Updated: Jan 1
Now that we have both the external and internal knowledge we need to move forward, it is time to start thinking about the next phase of our journey. If you do not feel as though you found enough internal knowledge to carry you through, do not stress too much. First, the act of seeking our inner truth carries more weight than you can imagine, and second, trust me when I tell you more internal knowledge is coming. Be patient, and most importantly, be open to the onslaught of knowledge we are going to gain as we move forward on our journey. I still gain new information and knowledge almost daily. What is truly surprising is how the new knowledge we gain while sober is nothing new at all; we are just more open to it and able to recognize it now that our minds are clear, once again.
The next phase of our journey consists of tapping into an area of our minds, hearts, and souls we have neglected for far too long. It is an area we decided to suppress because, for whatever reason, we decided we were not capable or worthy of accessing it any longer. It was one of the most active areas in our hearts, minds, and souls when we were younger. Why it dissipates as we grow older is somewhat of a mystery, but how we unlock it, thankfully, is not. We do not have to search high and low or traverse grand mountain passes to find it. We do not have to solve a seemingly unsolvable puzzle. We don't even have to ask the right questions. We need only to give ourselves permission to unlock this hidden area of our lives. What area of our lives am I referring to? I am referring to our hopes, desires, and dreams. I am referring to our ability to live with intention. I am referring to the goals we have had and lost along the way. It's time to regain our childlike desire to achieve anything we want.
Granting ourselves permission
The first thing we need to do before we can truly unlock this provisionally hidden feature of our lives is to give ourselves permission to access it again. While it sounds easier said than done, it really isn't. We all dream. We all have desires. We all hope for the best. The only difference between "normal" people and addicts lie in the ability to believe. Take a moment to remember a childhood dream you held. Once you have the memory in your mind, try and remember how fully you believed it to not only be possible but inevitable. I remember when I was younger, I believed I was going to be a professional football player. This was before I even began playing football. There was no question in my mind I was going to play football because it was what I wanted to do. I didn't know there was any other option. Of course, what I found out later was life can get in the way of our dreams. For me, and I am sure for many other addicts, I also didn't know I didn't have to accept those diversions as final. I didn't know I could push past the obstacles and continue working toward my goals.
In my experience, the more times I allowed obstacles to get in the way of my goals, the less I believed in my ability to see them through. Over time, I began to normalize failure in my life. It became less and less of a surprise when I did not achieve a goal or when I did not work to my full potential. It really had nothing to do with my desire to achieve more. I wanted to be better. It had more to do with my inability to believe I could or even deserved to. When I look back over my life, I believe this one aspect is what kept me down and drove me toward addictive substances and behaviors. They were my comfort blanket until they became my thorn. For thirty-five years, I bore those thorns in my side. One of the things I did to remove them was to believe I deserved to live without them. I gave myself permission to live well, to be happy, and to strive for more. I began to dream again. My dreams created a desire for new goals. With each goal came successes and failures. With each failure came an opportunity to learn. With each success, came confidence. It was in my growing confidence I found peace. It was with inner peace I truly began to live.
Living with intention
I can honestly say I never really understood what it meant to live intentionally. I mean, I knew what the word meant, but I could not for the life of me understand what it had to do with living well. My partner introduced me to the idea long before I quit drinking. It made sense. I even tried to get on board with her daily exercise of setting intentions for the day. I tried, but it never really worked. It didn't work because before I quit drinking I still lived in my self-imposed land of inopportunity. If I didn't believe I could manifest my intentions, what was the point? So, like everything else done half-assed, my intentions fell short, and my self-doubt was reinforced. What changed? For the first time in decades, thanks to sobriety, my mind cleared and my body felt good. This afforded me the ability to not only see differently but also to feel again.
We take for granted how much a clear mind and a healthy body can change the way we perceive the world. Feeling good encourages us to be better. When we feel good we have more energy to dream, to set goals, and to feel the confidence necessary to achieve those goals. Unfortunately, when we are still actively engaged in our addictions, it is hard to see this as a possibility. With that said, we need to set aside the negativity that accompanies our addictions and give ourselves permission to dream, even if only a little bit. What would you do if all obstacles were removed? Where would you go? Who would you surround yourself with? What would the day in the life of your perfect self look and feel like? Take a little time to write down everything you want. Do not let anything get in the way of your truth. Remember, you are allowed to dream.
Read over your dreams and narrow them down to a manageable few. Or, if you are feeling optimistic and courageous, leave them all as is. I only say narrow them down because sometimes it makes it a little bit easier to believe we can succeed when we do not feel overwhelmed. I'll leave that choice up to you. For me, well, I decided to go for it all. I decided in the first month of sobriety I was going to make a career change and find success through my writing. Most of my intentions revolved around writing which fostered my overall goal of writing professionally. I am still working toward this goal and there is nothing suggesting I will not succeed. Sure, there are plenty of reasons I could find to suggest my goal is too lofty but this time, there is a difference. This time, I no longer see those reasons. I only see the reasons that support my ultimate goal. I focus on those reasons, and I set intentions every day to make my goal more attainable.
Maintaining a growth mindset
In my opinion, setting intentions in sobriety virtually guaranteed my success. While it could be argued there is more to successful sobriety than living intentionally, I will continue to argue the benefits of living with intention are far-reaching and never-ending. I believe we, as humans, have an inherent need to grow emotionally and intellectually. It is why we have achieved so much as a species. This inherent need to grow keeps us motivated and prevents us from feeling bored. Boredom, I now believe, is the culprit of all decay. As long as we feed our inherent need to grow, we will continue to grow and live with a growth mindset. The moment we decide to settle and stop growing is the moment we begin to fall apart. A bored mind is a starving mind and the only way to treat a bored mind is to either feed it (emotionally and intellectually) or numb it. We as addicts always chose the latter.
Once again, like everything in sobriety, the way we feed our minds is different for everyone. Some people may need the physical stimulation of activity, which as we know also reduces depression. Some strive to learn through reading. Others learn a new skill. Good conversation is another way to stimulate our minds and create growth. Music, writing, drawing, painting, cooking, and a myriad of other growth-oriented activities all offer our minds a way to avoid the stagnation of a settled life. It doesn't really matter what we choose to do, it only matters that we intentionally choose to keep our minds active and growing. By doing this, we give ourselves the opportunity to learn more about ourselves, but more importantly, it allows us to learn more about our capacity for growth. I am willing to bet, each and every one of us has an unlimited capacity for growth. The only inhibitor is our own personal beliefs.
There is a saying in the book, "The Secret" that I find fitting for today's blog. "What the mind can conceive, it can achieve." Simply put this means if we can see it we can do it. This is such a crucial aspect of successful sobriety. One of the things I hear over and over in sober groups are statements about failing and relapsing. If we see ourselves failing, we will fail. If we see ourselves succeeding, we will succeed. It all starts with intentions we set for ourselves every single day. What intentions did you set for yourself today? What intentions are you going to set tomorrow? What goals are your intentions ultimately meant to achieve? It is with this framework and mindset we can achieve anything we want.
It all starts with one single intention and permission to achieve it. The rest will follow naturally.