Monday, October 28, 2019

We Are Not Alone

No, sorry, this isn't a post about aliens. Or, maybe it is! Most of us who have lived experience with addiction and/or a mental health condition(s) have felt alien. It's quite common for the person going through suffering to say, either aloud or to themselves, "Nobody understands!" Fortunately, this isn't the whole truth; however, the feeling can be so strong, even in recovery, that it seems to be a part of the dis-ease process. 

I was at an alcoholism recovery meeting recently, and I began to experience this feeling. Part of the feeling comes from my tendency to look at the differences between me and others rather than the similarities. Part of it can come as a symptom of my dis-ease. And part of it can come from the fact that I have what is known as a dual diagnosis, or co-occurring, disorders. There are some in addiction recovery that have only to deal with the dis-ease of addiction. For most of those, the recovery program in a mutual aid support group works, if the person works it. For some who do have co-occurring disorders, an addiction recovery program works as well. Then for some others, me included, we seem to need more than just an addiction recovery program. It is not the fault of the recovery program; it is simply that people experiencing co-occurring conditions sometimes need more, such as therapy and possibly medication.

When I began to feel this way at the meeting - alienated, unique, alone, disconnected - I probably didn't do the best thing, which might have been to stick around afterwards and talk with someone; however, I didn't buy into the way I felt. I began to look for the similarities between me and the speakers; I began to come up with alternatives to my thinking; I began to see the ways in which I am unique, noting that most of them, if not all, are good. They're who I am. And, as I was leaving the meeting, alone, I noted to myself that it's ok for me to be alone from time to time, so long as I'm in a place where I can stand myself.

As I mentioned above, it's important for me to identify how my depression shows up. I've lived with it for so long that it's been a real challenge to differentiate between what is me and what is my dis-ease. I've felt alone and different-from most of my life, and most of my life I thought it was because I was defective and less than everyone else. Today I understand this feeling of being alone in the universe as a symptom of my dis-ease. When the symptom is part of me, like an arm or a leg is a part of me, it's very hard to do anything about it; however, when I view the symptom as a symptom, I am able to do something about it. As a symptom, I can talk about it with others; I can spend time with others, either in person, or on the phone, or even on social media, if I'm hooked up with the right groups (it's helpful to be with like-minded people, such as others in recovery from mental unwellness or addiction); I can pray; I can think about alternatives to my thinking. So there's a lot that I can do about this particular symptom - I don't have to stay in my aloneness for long. Another thing I can do is play with other people's pets (with their permission and because I don't have pets of my own) - pets, especially dogs, love being with me and don't judge me. The drawback is I can't take dogs to work with me or to recovery meetings.

Spiritually, we are never alone. Our Creator is omnipresent, which means that I am always connected to It, as It is connected to me. And the kicker is that if I am made from my Creator, and my Creator is in me and all of Creation, then I am connected to all of Creation, including you! So the feeling of being apart from or alone is really an illusion, or even a delusion. It's a lie. Sometimes in meditation I can feel this connection; sometimes in consciousness I recognize it. I'm working toward knowing my Connection more.

And speaking of connection, I read in one recovery resource that, as an alcoholic, one of my primary problems has been the failure to connect on a real level with another human being. Recent studies have also pointed to the idea that the opposite of addiction is connection - connection with our family and friends, connection with all of humankind. So working toward knowing this connection in my heart, and not just in my head, moves me toward recovery and healing. In recovery meetings we have the opportunity to work on this connection, and as the health of our relationships grow, our spiritual and mental health grows (probably our physical health, too). We weren't put here to live this life alone and on our own.

So I am grateful I'm on this path, even though sometimes it feels like too much to deal with. One footstep at a time I move deeper in recovery and closer to truly knowing my connection with everything.

Namasté,

Ken

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Grow the Heck Up!

I had a bad day yesterday. Well, I didn't have a bad day, I had actually a really good day with some less-than-desirable moments, and, this morning, I'm focusing on those moments instead of the plenty of good and desirable moments that I had. 


I'm not for living in the past, but since I'm there anyway, let's take a look at it:

What caused me to tell myself this morning to 'grow up' are a few instances where, during times where I felt stuck or didn't know what to do next, I resorted to escapism and, for me, addictive behavior. I over-played an internet game of which I'm fond, I watched more stupid videos and read irrelevant articles on my phone than was necessary, I went off my diet and ate a bunch of Halloween candy (sorry, kids!), and I stayed up very late for no good reason. Yes, this is immature behavior, but telling me (or anyone) to 'grow the €#&@ up' is pejorative, unnecessary, and unhelpful.

