Socrates quote

Socrates quote

I have found this to be absolutely true. To really change, I must always look forward, and never look back.

Leave a comment

December 17, 2013 · 10:33 pm

True Hunger

Are you hungry?  

What are you hungry for?

If you are like me, when you hear those questions you start going over a mental list of food options to decide which one will best satisfy your cravings.  Italian food? Chinese? Steak? Mac and cheese?  What sounds good?

However, I am beginning to realize how often I confuse physical hunger for something else entirely.  There are some feelings of emptiness that are only masked by food, and never fulfilled.

I was at a restaurant a few days ago and noticed there was a long list of dishes on the menu under the category “Comfort Foods”.   The mere fact that we have foods we eat to comfort us proves that we are expecting food to meet more of our needs that just physical hunger.  

I weighed well over a hundred pounds when I entered kindergarten at the age of 5 years old.  Obviously, there was some kind of emptiness I was trying to fill inside myself.  Some might argue there must have been some kind of emptiness inside my mother that she was trying to fill by overfeeding her infant.   (Either opinion works well as an illustration for this discussion, so don’t get sidetracked by finger-pointing.)  My parents had attempted twice to adopt children before finally adopting me.   In both of those cases, the birth mother changed her mind and took the child back, leaving my mother devastated.  So when I came along, my parents were understandably afraid to get emotionally attached to me out of fear of being crushed again.  My grandmother once told me that when I was six months old she had to insist that my mother start bonding with me.  she told her, “If you knew that child was going to die in a few months, and you would only have him for a little while, you would cherish the time you had.  So you just have to love him, even if he won’t be with you forever.”

I have no idea if or how this early experience affected my adult attitudes or my relationship with my parents.   However, I can tell you a few things about myself that may or may not be related.   When I was a child, I was terrified to be alone.  If I woke up from a nap and found myself alone, I would scream in horror and go running through the house looking for someone.  I couldn’t even deal with the THOUGHT of someone being left alone.  If I was watching television and a character in the show was left alone, I had to stop watching.  Even when the Scooby Gang would split up to look for clues , I would panic and cry. 

Yeah, I was a mess.

But I outgrew that, thank goodness!  By the time I was in High School, I was a loner who preferred to avoid crowds.  In my 20′s I spent most of my time alone and loved going to see movies by myself.

Unfortunately, I am starting to understand that I never actually outgrew those feelings.  I simply learned how to medicate them.  I learned very early that food helped those feelings.  As I got older I found other substances and behaviors that could medicate my feelings of loneliness, fear, anger, frustration, and longing.  Eventually, I had so successfully masked those feelings that I didn’t even know they existed inside myself.   But if I tried to remove any of those “medications” from my life, those feelings would rear their ugly heads, and I couldn’t wait to stuff them back down with anything that would make me feel better.   These medications became my addictions and I found myself approaching my 40′s as a 485-pound alcoholic, pill-popping, sex-addict.  

And yet, no matter how much I tried to feed my hunger, I wasn’t satisfied.  I was like the example of the man in the scriptures:

…even as unto a hungry man which dreameth, and behold he eateth but he awaketh and his soul is empty; or like unto a thirsty man which dreameth, and behold he drinketh but he awaketh and behold he is faint, and his soul hath appetite; (2 Nephi 27:3)

My soul had appetite, but I didn’t even know what I was craving.  But whatever I was filling myself with, it wasn’t bringing me satisfaction.  At some point I had to do as Enos did and turn to the Lord.

And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens. (Enos 1:4)

The hardest part of the recovery process is becoming honest.  Honest with yourself and with others.  Addicts will do anything to avoid looking inside themselves to discover those issues they have been trying to run away from for so long.

When I find myself being drawn toward addictive behaviors, I have to stop and ask myself what it is I am actually craving.  It is amazing how difficult it is to admit when I am craving company, interaction, healthy touch, venting of anger, creative expression, sleep, stress relief, etc.

Most people think of addicts as selfish people who only care about their own short-term desires.  The truth is that many of them became addicts from ignoring their own needs.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. (Matthew 5:6)

Addiction recovery is a process of discovering what it is that you truly crave.  What is your True Hunger?

So I ask for your honest input, no matter how difficult it maybe be.  Comment and tell me your experiences.

When you seek comfort food, or drink, or addictive behavior, what is the comfort you seek?  How do you find true satisfaction?  And what is your journey like?

