Journey of Deconstruction

I was baptized and raised Catholic by parents who thought it was their duty to bring up their children in the church. I went to CCD for 7 years, received my first communion and was confirmed. Growing up, I enjoyed going to church, volunteered to teach CCD and became a part of the choir. It appeared I was the picture perfect Catholic boy. 

I was in love with God and my religion – I thought it explained everything and I agreed with the Church on all their doctrine. I was so invested in my faith that I chose to go to a Christian college. Even though it wasn’t Catholic, I felt that I would grow stronger in my faith (and not address the fact I was gay). I could meet a nice Christian girl and we would get married and have children. As I spent my time at college, my faith did grow and I became more Catholic (despite being in a Protestant environment with people telling me I was going to hell for my beliefs). Even after coming out, I still held the Church in high regard and was committed to my faith. 

I believed that there was one way to get into Heaven and that was by accepting Jesus as your Savior. If you didn’t do that, regardless of what type of person you were, or what you did. This was the only way to avoid going to hell. I told myself that I didn’t judge others for not having this belief, but in reality I did judge those who didn’t believe like I did. I was in ‘the club’ and I was going to heaven, no matter what. It was a great feeling, until the foundations started to crack. 

As my the foundations of my faith started to crack, I began to question things. Why was the Church the authority on things? With all the covered up abuse and scandals of the Catholic Church was involved in, why I should I let them tell me anything about morals? Eventually, there were enough cracks for the entire foundation to crumble and I was lost.

Losing my faith was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It allowed me to grow beyond the limits of Christianity and not put my understand of the Divine in a box. Today, God reveals themselves to me in many ways, and often in a form that resonates with the Judeo-Christian tradition. I’ve gone through my journey of deconstruction and am now in the process of reconstructing my spirituality and faith, which has had significant impacts on my sobriety journey.

I’m going to tell the story of this journey and hope that you’ll join me. If you are going through something similar or want to see some of the things that have inspired me, I have added a list of books that have aided me. 

The Magic of Journaling

Journaling is one of the tools that I use on a regular basis to process my thoughts and feelings. Getting them out of my head and onto paper helps me to view them from an alternate perspective. I find this is one of the most effective ways to be reflective and encourage my clients to do this during our time together.

For me, journaling is not about cataloging my day and creating a record (that is helpful in some cases), but is more reflective in nature. I look back upon my day and recall what came up on me and focus on that. I make sure to put that down, what it means for me, and how it is going to impact my life going forward.

I wasn’t always a journaler – I didn’t pick this up until grad school, when I was required to keep  a reflective journal for many of my classes. I did it to get an A, and then promptly dropped the habit once I was finished. It wasn’t until I started to get sober that I really picked it back up. At first, I put all this pressure on myself to get it right and force myself to write something everyday. This was a massive failure – I wasn’t writing anything substantial and came to hate it. It took me sometime to find what works for me. 

Journaling has become a source of self-care for me. By taking the time to process my feelings and understanding how they are affecting my life, I have become more self-aware. I’ve made many strides in my recovery, career, and personal life through this process. I think everyone should take up some form of journaling – whether it is using a notebook, typing, or recording yourself, you will be amazed by what you learn.

Growth in a Pandemic…

I’ve been struggling with how to spend my time during physical distancing outside of work, meetings, and virtual get togethers. Part of me feels like I should be productive all the time, but another part of me feels like it doesn’t matter since the world is falling apart (I’m being dramatic, but it certainly feels that way, doesn’t it?). While I don’t feel like we all have to be productive (see my video on this topic), I’ve been getting stir crazy.

Now that I’ve realized that we are in this for a while (it’s a marathon, not a sprint), I want to find a way to spend my time that balances my needs, but keeps my mind active. If left to my own devices, I may lay in bed and watch TV all day. Not that watching TV all day is always a bad thing, it just wouldn’t be healthy for me to do it everyday. I thought I might try to learn a new skill or pick up some discarded hobby, but I can’t find anything that appeals to me. I don’t want to get trapped in this anxiety of having to be perfect at whatever I decide to do (this is a big danger for me).

After much deliberation (okay, it was like 45 mins) I decided to take this time to focus on growing my spirituality. I’ve spent plenty of time deconstructing the faith & religion I had when I was younger, but I haven’t focused much on reconstructing this into something that is positive and loving. This is the perfect time for me to do this – I have the free time to read, think and explore. 

