Open Topic

Mind Over Matter.

Life can often intrude in our best-laid plans no matter how carefully we make them. Couples months ago I made plans to workout everyday at the gym and never stop till I reach my weight goal. Well, I quickly realized that the matter, less time/more work, wasn’t bigger than my mind’s ability to deal with what shows up, when it shows up. If I take the case that the matter lives inside of me rather than the other way around, then I have a situation to deal with, but the situation doesn’t have me.

Isn’t that what mind over matter means? It doesn’t mean there is no matter to deal with; it means that mind trumps matter.

So here are 5 ways to harness the power of mind over matter as a practice.

1. Decide. No matter what, you’re going to do it. Once you reaffirm yes, the world of ideas open up to instruct you on how you’re going to make it happen. When I decided I was going to workout everyday to reach my goal weight, I began to pull a strategy together on how to prepare versus rigidly adhering to an old strategy that would no longer work given the conditions I was dealing with. Decision triggers imagination.

2. Look into what’s possible. See the matter exactly as it is in terms of time and resources. For me time was the biggest issue. Instead of moaning about it, I looked at what I could do. I could preserve my workouts each week. I knew if I did just that, I could successfully reach my weight goal. My workout became my sacred duty. And a most unexpected mental change occurred. Instead of dreading my workouts each week, I actually looked forward to it, forgot about the hard work I had to put in, and would push harder to reach my goal.

3. Stretch your thinking. The greatest part of the mind over matter practice is how it stretches your thinking. What seemed impossible becomes possible. It impacts not just the situation du jour, but wherever you feel like giving up on what you want to achieve. Remember to give up thinking that life is “just one damn thing after another”. Instead interrupt that kind of thinking by saying NO to the matter, and YES to your intention. When you do, you begin to have a sense that you impact your life by what you believe is possible.

4. Believe that you can do it. The first person you have to convince is yourself. If you don’t believe you can, no one else will believe it either. You can access the deep well of confidence that rests inside of you, a well that’s fed by continuing to demonstrate your commitment.

5. Do what’s in front of you to do. The way you become present to tackle the next step is to do what is present to do now. Life is full of unexpected twists and turns. Tackle them as they come, and don’t let them stop you.

Try this practice and let me know what you discover. If nothing else, it will bring you present to this moment to engage with what’s possible before aggravation can swamp you and overturn your resolve to invoke your mind over matter!


Open Topic

It IS A Disease.

There are so many who believe addiction is simple.

Mind over matter

How I wish this were true. If we’re so simple, then no one would ever become a slave to the many things we do. I know not one of us as a child said:

I think I want to grow up and sell my soul to the devil!!!

The more we write about our struggles and triumphs in addiction, the more likely it is that people may see that it is not a moral failing or a choice, but a disease of the body, mind, and spirit that must be arrested and maintained in order to heal. ~CTW~

Open Topic

I Am Strong, But I Am Exhausted.

Exhausted isn’t just enough to describe the state I am going through right now. I am exhausted yes, this tiredness is beyond physiological tiredness. It’s psychological, it’s emotional. I am tired of being strong. I am tired of trying to put on that smile on my face every day of a strong woman and be the Super Woman for anyone and everyone.

Suddenly I sit here, tight in the chest, feeling lost and unsure where to look for direction. I spent too long denying my own feelings and now I feel like I am the one who is unravelling.Many have told me I am the strong, independent, self-sufficient woman. It sounds nice, doesn’t it?

I never particularly set out to be this kind of woman, but life made me face my worst nightmares, I had to learn to become strong because no one was there for me through my struggles and tribulations, yet here I am, now I found myself worn-out and lost, wondering if someday someone would be there for me in all the ways I have been there for them.

I have always played the infallible woman role who seems to be able to do anything and everything.

When others look at me they see me as such. They see me as competent and able, but my soul is exhausted, while they see me sure-footed and steady…inside I am breaking.

I feel like I have spent my entire life trying to prove to myself that I am strong and being strong would be enough. I have spent so much of my energy setting such high expectations to be strong and shelving my own emotions that now I’m tired.

And now, it’s me who has become pale and worn out.

When you’re always the strong one, you usually suppress your desires, thoughts, and sometimes even how you feel. When you’re always the strong one, you’re very cautious about giving your problems to anyone else. You see that as laying a burden on the people you’re supposed to be supporting.

And the people who are usually so busy looking after others don’t always go around asking for help. But as the strong one you go through your own challenges, and there can be times where you reach a breaking point.

Truth in those of us that are the strongest end up needing someone the most. I see now that we all need someone who’s just a little bit stronger than we are. Yes, I said the NEED word, the word that I ran from for so long because it seemed it had a negative connotation.