 

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Crippling Voices of Criticism

Image

“You used to write?  I didn’t know that.”  That’s what my close friend said to me last week.  And it got me thinking…

The truth is, I did used to write.  I used to write for fun.  I used to write as a way to connect with people.  Teachers and professors used to tell me I was good at it.  An English professor took me aside once after reading a story I had written for an assignment and told me, “You are a writer. You will always be a writer.  Even if you never put another word down on paper, you will still be a writer inside.”

I used to write stories for friends.  I loved making them laugh.  When friends were away on church missions or at school, I would send them stories with characters based on people we knew as a way to keep them posted on the happenings at home.   I wrote a long story for my Singles-Family-Home-Evening group, which I would share with them as a serial, one chapter at a time.  

I decided to take all of those chapters and put them together to make a book.  It wasn’t something publishers were interested in because it was really only meant for my friends.  However, with modern publishing technology, books can now be printed one at a time, as they are needed.  I discovered there was a division of Random House that offered this service and it wouldn’t cost me a dime.  People could buy the book if they wanted to, and the publisher would just take a large cut.  Did someone say free?  Perfect!

So I put together two books this way.  Now friends could buy nice copies of my stories.  The problem was that other people bought the books, too.  And the books weren’t ready for that.  They were little more than rough drafts.  No editor had ever worked on them, and all writers know that a good editor is just as important as a good writer, maybe even more so, if you want a book to be good.

My books weren’t ready for strangers to read them, and neither was I.   

At first I was amazed that people who weren’t my friends would actually take the time to read a story I wrote.  I got a fan letter from a man in Costa Rica, for heaven’s sake!   But then the criticism started.  At first, I could explain away the negative comments.   “There are so many spelling errors.” (Of course there are. It’s just a rough story.)  “How dare you portray a Bishop of our church in such a negative way.” (If you don’t think Church leaders have faults, you haven’t been around many of them, and you will someday have a harsh awakening.)  As the criticisms piled on, I couldn’t explain them away fast enough.  

I suppose there are some people who would have developed a thick skin from this, but I didn’t.  The callouses never formed.  I was left with tender open wounds.  

Those books became an embarrassing symbol of my lack of talent.   I stored away the outline of the novel I’d been working on and I stopped writing completely.   Most of the times  I would try to write anything, the words simply wouldn’t come.   On the rare occasions when the words came, I would rewrite and erase the same sentences over and over again, each time declaring them to be terrible.  My life as a writer was over.

I took up painting.  I loved painting!  It was fun!  I’d paint pictures for friends and family.  I was told I was pretty good.  Then I entered some paintings in contests and they were rejected and criticized.  I didn’t paint again for weeks.  I probably never would have painted again if I didn’t have to teach students.  Even now, I don’t paint for fun anymore.  I paint to earn money, but the fun is gone.

Do you see a pattern here?  I do.

Whenever I find something I am good at and enjoy doing, I let the trolls of the world criticize me until I can’t find the joy in it anymore.  

A couple of months ago, I was cleaning my parents house and I ran across a copy of my book.  I tossed it in the trash without even cracking the cover.  I couldn’t look at it without feeling sick to my stomach.

However, finding that book sparked enough curiosity to make me look online to see if my books were still for sale.  Sure enough, The Junction and A Shadow From the Past were not only selling, but available for Kindle as well.  With a few clicks, I found myself at another site looking at reviews of my books.  And I was stunned by what I read:

A Shadow From the Past is a fun story. Classic tale of boy who comes home and battles his past. The LDS background is just that… background. It doesn’t play a big part in the story, but it would be enjoyable for Mormon readers. Nothing really objectionable for younger readers. Overall, it reaches the level of a good book, but there are parts of this book that are truly magical and unforgettable. It’s a heartfelt book. For those parts alone, this book is worth reading.

 

The Junction is a very interesting story. It’s unlike any other LDS novel I have read. The author isn’t afraid to show the realities of mission life. This isn’t your typical rose-colored view of mormon missionaries. Yet it isn’t critical of the church or negative — just realistic. It’s an easy, fun read. It’s good to see something like this come out of the LDS community. I would compare it to Brigham City in style and feeling.

Okay, when I say I was stunned, that is not an exaggeration.  I had convinced myself that there wasn’t anything good that could be said about anything I’d ever written.  But here were a couple of people who actually enjoyed reading those books!   

Look, I know there are always going to be people who find fault in what I do.  I also know that constructive criticism can help a person grow as an artist.

