When I listen to and read about people's struggles in life and reflect upon my own, there are a number of common threads, no matter what the specific challenge. We feel alone or lonely, hopeless or helpless. Most of us spend a very long time seeking the answers to our discontent outside ourselves. We believe that a partner, a new home, a different job, a pay increase, another electronic gadget, a vacation, a change in hair style, clothes, gambling, drinking or drugging, will make us feel better.
But it never works – at least not for long. They are escapes, but not solutions.
It is unfortunate that we go to such great lengths acting out the same behaviour over and over again. It only leads to an unfulfilling and empty place inside. Why are we so stubborn? Why do we keep doing the same old stuff?
For me it was fear of change. For a good portion of my life my fears were masked by addiction. I was painfully unhappy, yet completely paralyzed by the fear of making any concrete and lasting changes in my life. Instead, I spent most of my time trying to change other people and manipulate circumstances to meet my needs. I played the victim and pointed at the people around me as the cause of my problems and unhappiness.
Eventually the pain of remaining the same was great enough that I found the courage to have an honest look at myself. Early in my recovery I started to tell myself "fear is lack of faith". When I felt fearful about a situation I needed to deal with or a behavior I needed to address (which was usually disguised as feeling lonely, angry or frustrated), I repeated this phrase in my head, and then asked the universe for the strength and guidance to overcome what was in front of me. Whatever the circumstance, I asked for the power to do what I feared doing – usually choosing the healthy, rather than the habitually unhealthy action or reaction I had chosen for many years. Each time I did this, the situation turned out better than I could have imagined. This process gave me faith in a power greater than myself and it has never let me down since.
I have learned the guidance system I am seeking, the happiness and ease of living I have always desired, is a part of me. It is not somewhere else or in someone else. External sources cannot sustain my happiness. It comes from quietly sitting with myself, and learning that God’s loving energy is inside of me and everywhere around me. It was a foreign, yet amazingly simple concept to grasp. So simple, in fact, that I wasn't willing to believe it could be so effortless.
Today I know the major cause of my unhealthy choices and lifestyle was low self-esteem. From the outside it didn’t appear this way: I was an over-achiever, but that was because I needed people to tell me I was special and important. My self-confidence had been crushed from years of addiction and dysfunction, but I eventually became willing to do whatever it took to learn how to love myself. Early on, I didn't even know what that meant, but by taking baby steps and doing the work (it did take work), it started to grow inside me.
I was told that praying is talking to your higher power and meditating is listening. If we can't stop the non-stop chatter in our heads, we block our ability to ask and to listen for answers. I used to think praying was for the weak, but today I recognize the strongest, most loving and successful people on the planet are those who believe in a higher power. They know they are never alone and are fully supported. It is a beautiful place to be.
(If you are interested in books on addiction recovery, I have written one called Insanity to Serenity. It is published under my maiden name, Tommi Lloyd, and can be found on Amazon.com.)