My Journal

AA Without God?

AA Without God?

When I joined OA, the whole “God thing” was a big hang up for me. It kept me from going to AA meetings when I quit drinking years before. I didn’t want someone to tell me to pray more and read the Bible and I’ll be fine. I needed real life solutions to my problems.

The problem with that is it made me bitter and closed off. I wasn’t open to any spiritual discussion because I was so determined to say that a lack of God wasn’t my problem. I was determined to prove I was right. When we are bitter and closed off, we can’t heal. And what I needed more than anything was healing.

Being able to say I was powerless and that there has to be some bigger power at work allowed me to open up and see those real world solutions I had been searching for my whole life. They were always there. All around me. I just couldn’t see them because I had closed my eyes and refused to believe they were there.

I know the whole “God thing” is a big hang up for a lot of people in recovery. It keeps a lot of people away. We cling to our belief of non-belief scared that someone will take it away from us and we will be left with nothing to hold on to. That is a scary thought. But, the truth is, by holding on so tightly to a belief of non-belief, we are missing the whole point.

Don’t bring your personal development and spiritual health to a halt out of fear and selfishness. Open your mind and your heart and I promise you will find the answers you are looking for.

What Is Success In Life?

I have been struggling lately a lot with how I define success. I find myself getting caught up in comparing myself to others. I feel envious whenever I see someone who has more money than I do or has more fans than I do.

I get jealous. But then I also get down on myself. I feel like a failure because I am not measuring up to the person that has a million followers on Instagram. I set these impossible standards for myself and if I don’t reach them, then I have failed. And therefore by definition, I am not succeeding at life.

Just thinking through this and writing it down already shines a light on what is wrong with this thinking. But I still can’t help it sometimes. I feel like if I am not the best, then I am not successful. And that is a recipe for disaster because there will always be someone with more money and more Instagram followers.

That is a game I can never win.

So what does true success look like? Success doesn’t come from others. My success does not depend upon approval from anyone. I don’t have to compare myself to other people. None of that matters.

The only thing that matters is my health - physical, emotional, and spiritual.

With that in mind, I would define success as spiritual progression. Doing a little better today than yesterday is success. Learning to love and accept myself more is success. Spending more time serving others is success.

The truth is I am already successful because I am showing up every day. I am working on myself, sticking to my program and trusting God to lead the way. I am learning more about myself and others each day.

That is success.

I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to be better than anyone else. I only have to be me. I am perfect the way I am because God created me this way. I have the exact amount of Instagram followers I am supposed to have right now. I have all the money that I need and I have an amazing perfect number of fans who love what I do. Everything is as it is supposed to be right now. And I will continue to grow each day.

The truth is I am who God wants me to be today and if that's not success, then I don’t know what is.

Serving Others

“All of me should be serving you”

This year I am putting out a new single every month. Each single represents one of the 12 core principles I believe are the key to a happy and fulfilled life. The first principle was Abundance, the second was Gratitude, third Acceptance and now comes the fourth - Serve.

I have spent a lot of years of my life being extremely selfish. I would spend my days just trying to make myself happy. I was all in my head, making every little thing all about me. I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working.

If I was spending so much time trying to figure how to be happy, why was I still so miserable?

That is where the fourth principle comes in. A life lived only serving ourselves is always going to come up short. We end up feeling lonely, inadequate, frustrated and exhausted. It just doesn’t work. The true path to happiness has to include serving others.

When we serve others, we get outside of our heads. We focus on someone else and take our minds off of our own problems. It gives us freedom from the stresses of life as we spend time working on another’s problems.

It helps us connect with one another and realize we are not alone. It helps us feel understood. We are all brothers and sisters and connected on a deep, spiritual level. The only way to experience that feeling is to spend time together.

Serving others brings us satisfaction in knowing we are useful. It reminds us that we matter. The world needs us and every time we serve another, we are shown how much that is true. We each possess very specific skills that we can use to help others. It is our duty to get out there and use those skills.

Serving others shows us how much we can truly affect our surroundings. Helping someone in a small way can send a huge ripple effect out into the world. If you open a door for someone and ask how their day is going, you put a smile on that person’s face and lift their spirits. That makes them want to do something nice for the next person. And then that person goes out does something for another and on and on it goes.

Serving another can actually change the world. Isn’t that amazing?