In his book, “Look at the Sky”, George D. Durrant tells the following story:

     I recall the first art class I took, way back in my early college days.  It took all the confidence I could muster just to enroll.  I knew that everyone else in the call would be Leonardo da Vincis and I’d suffer much self-inflicted humiliation as I compared my meager abilities with theirs.

      I did my first painting for the class in watercolors.  It turned out a little better than I thought it might when I first put the paint on the paper.  Even so, I was shocked and filled with fear when the teacher announced, “I see that most of you have completed your first painting. So let’s all put them up here along the wall.  When they are all in place we will criticize one another’s work.”

     I thought to myself, I didn’t know I’d have to put my picture up to be criticized.  If I had known that, I would have never taken this class.

     But having no choice, I reluctantly put my picture on the far right of the display.  I hoped that the criticism would begin with the pictures on the left side and maybe the class time would end before it was my turn.  Or I hoped at least they’d use up all their criticisms on the other paintings before they got to mine.

     As the discussions of the first few paintings were taking place, I didn’t say anything about anybody else’s efforts.  I hoped my silence would indicate that I had no desire to criticize their work, and then, if they were Christians, they wouldn’t say anything about mine.

     But the clock moved so slowly and the discussion so rapidly that with five minutes remaining, all eyes except mine focused on my work.  My insecurities made it so that I could not muster the courage to look up.  As everyone looked at my painting there were several seconds of silence.

     Then I heard a girl’s voice.  In a quiet, kindly tone she said, “I like the sky.”  Those four words gave me a small feeling of confidence.  I lifted my eyes and looked up at the painting.  To myself, I said, By George, that is a nice sky.

     From the other side of the room, a fellow spoke up. “but he has go the foreground all fouled up.”

     In my mind I responded, Why don’t you look at the sky?

     And then I thought, Next time he won’t be able to say such a thing, because next time my foreground will be as good as my sky.

Why can’t I be more like George D. Durrant?  Why can’t criticism give me the determination to be better and prove them wrong, instead of just giving up and losing all confidence? 

What if I had continued writing?  What would I be like now, having an additional 15 years of writing experience under my belt?  I can tell you one thing, if I had kept writing, my close friends wouldn’t be saying, “You used to write?  I didn’t know that.”

 I looked for that old outline of a novel that I stored away all those years ago.  I found it and skimmed through it.  Guess what, it was pretty good.  But I don’t know how to write it anymore.  I self-edit to the point that nothing comes out.

So here is my question to you, dear readers:  How do you do what you do?  How do you writers get the negative voices out of your head?  How do you artists ignore everyone who says you are no good?  How do you creative people go on creating when people tell you your creations are worthless?  How do you not give up?  How do you continue enjoying what you do?

I really want to know.  

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Growing in Grandpa’s Garden

Image

I learned everything I need to know about life in my grandpa’s garden. I can not look back on my childhood without picturing myself doing some sort of work on that single acre of land that seamed to be the whole of my young world. Most of the family did occasional work in the garden, but no one spent as much time at my grandfather’s side as I did. I was his buddy.

When I was nine years old, I moved into my grandparents’ home. The reasons for this move vary depending on who you ask. It boils down to two facts: my home life was terrible and my grandparents wanted me. I can say with confidence that no matter how difficult that move was for me at the time, it was absolutely necessary if I was ever going to become a stable adult. I went from an environment which consisted mostly of long periods of loneliness broken up by the sounds of my parents screaming at each other to the peaceful stability of living in a home with retired grandparents.

Grandpa loved having me work with him in the garden. In his sly way, he made it very clear to me that nothing else was as important. I remember getting up one morning and walking across the cold, brown linoleum of the Kitchen floor and eating a breakfast of basted eggs and fried baloney with Grandpa. “How are you feeling today, Wessy?” he asked.

“Okay,” I answered as I washed down my breakfast with our traditional icy cold pepsi. It was a different time with different ideas of diet.

He mixed another hot pepper in with his runny egg yolk and then said, “You know, if you weren’t feeling good and you stayed home from school today, you could help me rototill the tomato patch.”

“Would you let me run the rototiller?” I inquired.

“Sure,” came his reply.

I pondered this while staring down at my red plastic plate and stirring my egg yolks with my spoon which had the letters US stamped on the handle from WWII. (My grandmother had picked these spoons out of the garbage can in back of the USO building. Sometimes the soldiers would accidentally drop one into the garbage as they emptied their food tray. I still use these spoons every day.)  “I really don’t feel all that good,” I said.

“Well you better go tell your grandma you can’t go to school today,” he suggested. And I scampered to my grandma’s bedside to tell her how sick I felt.

