Tag Archive | balance

Are you wearing sewage stained glasses?

It’s a lovely day out there and the little man is headed to school having recovered from a bout with the stomach flu over the weekend.  Although he was feeling better, this morning he woke up with a spirit that was lacking in gratitude. He’d forgotten all about his excitement on Saturday at finding an Army duffel bag from the Korean War, and many other treasures, when he helped clean out a friend’s garage.

He’d also forgotten about all of the board games, books, and DVDs, that we had gotten for free after a yard sale closed yesterday, on our way home from a ginger ale and Jell-O run. What did he feel he was missing in life? Television… He had a sleepover at a friend’s house Friday night and was able to watch copious amounts of television.  Suddenly something that we have not had for nearly two years was all that he could think about.  I am considering it, television, but it is not a top priority to say the least.

Flowers from the front yard!

Flowers from the front yard!

When we go through a day feeling lack…lack for what we do not have, or lack of gratitude for all that we do have, it is like putting on a pair of sewage stained glasses, and everything we look at is tainted by the color and stink of that sewage. We become blinded to all of the goodness in life, and close our hearts to gratitude.  However, it does happen to the best of us at times, even me. 😉

A sense of lack often leads to thinking that we lack even more, as we continue to compare what we have to what others have and end up feeling even more ungrateful and lacking, whether it be lack of personal attributes, or lack of things.  Comparison almost always leads to a feeling of lacking in some way or another, which is why God cautions us not to compare ourselves with others.  It this world, that is hard not to do, but not impossible.

The little man is only 8 years old and at his age, comparison at school, and out in the world, is common.  He is using comparison to figure out how he fits into the world.  His teacher tells him not to compare, and I do the same, but it seems to be human nature, whether we are 8 or 80 years old.

I know several people in the late 70’s who constantly measure their own worth by what they have that others do not.  At 8 it is something that is fairly natural, and provides many teachable moments to help the child value who he is as an individual, and to help him to know and appreciate just how blessed he truly is, and how he can use his blessings to bless others.  At 80 years of age, it is a sad sight seeing someone who feels that the only way to measure up is to outdo everyone.

God loves people who are content with what they have, and who feel as if they are lacking for nothing.  God loves people who feel that they are enough, and have enough, and likewise, other people are drawn to those who are content within, and without, both literally, and figuratively speaking.  Gratitude does not come naturally to everyone, but I believe that it can be nurtured within, and learned over time, and strengthened into a habit.

Once you begin to appreciate all that you do have, it is amazing just how much more begins to show up. You will find yourself surrounded by grateful, content, people, and as you open up to feeling that you have enough of all that you need, you will also open yourself up to receive the things that you may have been blocking with those sewage stained glasses—opportunities that you just could not see, or did not believe existed will become visible, and obtainable.

So, today, put on a spirit of plenty, and glasses stained with the color of joy and gratitude, and don’t be tempted to take them off.  If you need to wear a pair of blinders for a time along with your joy tinted glasses that is perfectly all right.

Once you establish your focus on gratitude, goodness, and plenty, and make it a habit, the blinders will naturally fall off in such a way that your view of life will be brighter, balanced, and the scent will be so sweet that you will not believe that you lived with the scent of sewage for so long.  Take the time to develop a habit of contentment and gratitude.  It is a very worthy summer project with such beauty all around!

Helping someone newly sober…what you can do.

Last week, my friend, El, over at Running From Hell with El wrote a blog post about walking away from a gin and tonic that she saw sitting in HER kitchen on the counter.  It was a brave and honest post and I felt proud and happy for her in the end.  I say in the end, because as I read the post the single thought that kept running through my head was this: “What in the hell was a gin and tonic doing on the counter in her kitchen?”  As an alcoholic in recovery, I was angry for her, and at whoever had made the drink in HER kitchen and left it sitting there.  I was so upset that I almost called her immediately and asked her the question that would not leave me, “El, what in the hell was a gin and tonic doing on your kitchen counter?”  But, I didn’t.  I didn’t want to intrude–her house, her family, her rules.

Today I gave El a call on an unrelated topic.  We talked a lot about writing and then we hit the subject of blogs.  It was at that point that I did ask the question about the gin and tonic.  I asked because El is an alcoholic in early recovery, sitting at about six months, and I remember well what that period of time looks like and feels like.  It is a vulnerable time where sometimes it feels as if you are staying sober minute by minute.  Early sobriety looks and feels a lot different than five years of sobriety does, or ten, or twenty, I suspect.  Early sobriety is a tight wire walk where balance is continuously being reevaluated and reestablished.  It is a very selfish time in a great many respects, because in order to maintain the balance needed to stay sober, we need to ask for help from a variety of different types of people.  The people who we will need the most help and support from are those closest to us…our friends and family.