Serving others makes us feel good. It’s the combination of all these things that brings us joy and peace. It puts our problems in perspective and reminds us how much we have to live for. Serving is a way to change the world, yes. But it is also a way to change OUR own world.

I hope on April 1st, 2019 you will take a listen to my new single Serve. I think it will remind you how important this principle is to all of us and it might just inspire you to start a ripple of your own!

One Day At A Time

One day at a time

Sometimes I get extremely overwhelmed thinking about the future, especially when it comes to staying sober and abstinent. I still struggle with the idea that I will never get to drink or eat certain foods again. It seems like an impossible task. It also seems incredibly unfair.

I can keep going down that rabbit hole of a thought process and land on it’s not healthy to never enjoy certain foods again. And believe me, you can find plenty of people who would agree with that. They would say cutting things out completely is too drastic and not sustainable. What you need to do is learn moderation?

That is when I start to laugh because I have tried moderation time and time again. It may work for some people, but it does not work for me. As a matter of fact, moderation makes things worse for me because it keeps the cravings alive. Every time I have tried to indulge a little here and there, I would end up binging in no time.

I know abstinence is my ticket to freedom. But I don’t have to spend my time thinking about how I will never get to drink or eat certain foods again. All I have to do is stay sober and abstinent today. 24 hours. I know that my day today and my day tomorrow are going to be a million times better if I stay sober and abstinent today.

So I’m going to do that.

Even more, I am excited to do it because I have finally found a way to live the life I have always wanted. I have real purpose in my life. I get up every day with a drive and a focus that I never had when I was drinking or in the food. I sleep better and I wake up every morning with energy and vigor that I never had. I have so much love in my life, it’s ridiculous. And the truth is, I always had it, but now I am allowing myself to see it and feel it. And it feels amazing!

I am choosing to work my program today because it is working. I don’t have to worry about the future. I don’t have to say that I’m never going to drink again or I’m never going to eat ice cream again. I’m not concerned with a day that hasn’t even happened yet. My only concern is this day and what I need to do to make it great.

And when I lay my head down on that pillow tonight, I will have peace knowing that I lived another day in victory. I was able to live the day of my dreams because I was sober and abstinent. I know I can do this today and that is all I need.

One Is Never Enough

One Is Never Enough

I am not like other people. I can’t do some of the things that other people can do. This is just a fact that I need to accept.

I can’t have one drink because one is never enough for me. I could never understand how people did that. If someone asked me to go “have a drink,” to me that meant we are going to get hammered! I would be 5 in and notice others just sipping on their first.

What is wrong with these people? Let’s do this!

Next thing you know I’m ordering shots for everyone to get them “caught up.” I thought I was the normal one. But it turns out I was wrong. Normal people like to have a drink, chat a little and then go home to their normal life. I have never been able to do that. I have never wanted to.

I can’t have an occasional treat, like ice cream or cake, because one treat leads to twenty. As soon as I get a taste, the sugar takes over and my cravings kick in. I may just have the one in front of present company, but then when I’m alone later, I am at the grocery story buying a quart of ice cream with hot fudge. I then proceed to spend the rest of my evening eating as much as I can until I get sick. You would think, then, that I had learned my lesson?

But no.

By the next day, I would be at it again. More ice cream. More hot fudge. More shame and guilt. I don’t understand how people can just have a piece of cake at a party and then be good for a while. That was never me. One was never enough. One was just a tease.

It may seem unfair at first that I am not normal. I have had my days of feeling sorry for myself. But the truth is it is a blessing to understand this about myself and to accept it because now I can stop trying to be like other people. Now I can stop getting mad at myself for not being able to “control myself” like other people seem to be able to do. I can stop beating myself up and focus on what I CAN do.

I get to eat delicious food every day that makes me feel great. I get to be free from the cycle of addiction and the mental obsession that takes over. I get to be free from cravings and I get to enjoy being clear headed and sober.

This life is awesome and although I may not be like other people, I am not alone. There is an army of us marching together. A “distinct entity” walking shoulder to shoulder and we are exactly the people we are supposed to be.

The Isolation Of Addiction

For me, drinking always starts as a social thing but then ends as an isolation tool. Drinking in high school was always about being at the party, trying to hook up with some girl. It was about friends and rebelling against our parents. It was fun and exciting.