To the casual observer who might have seen my grandpa and me working in the garden, it might have seemed like he was ignoring me. He didn’t talk much as we puttered the days away. We didn’t have to talk very much. We were so much a part of each other that there was no need for chit-chat. There were long periods of comfortable silence that passed between us as we dutifully worked the garden. When we did speak, it was usually about an important principle of life that I wouldn’t have recognized without his direction.

I remember how we would pound wooden stakes into the ground at either end of the field with itchy twine strung between them to guide us as we hoed the rows for irrigation. The rows had to be straight and carefully tended during each watering because even a small blockage could cause the water to back up and flood portions of the crop. Grandpa saw this as a teaching moment and he likened it to our lives. He said that sometimes a problem can seem small and unthreatening, but if left unchecked it can cause irreparable damage. He would remove the small blockage with head of his hoe and the water would flow freely again. He talked about repentance and how it can get us progressing again.

The first time I saw a diagram of the Plan of Salvation was when it was drawn with a stick in the freshly tilled soil of my grandpa’s garden while he explained why we needed a Redeemer.  It seems strange to say that one of my fondest memories of home is the dirt, but it is. Besides being the chalkboard for my grandpa’s garden classroom, it was the vital element that brought life to the garden. And Grandpa taught me how to read what it was on it, and in it. He would reach his calloused hand into the tilled ground and remove a fistful of dark, rich soil. He knew by smelling it and sifting it between his experienced fingers what ingredients needed to be added to the earth before it was ready for planting. Once the judgement was made, we would spend days adding manure from the chicken coup, or compost, or some other organic material to the soil until it was finally perfect. I learned that when the soil is right, it has a feel and smell that will ring true to the often neglected recesses of one’s soul.

Much of the bounty from our labors never made it into the house for others to enjoy. We would relish it together as we sat silently with our backs against the woodpile, glorying in what we had produced from the land. I still can hardly stand to eat store-bought tomatoes because they are only tasteless imitations of the dark red beauties that grandpa and I ate together, salting them with shaker that he kept hidden in the toolshed.

When the Summer sun would get too much for us, we would take a drink of the cold well water that would always chill our teeth. Sometimes Grandpa would pick a cantaloupe. We would rest in the tall weeds under the cool shade tree and enjoy the hot, juicy sweetness of the sun-baked melon as he cut off slices with his little pocketknife. It wasn’t always a cantaloupe; sometimes it was boysenberries gathered in his panama hat, or a handful of pea pods that we would shell together, or a pomegranate that we would slowly share, staining our fingers and leaving tiny crimson droplets on our dirty jeans that would remind me of the experience for months afterward. Even a crunchy raw turnip was a savory treat when picked and eaten with grandpa. I can remember sitting in the shade of the grape arbor, eating sweet seedless orbs and watching the trains that passed on the tracks just west of our property. And Grandpa would tell me of his experiences in the war — tales of horror and fear that I now know he rarely shared with other people. Sometimes I wonder why he confided so freely in me.

On December 1st, 1980, Grandpa was diagnosed with cancer. Ten days later he was dead. I was 12 years old. It was a long time before I could go into our garden again. When he left, he took the garden and my world with him.

As I got older, I found out that the things I learned in the garden didn’t matter to the world. Sure, it was a fine life for a retired old man — it was good therapy — but I was expected to be more productive, be ambitious, make money. But I felt out-of-step with the world around me. Everything seemed too fast when compared to the natural pace that I learned in the garden. Life rushed by me in a blur before I had time to even make sense of it.

My younger sister, who was raised by my parents in the home I escaped, is a successful accountant with her own firm. She is a go-getter who doesn’t rest. I’d never survive in her world.

For a while, I worked the garden by myself. I did it on a smaller scale, but it was still a lot of work for a kid, but it helped me feel close to Grandpa.

Over the years, the garden became smaller and smaller as I fewer family members visited and grandma and I didn’t need a big garden. As Grandma grew older and I became her caretaker, the garden became little more than a barren field. It is interesting how something that was so fruitful and beautiful with just a little dedication turns into an ugly wasteland as soon as it is neglected. I’m sure Grandpa would have found a life-lesson in that fact, too.

For many years, the garden neglected. After I married, my wife and I spent the first few years of our marriage living in a tiny shack in the back part of that property. I cleared the land and planted tomatoes, squash, beans, corn, and peppers on a section of it. I discovered that it is impossible for me to do gardening without feeling my grandpa around me. That’s not a complain, it’s more of a boast.