My growth has mainly focused on reading, listening to podcasts, having hard conversations with people, and spending time in solitude and reflection. This is what works for me- and I think it’s important that everyone spend time finding what works for them during this period. However you decide to spend your time, be intentional about it.

Powerless, but Not Helpless

Over the weekend, I heard the following statement in a meeting of my recovery program, “I might be powerless over this situation, but I am not helpless.” This stuck with me and is something I’ve been thinking about for a few days. It’s become my mantra (seriously, I repeat it all the time) and has been a focus of my morning meditations. 

What does this mean? For me it means that I have absolutely no control over the COVID-19 situation. No matter what I want, there is absolutely nothing I can do to make it go away. However, there are things that I can do to help – I am not helpless. 

I’ve come up with a list of things that I (and others) can do to help in this situation and feel a little overwhelmed by what is out of my control.

  • Stay inside and follow the guidance of professionals
  • Call friends and family to check on in them
  • Make masks for healthcare professionals
  • Go grocery shopping for someone who isn’t able to
  • If you’re able to, donate money to a cause that is helping others

No matter what it is, there are ways we can help – big or small. The world needs as much positive energy as we can put into it right now. 

Self-Care in the time of COVID-19

I haven’t been very active with my blogging lately – life has been crazy and the COVID-19 hit, which has been taking up a lot of my energy and time. But while practicing physical distancing and staying at home, I have sometime to get back to blogging. 

I’m on week 3 of working from home and only leaving the house to get food and go grocery shopping. During this time I’ve had to understand what social distancing is, and adjust to it. Aside from work, I’ve also had to learn what it means to be a recovering addict in a time when being alone is what is needed (that’s a story for another post). 

As I’ve adjusted, self-care has become more important than ever. Over the last few weeks, these are the things that I have found work best for me:

  • Keeping a routine – going to be and waking up at roughly the same time
  • Showering – every day
  • Eating 3 meals a day – making sure they are moderately healthy
  • Meditation
  • Limiting caffeine
  • Staying hydrated
  • Drinking herbal tea 
  • Journaling
  • Walking – every day
  • Limiting news and social media consumption
  • Giving myself permission to feel all my emotions
  • Not putting pressure on myself to be more productive

These are just some of the things that I do to keep myself in a good head space. It’s helped me during this unprecedented time and I hope it helps you too. 

During this pandemic my goal is to write more and share my experiences with others and provide hope that we can and will make it through this- if we listen to the experts and take the necessary precautions. 

Love & Light to all.

The Mountain (part 2)

I spent this past weekend on the Mountain and a spiritual recovery retreat with 53 other LGBTQ+ and ally individuals in various stages of recovery and in different recovery programs. Last year, I attended this same retreat and had an experience focused on deep realizations about myself. This year was different – my experience was much deeper and wasn’t entirely about me.

I was a part of the organizing committee this year and arrived a day prior than most of the others – during this period I got to learn about some of background and behind the scenes things. It also provided me the opportunity to meet and speak to everyone as they arrived, starting a connection. 

At the start of the retreat, we are asked to set an intention for the weekend. Mine was about finding the joy in recovery – something I have lost recently. I expected to find this through reflections and connecting with my higher power throughout the weekend. I was not expecting to find the joy I had lost in other people. 

Last year, I only talked to people I knew from home and didn’t branch out. This year I made an intentional effort to sit with people from other cities and get to know them better. I met individuals with 4 days to 32 years of sobriety and in each one of them I saw the joy I was looking for. It showed up in how they connected with each other and how they shared their experience, strength, and hope. 

I realized that what I was missed was fellowship with other individuals in recovery – those who understand what I’ve been through and what I’m going through now. Through my experience this weekend, I’ve made new friends and strengthened existing relationships. Joy is slowly returning to my recovery and life.

Finding My People

I’ve spent a lot of time in and out of sobriety trying to find that special group or those who I can lean on without question. To be frank – it has stressed me out and often brought up feelings of shame. I haven’t been able to find ‘my people’ and it used to make me feel bad. Now I’ve realized that I don’t have a set of people – only those in my life who align with my values and those that don’t. Putting energy in trying to find the perfect group doesn’t lead anywhere to me – I need to be focused on what my values are and spend more time with those who are in alignment. 

