2/05/2011

Here's Your Sign: CHANGE



Sometimes in life it takes getting hit with a Mack truck for you to realize that you are going down the wrong path in life. It is as if your momentum makes it so much easier to stay in automatic pilot and keep everything at status quo so you continue doing the same things you always do, expecting nothing more and nothing less. You hang out with the same people, expecting the same treatment, going to the same places, using your time the same way. The red flags pop up, from time to time, indicating changes need to be made and God sends in special people to show you need reinforcements and readjustments made to your life but you choose to ignore them.

I spent some time recently with someone who saw the sign. He shared his story with his realization that his life was on a slippery slope where there was only one way to go and gravity was pulling him there, slowly but surely. I am not sure how far back his life was like that but the timeframe he talked about was from high school on. He was a star athlete and had an extremely high IQ. His relatives say he was written in local newspapers, covered on local sports and talked about by everyone in the city as the wonder boy on the court; he was unreal with a basketball what he could do as a point guard! But his life off the court, well, life was a party. He did not take anything serious except partying, basketball and possibly women, at least hanging out with them. I am not sure he was ever into the idea of long term commitment so much. Life was meant to be totally enjoyed, living for the moment. This attitude carried him to an exotic place to live after high school and easily through most of adulthood, up to this point in time.

The dysfunction of a life of nothing but partying sometimes never catches up with folks. With this man, it did. He never got his with a Mack truck per se, I think a light just went off in his head. He decided, on his own terms, he wanted a change, a better life for himself. Maybe it was the DUI, maybe it was for his sons and just maybe for his deceased father to be able to look down from the heavens and see what a wonderful man he had become but he was motivated to change.

Our stories we shared of what was currently going on in our lives were different but then were quite similar. The current of our lives tend to carry us with their ebb and flow down the river of life. Many times, that path may not be the best direction to be going either. And yet, we do not resist; we take the path of least resistance, afraid to confront change, having an internal fear of what is unfamiliar and uncomfortable. This is not the healthiest way to live a life. And yet many of us convince ourselves we have no choice, that this is our chemical make-up, this is our family, our friends and our lifestyle and we cannot change them or ourselves. Acceptance of what is wrong is ignorance.

What he is learning is that conscious choices are our divine human right. It is one of the things that separate humans from beasts, the animal kingdom. We have the ability to choose our paths to walk and can change paths in mid stream with thought and deliberation. We must exercise that right, consciously. He is learning to be sober means to not frequent bars, not go to parties nightly, and find new ways to exert energy. He is renewing his love of basketball. He is letting go of some old friends and finding some new ones that are supportive of his new changes and inadvertently inspires some old ones to be more introspective with themselves. He takes his own inventory and avoids events, family members and friends that trigger feelings that make him more inclined to drink.

He is learning more now that he has learned in a long time as he is experiencing life continually sober. He is sharing his thoughts and feelings with sober individuals continually also. It is like watching a new world open up to him. He even looks different too. Sure, there are still some of the old battle wounds there, some of the same old behavior flaws, and much of the same personality structure but you can sense a change coming over him. He is avoiding those folks that brought out the worst in him and trying to surround himself more often than not with people that bring out the best in him. This is a plan for success.

How many of us make certain our inner circle of family and friends is a group that bring out the best of who we are? Is yours a group that builds you up, respects you for what you are and what you strive to be? If they are not, no matter whom they are, take yourself out of automatic pilot and shift gears. Negative people will drag you down. If your inner circle does not respect you, you will have a hard time respecting yourselves. If they do not respect your choices, you will have a hard time accepting your freedom to choice. Being an alcoholic, he must choose wisely who he is with routinely or risk his sobriety.

We see ourselves through the reflections of others; they are like mirrors to us as we are social beings by nature. We get our affirmation from others. It will be hard to have a good self image if you are surrounded by an inner circle that is not full of loving caring unconditional regard. Pick your friends carefully and make certain your family is a family of chose, that is healthy family members or adopt one if your natural family is not supportive of your right to be free from dysfunction and healthy living.

Know that others look at you and evaluate you in much the same way. What do you bring to others lives, is it positivity, is it the fullness of life, is it signs of God’s goodness? It is important to show others you are supportive of their efforts, to give signs of unconditional regard and to know silence is a statement that hurts when someone is hurting and needs encouragement. Take time to be a friend, even when it is family. Friends and family are always there for each other, in good times and in bad. Love has no boundaries. If your friends and family do put limits on their support, then maybe the love is not without restrictions. You maybe getting the sure sign that you need a family of choice, one that is dotted also with special friend members you adopt as your surrogate family. Many of my friends have done this over the years and love the concept!

Are you real to others about your feelings or just a fabrication of what you think the other person wants to see or what you are trying to project? This week he and I talked about the AA meetings he attends. He said these meetings inspire him to speak from the heart, no more half truths, speak honestly. Mean what you say and don’t just say what you don’t really mean. This week we talked a great deal about people saying things untrue, half lies and how to discern the difference. Many times it is hard to tell the difference. Our conclusion, look to the actions. If someone really loves you, look at what they do. In tough times, do they truly forgive, do they pick up the phone when you are hurting or ignore you? That is a sign of reaching out. Do they allow you to vent or do they shut you out when your view differs from theirs? Do they offer hugs when you need a shoulder to lean on? Are they judgemental of your faults or give you hope when you are feeling down trodden? We all need to feel inspired and that is what true family and friends are for in our lives.

False images take too much wasted energy. First, get real with yourself and then with everyone else in your life that matters. He has the first step down, be honest with yourself. Then, make a plan. You are never too old to make changes in your life. Those that love you will support you and be there to give you what you need to be a better you. Those that fade in the woodwork and let the silence become deafening, well; perhaps that is a statement in and of itself. It may not be, initially, one that you want to hear but maybe what you need to know. Living with an illusion of love, caring or friendship is not healthy. We need to know who is in our court with us. A wise professor once said in college,” change for the better and those that love you and care about you will change for the better with you. Those that don’t, well, maybe now is the time to let them go.”

I am glad he realizes now, before he gets hit by a Mack truck, or dies like his father or grandfather died, that alcoholism is a serious disease. It can ruin lives. It hurts so many others that are affected by it. How many of us have been touched by loved ones suffering from this disease? The pain it causes is immeasurable. He may stumble and fall, but I feel certain, if and when he does, he will pick himself back up and continue on. He now knows what it means to be clean and loves it.

We all need to address major dysfunction in our lives that is causing us pain. The pain of fixing it is a great deal less than the pain it causes to let it go unchecked, unchanged. It reminds me of every time I move the furniture around in the living room. My husband questions why it needs to be moved around as if the change will cause him major heart ache. Once it is moved, he is pleasantly surprised. You may find, the very change folks resist in your life, they will be overjoyed when it materializes much as you will be when you see the new you. There is a cost involved for fixing things but enjoying a healthy life to the fullest extent is worth the price, if it is something you can change in yourself. Ask yourself this question, “What part of this do I control?” You can only change the parts that you can control, the rest is up to others so let go of the other stuff, stop worrying and fretting over it. They can opt out; it is their right much as it is your right to change. They may prefer things go unchecked But it does not need or have to stop you from changing.

Along the same line, allow others that you love to change for the better. That is what makes this world a better place. True friends and family members love and are supportive of our right to be healthy, learn and grow. They embrace positive change and encourage to reach their full potential no matter their age. If you can’t allow it in others, if you can’t accept it, then you need to look hard at yourself in the mirror. Then ask yourself, simply, why?
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