I live with intention (Part 1)
For the first forty-eight years of my life, I lived free from intention. For as long as I can remember, life felt like something meant to be endured and tolerated; not overcome and celebrated. I remember hearing about people who seemed to march through life beating their own drum seemingly unaware of all the disruptions, disappointments, and strife life throws at the rest of us. I never spent much time thinking about those people because I was too busy trying to get through my own turbulent life to consider someone else's. I saw the self-help books on the shelves and heard the teachings from success gurus all my life, and I truly believed them all to be gimmicks. Occasionally, an idea would penetrate the wall I had built against new and differing information, and I would have a fleeting moment of hope and inspiration. Generally, hope and inspiration for me dissipated almost as quickly as they emerged. I just couldn't see it as something connected to me or my being. Hope and inspiration were for those other people; you know, the people who deserved it.
Since quitting drinking, nicotine, and other addictive behaviors, I have quickly begun to realize that I too deserve hope and inspiration in my life. We all do. The only reason any of us ever feel we do not deserve them is that we have either been told as much our entire lives, or we have told ourselves as much our entire lives. Either way, if we hear something long enough or enough times, we tend to believe it, eventually. Fortunately, this dilemma is not unilateral; it works both ways. One of the most troublesome characteristics of alcohol or any drug for that matter is how it tears down both our mental and physical bodies. Over time, our mental processes break down and our physical abilities deteriorate. We are left with a mind and body that can do little else than endure what is thrown at them. A broken system has no hope for redemption. Redemption is reserved for those who do not see themselves as forever broken. Redemption is for those who see their set backs as only bumps in the road. Redemption starts with intention.
One of the first major differences I witnessed in my sobriety was my absolute and unassailable need for change. It came about almost immediately. As my mind and body began to heal, so too did my view of self-worth and my desire to grow. Everything began to seem achievable. Barriers and walls began to fall down. All the limitations I had lived under most of my life began to give way to possibility and opportunity. I could feel my potential for growth every single day. I witnessed my confidence manifest physically in my posture as well as in my actions. Life began to feel more attainable and less restrictive. For the first time in decades, I began to live with intention. I set intentions for three areas of my life. The first area is emotional. The second is physical. The final area is the material. All three of these areas affect how we perceive and therefore react to the world around us. If we live our lives feeling undeserving and restricted, we are effectively creating our own prisons. On the contrary, if we live life feeling deserving and unstoppable, we are creating and living our dreams. I decided, since this is such an important and influential core belief, to split it up into a three part series.
The first and foremost area of our life we have to have in order to live well and alcohol or addiction-free is our emotional health. Without a positive emotional state of mind, our ability to succeed is drastically limited. You have heard me talk exhaustively bout how our thoughts dramatically affect our perceptions and consequently our actions. If I believe something is going to be difficult, it will most likely be difficult. If I believe something will be easy, it will most likely be easy. It is actually quite simple and more than that, we have all experienced it throughout our lives. Think about a time when you accomplished something easily that may not have been easy for others. If you are honest, you will admit the reason it was easy is because you believed it would be. Your enthusiasm and love for the task at hand altered your perception of the work involved in doing it. Here is a personal example of what I am talking about.
I did not go to college after high school. I trudged my way through life struggling with every step I took. I had thought about going to college a few times but it always seemed unattainable for someone like me. I thought there was no way I could afford it or have enough time to attend the classes and do the work. Eventually, I found myself so completely fed up with my life of barely getting by, I made the decision to go to college. I was married, with a child, and working full time. While I will not say the journey was easy, it was easier than I ever thought, and it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. Most of the people who knew what I was doing during that time showered me with praise and accolades for taking on such a momentous task. Here's the thing: while I appreciated the support, it never really seemed like that big of a deal. I just did it because it was something I knew I needed to do. I did not tell myself it was going to be difficult. I did not warn myself about what I was taking on. I just did it, and the hard work never really registered because I could see and feel the benefits of my positive actions.
We have an uncanny ability to convince ourselves of anything we want. Think about it, we convinced ourselves to like and need a poison that tastes like shit and ruins people's lives. We did that, but we can undo it as well. We can convince ourselves to climb mountains, fly through the air, set foot on other planets, and cure medical conditions once incurable. We can do anything we want if we believe we can. It starts with intentions.
The emotional intentions I began to employ were like this; I do not drink. I am a good father. I am a good partner. I am strong. I deserve whatever I want. I am worthy. I live well. I live with intention. I am a writer. I am successful. All of these intentions I said and continue to say throughout the day, every day, with conviction. At first, admittedly, it is hard to believe them and that is okay. It takes time to correct the negativity we have operated under for the better part of our lives. Each and every time we set and work toward intentions, our minds and bodies begin to believe them. The more we believe them, the easier they become to set and achieve. With each victory, we gain an increasing need and desire to do and be more. Our lives are meant to be lived well and with triumph, they are not meant to be endured.
I understand the way I am approaching the idea of emotional intention could be perceived as overly simplified. However, I also believe and understand many of us make things more difficult than they need to be i.e... we get in our own way. In order for our emotional intentions to work, we have to, at the very least, be able to conceive the potential for our thoughts to affect our actions and beliefs. Once we have accepted this idea, it is only a matter of time before we begin to see the positive affects of changing our thinking, which in turn, changes our perceptions, actions, and beliefs. I'll offer a personal example for this as well.
A couple of months before I quit drinking, I had made a decision to quit both drinking and nicotine at the same time. I set a date and gave it a try. Within one day, I quickly realized there was no way I was going to quit them both, together. I opted to stick with quitting nicotine because, in my mind, it was more important at the time. The first three months of quitting nicotine was excruciating. I was not ready for it, and I engaged in replacement behaviors to try and deal with it. I gained twenty pounds, and I was an emotional wreck. I considered giving up several times because I could not deal with the emotinoal trauma I was experiencing. In the midst of quitting nicotine, my partner and I decided to quit drinking together. While I knew I was not ready, I was already a mess, and I figured what harm could it do. We set a date but I was not ready to quit drinking when the day arrived. My wife went ahead and quit drinking without me. Two weeks later, I finally made the decision to join her.
Here is where it really gets interesting.
As many of you know, my experience with quitting drinking has been relatively easy and I have been working hard to try and find a way to articulate why. Nevertheless, what I found in the very early days of my easy sobriety was shocking. It didn't occur to me until months after quitting drinking. It only came up when I saw the mention of nicotine in the editing of my blogs and sobriety book. What I realized was the moment I changed my mindset toward alcohol and drinking, I subconsciously changed my mindset toward nicotine as well. I had not thought about nicotine once since I quit drinking. At that point, quitting nicotine had become easy too. I can only come up with one explaination for this. I saw nicotine as a poison like alcohol, and I no longer wanted it in my life. I changed my mindset and my thinking about alcohol and nicotine. Therefore, I changed my perceptions and beliefs as well. They do not define me any longer because I set the following emotional intentions:
I do not drink. I do not use nicotine.