I’ve heard the phrase that you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with – and I completely agree. I tend to pick up the accents, mannerisms, and occasionally behaviors of those I spend the most time with. This can be a great thing or can be detrimental to my serenity and sobriety. I have to be vigilant in noticing who I am spending my time with and what I am picking up from them. On the same vein, I also have a responsibility to make sure that the values I am living out are those I would like others to pick up. 

At the end of the day, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t have ‘people’ – there are many individuals in my life and I am grateful for all of them. I have a choice of who in my life I spend time with and trust, and I am striving to spend time with those who align with my values and make me a better person. The most important things are my sobriety and serenity and anyone who understands and supports that is one of ‘my people.’

Changing the Conversation

I started this blog to tell my story and get out of my head. It was a may to keep myself accountable and a creative outlet for me. If it helped someone, great! But that wasn’t the point of it – it was all about me.

Recently I’ve had some conversations that have caused me to pause and think beyond just what I’ve been doing. The questions what could this blog become? What impact could I have on the world? There are a lot of thoughts going through my head right now and I don’t know all the answers, but I do know this – I want to have an impact.

Everyone has a struggle and a story. I want to change the way we talk about our struggles and stories – particularly around addiction and behavioral health conditions. I want to help remove the stigma and shame around telling our stories and talking about our struggles. We should be able to embrace all of who we are and bring it with us no matter where we go.

What does that mean for this blog? I’m not 100% sure, but I do know I’ll continue to tell my story. I hope to bring in other perspectives and maybe start a podcast. All I know at this point is that I want to change the world for the better.

Networking While Sober

Recently, I’ve re-launched  my coaching business and as a part of generating leads for clients is putting myself out there. The easiest way to do this is through networking. While online networking is a growth area, I am more comfortable doing my networking in-person.

Most in-person networking events are hosted as bars and some even include complimentary beer & wine. The intent behind this great – it creates a relaxing environment where professionals can connect. It’s great for most people, but for those of us who are sober it can present a particular set of concerns. Attending a networking can make almost anyone feel uncomfortable, but for me that discomfort is amplified by typically being the only sober person there.

However, I’ve found that doing these things help me:

  • Be clear with myself about my intentions for attending the event
  • Set goals for the number of people I’m going to talk to (this helps me keep focus on what I’m there to do)
  • Drive myself
  • Have a set time at which I’m going to leave – and stick to it
  • Tell my network that I’m going and have a time to check in
  • Plan an exit strategy – know how I’m going to gracefully bow out if needed

These things aren’t guaranteed to work, but I’ve found they help me stay focused on my sobriety while also focusing on growing my business. 

I Don’t Need Anyone’s Help…

Recently I’ve been reading Brene Brown and one quote stood out to me as particularly profound – “If you can’t ask for help without self-judgment, you cannot offer help without judging others.” This resonated with me on a spiritual level. I view myself of someone who offers help freely and often, without judgment. However, I have trouble asking for and accepting the help of others.

Somewhere in my life I learned that asking for help showed weakness. I should be able to solve my problems on my own and conquer whatever challenges life has thrown my way. This mindset made me determined, ambitious, and sometimes cold. I prided myself of someone who offered help to those who asked or those I thought needed it. While I espoused that I was doing it to give back and just being a good person, that was a lie. I did it because it allowed me to take control of a situation to be the savior. I’ve also realized that 

As I’ve been in recovery, I’ve realized a few things:

  1. It’s okay to ask for help. It does not mean that I’m weak, it means that I have assessed the situation and realized that I don’t have the necessary tools to solve my problem
  2. Offering help isn’t about me, it’s about being of service. If I go into situations expecting to save someone or being recognized my intentions aren’t pure.
  3. Not everyone wants or needs my help. I can offer, but need to respect the boundaries.

This week, I have had some car issues that have caused me to need to ask for help with rides to work and meetings. Initially this brought up shame, however, once I sat in the feeling for a while and prayed about it, I was able to ask for help and received more than I expected. Instead of just getting rides, a friend of mine let me borrow one of their cars. If I trust the process and ask for what I need, my needs will be met. 

I’m learning to ask for help without self-judgment so I can offer help without judgment.

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