But at the end of my drinking career, it became about getting away from people and being alone. That way I could drink as much as I wanted and as long as I wanted without judgement. I also didn’t have to pretend that I cared about the people around me because when I was getting drunk, it was all about me. It was purely for my pleasure and had nothing to do with the people around me. They just got in the way.

Even when I was around others, I couldn’t wait to be alone. I could care less about the party that use to be the best part. That’s when I knew something had changed. All I wanted to do was be alone with my drink and my food. Pretty soon the excitement was gone and it wasn’t fun anymore.

That is the progressiveness of my illness of addiction. It always starts out fun and ends up in misery. I can’t just have a few drinks to be social. I have to take it to the extreme. And the extreme is me, alone in a room, drinking more and more just trying to keep the party going a little longer. I could never drink enough. I could never eat enough. In the end, I was still sad and alone. All the drink and food did was add a hangover to the mess.

A life of drinking and overeating just isn’t a real answer. It isn’t sustainable. It may start out as fun, but it’s a lie. It may feel like a social lubricant at first, but for people like me, it always turns into a way to isolate. It promises comfort and joy, but it really brings sadness and pain.

I know now that I like to be alone. I get recharged by spending time on my own. And that’s ok. But I need to remember that I need people too. I am not meant to be isolated from the world. And I don’t want to be anymore because all that led to was extreme loneliness and sadness.

So I’m going to choose people over addiction today. I’ll see how that goes. And I have a feeling I will want to choose people again tomorrow.

Things Addicts Say To Justify...

Thinks Addicts Say To Justify...

Whatever your drug of choice is, we all have used the same excuses to justify using again.

To celebrate my 3 year anniversary of being sober, I thought it would be fun to look back at some of the excuses I used to use to justify having that first drink. There are many times I would go 6-8 months without drinking and then start thinking some of the following things. And once I gave in and had that first drink, it was all over. The addiction cycle began all over again and I was in hell.

Here are a list of some of my excuses. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • I deserve this. I’ve gone so long now without a drink. I deserve a reward.

  • Everyone else gets to drink. Why can’t I?

  • There’s no way I’m never going to drink again so I might as well just do it.

  • I need to just drink less this time.

  • I can control it now. I just needed a break.

  • I’ll just drink on gigs.

  • I’ll just drink at home.

  • I’ll just drink 1-2 times a week.

  • I want to get drunk.

  • It’s fun to get buzzed.

  • I never do anything fun anymore. I deserve to have fun.

  • Getting drunk sounds fun

  • My life sucks. I just want to drink.

  • Drinking will make me feel better.

  • It will be different this time.

  • I’ll just have one day of drinking and then get back to work on being sober and healthy.

  • I want to be part of the party.

  • It’s unfair that I don’t get to drink.

  • I miss the old days.

  • I think it’s time for a drink.

  • I’ve been sober long enough to prove that I don’t have a problem.

Every time I had one of these thoughts and then gave in, I would be back into the misery of addiction in days or weeks tops. These were all lies and excuses that led me back to that hell. If you find yourself saying these things to yourself, know that you are not alone. We all have these thoughts. But I have given in enough to know that they lead to an awful life.

All these thoughts are just our disease trying to bring us back. They are lies. And we don’t live in lies anymore. We live in truth. The truth is we deserve to be free. And freedom comes from letting those thoughts go and celebrating another day of sobriety.

Happy sobriety day to anyone who has a day, a week, a year or a decade sober!

Addiction Panic

I am an alcoholic and a food addict. I also have an anxiety disorder. My days of addiction were filled with panic attacks. I use to get them almost daily. Fear would grip my entire body. I felt like I was dying or I was going to have a seizure.

I would be so scared for my life in these moments and knew I had to quit drinking and overeating. I knew my bad habits were playing a big role in triggering these panic attacks. But then, when I would consider walking away from my addictions, the panic of not having my only comforts would kick in. It was a catch 22. Damned if I did. Damned if I didn’t.

Can I survive a life of continuing to get my fixes every day? But then, how would I survive without them?

Talk about insanity. I was stuck in the middle of these two choices for years and years. Both with food and alcohol. I remember being in a constant panic. If I didn’t get my fix, how would I survive? What would I have to look forward to every day? And this want became a real need. I needed the food and alcohol to survive and have any joy at all.