So, while I'm in yesterday, I'm going to do a few things.
First, I'm going to forgive myself for being a less-than-perfect human being. I am in a challenging place right now, which is uncomfortable, and, at times, I resorted to activities that I've used in the past to comfort myself that are really less-than-skillful, and I also engaged in helpful and productive behavior to improve my situation.

Also, I'm not a bad little boy and I didn't do bad things. Again, I engaged in behavior in a way that was, in the long run, less-than-helpful to me. I am an adult, and I did also do things that were very helpful to me.

Next, I'm going to think of some downtime things to do today that are helpful and/or. productive, such as meditating (I've got a virtual ton of meditation resources), take a walk, read something relevant, or play a game, but set limits.

Ok, so I've objectively analyzed the events of yesterday, forgiven myself and given myself a hug and a pat on the back, and I'm sharing my experience with other adults because I know I'm not the only person in the world who struggles with engaging in unhelpful behaviors sometimes. Or a lot. And then I'm going to jump into my morning routine.

The things I mentioned above transform the negative things I did yesterday into positives for today. It's a lot more productive and healing than telling myself that I need to grow up. We'll see how it goes today; right now I'm expecting to do good things today with a minor stumble here and there.

Namaste

Ken
(written on and sent from my phone)

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Assumptions!

I used to be a big assumer and jumper to conclusions. There is no complex mystery behind why I liked to assume - I found making assumptions about things going on around me a lot easier than actually investigating the facts, wherein I'd have to actually talk with someone and ask what's going on.

I still assume and jump to conclusions; the difference today is that I'm aware I could be wrong, so I don't immediately act upon my assumptions. I can sometimes consider alternative possibilities, and sometimes I even talk with people about what I'm thinking.

The problem with this person in recovery is that my thinking still leans toward the negative, and I am still prone to depression - so when I assume, it's usually negative and I often use the assumption against myself, demeaning my character and calling myself all sorts of nasty names. Yes, that's insane. The worst case scenario is that I assume something that isn't true, and use that assumption to begin really self-destructive behavior, like drinking. As of this writing, that doesn't make much logical sense - but I've used facts around me to make assumptions about my worthiness that have led me down the path of self destruction. 

I've been looking for jobs in Waukesha so that I can move back there. I'm currently employed at the plastics factory near where I'm living through a temporary service. They have a branch in Waukesha, and I discovered a job I'd like to have in their listings. So, I called the Waukesha office to let them know I am interested and to inquire on what steps I need to take to apply for that job. I explained that I am already working for the temporary service, and told them my assignment. I got the impression that the person on the other end of the line didn't think a person working in a factory would be qualified for the job in which I'm interested, which left me a little irritated. That impression I got was an assumption. Whether it's true or not, I don't know, but, more importantly, it doesn't matter.

So I went thinking nasty things about that office in Waukesha and the people who worked there, as well as getting down on myself a little for not having a straight career path. (Thinking nasty things isn't good for me, whether they're true or not, and neither is getting down on myself). I took the time to re-write my resume, listing my relevant experience first rather than doing a chronological resume. I emailed my resume to the Waukesha office with the job rep's name in the subject line. I didn't hear anything for a few days, so I called the office and left a message for the job rep. The rep's voicemail message states, "I'll call you back within two hours" (this is important in a little bit). I didn't get a call-back, so I assumed the rep wasn't interested, and I started focusing on other job resources (which is a good idea).

Today I received a text from the job rep asking me to call them, which renewed my hope. I talked to the job rep after work today, and he let me know he had been out of the country until Monday. People often fail to update their voicemail messages - I know this, but I had forgotten it in my efforts to assume the worst. So I talked to the rep, and they are going to contact the company at which I'd like to work and set up an interview for me.  Hmph - stymied again!

I'm not good yet at taking an objective view of myself and my world. My perceptions are still on the negative, low self-esteem side. Interestingly enough, in talking with others, I can help them see more alternatives than they can see themselves, but it's still a challenge to help myself. I didn't do anything rash in this instance, but I did poison my own thinking (I was going to say unnecessarily, but anytime I poison my thinking it's unnecessary).

I'm not powerless to change my thinking for the better, but it takes practice and consistency, and for situations like this to pop up. I'm writing about this because writing and talking about it helps me make the commitment to change.

