I'll be honest, I know nothing about the mechanics of music, but I do know a fair bit about changing your life. Changing your life requires you to change what you think, what you do, how you do it and who you do it with. Imagine changing a rap song into a ballad, its still the same song but with an entirely different beat. In recovery, that's us. Same song, different beat. Part of the process of recovering is finding that new beat on which we can build our life.
A lot of us have pre-recorded soundtracks that play in our heads when an opportunity comes our way or if we don't succeed at our desired goal. The opportunity soundtrack sounds something like this (try to read this in some kind of familiar beat) "I don't deserve that/why would they offer me that/don't they know how much I suck?/If I don't try/I can't fail/No one can see/I can't risk that." The failure soundtrack sounds something like this (same beat) ... "See, I told you so/I knew it/I knew I would fail. (shakes head at self - this is the dance move portion) I knew I shouldn't try/Everyone knows/see them laugh/see me cry/at me try/What a waste of time/I knew it wouldn't be worth it/It wasn't worth it/I'm not worth it/i'm stupid/Life sucks/The end." See, I don't know much about music (as you can tell my lyrics are kinda lame and don't rhyme) but I do know listening to this soundtrack will get you nowhere in life. The words may vary, the beat may change, but the overall theme of the tune that plays in my head when I am trying to reach a goal is always "don't try because you will fail and feel stupid." I'm not gonna lie, failure is a genuine risk in life, but so is not living up to your potential and that is more frightening to me. That there is a life available to me if I'm willing to make some changes and take some healthy risks. It would be easier in some ways to play small, but also really bloody boring and does not serve the world - at all.
Something I have had to address in my recovery is my default pattern of going, going, going and doing, doing, doing. I used to use stimulants such as cigarettes, copious amounts of coffee and sugar to keep me going and doing at a pace that was way beyond my natural capacity. I was always busy doing something and if I had nothing to do, I would create something to do. Sometimes it looked like worthy causes such as work, school, time with my children, time with friends, cleaning my house, some kind of artsy craft, shopping and/or helping others. When it gets chaotic is when I have too many things on my list to get done in a short amount of time with no margin for eating, rest or error, which will look like me going from place to place stressed and anxious acting very unspiritual or having conversations with people when I'm in a state of overwhelm, which never, ever goes well and/or when anything at all in my life (my children, my home, my self, my work) NEEDS TO HAPPEN & NEEDS TO BE PERFECT RIGHT NOW.
I used to use alcohol and food (carbohydrates specifically) to "come down" from this constant activity to get myself to a place of relaxation. That's fine for most people, but for me, once I began to use food or alcohol in this way, I couldn't stop and I made myself sick in many different ways. After coming into recovery, I continued this pattern of go, go, go, go, go, go, go, DIE go, go, go, go, go, go, go, DIE by staying constantly busy in the name of relationships, work or service and then coming down by using prescription drugs such as Ativan, sleep medication, etc. Same pattern, different vices. The common denominator is me, the person that takes every good thing and uses it to the point of excess and my own personal harm. When I'm in this state, I can't see the forest through the trees. I don't know what I'm running from or why until I stop and I'm too scared to stop if I'm alone. Why? Just imagine running through a forest full of trees when you are in a state of panic. Does panic make sense? No, not really. So, wouldn't you be scared? The reality is, the reasons for not wanting to stop can vary and I need the support of others and my Higher Power to figure that out, then I can get my perspective back and walk slowly through that very same forest observing those trees and asking them what they want to teach me. Same forest. Different perspective. Unless the boogey man is behind you, but that is a different matter entirely.
Sometimes I keep busy to the point of exhaustion so I don't have to think, feel or be by myself because I am avoiding feeling grief and loss. Sometimes its because I don't know what to do about some particular situation, so I start to micromanage small details I can control to feed my delusion that I am not insecure, I am more powerful than I feel. As someone that struggles with addictive substances and behaviours, I can use anything to the point of excess to escape myself because when I am full or exhausted I don't care that I am alone, that I don't have what I want, that I have no control, that I don't know what to do. This is the point that all perfectionists, substance abusers, addicts, etc seek to find something outside of themselves that allows them not to care. Well, I know for sure its a big reason for me.
I don't get anything done under the oppressive weight of perfectionism, so I had to shed that perspective to survive and live my life. What I need is room to fail, learn and grow from my mistakes, to do my best and leave the rest. Having a balanced life means I need to balance my input and output. That sounds a little technical, but it really comes down to a system of organizing my life to maximize my work/school productivity, family life, social life and exercise (output) in a way that makes room for rest, reflection and introvert time (input) so my life is not a symphony of banging and clanging cymbals, but rather an orchestra like Vivaldi's Four Seasons with lots of variety and balance. By designing my life to achieve balance, I am naturally led to a place of calm and serenity within myself and when I have serenity, I am able to be calm, efficient and intentional with my time and then I can have both productivity and serenity, by honouring my natural rhythm.
My natural rhythm is a little bit like a cha-cha; two steps forward, two steps back. Sometimes it looks like this ... Go, Go, Rest. Go, Go, Rest. Go, Go, Rest. ~ Go, Go, Go. Rest, Rest, Rest. ~ Go, Rest. Go, Rest. Go, Rest. It kind of depends on the day. I strive to wake early because my most productive time is in the morning hours, when my children are still fast asleep. I like to spend this time blogging, writing, catching up on tasks for school, researching interviews for Talk Recovery, updating paperwork for my counselling clients, networking on social media and cleaning my house in between for brain breaks. I can get so much done in this first two hours that I can spend the rest of the day in school, with clients, practicing self-care, going to a meeting or exercising, all of which has all been carefully intended in advance, for a sense of direction, balance and variety for the day and throughout the week. To achieve these things, having a balanced diet is really important to me and is something I am currently working on through Isagenix because diet is foundational to be able to sleep well and wake in the early morning and live my best life. Bottom line, I don't do well without some kind of idea of what success will look like for that day, so completing my tasks = success. For this reason, I'm careful to prioritize my time and let my "Yes be Yes & my No be No" when it comes to how I spend my time with people and projects. I know they say you can't do it all, but I think if you know what you really want to do, you can find a way to do a lot when you are working in alignment with your natural rhythm. Recovery means you can change from living your life from the failure soundtrack with mismatched words that do not even rhyme set to the banging of clanging symbols or you can get curious and go through a process of trial and error to find your own rhythm and beat and set the music to any speed where you align your life with your greatest capacity for good. Whatever your new song is ~ this is your time to find it, sing it and live it.
There was more to this post than I anticipated and it definitely got more personal than I predicted, but I'm grateful to complete my biweekly goal of publishing at least two perfectly imperfect blog posts a month. Please leave a comment to let me know your thoughts and share this post if you think it would be helpful to someone you know working towards recovery from addictive behaviours or substances in their life.
All my Relations - Frances Stone, Ms. Recovery Writes
Frances Stone is the Author of A Reflection of Love ~ A Different Kind of Love Story, a Recovery Counsellor and a Radio Co-Host of Talk Recovery Vancouver, a show about addiction and recovery issues, located in the DTES of Vancouver, BC. In her spare time, she does laundry and mothers three clever, curious and challenging little humans.