I felt trapped and unable to make a move. And this would cause endless bouts of depression and anxiety. It was a scary way to live my life.

Thank God He pulled me out when He did. He showed me it was possible to have joy without my indulgences. Matter of fact, the joy I experience now is real and lasting. And best of all, it has no side effects. I don’t have to suffer through days of hangovers just to get a few hours of fun in my life. I don’t have to spend my days feeling bloated and winded just so I could have a few hours of fun with food.

But the best part is the panic attacks are pretty much gone. I still may have a moment of panic here and there, but I now know how to deal with it. I can call on God to give me strength. I can reach out to my fellows for encouragement. I am not alone. And I am not relying on a deadly substance to get me through the day. The constant panic has been replaced by serenity and freedom.

I am finally free from this insanity and panic. And this freedom came from working the 12 steps of OA. I never want to go back to that life. And I can say honestly today that I will do whatever it takes to stay on this path of recovery and freedom from the panic that used to rule my life.

How To Make The Right Choice

We have a choice to make and we must make it every day.

Are we going to fight or give up?

Both are very real options and when we get up every day, we have to choose which one it’s going to be. And to not choose is in itself a decision to give up. It’s crucial that we make this decision first thing every morning. It will be the difference between success and failure in our lives.

Abstinence and sobriety take work. It takes an intentional attitude and an actual plan that we follow. So if we choose to fight, then we need to follow through by making a plan for our day and then following it.

The power of planning cannot be overstated. It doesn’t need to be an overly detailed plan, either. We just need to plan the following five things:

  1. What are we going to eat?

  2. When are we going to eat?

  3. How are we going to serve?

  4. What are we going to do to live out our true purpose in life?

  5. What are we going to do if temptation strikes?

If we have a plan that includes these five things, then we are going to win the fight that day. And at the end of the day, we can lay our heads down in victory, ready to get up the next day and make the choice to do it again.

And if one day, the fight seems like to much to bare, it’s ok. We don’t have to win every battle, we just need to keep showing up and choosing to fight. That’s how we will win the war. Success is nothing but a series of battles won, one day at a time. If we choose to fight every day, then we are guaranteed to have the successful life we have always dreamed of.

How A Food Recovery Retreat Saved My Life

Food was always my first love. Ever since I was a kid, food was my best friend, my safety net, and my go to solution when I needed comfort. Oh yea, I also loved eating when I was happy. It was my favorite way to reward myself after a job well done. Even though I say “was,” the truth is, deep down I still feel this way about food. But COR, an amazing food recovery retreat in Minneapolis, MN, helped me realize how damaging that way of life was and more importantly showed me what my other options were. And they are awesome!

Before COR

Before COR

I grew up in a good home. Everything looked great on the outside. But behind closed doors, our family was a mess. My mom and dad fought constantly. There was a lot of yelling and screaming. But whenever it was time to eat, everything was ok. Sitting in front of the TV, eating with my family, was the one time that everyone got along. It felt safe. It felt like everything was fine. It was the one escape from the madness. And as I got older, I continued to use food for safety and comfort. I didn’t realize it at the time. It was just an instinct. I wanted to survive so I grabbed the nearest thing that would get me there and that was food.

The problem is, as time went on, it was never enough. I could never eat enough to feel truly safe or happy for long. I always wanted more and more because the only time I was happy was when I was eating. Then I started hanging out in bars. I’m a musician, so it’s my job to entertain in bars every night. It’s also part of the job to drink and get others to drink more. So I took that to heart and really went for it. Now I was drinking a lot and eating a lot. I gained weight so incredibly fast. Most of my adult life (I’m 42 now) I have weighed over 400 pounds. The worst it got was actually after I quit drinking. I knew I was going to die if I kept drinking the way I was, so after one night landing in the ER with severe heart palpitations, I decided to quit. And I did. But instead of drinking, I turned to food.

2 years later, I was over 500 pounds and miserable. I could barely walk 10 steps without having to stop to catch my breath. My knees hurt so bad, I could almost not get up after sitting anymore. I had asthma and was constantly wheezing. I was pre-diabetic and constantly scared I was going to have a heart attack. The list goes on and on, but I knew I had to do something quick. That’s when I found COR.