My wife and I moved away and have a home of our own now. I have a small vegetable garden in the backyard. I have filled our front yard with plants and flowers that I have grown from clippings or scavenged from other sources. I have beautiful succulents growing in pots and flowers blooming in beds. I often get compliments on our yard and interesting plants.
Grandpa is with me when I work in my own yard, too. I think about him and my childhood whenever I work in the yard. It’s funny how those simple times from so long ago have stuck with me.

My family still refers to that area as “the garden”, though anyone seeing it now for the first time would wonder why. It makes me sad to see it.

My wife and I plan to buy a few acres outside of the city in the next few years.  I can’t wait to plot out my garden, raise chickens, and shake my fists at goats.  It will not be in the place I grew up, but it will feel more like home than anywhere I’ve ever been.

I think about those things I learned out in the garden and I am grateful for those character-building lessons. I have noticed that the things I learned while gardening with Grandpa have done nothing to help me become successful or wealthy in the eyes of the world. I suppose I shouldn’t have skipped school as often as I did.

But when life becomes difficult, the things that help me make it through are not the things I learned in school, but the patience, faith, and character that I developed while working with Grandpa in the garden.  So that was the best school of all.

1 Comment

Filed under family, LDS, memories, Mormon, Writing

Be Not Moved

http://alfoxshead.blogspot.com/2013/01/be-not-moved.html I love this so much. All I can add is AMEN

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Grandma’s Hands

Image

On August 23, 1995, my grandma, Vivian Cisneros, finally died. I say finally because she had spent the last year of her life confined to the hospital bed that we had set up in the living room so that her family and friends and nurses could care for her more easily. She’d spent a month in a nursing home, but during that month her ankle was broken and bruises and sores kept appearing on her body. She began to lose touch with reality and she would flinch and shy away from anyone that came near her. We had a doctor evaluate her condition and he said it wasn’t uncommon for a patient in a nursing home to experience Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome from the rough handling that they receive there. After all, he said, these people aren’t loved by their care givers. We brought her home that very day and vowed that we would take care of her ourselves, no matter what the sacrifice.

Once home, she relaxed and seemed to be much more at ease, but she never fully regained her faculties. She had lost touch with this world and was looking forward to the next. During the last few months of her life, she spent more time staring into the corner of the living room and having conversations with dead relatives then she spent talking to those of us that were still here. So when I say that she “finally” died, I say that only because I know she is where she wanted to be, not because I wanted her to leave. When it came to my grandma, I was selfish. I would have much rather had her stay here with me, no matter how much she needed to go.

I was kneeling by her bed and holding her hand when she died. After she took her last breath, I lowered my head and cried. I remember looking at her hands through my blurry eyes and thinking about all of the ways that those hands had influenced my life. Now they were thin and bony and her tendons were tight and ran under the skin like wiry cables. Blue veins criss-crossed up and down like lines on a road map just under her delicate skin which had become thin and transparent like tissue paper.

I thought about how many diapers those hands had changed. There wasn’t a member of our family who hadn’t been bathed, powdered and diapered by those hands. Besides family members, Dozens of other children spent their days being pampered by those hands in the daycare she ran from her home.

I remembered Grandma’s comforting hands patting my back as she sang me to sleep and rocked me in her chair. I have vivid memories of my grandma’s hands holding a counting book in front of me, turning the pages as I sat on her lap and pointed to the pictures of kittens and ducks and pigs and counted them out loud.

Those same hands taught me the seemingly impossible task of tying my shoelaces into bows. She gave me an old shoe and guided my fingers as I knelt at the green footstool in front of her rocking chair and practiced making the complicated loops and tucks.

I remember standing with her at the kitchen sink, watching her wash the brown and white eggs that I had just gathered from the chicken coup. Her hands moved quickly and carefully, never breaking a single egg. When I was young, and my own fingers were clumsy, I was impressed by that.

In the summertime, those hands pulled countless bee stingers out of my hands and feet as I cried and fought her. The orange, stinging medicine that she would apply afterward seemed worse than the sting itself. She would tell me to blow on it to stop the sting of the medicine, but I think that was just to keep me busy or make me dizzy and hyper-ventilated.
Throughout my childhood, grandma’s hands always smelled like onions, or garlic, or yeast from the meals that she was constantly cooking for the endless stream of cousins and aunts and uncles that flowed through the doors of our house. I remember thinking that Grandma’s hands smelled like dinner whenever she would touch my cheek or brush my sweaty blond curls off of my forehead.