I've come to a better understanding that the 'stuff' that happens in life are really lessons, and I don't have to beat myself up, in fact, it's counter-productive to beat myself up, for receiving a lesson. Today I can be grateful for lessons like this, for they're helping me grow into the person I'd like to be.

 Namasté,

Ken

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

A Sense of Purpose Helps

A very real aid to mental health and substance use recovery is having a sense of purpose. The opposite of having a sense of purpose is having no sense of purpose - no reason to get out of bed in the morning, nothing really going on to motivate me to put forth any effort to embrace life. Major depressive disorder can make it seem as if I have no purpose, or as if my purpose isn't really worthwhile or valid. Active addiction takes away whatever sense of purpose I might have and replaces it with the purpose of obtaining and using alcohol or other drugs. So when I begin recovery, and continue in recovery, having a sense of purpose  helps me keep moving forward when there are forces within me that would like to see me move backward.

I think there is a difference between having a purpose and having a sense of purpose. Having a purpose, to me, is more finite. It's having a goal, which is concrete and observable. It's a destination - I'm going to become a millionaire, or I'm going to travel to New Orleans. Having a sense of purpose, on the other hand, gives me a guide about how I'm going to show up today - what my attitude and behavior is going to be. Having a sense of purpose doesn't guarantee that I'm going to reach a specific destination. It's more like, "I'm going to travel in a northerly direction and see where I end up." A sense of purpose is the journey itself.

Having a sense of purpose allows me to adjust to what is and live in the now. My own particular sense of purpose allows me to use the gifts I have to help enrich the lives of others while at the same time progressing in my own healing work. This is a fairly broad sense of purpose, and here is one of the ways in which it helps:  I'm currently working in a job that isn't something I want to do for the rest of my life. I inspect parts, and have recently been upgraded to machine operator. Sometimes it's fun and interesting; sometimes, I do the same thing over and over for 8 hours. In the job itself, I get to use my 'gift' of being able to find fault with anything. Under normal (for me) circumstances, I would find this job boring and very hard to do - the pay isn't good, and there's not a lot of incentive to keep showing up other than it's all I have right now. Without a sense of purpose that I can bring to the job, I'd find myself getting depressed and possibly relapsing. However, I'm able to activate my sense of purpose so that my 8 hours a day (not including travel) is not wasted.

My sense of purpose allows me to understand that if I continue to do well at this job, something better will show up for me. Also, I take the time and energy to get to know some of the people with whom I work, and I sometimes ride home with people I work with. I've found that many of the people I work with can relate one way or another to substance use and/or mental health issues. Also, I have plenty of time to practice silent affirmations while I'm at work.

I'm not a person who has a lot of internal motivation. I'm like an actor who can't do a role until s/he knows their motivation. I'm not the most ambitious boy on the block. I have, however, learned that I can instill within myself a sense of purpose that can masquerade as motivation or ambition. It's really knowing that whatever I'm engaging in, no matter what it looks like on the surface, is moving me in a direction that I want to go.

I believe that each moment I move forward with a sense of purpose, I am not only helping others, I am strengthening my own recovery.

Namasté,

Ken

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The Resilience Factor

Resilience: 1. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.  2. the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity. (Oxford English Dictionary)

Last week I was doing some online stuff before work started, and I ran into two disappointments, one of them financial. I thought about my options for a little bit, and then started work. There were no histrionics, no self-pity, no rending of my clothes and/or gnashing of my teeth (well, maybe a little gnashing - I'm a gnasher from way back), just simple acceptance of the way things were in that moment. I said a little prayer of thanks for resilience.

Later on, as I'm working and thinking, I'm thinking about the fact that I didn't do my morning routine of spiritual and inspirational readings and prayer either that day or the day before, and I'm beginning to wonder how long my resilience will last. Will something happen later on that will be the straw that breaks the camel's back, and sends me into negative thinking, self-pity, and depression? You see, in me, resilience is not something that I either have or I don't; it's a mindset that I acquire through certain practices.

I like the 2nd definition above a little more than the first. The 2nd definition reminds me of a live, healthy tree - it's got roots that go deep enough to support it and nourish it, and it has sap running through it's fibers that nourish its limbs and leaves. A healthy tree can often survive a strong storm - the winds may bend the tree and rustle its leaves, but when the storm is done, the tree will be back to its old self. Now, take a tree that has died, but is still standing - the sap has run out of it, and it's limbs are hard and rigid. A dead tree can be easily uprooted or have its limbs snap off in a storm because it's no longer resilient - it lacks the quality of elasticity which would allow it to be swayed and return to its original shape.