My life completely changed the moment I walked in those doors. The people were so nice to me. Love and kindness was something I really craved and it meant the world to get that there. And when we started talking about the disease of addiction and how the 12 steps could help me overcome this, it was over. I knew this was me. This was the solution I have been looking for my entire life! For the first time in years I saw hope again! I felt like I finally found my people too. Finally I could understand that I wasn’t a freak with no willpower. I had this disease that was curable if I was willing to take the steps. Once I realized that, I was all in! I worked the first three steps at COR, found my first sponsor and started working the steps as soon as I got home.

After COR

After COR

It’s been about 7 months now. I’ve lost 109 pounds! That is super exciting and there aren’t enough words to express how much better I feel physically. But truly the best part of it all, is the day to day of it. I have a meal plan I love. I don’t have to obsess on food all day. I have time and energy to put into things that matter now. I am connected to a bunch of amazing people. I have freedom and peace that I have been craving since I was a little kid. And I finally feel safe and loved without looking for it in food. I can’t say enough about COR. It literally saved my life and made the life I’m living 100xs better. I am finally on a real road to recovery, not just some fad diet. This is the life I’ve always wanted and I have COR to thank for all of it!

Why Am I Always Broke?

Why am i always broke?

I’ve been broke my whole life. Whether I was making great money or no money, it didn’t matter. I’ve always been broke. Everything has been a struggle. I could never afford health care. I could never afford to pay my taxes. I could never afford to pay my mortgage. I lost a house to foreclosure and I almost lost my second. I had to file for bankruptcy because it go so bad. I didn’t know what else to do.

When I filed for bankruptcy, I was making close to $60K a year with no dependents. Also, I would track all my money in and out. I knew exactly where I was spending my money. I knew exactly what I was bringing in. I had a budget every month.

What?! Why was I always broke?

I got to the point of almost losing my mind. I constantly felt like a failure. I couldn’t claim ignorance because I’ve read all the books about what you’re suppose to do with money. I knew what to do.

I couldn’t claim low income because I was making really good money with no child support or alimony or other common excuses men use for financial woes.

The truth is I had only myself to blame and my problem was two-fold.

  1. I was spending too much money on my addictions.

  2. I believed I would always be broke.

I really felt like it was impossible for me to get ahead in life. Especially as a working musician. No, I was just meant to live the life of a suffering, poor musician. So that’s exactly what I was.

As you might guess, nothing changed until I did. I had to face these two issues or I would never accomplish the things I wanted and I would never live the life I dreamed about.

First up was my addictions. My first concern with these behaviors was health based. I was dying. I weighed over 500 pounds and could barely move. That had to change. But the other part was the money. I was spending $2-$3K a month on my addictions. Yep, you read that right. $30,000 or more on alcohol and food per year. That is what we call “unsustainable.” And that is what addiction does. It blinds you to reality so you can keep living in your little comforts.

“Just one more day and I’ll change.” I said that for years.

I had to quit drinking. And I had to get my eating under control. If you want to hear more about how I did that, you can check out My Recovery Story. It was not an easy path, but one I knew I had to take. I am still a work in progress, but by the grace of God I’m sober and abstinent from compulsive overeating today.

Now the second problem. This one was even harder to conquer. It was my mindset. I truly believed that I was just meant to be poor. It was too hard to get ahead. The world was out to get me. Murphy kept showing up at my front door. Just when I thought I was getting ahead, something bad would happen and take me right back to zero. I was drowning and saw no rescue in sight.

The truth was no one was going to come save me. I had to stop looking for a rescue boat and start swimming.

Are these water analogies landing?

It was up to me. And if anything was going to change, I had to start believing in what was truly possible again. When I really thought about it, things went south when I stopped believing in myself and the possibilities of life. I had to get that back. And I had to start believing that good things could happen to me. Even more, that I DESERVED good things to happen to me.

It took a lot of counseling, late night conversations, reading, studying and praying to finally start to get it.

I was created to be successful. I am meant to be happy and healthy. I am a creation of God and I matter. There is a plan for my life. All I have to do is start believing again.

So I chose to believe. I started telling myself every day that I live in abundance. I am not poor, I am rich. I am surrounded by love, opportunity and money. Everywhere I look, these things are in my life. And you know what, they always have been I just couldn’t see them until I chose to see them.

Once I made that choice, things started to happen. Money started showing up. Gigs started rolling in. I got a bunch of piano students and my record company started to get its wings. God was working and my reality became one of true abundance.

