After rehab, I entered ‘the rooms’ as a protocol for what I, and others, believed would be helpful. I was desperate to overcome the feelings that I had tried to outrun my entire life. As life would have it, my life improved for some time. I went religiously to meetings three times a week, did step work and worked one to one with a sponsor for many years. However, there was this tiny voice whispering to me that I had a calling to teach others how to transcend their pain and dysfunction and there must be something more.
As much as I connected to the 12-step community, I also had much ambivalence. I felt I truly belonged to this community but my heart screamed for more. Five years later, I found myself at a closed meeting, to which I was still struggling with stating my name, and saying I am an alcoholic. I continued to wonder if I was truly an alcoholic/addict. I also had some strong reactions to the sometimes-derogatory language that accompanies the rooms which was threatening my unhealthy self-esteem.
I have immersed myself fully into the recovery culture, eager to learn, and dove in, committed to my recovery process. Rehab, individual and group therapy, 12 step meetings, a devout daily practice (to this day) which consist of prayer and meditation, retreats, somatic therapy and eventually becoming a certified addiction counselor. I created programs, and performed outreach for individuals and families who suffer with substance use disorder, yet there was still something missing from my life.
I believe I have perspective on my illness and I am to this day teachable, as I hopefully continue to evolve to my highest self-actualized self. I must preface that none of the above could have ever been considered or achieved without abstinence from mind altering substances.
The reason I write about this is to not to debate who I am, as I know on many levels I qualify and am an active and engaged member of the mental health and addiction community. Making a statement about one’s own ambivalence is enough to cause judgment, and sometimes outright unkindness that may accompany and prevent someone from even making a statement like this. I want to feel supported about my own ambivalence and not judged harshly for not conforming to what everyone else is doing. Ambivalence is normal, but not being able to explore it feels down right unhealthy. Intolerance can feel hostile which is what keeps us separate, whilst compassion is the bridge that connects us back.
To me, I have stated it many times and it is part of my business mission; that I don’t care how people get well, as long as they do! I support all paths to recovery and the process that it takes, and my personal mantra is “to do no harm. “ It is my belief that we can empower someone to make positive changes when we treat them with kindness, dignity, and compassion. Individuals are far more likely to take one step forward on their recovery journey when they feel supported, as compared to being judged or criticized for what and how they may be doing something differently or not at all. Recovery is the doorway to possibility and an invitation to living a life beyond your wildest dreams.
I recently met a gentleman named Bob, who displays this kindness and compassion in an extraordinary way. He lives his life simply, but with purpose. Bob has performed three random ‘acts of kindness’ every single day for the last 30 years. In fact, he shares his acts nightly with his daughter to keep him accountable for his personal mission to make an impact in this world. For example, Bob will pay for the person in front of him at Starbuck’s and does perform even bigger acts when warranted, for people in his life. When I heard this I marveled at the generosity of his heart and the volume of acts he would perform every day. When I heard Bob’s tenacious commitment to perform random acts of kindness it was beyond inspiring. I shared his work with my family and asked them to ponder on whether or not they wish to join me with this new positive and selfless way of life.
What if we all could just perform one act of kindness, how much happier and connected we would all be?
I knew instantly that I too could up my kindness quota, and make a difference by simply looking for opportunities to make a positive difference in someone’s life. It took years of performing random acts of kindness and doing the next right thing that allowed me to view myself in a different light, one with forgiveness and compassion.
The challenge has now been presented to you!
See if you can make a difference in the simplest way to others. It may be a genuine smile to somebody when you walk by them, going out of your way for someone, lend a helping hand without being asked, providing some well needed emotional or financial support, or simply bringing a tea or coffee when visiting with a friend.
Men and women who struggle with mental health issues are some of the most kind and sensitive souls ever, and their feelings are often amplified. Respect, kindness and compassion are important virtues to incorporate into our everyday lives and even more so into the recovery community, where sensitive souls may gather.
As a society, we value much needed virtues such as education and hold it in high esteem and one that commands respect. Interestingly we do not look at kindness with the same value. Obviously, everyone wants to be around people who shower kindness but do nothing to show its value. Respect, kindness and compassion are guiding principles as an antidote for troubling times.
I invite you to join myself, along with my friend Bob, by paying it forward daily with random acts of kindness, performing one act at a time. We are all stronger and happier together. Supporting each other is a key component to achieving a fulfilling life.