Happier!!

I’ve found a new “app” that is making me happier by the day. Not that I’m not a happy person to begin with – I consider myself to be very happy – but this app brings forth gratitude and happiness all day long! This morning I woke up to almost a dozen “happy” responses to my post from last night. It was the perfect way to wake up to a sun filled day! I smiled. Even more than I normally do. Happiness is infectious. Spread some around today!!

https://www.happier.com/#/about

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Isolation…

(c) Kimberley Berlin, 2008The disease of addiction will have us isolate – turning inward – not to examine ourselves in a healthy way, but to grind ourselves down in criticism, negative self-talk, and convincing ourselves that we are utterly useless human beings, no good to anyone or anything, failures in this thing called life.

This happened to me recently – a descent into my own personal hell.  I’ve been there before over the years; it’s familiar territory.  But this time was different.  For a start, I’m sober, so numbing out into oblivion, consuming mass quantities of alcohol or drugs is not an option.  It hasn’t been an option for over 19 years now.  Facing my “stuff” is the only option I have.  Which is hard, sometimes brutally hard.  Sometimes I can’t face it, and start spiraling down into a grey world of worry, or fear, that soon becomes black.  When I find myself there, it’s bad news.

I felt it this time – felt it starting, creeping at the edges of my life – hearing my own thoughts become less and less secure, less and less sure.  I pulled the covers over my head in the morning for “just 5 more minutes” only to sleep in for several hours.  Then running late, or not getting things done as part of my routine day.  The weather didn’t help.  Bitter cold mornings walking my dogs in snow, or overcast and dark skies, hunched against winds and biting air that made me want to cocoon myself inward even deeper.  I found myself taking afternoon naps from what I perceived to be exhaustion.  Waking up with the sunset and wondering how to recapture the lost time.  There is no way to stop a clock that has moved on without you.

When the dark cloud became a pitch black ooze – I looked around, and decided to face it.  Truly face it.  I sat down on my meditation cushion, took a deep breath, and another, and another.  And told myself: “Self, you are not getting up until you have touched this darkness and pierced its veil.”

As each excruciating minute went by, I fought against the desire to get up and run, get up and go to sleep, or fight what was coming up from my ooze.  I sat.  And breathed.  Deep gasping breaths with the sadness.  Full lung breaths with the anger.  Slow breaths with the hopelessness. Breath after breath – life giving breath – one after the other, each one offering more clarity, awareness, and presence.

With each cascading wave of emotion, with each rise and fall of my chest, expansion and contraction of the cloudy ooze, I said, over and over again:

“May this be lifted from me to reveal the Light.”
“May I be freed of this suffering and the cause of this suffering.”

I woke up in the middle of the night and lit a candle.  I opened my journal and wrote a prayer to my Higher Power – a letter to the Divine.  I asked for help.  (Sometimes it is easier to look upward than to call my sponsor.  Sometimes my fear of judgment stops me from reaching for a human.)  So I opened my arm to the help from the Universal realm of Love.

Closing my eyes, I felt myself embraced by an energy, a whisper in the air.

The next morning when I opened my eyes to yet another grey, misty and bitter cold day, I saw brightness – not darkness.  I felt a smile on my face, not a frown.  I wanted to be part of the world, not apart from it.

Sometimes we need to meet the darkness of our lives.  Meet it on its terms, and listen to what it has to say to us.  Sometimes what we experience as “bad” is just a cry from our deepest well of being that is asking for love. It’s not a human love that can help us – sometimes that love can only come from above.

Mindfulness in Recovery

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MINDFULNESS IN RECOVERY
A Half Day Workshop
Sunday, March 9th, 2014
Noon to 3:30pm
Alexandria, VA

The winter has been long, and hard. We have hunkered down into our coats and scarves, and cocooned ourselves from the cold. In addition to racing through our days, being buried in emails, and running late, the additional stress of this recent bout of weather takes a toll on all aspects of our being.