This can be very hard for many of us to do—to ask for what we need during that first year.  El told me that she didn’t want any booze in her house, but felt she might be asking too much to demand that alcohol not be present in her home.  She is not asking too much.  In fact, by not demanding that there be no alcohol in her house she is asking too much of herself, and too little of those who need to be supporting her.  Alcoholism is a disease and yet so many people see it as weakness of will, or a character defect.  It is a disease just like diabetes, or heart disease.  Most of us would never dream of sitting down and eating a big bag full of candy in front of a friend newly diagnosed with diabetes, especially not his favorite candy.  We would think that rude, lacking support, or just plain disrespectful of his battle, and his feelings.

Likewise, when a person is newly diagnosed with heart disease, the whole family makes changes.  This was certainly the case when my father was diagnosed with heart disease.  My mother kicked into high gear and changed what she cooked and how she cooked it, and she did not just make the changes for my father.  We all had to make the same  dietary changes.  We loved him and wanted him to live, so we didn’t complain.  We just did it.  We didn’t care if we ate chicken every night of the week.  We could get a hamburger somewhere else.  We could not get another father.

Just like diabetes and heart disease, alcoholism, if not treated, is a progressive, fatal disease.  People die every day from alcoholism and addiction.  Also, just like diabetes and heart disease, alcoholism in a family member affects the entire family.  Everyone will need to make changes to support the one who is working to stay well.  Giving up cake, or steak, or a nightly drink is precious little to have to give up if it mean helping to keep someone we love well and making them feel loved, and supported during a time that is stressful by its very nature.  Alcoholism is a chronic disease and anyone living and coping with a newly diagnosed chronic disease will grieve and move through many emotional phases as they find their center again.  In turn, the entire family system will need to lovingly recalculate their choices, behaviors, and roles in the now changed family.  Flexibility, understanding, and love is required of all those involved.

What can you do if you are living with someone in early sobriety?  First off, you can and should give up your nightly drink and keep alcohol out of the house.  If this is a change that you are not willing to make then you need to ask yourself if you might have a problem yourself, of if there is a rather ugly agenda underneath your unwillingness to give up your drink.  It is not uncommon for a partner to miss drinking with his loved one and may, unwittingly or not, seek to have that special bond back.  A relapse would do just that… That is selfishness and it is playing Russian roulette with your loved one’s sobriety and very life.  Certainly, you would never force them to drink, but action do speak louder than words… Oftentimes, a family member may have a hard time dealing with the raw emotions of the newly sober person and might unconsciously want them to drink again so things will go back to “normal.” Examine your own feelings honestly.  Of course, if an alcoholic really wants to drink they will find a way.  I know I sure did, but why place temptation right on the counter?

Also, if you do give up that drink and get rid of the booze in the house, please don’t act put out, as if you’ve made some sacrifice akin to giving up a kidney for them.  Do not talk about “the good times” you had drinking together, and don’t glamorize drinking, or talk about how much you miss booze.  Take the time to educate yourself about alcoholism and addiction.  Read all that you can, and if you need more help understanding, find an Al-Anon meeting and go to it.  Get family counseling, and individual counseling.  Denying this is big for the whole family is a big mistake.

Be respectful of what your loved one is going through–and this goes both ways–and forgive.  Forgive your loved one for being an alcoholic and for causing you to have to give up things that you like, and times you cherished.  Love each other.  Rediscover each other.  Move forward together, gently, respectfully, and with the greatest amount of love and understanding possible.  Be a team because that is what families do.

I know better than anyone that no one ever poured a single drink down my throat when I was drinking, and I am not implying that it is anyone’s responsibility but the alcoholics to turn away from the drink, as El did.  I am saying that if you can make changes that will make it less likely for a person new in their sobriety to have to walk away, then you should do it, and do it gladly, with no resentment.  Over time, things will change and sobriety won’t be as brittle and thread-like anymore.  When that time comes, everyone will know it, but until then, simple changes can make a huge difference, so please make them.  It’s the opportunity of a lifetime to create health for your entire family, and for generations to come.