I still have to get up and choose abundance every day. But when I do, it makes all the difference. I use to always be broke but now I am rich beyond my wildest dreams. Even if I don’t have the bank account to back that up yet, I have no doubt I will soon. And more than that, I have the friends, family and love to remind me all along the way just how rich I am.

“If you see yourself as broke, then you’re gonna be broke. If you see yourself as doomed, then you’re gonna be doomed. But if you see yourself as rich, surrounded by love, surrounded by money, surrounded by opportunity, then you’re gonna live abundantly.”

Abundance - The New Single From Chris Swan - Coming January 1st, 2019!

How To Overcome Fear

Fear is a powerful force. It’s also incredibly sneaky the way it can work itself into our lives, quickly take hold, and destroy our hopes and dreams. Fear can be paralyzing, keeping us from making decisions and moving on with our lives.

Fear can keep us isolated. So often we spend way too much time worrying about what others think of us. It can make us push people away when all they want to do is love us. Fear can make us believe that we don’t belong. It can make us feel like we are not good enough or cool enough, which can lead to self-loathing and a feeling of worthlessness. It can lead us down a path to where we don’t even want to live anymore.

Fear can fester and destroy our lives. It’s so important that we call out our fears and face them head on. We need to look at them logically, find the false information we base them on, and replace them with truth.

The truth is we were created to be here and we are here for a purpose. We do belong and we are worthy of love. We are perfectly imperfect just the way we are, even with all our flaws. We are meant to be happy and successful.

Fear can work it’s way into our lives quickly, so we need to choose to see the truth over our fears everyday. A great exercise is this: every night before we go to bed, we need to take a few minutes and ask ourself “Was I afraid today?” If the answer is yes, we need to call out those fears. Look at them logically and see if they really make sense. Then replace those thoughts of fear with the truth.

If we do this consistently every day, we can destroy fear. It won’t disappear forever, but we can keep it from ruining our lives. We can gain strength in reminding ourselves of what the truth really is. And then we can live the lives we were truly meant to live.

Don’t let fear steal your joy away from you. Let the truth ring free and give you the peace you have been looking for your whole life.

What are the benefits of honesty?

“Honesty is truth and that truth shall set us free.”
-Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book Pg. 218

What a great quote from the Big Book. Honesty has been a big part of my recovery. Honesty towards others, sure, but mainly honesty with myself. It’s been one of the biggest challenges and also one of the biggest gifts.

To start getting better, I had to admit I was powerless. I had to accept that I had a problem and I needed help. I had to stop lying to myself saying “It’s not that bad” or “I’ll change someday.” The truth was I was dying. And once I could admit that honestly, I was finally willing and able to do what I needed to do to live.

And now every day I have to practice honesty to stay sober from alcohol and abstinent from compulsive overeating. I have to face the consequences of my actions, truthfully.

If I choose to drink again, I have to be honest with myself about what that would feel like. It would be fun for a few minutes or hours, but then it would be hell for days. I have to stop romanticizing my days of drinking and look at them for what they were - an insane cycle of misery and depression. That’s the truth, not this fuzzy memory I keep coming back to where those were the “best days of my life.” I was not living the dream. I was living the nightmare when I was drinking and by being honest with myself about that, I can push the alcohol away for another day.

When it comes to the food, I have to weigh and measure my food honestly, not trying to sneak in a little extra here and there. I have to report to my sponsor any changes I need to make in my food plan throughout the day. And I need to share my story with others - openly and honestly. This is the only way I can stay on a healthy path and it’s important to encourage others in their journey.

When you live a life of lies, you have to work really hard to keep them all straight and to try to make yourself believe them. It’s so much work and, honestly, it’s really exhausting. I don’t ever want to go back to that “house of cards” life. When you choose honesty, all that work goes away and you are free.

I’ve tried it both ways and I can say honestly that honesty has been the better path by far.

The Substitute

For years when I was drinking and overeating, my biggest fear about quitting was “What will I do with the time? What will I have left to make me happy?” I always came up short, unable to come up with something. I was so scared my life would be empty and boring without my addictions.

WOULD I GO INSANE WITHOUT MY COMFORTS?

When I quit drinking, food became my substitute. Instead of alcohol, I just doubled up on food. And there was some comfort in knowing that I had a back up vice to turn to. At least I had one comfort left.