Join us on Sunday, March 9th, 2014, from Noon to 3:30pm – Daylight Savings Time – to welcome the beginning of Spring!

This half-day workshop in Mindfulness will give you the opportunity to immerse yourself in serenity, and learn how to reduce the damaging results of ongoing stress.

Whether you are in recovery from addiction, health issues or life altering situations, this workshop will give you concrete tools to understand the root causes of stress responses, and how to manage the impact on your mind, body, and spirit.

If you want to feel more at peace, experience serenity, and “come home” to your “self” – then this workshop is for you!

What You Will Learn:

 Meditation Instruction
 Neurological Basis of Stress
 Mindfulness in Daily Life
 Opening Awareness
 Improve Relationships
 Mindfulness in Sobriety
 Finding “Home” Within

Pre-registration is required. Space is limited. Call 703.558.6750 to reserve your seat. You can register and pay with PayPal at Compassionate Beginnings

* * * * * *

Kimberley Berlin, LSW, CSAC, has been a mindfulness practitioner for over 30 years and has taught meditation for over 10 years. Kimberley is an Addiction Counselor, and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Training. She has studied with several well known teachers including Pema Chodron, Tara Brach, and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. She has written about mindfulness and meditation, conducted research on how mindfulness practice affects stress and anxiety disorders, and writes a blog on the topic as it relates to recovery. She is a Yin Yoga Teacher in training and the owner and operator of Compassionate Beginnings, LLC, a web based resource for addiction recovery.

Sugar…

Creative CommonsRight before the New Year, I quit sugar.  For real.

My husband and I had a movie date, and in preparation, I stopped at the store and bought bags of candy – jelly beans, chocolate covered almonds and cashews, caramels, gummy bears – so that we would have a plentiful assortment for a long movie (Wolf of Wall Street – highly recommended!) and not have to pay the outrageous prices charged at the theater.  The next day the candy was gone.  All of it.  Not only had I consumed pounds of sugar, but I couldn’t remember eating it all.  Sugar blackout.

I used to drink like that too.  Same with drugs.  Consume mass quantities, and not even be aware I had done so.  But I always knew that I had, because the hangover was horrible, and often the memories were fuzzy at best.  Many times there were no memories, just blackness. I quit drugs over 30 years ago.  I quit drinking 19 years ago.  Never looked back.

Smoking was like that too.  I’d get emotionally wrapped up, or distracted, and then next thing I knew, I had smoked a pack of cigarettes.  Before noon.  I quit cigarettes 22 years ago.

I quit all these things because I became totally powerless over them, and life definitely had become unmanageable.  Certainly this was true for drugs and alcohol.  As far as cigarettes were concerned, I was spending a fortune (when a pack was $1.25) and had started coughing.  I couldn’t control how much I smoked.  Nicotine had me by the throat and wasn’t letting go.

Sugar, on the other hand, had always been in my life, and was part of a Euro-American upbringing.  One ate lovely sweet things at tea time.  Pancakes and maple syrup or delicious muffins at breakfast – desert after dinner – a crystal bowl of candies always within reach – boxes of chocolates to while away a winter weekend.  Licorice sticks while watching long movies.  Gummy bears for snacks at work.  And ice cream…..ah, the ice cream.  Gallons of the stuff.  It was not a challenge for me to sit down with a half a gallon (or a gallon!) of coffee ice cream (Starbucks, Ben & Jerry, or whatever was on sale) and consume it in no time flat.  Or vanilla.  Or chocolate.  Pistachio.  Espresso.  Plain and unadulterated, no sprinkles or sauces.

When something terrible happened in my life, I would buy a gallon of ice cream on the way home, scoop at least half into an enormous bowl, crawl into bed, and eat it, spoonful after spoonful. Afterward, curling up in a ball under the covers and trying to make sense of what had happened, or crying (when the dog died), or just going to sleep, waiting for a new day to begin so a new perspective would arise.

(I hate to say this, but my weight never suffered.  Either I have a high metabolism, or I worked it all off with the stress – but the amount of sugar I consumed was not directly correlated to the bathroom scale reading each morning.)

