If you’re unhappy, you’re looking the wrong way

We all have a void. For some it’s deeper than others. Much deeper. Very few people on this planet are fully fulfilled, self-actualized, and happy.

Why is this?

We’ve all heard the old adage “money can’t buy happiness” but so many people including those who already have large amounts of money, believe that it does. Money can buy things. Money can bring power. But those with money and power always seem to be fighting. Do we all need some amount of money to survive? Of course. But it won’t fill the void. Studies show that individuals who win the lottery are some of the happiest people on the planet…For up to a year. Then what?

What about sex? Sex is great…most adults like sex. But again, a source of so much pleasure ends up being a source of pain for many people. Infidelity, sex and porn addictions, empty relationships based on physical attributes and material things.

We spend our lives trying to obtain things that will make us happy and what happens? The pleasure obtained from a new car, a new purse or a hot date is only temporary.

Stop looking outward. What’s going on inside you? Every desire to one up someone, to put someone down, to obtain more stuff than them, or better stuff, or to have power over them is a mask. I guarantee it. It’s a veil to hide the ugly, the hurt, the shame, the emptiness, the insecurity, the perceived weakness.

What if we faced these “weaknesses” head on? What if we came clean? Not with anyone else, but with ourselves? That takes courage. Much more courage than working long hours to get a promotion so that you have more power and more money to show off to the next person.

Why do we argue? Because our spouse, family member, friend, or the passerby isn’t acting the way we think they should act. We want to control them, fix them, show them how they should act. Prove to them they are wrong.

 Maybe I am wrong. Maybe I need to look at my part in everything. I always have a part in what makes me unhappy. I choose what to watch on T.V., I choose who I spend my time with and I choose where I focus my energy. I’ve spent most of my life putting a lot of effort into foolish things. Foolish effort. No matter how hard I tried to “fix” my life I was still unhappy.

I finally realized that all my work was outward and very little was inward. And my effort was impulsive and empty. Though my intentions were good, I was going about it the wrong way.

How do we change our perspective from outward to inward? Here’s what’s helping me:

·         Daily mediation (morning, evening or throughout the day, just stopping to experience the moment and to get my head out of the past and the future)

·         Daily gratitude (every morning, being grateful for all the blessings in my life)

·         Daily self-inventory (what can I do better today, what did I do well?)

·         Practicing self-love (practicing is the key word here…taking care of myself on a physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual level. Actively telling myself that I forgive myself and I love myself…I promise this is more powerful than you think)

·         Practicing forgiveness (a wise friend once told me “Resentments are like taking poison hoping your enemy will die.”

We all need to recover. Maybe it’s not from heroin. It could be from years of self-indulgence, self-loathing, or unhealthy relationships. It can be from trauma, financial stress, or eating disorders. Could be several of these things and more.

Whatever it is, let’s stop pointing fingers and wasting time trying to figure out where it started or who’s to blame. Let’s start looking for a solution in the right direction. Inward.

How to Live in Recovery: Journey to Self-Actualization

There are so many articles and discussions about getting started in recovery and facing the challenges of early recovery, but not as much for those who have a year or more behind them.
For those of you who have found a path in recovery, you’ve probably been told to “give it back” by helping other addicts who have less clean time or no clean time. For me, this has been a wonderful piece to my journey, but there’s more to it than that.
Recovery is not abstinence. If you’re reading this, you’re probably aware of that. So what is it? It’s filling the void. Ok…So what’s lacking? I sure don’t know. It’s different for everyone. Sure, we have a lot of similarities in our stories as well as our needs, vales etc., but the details of your journey to self-actualization are for you to figure out.
In active addiction, how did we try to stop the pain or fill the void? Mask it, suppress it and try to change the world to suit our needs. The one thing that we needed to do to start the healing process was look inward. Scary stuff. But we got there.
Whatever it is you’re recovering from, it’s important to do regular check-ins with yourself to make sure that you are living a lifestyle conducive to recovery. These self-inventories can help us to avoid using our “old behaviors” in new ways.
Not drinking and drugging is an obvious part of recovery, but we also have to continue to grow as a person and watch out for out old ways of dealing with problems. This starts from within. How do you perceive the problem? Always be willing to look at your part. If I see a road raging driving on the highway and find myself affected by it, I still have to look at my part. Maybe I will need to move to a different lane to keep the passengers in my car safe. Getting angry and trying to break-check this a-hole isn’t going to solve anything. It’s going to fuel both of our anger and provide for an even more dangerous and possibly life threatening situation on the road. Maybe I’m only responsible for 1% of the problem, but that’s the only part I have control over. We cannot control other people and when we start attempting to fix the rest of the world we lose sight of what brought us to our path of recovery in the first place. Looking inward.
I’m on my journey to self-actualization and I have some ways to go, but I’m confident that I’m on the right path. I want to share with you some of the things that have helped me to realize my path.
1. Meditation
Taking time each day to appreciate what I have, pray, and to think about what little steps I can take to improve myself. Spending some time each day reminding myself to let go of the need to control and to have some faith. I usually meditate on my gratitudes in the morning and do a self-inventory at night. This allows me to stay focused on the now and to experience the life I’m in at the moment. I don’t want to spend too much time in the past or the future.

2. Learning
Whenever I have a little extra time, I like to read, watch YouTube videos, or listen to other people’s stories. I love to learn about different ideas and theories even those that I don’t agree with. It helps me to keep an open and active mind. When I have the opportunity I try new things just for the sake of having a new experience, whether it’s trying a new food, hiking a new trail, or visit a place I’ve never been (it doesn’t have to be something extravagant it can be a historical site in the city or a scenic park). The goal is to always work on expanding my mind and appreciating the beauty around me. If I’m not careful, I can start to absorb the negativity from the news, Facebook or bad drivers (to name a few sources). I can easily fall back in the trap of distorted thinking if I don’t keep feeding my mind positive things.

3. Holistic and natural healing
This has been an important piece of my puzzle. I spent so many years damaging my body physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually that the healing process for me, needs to encompass all aspects of the self. I have been to many medical doctors in my recovery and have been back and forth with expensive treatments, conflicting diagnoses, and lots of co-pays. All of this, only to say that I don’t feel too much better. Many of the Band-Aid treatments I’ve received only mask the symptoms and many times cause additional problems. I have found that the most effective health care I’ve received has been from acupuncturists and naturalists. These holistic treatments have cured pain and autoimmune problems that the medical doctors couldn’t figure out, or could only lessen with harmful medications. Loving and appreciating my body is an essential part of my journey. This means taking care of it from the inside out with the purest methods I can fine. To my surprise, this doesn’t cost an arm and a leg either. On the flip side, I have saved a lot of time and money. I use western doctors and medications sparingly to avoid further damage to my body whenever possible.

4. Journaling
Keeping the thoughts, ideas and feelings flowing is important for me. This helps me to avoid suppressing them which will eventually lead to unexplainable pain that tempts me to mask it in harmful ways. There’s no rhyme or reason to the way I journal. If something needs to come out, then it needs to come out. Talking to my besties also helps me to get out that “stuff” that starts to cloud my mind. Whether it’s a resentment, sadness, or frustration, I have a natural tendency to ignore it or dwell on it. Before I know it, I feel stuck in my recovery.
That’s my list of tools. Filling my void with positive thoughts and meaningful experiences keeps me on the right path. I’m not certain of where my path is leading me, but I know that I’m taking steps towards self-actualization each day.