Resilience is an important part of recovery from addiction and mental illness. Resilience in this way can be likened to immunity - if my immune system is strong, I can resist acquiring infections, or if I do get infected, I will recover quickly. If I have a weak or compromised immune system, my body is much more likely to catch something, and it could create a serious and even life-threatening infection. Certain things like my age, my diet, whether or not I exercise and get enough sleep, and my reaction to stress are all factors in whether or not my immune system is healthy and strong. I keep my resiliency healthy in much the same way, with a few more things added.

I'd like to mention here that I do take prescribed medication to treat my mental health condition. The medication does not really make me more resilient; it allows me to get to a level of functioning whereby I am able to practice coping skills that will help me maintain my mental/emotional health and sobriety.

So now that my brain is banging on all 8 most of the time, what do I do to enhance my resiliency? (The following list is not ordered in importance, other than the first item).
  • Abstain from alcohol and other mood-altering drugs. Kinda makes sense, and for me there's no quicker way to push resilience away than by beginning to use again.
  • Take my mental health medication as prescribed, and consult my psychiatrist before making any changes. It feels good to go for a while without a depressive episode, but time without an episode does not mean I'm cured. Likewise, time without an episode does not make me immune. I need to let others help me manage my mental health (which is a big challenge for me, but can be done).
  • Daily read spiritual material, pray, and meditate (or practice mindfulness). Ok, maybe these are in order of importance so far. I've been able to do this more consistently lately than ever before, and there are so many benefits to a consistent spiritual practice. Not only do I feel more connected to life, but the connection allows me to feel like life happens through me rather than to me, and this is an important factor in resilience. Another benefit is that staying connected spiritually gives me more power and motivation to do other healthy things for myself.
  • Practice good sleep hygiene. Lack of good sleep contributes negatively to my resiliency. It's that simple.
  • Eat healthily. Eating healthy foods makes me feel better inside, whereas eating junk and sugar can make me irritable and impatient, two feelings that do not contribute to resiliency.
  • Play. Doing stuff just for fun reminds me that life isn't always as serious as my mind can make it out to be.
  • Utilize support groups. Having places to share my experience, strength, and hope with others keeps me living in the solution. On my own, I have a tendency to live in the problem, which is not resilient. On my own, my mind narrows, and I don't see solutions.
  • Utilize mentorship. Like support groups, mentorship allows me to learn new ways of living from someone I trust.
  • Exercise. Exercise is healthy! And it releases certain natural chemicals that make my brain feel good. And I feel more whole when I exercise regularly. Exercise lowers my blood pressure and heartbeat. All of these things promote resilience.
Finding out what makes one resilient is a matter of reflection. Do stuff and see what happens. Meditate for a few days, and if someone cuts you off on the road and you don't get pissed, it might be from the meditation. Or eat straight sugar for 3 days, and if life begins to seem overwhelming, there might be a causal relationship.

The librarian is giving me the evil eye, so I will close here and maybe come back and edit. Thanks for reading!

Namasté,

Ken

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Integrating Life's Experiences

Forty-six years ago, when I was 11 years old, I lost my left eye. It got injured in an accident and I had it replaced with a prosthesis. I started the 6th grade shortly after it happened, and it was a difficult time. It takes a while to get used to monocular vision after having binocular vision - depth perception is all but gone, and bumping into things becomes much easier. And if I couldn't play baseball and basketball all too well previously, I sure couldn't now!  Insult was added to injury when I became the class freak. Little kids are mean, vicious bastards, and will pick on anyone who doesn't fit into a fairly narrow version of what a 'normal' kid should be. I became acutely aware that I now had one eye, both from my own perspective and the perspective of those around me.

Eventually, I learned to integrate my experience - that is, I wasn't always conscious that I had only one working eye, and when brought up, it wasn't something about me from which I wanted to hide. And by 'eventually', I don't mean 3 or 4 months - try 6 years plus. (I was mostly cool with it as an adult, until I had occasion in a therapy group to talk about it, and I realized by the sweat pouring out of my armpits that I might still have some anxiety surrounding the issue. I learned at that time, in 2002, that I had held a resentment against God all that time for not giving me the healing I wanted. But that's another post). In high school I learned to drive, and discovered that I could drive decently with one eye - decent enough to get my driver's license. I'm not sure exactly how I handle the whole depth perception thing, but my brain has found a way to calculate distance while driving that works well, except when it's nighttime and rainy (or when I've been drinking, but even people with two eyes shouldn't drink and drive).

