercising regularly, getting enough rest, etc., but they cannot be underrated. I am not a health freak by any means, but I do the best that I can. If you take care of your body, you will feel physically better, which will help you feel mentally and spiritually better. For example, if you get enough sleep at night, you will be more mentally effective in your everyday tasks, which will help you feel better about yourself (spiritually) because you can accomplish more tasks, do them more effectively, less depressed (mentally, and be less likely to become ill (physically). Practices that are healthy for the mind and spirit (e.g. meditation, prayer, yoga, which I'll get to in just a second) can also reap rewards for your physically health.
The Mind: Your mind is your connection to the world because it enables you to process, think, and feel. Your thoughts create your reality. Even though negative thoughts are necessary to help you make decisions that are for your Highest Good (e.g. setting a boundary, getting out of an unpleasant situation, avoiding toxic people if possible, etc.), they should not rule your life. You should especially not stay in negative thoughts about forces beyond your control (e.g. the past, other people's issues, or temporary uncomfortable situations such as living with an addicted parent while you are in college to get a degree to get a good job and eventually move out). General positive thinking, gratitude/surrender journaling, general journaling, one-on-one counseling, support groups, yoga, mediation, prayer/faith in a Higher Power, engaging in a hobby, and other stress-management and positive thinking techniques help relieve the burden on the mind. If you change your thinking, you will start to manifest more good in your life. Remember, "Serenity is not freedom from the storm; it is peace amid the storm."
The Spirit: When I talk about the "spirit," "spirituality," or "spiritual" things, I am not talking about any specific religion or religion at all. Spirit and its related terms are about your personal spirit/soul and how to have an awakening to it and get in touch with it. Religion is a completely separate entity that is about rules and rituals that may speak to some people's souls and may not speak to others. Your spirit/soul is about who you are as a person, the essence of your being. Practices that may help you spiritually are engaging in activities that you enjoy and allow positive energy to flow through your being (e.g. going to the beach, going on a hike, hanging out in nature, painting, playing with your pet, etc.), hanging around people that you share a special connection with (your souls connect), contact with the Higher Power of Your Own Understanding through prayer, mediation, or attending a service at a church/spiritual center/synagogue/mosque/temple/or other faith-based institution; attending a self-help meeting, doing work with a counselor or life coach, reading a self-help or meditation book that clicks with you, and the list goes on. Spiritually is really that simple: find what makes you feel good and works for you. Spiritual paths differ greatly, but they all lead to one place: yourself. In order to be aligned with your soul, the mind and body need to be nurtured.
Don't Worry; I'm Still Alive
I know I have been gone for 6 months. I have been busy with school and life, and I was questioning whether I wanted to continue the blog due to low viewership, but I am going to try to blog every week to every other week to see if it helps viewership before making a decision. I absolutely love blogging on here, but it is hard to get motivated without reinforcement ( a little psychology lesson for you all, lol).
Some People Never Change...
My first blog post in half a year is on that recovery slogan "If nothing changes, NOTHING changes." It repeats itself because it is so important to understand, especially in codependency recovery. My inspiration for this post is a personal experience I had this past week.
In the spirit of the holiday season, I started missing my cousin who I had the codependency problem to. He has been out of prison for about a year and half now, living in my town about 10 minutes away from me with his girlfriend whom he started a relationship with during the final months of his sentence, and supposedly working for his girlfriend's fathers' trucking company (I have suspicions that it is a front because there are never any trucks where his business is addressed). I weighed out a few avenues: Instagram messaging, sending a card with a check in it for a small amount of money, waiting outside his house and following him into a store to " accidentally run into him," and even being daring and going and knocking on the door (that could have easily ended with me being escorted to a white car with flashy lights on the roof with shiny bracelets on wrists). I decided to send a card with a check in it, but I did not feel comfortable just eclipsing him with it, so I called his mother. I honestly did not expect her to answer the phone, but she did. We talked for about five minutes. She told me about her husband's death, my cousin and his brothers doing well, and how she is now old and sick. She sounded like she was on her deathbed and told me I was welcomed to come over anytime. I apologized for my role in the insanity when my mom and therapist told me I did nothing wrong. Yes, abuse, even non-physical abuse, really f***s you up. Abusers gaslight you into thinking that you are the problem when you are not. My mom and I decided we would take a ride this weekend, but we wanted to call her first. My mom called once, and I called once. We never got a response. I spoke to my therapist about it, and she said that it sounds like his mother was manipulating me.
Flash forward to today...
My mom decided it would be a good idea to visit his uncle who also lives in my town. He told us that his sister was not "old, sick, and dying" (one person who never changed) and that my cousin was doing well (I thought that meant he changed even though he was not on the path of recovery that I approved of). I decided to message him on Instagram, saying that I was proud of him, always wanted him to be happy and glad to hear that he was, was always here for him with my phone number to reach out, and loved him forever and ever. A few hours later, I checked and I was BLOCKED (another person who never changed). However, I do not regret it because it is another lesson in my recovery, a stepping stone in the right direction. It also showed me the current strength of my recovery. I am actually grateful for the experience.
Through the Eyes of Gratitude
If nothing changes, then nothing has changed or will changed. I cannot change or control anyone except myself. Everyday, I say this version of The Serenity Prayer, "I have serenity to accept the ones that I cannot change, the courage to change the ONE that I can, and the wisdom to know that ONE is me." Acceptance is not succumbing to an unacceptable situation; it is accepting the reality of the siutation and being able to make a decision about what to do about it. A fellow Codependents' Anonymous member once said that you cannot allow a person back into your life if they have not changed ohterwise they will hurt you the same way again. I still love my cousin, but I love myself even more to protect myself. I can only love him, pray for him/wish him well, and let him be who he is.
Bria Riley is a published author, recovering codependent and adult child of an alcoholic, who is active in several recovery programs. She knows the turmoil and heartbreak of growing up in an addiction-stricken family and wants to help others who have also been affected by addiction through her writing.