Those hands of hers gutted dozens of chickens on the kitchen counter after my cousins and I would bring them in after they had been beheaded and plucked by my grandpa and uncles in the backyard. I remember being glad that I was a boy and would never have to sit at that counter with grandma, like Tammy and Lisa had to do, and learn how to cut open the chickens and take out their guts. Swinging an ax in the backyard with the men was much more fun.

Those hands taught me how to do long division when my fourth grade teacher couldn’t  Grandma would teach me how to do the work and then she would make up a dozen or so problems on a clipboard and have me practice. Once I mastered those, she would give me another dozen that were a little harder. Because of those late nights with her, I usually went to school knowing how to do more difficult problems than were required, instead of feeling confused and behind the rest of the class.

Those hands gave me some of the worst haircuts of my life. I remember the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach every time I heard grandma say, “Oops,” after a snip of the shears.
When I was in high school and didn’t want to get up to go to seminary, I remember her throwing a cold wet washcloth on my face as I slept, and then running away before I had the chance to throw it back at her. As angry as I was, I had to fight back the laughter at watching this chubby old lady try to run away quickly.

These were the same hands that wrote letters to me every week while I was on my mission, even when the ache in her arthritic fingers kept her awake at night. Sometimes the writing was so bad that I could barely read it. But I’m so grateful for those letters now. I remember one time she tried to type me a letter, but her fingers were so crooked that she couldn’t hit the right keys and it ended up being harder to read than her longhand. When I got home from my mission, I teased her about that letter and she threw her head back and laughed like a little child.

Once she became too feeble to care for herself, our roles reversed and it became my job to care for her needs. It was a way me to repay her for all of the years that she had spent caring for me. Part of this duty involved tending to those hands. I would file her fingernails and rub lotion on her hands to keep them soft. One day while I was clipping her nails, I accidentally snipped off a piece of her skin and she started to bleed. Grandma didn’t even flinch and seemed to be totally unaware that anything had happened. That’s when I realized how far gone she really was. It was only a few weeks later that she died as I held that very same hand.

As I cried and pondered the influence that those hands had on my life, I was struck by the fact that I had only been fortunate enough to have known them toward the end of their time here on earth. How much more must they have done when they were youthful and sturdy? How many other people had been influenced by those hands before I was even born? What experiences had those hands been through that led them to point when they first held me as a baby? I wondered about the first time those hands were held by a boy. What did they look like when they were young and nimble?

Fortunately, in a final act of giving, those hands had worked daily to supply some answers to these questions. Those hands had left behind volumes of journals and diaries, written out tediously in longhand over a lifetime. I cherish those stories now because they teach me what my grandma was like before I came into her life. By reading them, I know I will be able to recognize those hands when I hold them again — when they won’t be the old and worn out hands that I had known in my life, but the youthful and strong and perfected hands of woman who had spent a lifetime in the service of her family.

1 Comment

Filed under family, LDS, mental health, Mormon, Writing

That Can’t Possibly Help My Addiction — Part Two — Positive Affirmations

Image

Preface:

Every once in a while, someone in a 12-step meeting will confidently testify of a treatment for addiction — something that changed their life and gives them power to get through another day.  My first reaction to these suggestions is almost always a cynical one.  Come on, it can’t be that simple!  However, I am learning to not discount the effectiveness of something just because it doesn’t make sense.   I started trying some of these crazy ideas and discovered that they actually worked!  I’ve decided to make a series of blog posts about a few of these counter-intuitive actions that make recovery a reality.

Positive Affirmations

ImageThe whole concept of trying to change your life by repeating positive statements about yourself seemed like a joke to me.  Admittedly, my opinion was probably shaped a great deal by Stuart Smalley, the effeminate Saturday Night Live character created by Al Franken in the 1990′s, who was a a member of many twelve-step groups and stands in front of the mirror in his powder blue sweater chanting, ” I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone It, people like me!

It all seemed so wimpy and New Age.  I could hardly even entertain the idea of actually trying it.  But then someone explained it to me in a way that rang true in my mind.  He pointed out the fact that almost since birth, everyone around me has told me what and who I am.  “You are adopted.”  “You are fat.”  “You suck at math.”  “Your handwriting is terrible.”  “You shouldn’t try that because people will laugh at you.”  “Nobody is as good a helper as you are.”  “You should stick with what you are good at.”

It didn’t take long before the YOU turned into an I and my inner voice was defined and my self-image took shape.  This wasn’t anything sinister or planned on the part of those other people.  It’s just a part of growing up.  And some of us are more susceptible than others to these external voices around us.