That's what I mean about integrating a life experience - being able to accept that I am a whole human being despite something 'bad' happening to me and being able to live well with a, frailty, for lack of a better word right now. Or maybe that is a good word. Yes, that's a good word.

Enough about the eye - this post isn't about body parts, it's about personal integration. 

So at work, my new job, 4 or 5 people have asked how I came to live in the little town in which I now reside. I've told the truth, to each person - I've stated matter-of-factly that I was having problems with alcoholism and depression, and went into the treatment facility in this small town, and I live here now (for a while, anyway, but I don't say that at work). Telling the truth, especially in this instance, is a whole lot easier than making up a story that I'd have to remember and might bring on more questions. The truth has been received matter-of-factly as well; here's a person who had an issue and came here to do something about it, much like a person with a physical illness might visit the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

Had I made up a story, the worst thing wouldn't have been having to maintain the story; the worst thing would have been the damage done to my soul and psyche (maybe the same thing) by covering up an essential piece of who I really am. When I lie about myself and cover things up, I'm reinforcing the belief that I'm not good enough just as I am. I generate more shame when I try to pretend I'm somebody that I'm not. Now, I can walk through shame and guilt - I've done it before, a lot, and I'm pretty good at it - for a minute. Loading more stuff onto the shame I already carry pushes me closer to my next relapse.

Another life experience came up at work. One of the guys with whom I work has mentioned a couple of times that he's done time (spent time in prison). Ok, cool, whatever. So we're working the other day, and he asks me, "You ever been to prison?" This caught me by surprise, but I still responded with, "Yes." Then he asks where, and I tell him the Wisconsin prisons I've stayed at (I left out Kansas, because I didn't think he was talking about Kansas). Then he asks when, and it turns out we were at the same correctional facility for a time. Now, I don't know this guy from Adam, but he must have remembered my face, because he remembered that I was a tutor who helped inmates get their GED. And I'm thinking, what the hell? What are the chances of working with a guy with whom I was in prison 17 years ago? It turns out that we've both been able to avoid going back since that time, so it's all good.

A faithful reader of this blog might think that I've bared my soul through this blog enough to be rid of any shame I might have harbored. Nope - it's just the tip of the iceberg, but it really does help. It's not necessary for me to tell everyone I meet my whole life story, but it's evident to me that it is necessary for me to be able to share my experience with others when it does come up.

I want to be authentic and integrated. More than want to, it is necessary for my continued mental health and sobriety. Integrated means pieces put together and whole. It's like a jigsaw puzzle - when the pieces are put where they fit, and they're all there, the puzzle makes a beautiful picture. If pieces are missing, or in the wrong place, it detracts from the picture.

Nothing happens, nothing could happen, in life without the Universe's permission. This is not to say that every experience every human has is good - far from it! There's lots of pain and suffering in life, along with joy and beauty. I certainly don't know the why behind everything. I do know that a lot of the bad that happens in this world is the natural consequence of unskillful thinking. Another portion of the bad that happens, at least in my life, comes from trying to cover up - it comes from straight up dishonesty and the ego's desire to show the world a different face than what's really going on. And covering something up guarantees that it's going to happen again.

Let's take an easy example. Say I went out drinking last night (I didn't, but let's just say I did); in the morning, in addition to remorse and a hangover, I've got people around me asking what the hell I was up to last night. If I tell the truth as best I can, I'm allowing Light to shine on the subject, and I've a better chance of being led to a solution. If I'm dishonest, I'm keeping my actions and my motives in the dark. Now I've just added a shovelful of guilt and shame onto myself. How does an alcoholic live with guilt and shame? This one doesn't - he drinks again to cover it up, which adds yet more guilt and shame.

So a part, maybe most or all, of being authentic and integrated is rigorous honesty. It's not easy, but it's necessary. Honesty allows the light to shine on a problem, which then can yield a solution, and the problem doesn't have to repeat itself. Healing can take place.

That's a major part of what I'm doing at this time in my life - learning and taking the risk to be vulnerable, to be honest, so that I might reconcile my past with who I am today and live this life joyously without shame. 

The Universe just spoke through the librarian at the library where I'm writing this to let me know I've got just a few minutes left, so I'll wrap this sucker up. If you're still with me, thank you!