BUT THE FOOD WAS KILLING ME.

Ironic how the substance that is supposed to give us life was actually taking mine. And all because I was scared I wouldn’t be able to find happiness without it. I had to let my overeating go but how could I possibly find any joy in life without it? With food being my final vice, what would I substitute this addiction with?

Then came OA. And I discovered a permanent substitute for all my addictions. One that really worked and brought joy into my life. Real joy. Joy that would last longer than a drinking binge or a 2 hour meal. One that didn’t include hangovers, guilt or shame. It was the answer I had been seeking for all these years.

THE SUBSTITUTE WAS THE FELLOWSHIP OF BROTHERS AND SISTERS I FOUND IN OA.

I finally found my people in the rooms of OA. We are the same in so many ways. Finally I am not alone. We are all in this together. I am surrounded by an army of people who get it. And I can’t overstate how much comfort I find it that. For years, I tried to overcome my addictions alone. It felt overwhelming and impossible.

But there is strength in numbers. I have meetings I can go to so I can stay connected to people who care. I have people to call when I am having a hard time. I get to serve my fellows by picking up the phone and encouraging them when they need it. There is also a lot of hope in hearing another’s story of struggle. And also hearing the stories of those who have overcome their addictions.

IF THEY CAN DO IT, SO CAN I.

I am choosing community and connection over isolation and addiction. There is so much more joy on this side. The fellowship brings true joy and peace that I never was able to find in alcohol or food.

I finally found the substitute I have been searching for my whole life. This is what true happiness feels like.

If you can relate to this, I would highly encourage you to check out AA or OA, depending on your drug of choice. The fellowship is waiting with open arms. You don’t have to do this alone anymore.

The Promises In A.A.

Sometimes we feel lost. We feel unsure of our future. And I’ve found in my recovery from alcoholism and food addiction, these feelings creep up more than ever before. There are some days that I feel on top of the world. Those days are a lot of fun. And it’s important to enjoy them. But there are also a lot of hard days where I miss the comfort I use to experience from my old vices. Sometimes I feel completely empty with no substitute for these substances. I feel like I’m all alone. I feel like it’s unfair that I don’t get to enjoy the things that other people seem to be able to.

After I wallow in my pity party for a few moments, I pull myself out by remembering how miserable my life use to be when I was using. It’s so easy to forget that and to just over romanticize the good ol’ days. But the old days were not all good days. They were mostly awful so I have to remind myself of that fact.

The next thing I can do, is look to the promises of the Big Book of AA. These are examples what of others have experienced from going through recovery and just knowing that these await me is more than enough to pull me out of my pity party. On days that are really hard, I can hold onto these promises. You can find all of them on pages 83-84 of the Big Book. But here is a summary of some of my favorites.

The Big Book promises us that we will know a new freedom and peace that we have never felt before. We will not regret the past. We will see how our experiences can benefit others. The feeling of uselessness and self pity will disappear. Self-seeking will slip away. Our outlook on life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will know how to handle hard situations. We will realize that God is doing for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves.

What amazing promises these are. They reassure me that I am truly living the life I was meant to live. These promises are the things I have been searching for my whole life. I am so thankful to finally be on the path to achieve them.

If you are having a hard day, I would challenge you to pick up a Big Book and read through the promises. There is also a great PDF with a list of the promises you can find by clicking here. There is always hope. There is always a better day coming. And knowing that other’s have experienced this fact, is often just enough inspiration to get me through one more day.

What is your favorite promise in the Big Book? Leave me a comment and let me know how it has changed your life.

The Benefits of Gratitude

One of the biggest keys to success in recovery is gratitude. I don’t know why, but my default setting is negativity, cynicism and bitterness. I spent years being a bitter pessimistic person. It’s so weird that this is also the time in my life where I was the most depressed?!

I don’t know why the negativity comes so easy. It’s like there is comfort in complaining. I think cynicism is just a way to let myself off the hook and to not really try for anything. Saying things like “I’m just meant to be fat. It’s impossible to lose weight.” let me feel like I didn’t have to try.

But humans are designed to try and try again. We need a purpose and a goal to strive for. If we are not striving for something, we feel incomplete. So that’s how I felt. Bitter, lonely and incomplete. I was miserable.