So doesn’t it make sense to keep reminding yourself of the person you want to be?  Shouldn’t we at least try to counter balance the external voices that have bombarded us on a daily basis since we were old enough to understand?  This is where positive affirmations come in.  And here is the amazing part:  They actually work!  And they start to work almost immediately!

So how do you make your own affirmations?  It’s not rocket science.  First, decide what areas of your life you want to improve.  In the case of addiction, you want to improve the parts of your life that LED to the addiction.  Get to the roots of the problem.  Remember, addiction is a symptom of other underlying issues.

Next, write out a few positive statements for each of the areas you want to work on. Your statements should be short, positive, and in the 1st person present tense.  And keep your list small — work on a few at a time.  Affirmations are most effective when they are few and repeated often.   Remember to focus on the goal, not where you are now.

For example, if you have a sexual addiction that developed because of your need to feel loved and accepted, your affirmation would not be, “I am not a sexual addict.”  It might look something like:

“I am more than enough.”  “I fully accept who I am.”  “Other people enjoy being around me.”

It’s that simple.   Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that it’s prideful to make these statements about yourself.  These are worthy goals and eternal truths.  You are only helping yourself become convinced of their reality.

My list of affirmations changes and adapts.  I add affirmations and remove them, depending on my current need.  But but some of the more important ones, never leave the list.  My list of affirmations that don’t change are as follows:

I choose my behavior

I am a Child of God with infinite worth.

I am always taken care of.

God loves me and accepts me.

I am always more than enough.

The worth of my soul is great.

I now fully accept myself.

My body is now in perfect balance.

I am always healthy and strong.

Everything I touch prospers.

Other people feel their worth when they are in my presence.

Everything works together for my good.

I don’t fear, because God is protecting me.

I choose my actions based on long-term prosperity.

My Spirit and my Physical body are in tune and in perfect sync.

I enjoy physical activity

I eat only when my body needs nourishment.

Okay, okay, I am fully aware that I am not as far down the road of accomplishing some of these as I should be.  That’s why I they are on my list.  Some of them are simply factual statements that I need to be reminded of on a daily basis because I tend to forget them, and when I do, my life goes to hell.

So now that you have a few affirmations, how do you get them into your head?  There are many ways that people choose to do it.  Most of them aren’t something I could keep doing on a consistent basis.

1. Stand in front of a mirror and repeat the affirmations to yourself.  (Too much like Stuart Smalley.  I know myself well enough to know I wouldn’t do this.)

2. Write them down several times a day while repeating them in your mind.  (Way too much work for me.  I know I would give up after a couple of days.)

3. Subliminal recordings.  (I’m just not sold on this method for me.  I wanted something I could do myself and something that I could focus on with my conscious mind as well.)

I knew I needed a way to get these thoughts into my head without having to put in much daily effort.  That’s just me.

Years ago, I learned that classical music (especially Baroque music) stimulates the brain.  When I was in high school, I would sometimes play Handel while I studied for a test, in hopes that it would help the knowledge to sink into my brain.  I decided to use music to help me with my affirmations.

I simply recorded myself saying my affirmations clearly and slowly.  Then I looped them to repeat over and over again for 15 minutes.  Then I added a background of Bach and Handel.   So I have an MP3 that I can listen to each night as I fall asleep, because it’s believed that the human mind is most accepting of affirmations when it is at rest.  Sometimes I listen to it first thing in the morning, as well.  I also burned it onto a CD and sometimes I listen to it in the car.

I can tell a difference in my attitude, confidence, and choices when I listen do my affirmations on a regular basis.  It’s just another one of those wacky things that has to be tried to be understood.

Change your thinking and change yourself.

Below is a list of affirmations that I like.  Maybe they will inspire your own affirmations.  Good luck!