There are 3 or 4 people in the world who know me, and who still think I'm a pretty neat guy. Yeah, I know, there's no accounting for taste! But I am beginning to accept that every experience, good or bad, has led me to this point today, to being the person I am today. My thoughts, feelings, and actions have shaped me into the person I am today, so even if I've had some less than desirable experiences, the ultimate result for a lot of them has been a better Ken. So my goal is to shine the Light on the stuff that still lurks in the darkness, so that I may come to love myself more, to love life more, and to become even more useful to this world.

I'll keep you apprised.

Namasté,

Ken

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Keeping My Chin Up (I'm Still Here)

Since my last post, I've stayed sober (and relatively sane), let my Certified Peer Specialist certification lapse, gotten a job in a plastics factory as an inspector, re-connected with my therapist and begun work on discovering those subconscious tidbits that continually trip me up, successfully completed treatment, and moved into sober living.  Other than that, it's been kind of slow.

Today I'm going to write about what's foremost in my mind, which isn't (at this point, anyway) a happy topic. I like to put things nicely, but I don't know how in this instance - so, here it is: there has been a lot of relapse and death around me lately.  First, my roommate from the halfway house moved into sober living - we were going to be roommates there as well - and he relapsed in a big way about the time I was moving into sober living. He's not doing well. Some other people with whom I shared the treatment journey have relapsed as well. Two people I know in recovery have passed recently. I also found out one of my cousins' sons passed away two years ago at age 25. I didn't know him, but it's one of those things that makes me wonder and makes me sad. And I found out today from the person with whom I've been riding to work that their oldest child died some years ago from a heroin overdose. And then today at work, the person I was working with today told me that his sister passed away 2 weeks ago, and my coworker is now raising their niece and nephew, and they found out today that a friend of theirs died by suicide two days ago.

It's sad. I feel sad about all the suffering going on. I also feel a bit dismayed - what the heck is going on? There have been a lot of deaths this past year by suicide and relapse. When I was still sick, in my active addiction and depression, I used this as an excuse to not get better. I was giving up. Now I recognize it as a part of the territory I'm in - I know a lot of people in recovery from addiction and a fair number of people living with mental health conditions. What's happening now is, unfortunately, not all that unusual; I'm simply acutely aware of it right now, 'it' being people suffering and sometimes dying.

My response today was to get a little down in the dumps about it all. Writing about it helps; talking to the right person about it would help, too, except that I don't have phone service again until the day after tomorrow and it's a bit difficult to get hold of the person with whom I'd like to talk. But whatever. My overall response is one of gratitude. I look at each individual that has relapsed and each individual that has passed away and say, "That could have been me." My gratitude is that I am still here to enjoy this life and contribute what I can. 

And then I focus on the living. I've been told, and I believe, that 'Why?' isn't a spiritual question - that when I ask 'Why?', I'm not looking for a reason, I'm looking for an argument. I can't do anything for those that have passed on. I can do little for those who have relapsed until they become ready again to get back into recovery. I can do a lot for the survivors.

I listen, and, when warranted, I share my experience. No, I can't bring your loved one back to life, nor can I make anyone recover. But I can listen and let you share your sadness, hurt, grief, and dismay with me. I can make myself available so your pain might ease for just a bit. I don't like the subjects of grief and loss and relapse anymore than most people; but I am equipped to walk with someone a little bit so that they aren't completely alone in their suffering. I can even give a little hope around the possibility that things will get better, because I've been where their loved one has been and I'm getting better. Recovery is possible so long as we're still breathing.

One thing I know today and pretty much accept is that I can't feel the joy of life if I avoid the suffering. I don't like that fact, but it seems to be true, so I work on accepting it. This means when suffering comes from my own thoughts and actions, I endeavor to embrace it, so I can learn from it and let it go. If I try to escape or avoid it, it just comes at me from a different route. Today I'd rather face stuff head-on. And I don't attempt to avoid the real suffering of others either. I figure that if it comes to me, it must be mine to deal with in some way, through listening, sharing, and prayer. 

Through it all, I'm still here, and I'm in a good place - I'm sane and sober, I've got everything I need materially today, and I have purpose. I can't tell you what next week will look like, but I can say that if I continue to do what's mine in front of me to do, I'll still be doing well.  And I'm grateful today for the journey.

By the way, thank you to Anonymous for the comment on my last post - I really appreciate it! And if anyone else feels like commenting, please do so.

Namasté,

Ken