But I have come to the realization that it’s okay not to be strong all the time, I used to tell myself to not let anyone in or let them know of my struggles, I had the belief that those that are strong, they don’t feel like they have the space to have a weak moment. What if someone sees you bleed? What if someone sees the tears you keep to yourself? What if someone hears the deepest dreams and desires in your life that you don’t always find the place or the time to talk about?

Now I have found myself exhausted from running from my need to be vulnerable.

I long to be taken care of, not financially, but I want a strong-arm around my shoulders, someone who can hold me down, no matter the storm I endured that day. I am independent economically, but I don’t wish to remain psychologically strong anymore. Yes, I desire to be caressed by someone.

There’s no wrong in craving for someone to hold you, to take care of you. It’s not something to be ashamed of. It’s a not weakness. It’s rather a strength, we all need a “someone” to remind us that it’s okay to not be strong all the time. It’s the power of love.

And of course you can continue being strong for others. But make sure it’s coming out of a strength you’re going to be able to sustain. ~CTW~


Open Topic

Progress Thru Empowerment.

What are people going to think of me? How will I ever bounce back from this? How am I going to get a job with a felony? Can I go back to school? How do I earn back trust from loved ones? How can I be taken seriously with a criminal record? Am I always going to be viewed as just a felon or criminal? What changes do I need to make to move on from my criminal past?

I did a presentation at a local high school and I talked about addiction and incarceration. This is what I brought to the table: If you are anything like me and have experienced significant interaction with the legal system, criminal charges, probation, or incarceration, these may be some of the questions you are asking yourself. Moreover, you may feel hopeless when even attempting to conceptualize a positive future with a criminal history. Often, substance use and legal consequences go hand in hand. Due to the social stigma attached to incarceration and a criminal history, conceptualizing a positive life can often seem daunting and unachievable. I am here to tell you that moving on from a criminal history is achievable. Furthermore, moving on from a criminal history can be an empowering experience that facilitates significant intrinsic (internal) motivation for continued change and personal growth. The following are some simple tips to help remove yourself from this social stigma, conceptualize a positive future, and become empowered to execute a positive life plan.

1) Be Transparent — Embrace Your Humanness

Often, individuals who have experienced legal consequences due to substance abuse or addiction feel the need to be secretive about their past. I can’t tell you how many times friends and acquaintances have asked me how to have something expunged or removed from their record.

Unfortunately, there are only a few charges that qualify to be “expunged” from one’s record; moreover, if an offence does qualify to be expunged, this can only be done once in a lifetime in most states. Often, researching how to do this can be time-consuming, costly, and may not illicit the results that we would like.

Rather than spending valuable time trying to hide your past, embrace it. Exhibiting transparency regarding your past can be an empowering experience. The ability to get honest with yourself and others through taking ownership of your past helps to rebuild credibility with loved ones and the community. Embrace your humanness! I know this seems easier said than done, but it is possible. People respect honesty, and often transparency will help people to respect you for sharing your story and owning past behaviors.

2) Be Authentic — Reconstruct Core Beliefs and Be Unafraid to Be You

Addiction and substance abuse can drastically impact our core beliefs. When in active addiction, we will say and do anything to get what it is that we want; moreover, we will side-step our integrity and engage in behaviors that may be the opposite of our core beliefs or how we are were raised. Subsequent to interaction with the legal system and/or incarceration, we may experience situations that require us to act inconsistently with our core beliefs for the purpose of self-preservation.

Deconstructing our previous story, externalizing problematic behaviors, identifying new and positive core beliefs, and rewriting our story consistent with these new positive core beliefs helps us to rebuild integrity and become empowered. Decide who you want to be, and what you want out of life, and go after it! Be fearlessly authentic! Be unapologetically you! Be vulnerable!

“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day.” —Brené Brown

3) Implement Self-Care — Be Kind to Yourself

Lack of self-care and being unkind to ourselves is the biggest stumbling block in moving forward from substance-induced criminal history. Stigmatizing words like “junkie,” “addict,” “felon,” “criminal,” and “offender” only perpetuate our own beliefs about ourselves. It hurts enough engaging in negative self-talk and referring to ourselves in this manner, but when others refer to us in this way, it only perpetuates those negative thoughts of self.

Stop engaging in negative self-talk! Realize that you are not bad, but that you made bad choices in the past. You are human, and humans are imperfect. Allow yourself to love yourself!

Set boundaries with others that refer to you in this manner. I’m not saying put up a wall, but sometimes a fence can be appropriate. You can not have rational conversation through a wall, but through a fence you can use your voice to assert yourself while maintaining a boundary. Know your self-worth, and do not allow anyone to speak to you in a manner which is degrading or less than human.