Now I choose to focus on gratitude every day. It’s something I have to consciously choose to see and practice. But when I do, I see a whole new world. I see all the love and opportunity that surrounds me. It’s always been there, I just couldn’t see it before.

Gratitude has made all the difference in my life so I am going to keep choosing it every day. I would encourage you to give it a try as well. It may just be the change you are looking for.

How To Be Perfect

"I always thought that I was supposed to try to be perfect."

I am a perfectionist. Always have been since I was a little kid. Almost to the point of being obsessive about some things. I am very grateful that God made me this way because it drives me to work hard and to strive to be better. But it has also brought its challenges.

My goal has always been perfection. I don’t think I really realized that in my conscious mind for a long time, but in my subconscious mind that has always been what I was trying to achieve. And the reason is this:

If I’m perfect, then no one can hurt me.

If I have no flaws and I am superior at everything I do, then no one can say anything negative about me. Even better, if they do, I’ll know they are crazy because I’m perfect. I have no flaws. My pursuit of perfectionism was my defense mechanism. I know this is true because even to this day if someone says something bad about me or I feel inferior somehow, I get a drive in the pit of my stomach to go be the best at something. That’s when I want to practice the most, or write songs or study something. Because I want to be able to prove to them that I am amazing. So I go to work mumbling under my breath “I’ll show them!”

The real result of this mindset has been constant failure and a very deep, dark depression. I could never live up to my expectations of myself, therefore, I was always failing. Instead of being the best at something, I was a loser at everything. I began to hate myself because of this. And it got worse and worse as I got older. Until one day I looked in the mirror and I was a 500+ pound alcoholic.

I was frustrated and sad constantly. I could never accept love from other people because I didn’t love myself. I was lonely. Never good at long term relationships. I was finding comfort in food and alcohol. Like A LOT of food and alcohol! And I was barely hanging on to life. On the outside I seemed cool, laid back and fun. But on the inside I was steaming mad at myself, stressed out and angry.

Is this what being perfect is all about?

I finally had to accept the fact that I will never be perfect. Ever. It is hard for me to even type that sentence right now. But I finally know that it’s true. And I know it has been a big source of pain in my life. I have to let it go.

Now, I am striving to be perfectly imperfect. I laugh at myself a lot because I really love who I am. The pressure is off. I can be me and use all that energy I use to put towards trying to be perfect towards something that matters. Like making music that will change people’s lives. Telling my story to those who need to hear it. And being a part of a community again full of imperfect folks just like me.

I wrote a song all about my struggle with perfectionism called….ready for it…”Perfect.” If perfectionism is something you struggle with, I hope you’ll take a minute to check it out. I think you will be able to relate to a lot of it. And I think you may walk away knowing you are already perfect the way you are.

I Need To Believe

"God either is or isn't.  We have a choice to make." 

That's from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.  And it really is that simple.  We can choose to not believe in God.  To live in a man-ruled world full of selfishness.  We can choose to believe that there is no plan for our lives.  Everything happens by chance.  We have no real purpose and we don't matter at all.  And when we die, we go into a hole in the ground and it's lights out.  That's it.

This is what many people choose to believe.  And that's totally fine.  We all have the right to choose.  But I can't live like that.  I can't live in a world of selfishness with no purpose, just waiting to be stamped out and forgotten.  I need to believe.  I need God.

I need to know that I matter and I have a purpose.  I need strength from God and grace from God.  I need the peace that comes from knowing God has a plan.  I know I matter because of God and I'm not alone because of God.  And I know when I die, there will be a place for me with God.

So I choose to believe.  Not only because I need these things but also because I see Him working in my life everyday.  To have it the other way only leads to a depressing life of misery and loneliness.  I tried that life for a while.  It did not work out so good.  I almost died from trying to find other things to fill the emptiness I felt.  Alcohol didn't work.  Food didn't work.  Tobacco didn't work. 

The only thing that has worked is God. 

I know now that God created me for amazing things.  He wants me to be healthy and successful.  And He is there always to give me strength.  When I see Him doing little things in my life, it reminds that I matter.  The same is true for you.

This is not a sermon.  This is just me sharing what is working for me.  I know how it feels to be depressed, miserable and alone.  And I just want you to know there is a way out of that life.  Don't be afraid to look up.  It could change your life forever.