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Life's Lessons I’ve Learned to Embrace This Year

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Looking back over 2018, I realize that this has been a great year of inner-conversion for me. There are several lessons that I’ve learned through Recovery, and some of the most important ones, have incorporated themselves into my thinking and behavior this year. Here are the lessons that are making my life so much better…
1.Attention Does Not Equal Affection:Growing up as an isolated person who felt ultimately unlovable, I grew to desperately desire affection. Most people seemed to avoid me, or so I thought. Truth is, my behavior and body language told people to stay away from me. When someone was willing to have enough compassion for me to push past my steel-wall barriers, I immediately mistook their kind attention for true affection.
I was desperate for any small crumbs of affection that I could find. So I immediately mistook their kindness. Instead of seeing that these people were simply being nice, I immediately jumped to the conclusion that they wanted to be my best friend, or lov…

Boundaries Proclaim Your Inner-Truth as They Protect You From Abusive Behavior

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“No, my name’s not Baby, it’s Janet; Miss Jackson, if you’re nasty.” Janet Jackson
Boundaries are essential to recovery from codependency or any addictive behavior. Having boundaries means we learn to say no when something is unacceptable to us. We were never designed to please anyone, aside from our Creator. And yet those of us who grew-up people-pleasing everyone have a hard time learning to say NO in recovery.

A boundary tells another person what is acceptable to us and what is NOT acceptable to us. Deep down inside, we know our truth. Our feelings tell us when we are allowing someone else to overstep our boundaries. We immediately feel violated and resentful.

Recovery isn’t possible without boundaries. Whenever I feel afraid of alienating someone who is treading on my boundaries, I play Janet Jackson’s “Nasty” through my head. I love the line “No, my name’s not Baby, it’s Janet; Miss Jackson, if you’re nasty.”

This quote sets a perfect boundary. Jackson tells us what is acceptable …

Gently Release Unwanted Thoughts and Feelings

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Thoughts and feelings are deeply connected. Bad thoughts often prompt bad feelings, and sometimes bad feelings can lead to an avalanche of bad thoughts. Either way, we need to stop fighting unwanted thoughts and feelings.
Why? First, when we fight them, we give them power. The harder we fight them, the more power they gain over us. Second, there’s a reason why unwanted thoughts and feelings arise. We need to consider the fact that bad thoughts and feelings may surface because they want to be released from our systems. Sometimes these unwelcome visitors have been buried inside of us for years— and they want to be set free. And, of course, we want them to leave us.
They won’t leave if we fight them or emotionally medicate them away with our favorite addictive behavior. We have to just let them be until they pass through us and are released into nothingness. So now, when I’m faced with thoughts or feelings I don’t like, I simply let them be. I give them space, but I don’t allow them to …

Calm Your Busy Brain by Focusing on What Excites You

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It’s amazing. All of my life people have told me I look so calm, when in reality I have always been overwhelmed by a hurricane of horrific thoughts. Worry has been my constant companion, as a result of growing up in a household where there was constant mental and emotional chaos. And, of  course, having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder made it all worse.
This constant chaos, mixed with my OCD, put me into an ever vigilant fight or flight mode. Looking back, I can see now that I have almost always been trapped in my sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight), and have rarely been in touch with my parasympathetic nervous system (which actually allows us to rest and be calm.) All of this was fueled by the fact that I never felt safe— at home, school, walking down a street, at church, at a shopping mall, etc. No place on earth felt safe to me.
A doctor friend of mine recently told me that there are actually exercises he uses in his practice to help people get out of fight or flight and in…

Whose Rules Are You Living By?

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Every recovering person carries the heavy burden of inner-shame. We were shamed as children and it easily enslaved us into feeling very bad about ourselves. To this day, we are still struggling with identifying and disabling the shame that tells us we are worthless mistakes.

In order to eliminate this shame, we need to identify the source of it and what it is that keeps stoking it inside of us. The source of my shame is pretty easy to identify: My parents, certain teachings of the Church (or the way they were skewed by various authority figures), bullies, teachers, certain societal norms, etc. But identifying what inside of me keeps stoking my shame is more difficult.

Turns out, for many of us the truth of what’s stoking our shame is this: Someone else’s rules. I now understand that I have continued to shame myself, just like my mother did, because I am still living by many of the rules she forced upon me as God given truth. In reality, these rules were my mother’s truth, not God’s. …

Starve Your Negative Thoughts

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Being inside my head has never been a nice, safe place to be. Instead, it’s been a place of perpetual horror overrun with fear, dread, doom and anxiety. If nothing bad was literally happening in the real world around me, I’d always find a quick way to create a terrifying drama in my head. 
Recovery has given me the awareness to realize how I've learned to thrive on chaos since childhood. And I can now see how much my subconscious mind, in particular, works against me. It’s easier to recognize conscious negative thoughts, but extremely difficult to have control over the negative subconscious tapes that are constantly replaying through my head. Since I’m not always consciously aware of subconscious thoughts, I’ve decided to develop a simple mantra to retrain my brain. That mantra is “My subconscious mind is now working FOR me. All my subconscious thoughts bring healing and wholeness.”
Right now, everything is actually going my way in the real world. Under the direction of my Higher…

True Love Isn’t Based on Behavior

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I believe that so many of us have a hard time loving ourselves because none of us are able to love as God does. And that’s because many of us grew up under the scourge of a religion that taught us that God loves us based on our behavior. And this very vision of God was more often than not reinforced by our parents. We weren’t able to actually see God in daily action, but we were able to witness the behavioral patterns of our parents.
No doubt that most of our parents loved us unconditionally deep down inside, but their behavior rarely reflected this love. Instead we experienced the very human side of our parents; the side that was easily frustrated and angry; and the side that was quick to lash out at us with threatening, angry comments like “I love you when you’re good, but I don’t love you when you’re bad.”
This type of verbal abuse, combined with dysfunctional behaviors like the silent treatment, led us to believe that love was based on what we did or did not do right. Mom’s love,…