taking the first steps in a long journey
My neighbor is a non-functioning alcoholic. In as much as any alcoholic is non-functioning he is at the end of the trail or shall I say cliff. His wife left him back in July. I was the one who gave them a ride to the airport, him, her and his mistress alcohol.
A Pacific Northwest winter is a dark and dreary one. Many of us, including myself suffer from (SAD) Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is caused by the deprivation of sunlight. If you were to look at my work space and living quarters you would find a variety of full spectrum lights on timers, positive air ionizers and bottles of vitamins mostly vitamin D3. This is the common arsenal when going into battle against the “winter blues”. A couple weeks ago the weather started to decline and I could really feel it kicking in. I took major steps to cut this off at the pass and it worked. I am not sure if it is the placebo effect or this stuff is actually working but, it doesn’t matter to me.
I encountered my neighbor this morning, staggering, unshaven making his daily run to the local store for his bottles of white wine. I have never seen a man with such a level of deep dark depression and regret. He sobbed continually while trying to tell me his story while on the long ride up in the elevator. It is really none of my business how another person lives their life and I live by the philosophy of “judge not or ye be judged”. But, internal optimist in me had other words from wise sages entering my mind as well; “ a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. I told him that if he could find the courage to take that first step in seeking recovery I would completely support him and that is true. The challenge is taking that first step. This got me thinking, what are the steps we need to take to make permanent, positive and lasting change in our lives. How does this apply to me? After thorough and painstaking research this is what came up for me.
• Identify the problem or challenge you want solved. Dig deep inside and take a good look at what it is that needs to be changed. Listen to what others have said to you about this matter and take it to heart. Asking other sometimes is a great way to start because we cannot see the forest for the trees.
• Write down the impact the issues has in your life. Once you have identified the issue or issues, on a piece of paper make two columns. This is a tried and true method of problem solving created by Benjamin Franklin. In one column write down all the problems your issue is causing in your life and others. In the other column write down how your life and lives of others would be better if the issue was resolved.
• Embrace and own the problem as yours. Now that you can see the damage the issue is causing and how much better life would be if you fixed it, you must own this issue as yours. Do not blame anybody or anything for this issue. It is yours and yours alone to fix.
• Commit to change. Commitment is hard for some people. For those of us whose discipline is not as strong as our problems you will have to burn the ship. When Cortez came to North America he wanted to make sure he and his men were committed to stay and finish their mission. In the middle of the night he sent a crew out to burn the ships. There was no turning back. You must mentally commit to resolution and leave yourself no options.
• Create a support group. It takes a village… No man is an island. When conquering something that is perceived as insurmountable you will need a team. Robin Hood had his Merry Men and you will need a crew. Go on-line line and find local support groups, AA, NA even MeetUp.com. Just show up and see what happens. It is not required most times that you spill your guts.
• Acknowledge your success. While life is a journey and not a destination this particular journey will require a map with milestones. This allows you to look back and see where you came from, how much progress you have made and how much further you need to go. Life is also a celebration. When you have taken the steps to make a change acknowledge your courage and accomplishments then celebrate them
• Accept your failures and start again. It is said we should learn from our mistakes and grow from our failures. Change does not happen overnight or without several attempts. As you climb your slippery muddy challenged filled mountain you are bound to fall. And perhaps fall all the way to the bottom. But, as my granddad used to say “ it’s not what happens when you get knocked down, it what you are going to do when you get back up”. Pull yourself up. Dust yourself off and begin again and again and again.
In the end I believe our efforts are never in vain. We each have the ability to shape our lives and impact the lives of others. It is our deep inner commitment to make the world a better place for you and others that determines where our trail takes us.