  • I feel God’s love for me each hour.
  • I trust him and I walk in confidence through life, knowing that he protects me.
  • I trust that everything that happens to me is for my good and long-term happiness.
  • My relationship with God is very trusting.
  • I know that He loves me and desires my happiness.
  • I am directed each day through the spirit as I seek His guidance in my life.
  • I clearly see and recognize God’s hand in my life as I take time to listen and be still.
  • It feels good receive promptings and be an instrument in the Hand of the Lord.
  • I feel peace and confidence knowing that God is with me each day.
  • My relationship with God grows as I have meaningful daily prayers and scripture study.
  • I talk with God as a friend and take time to listen for answers as I seek His guidance.
  • I feel uplifted, peaceful and strengthened after I pray.
  • I receive answers to my questions and inspiration for others as I search the scriptures.
  • I take time to apply what I read into my life.
  • I receive instructions from God continually for me and for those in my stewardship.
  • I live righteously enough to receive those messages when they come.
  • I see people’s lives blessed and my life blessed as well
  • I am always inspired in the council I give to others.
  • God puts me in the right place at the right time.
  • I ask God for what I need. He freely blesses me.
  • I know my prayers are heard.
  • I expect to receive inspiration
  • I take opportunities to ponder and meditate each day
  • I am still and know God
  • I experience now in this moment how it feels to have this connection
  • I see myself taking steps to connect with God
  • I am filled with his love
  • I see myself as God sees me
  • I am always aware of the help that surrounds me
  • I am a valiant son of God.
  • I have great faith in Jesus Christ.
  • My faith guides me every day.
  • I am calm and steady throughout my life, no matter what is going on around me.
  • I am an example to others.
  • I find joy in obeying the commandments.
  • I am confident with who I am, and how I live my life.
  • I have a kind and sensitive heart and genuine desire to help others in need.
  • I am creative.
  • God expects me to be a creator of things.
  • I am excited to try new things.
  • I experiment with new ideas and techniques.
  • I am artistic.
  • I love meeting new people and I am a friend to those around me.
  • I’m a positive person who looks for the good in everyone.
  • I respect myself.
  • I take care of my physical, emotional and spiritual needs so I am at my best
  • Others feel better about themselves and uplifted after being in my presence
  • I treat others with kindness and love.
  • I am calm and steady in the direction I’m going
  • All things work out for my good.
  • I connect with my higher self and learn from his wisdom.
  • My relationship with my wife, family and friends is one of love, respect and support.
  • People feel and know the love I have for them through my words and actions.
  • I have balanced relationships.
  • I give great service to others
  • I experience connection, camaraderie and fulfillment as I support them and they support me.
  • I contact my friends often.
  • I enjoy having friendships.
  • I am a supportive husband.
  • My wife’s callings are also mine.
  • I respect others for who they are.
  • I take time to savor my relationships.
  • I am a good listener.
  • I don’t try to “fix” other people or change them to suit my needs.
  • My outside reflects the inside.
  • I have an abundance of energy.
  • My body and mind are renewed each morning.
  • I enjoy starting my day by waking up early in the morning feeling rested and clear .
  • My body is in complete harmony physically, both inside and out.
  • I am in tune with my body.
  • My body tells me what kind of nutrition, exercise or rest it needs.
  • I take time to listen to my body.
  • I am attracted to the foods that help my body perform at a higher level.
  • I feel great!
  • I eat small meals, several times a day.
  • I eat when I am hungry.
  • My body is attracted to foods that serve me
  • I am always healthy and strong
  • My body is now in perfect balance
  • I experience myself doing the work of keeping my body strong
  • There is harmony and balance in all of my systems
  • I’m attracted to foods that allow my body to function at the highest levels
  • There is a bounce in my step
  • I take time to experience health
  • I experience vibrant athletic energy
  • I regularly exercise my body
  • I listen to my body and take care of its needs
  • My body regulates itself and works to be at my proper weight.
  • My body has perfect balance.
  • I live debt free.
  • I am in alignment with the spiritual laws of abundance
  • I have more than I will ever need.
  • I have more than enough to store away.
  • I have enough to share with others.
  • I live in a home that is paid for.
  • I always have more than enough
  • I spend my time and talents doing the most important things for my purpose
  • I trust that God will always provide for me, so I share freely and I know it always comes back to me 100 fold.
  • I Experience how it feels to have everything paid for, and several years of resources available.
  • I Experience how it is to have such abundance and tranquility in my life.
  • I Experience financial power and the ability to enact my vision
  • Our house has room enough to welcome others in need.
  • I feel secure because I know I have enough money to live on for years.
  • I have skills that make me very profitable.
  • I have investments and businesses that continually provide a generous income.
  • I am my own boss.
  • I pay my tithes and offerings with gladness and gratitude.
  • My prosperity prospers others. Their prosperity prospers me.
  • I constantly find ways to help people.
  • I leave everything more beautiful than I found it.
  • I make the world a better place.
  • I know that I deserve love and I accept it now.
  • I give out love and it is returned to me multiplied

Leave a comment

Filed under addiction, Affirmations, LDS, mental health, Mormon, physical fitness, Recovery