In the past year, I began to notice that when I became stressed out, I would stop at the 7-11 after work, and buy giant sized Snickers bars (2 or 3) and eat them on the way home.  All three of them, one after the other.  Or stop and buy a pound and a half of licorice sticks and ravish the bag so that by the time I pulled up to my driveway, more than half the bag was gone.

One night I stopped off at the local grocery store where they provide a plethora of candy bins of every style and variety by the pound.  I bought three pounds of chocolate covered peanut clusters, caramel cashew clusters, and dark chocolate chunks – got back in the car to head home and during the 1 hour drive, consumed all three pounds.

When I pulled in and looked around the car – I realized all three pounds were gone.  Gone! I didn’t even remember eating them.  Mindlessness from stress; preoccupation with upset from my job; emotionally stuffing myself so that I wouldn’t have to address what I knew was really gnawing at me.  It stopped me dead in my tracks.

I realized I was doing with sugar what I had done with drugs, alcohol and cigarettes.

So I started to look at my habit with sugar – daily observations of how much I really was eating, what I was eating, how often.  That sort of thing.  I still consumed the ice cream, chocolate and licorice, but now I was paying attention.  Sure enough – it was all tied into my emotions that I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, otherwise express.

But after the movie fiasco – I said “enough”.  I said to my self: “Self – you can’t keep doing this.  Aside from being horribly unhealthy, you are not dealing with the real issues at hand, and you are not being true to the principles of sobriety and spiritual living.  Time to quit.”

There aren’t any 12 step meetings for sugar addicts that I know of – although I’m sure they exist.  So I just did it one day at a time.

The first day I prepared a Detox Water made of lemons, limes, lemongrass, ginger, and oranges, and drank at least a gallon of the stuff.  It actually tasted pretty good, and the second day I consumed a gallon without any hesitation.  I drank copious amounts of herbal tea.  Lots of seltzer water too.  Fruit was acceptable – so clementines, grapes, raspberries, blueberries and apples became a staple for my diet. The detox process took about a week.

But the gnashing and gnawing that was going on with my jaw and my poor teeth was untenable. I was going to end up grinding them to a powder.  So I went back to the store and purchased every type and flavor of sugarless gum made on the market.  All kinds and sorts.  Tropical twist, Watermelon, Lemon Lime, Minty Mint, Very Berry – if it had a fruit flavor, I bought it.  Some of it was awful and not purchased again – but some wasn’t too bad.  I emptied out the crystal candy bowls that were placed around the house, and filled them with the flavored gum.  Gum in the car, gum in the handbag, gum in the bedside table drawer.  Lots in the bedside table drawer.

The irony is I hate gum – and I hate seeing people chew gum.  But this was serious business, and I was going to get over this hump with whatever weapon I had in my arsenal.

I took it one day at a time.  Each day has 24 hours.  Eight of those were filled with sleep – if I was lucky.  That left a lot of hours to keep busy, do other things, and stay away from any temptations.  My dogs were more than happy that I wanted to take extra walks throughout the day.  The younger one loved that I wanted to jog.  My yoga practice became more serious.  As did my meditation practice.  Each day I contributed to my overall wellness.

When the emotions arose – as they will – as they do – I took deep breaths.  Lots of them.  And popped a piece of gum.

So today….today I choose a life without sugar. I have come to believe that my life can be restored to sanity and good health. A power greater than myself is getting me through this each day – despite the advertising and media hype of Valentines Day, Easter and who-knows-what-else is coming at us.  Today I feel better in my body, mind and spirit.

Now if I can just deal with the gum issue…………

“Time doesn’t …

Quote

“Time doesn’t fly, it steals. Like some skilled pickpocket or magician, it gets you to look the other way and when you do, it ruthlessly steals your essential things—memories, great moments that end much too soon, the lives of those you love. It knows how to trick you and then steal you blind.”

 

— Jonathan Carroll from BATHING THE LION