Engage in positive recreational activities. Find you again! Get involved in things you loved as a child or teenager. Be creative, be physical, and take care of your body, mind, and spirit. Holistic self-care is imperative to the ability to remove social stigma of addiction related criminal history. Engage in positive coping skills, identify hopes and dreams, and set small and measurable goals to achieve these hopes and dreams.

Continue to engage in counseling. Therapy is a very powerful practice that can help us to stay grounded and improve self-care.

4) Remain Aware — Know Your Past

Remaining aware of past experiences can help us to play the tape forward when confronted with difficult situations throughout life. Remaining aware of past consequences can help to remind us of where we never want to be again! Think about how past choices have affected relationships, personal growth, and life goals as to not repeat cyclical behaviors. Be goal orientated. Constantly remaining aware of goals helps us to continue forward and feel empowered to achieve these goals. Reframe your thought process to build upon past experiences that made you who you are today.

“The world I believe in is one where embracing your light doesn’t mean ignoring your dark.” — Kevin Breel

5) Be Smart — Think Critically and Protect Yourself

Unfortunately, while the world may forgive, it will not forget. Therefore, it is imperative that you think critically about how to move past the stigma of incarceration and interaction with the legal system.

Keep any and all legal documentation validating your completion of any and all sanctions resulting from any criminal conviction. These documents may be required for employment, education, certification, licensure, and other goals moving forward.

Keep any and all documentation regarding rehabilitation. Moving past the stigma of addiction and/or mental health challenges can often be difficult. However, keeping any documents that reflect proof of rehabilitation will significantly increase the potential to move past this social stigma.

So much is possible that we may perceive as impossible. Did you know that individuals with a felony can go back to school and are accepted to most major universities? The only thing that could hold an individual back from school is the inability to receive financial aid due to trafficking charges. If you do not have trafficking charges, you qualify for grants and loans through the federal government to attend school. Did you know that the government provides tax breaks for companies that hire “felons”? Most major companies will hire individuals with a criminal history specifically for this purpose, provided you can show proof of rehabilitation. Be smart, do research, keep documents, and build references. Employment and continued education are possible in recovery and after interaction with the legal system.

I, myself, know firsthand how difficult it can be to overcome social stigma attached to addiction related incarceration and criminal history. I have spent most of my life in the legal system, and I am still not free of legal consequences yet, and I have been incarcerated in both prison and county jail. I have used negative self-talk, referred to myself as a criminal, felt hurt, and felt hopeless. Today I am a recovered addict, a college graduate, a blogger, a speaker, have a great job, a friend, and an advocate.

The recommendations above are some of the simple things that I do to empower me to move past difficult experiences resulting from unhealthy behaviors. I hope you find these recommendations useful in your journey. Remember, be kind to yourself, know your self-worth, and focus on progress, not perfection. ~CTW~


Open Topic

Be Useful.

For the longest time, I believed that there’s only purpose of life: And that is to be happy, right? Why else go through all the pain and hardship? It’s to achieve happiness in some way. And I’m not the only person who believed that. In fact, if you look around you, most people are pursuing happiness in their lives.

That’s why we collectively buy shit we don’t need, go to bed with people we don’t love, and try to work hard to get approval of people we don’t like. Why do we do these things? To be honest, I don’t care what the exact reason is. I’m not a scientist. All I know is that it has something to do with history, culture, media, economy, psychology, politics, the information era, and you name it. The list is endless.

We are who we are.

Let’s just accept that. Most people love to analyze why people are not happy or don’t live fulfilling lives. I don’t necessarily care about why.

I care more about how we can change.

Just a few short years ago, I did everything to chase happiness.

  • You buy something, and you think that makes you happy.
  • You hook up with people, and think that makes you happy.
  • You get a well-paying job you don’t like, and think that makes you happy.
  • You go on holiday trips, and you think that makes you happy.

But at the end of the day, you’re lying in your bed (alone or next to your spouse), and you think: “What’s next in this endless pursuit of happiness?”

Well, I can tell you what’s next: You, chasing something random that you believe makes you happy.

It’s all a façade. A hoax. A story that’s been made up.

Did Aristotle lie to us when he said:

“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”

I think we have to look at that quote from a different angle. Because when you read it, you think that happiness is the main goal. And that’s kind of what the quote says as well.

But here’s the thing: How do you achieve happiness?

Happiness can’t be a goal in itself. Therefore, it’s not something that’s achievable. I believe that happiness is merely a byproduct of usefulness. When I talk about this concept with friends, family, and colleagues, I always find it difficult to put this into words. But I’ll give it a try here.

Most things we do in life are just activities and experiences.

  • You go on holiday trips.
  • You go to work.
  • You go shopping.
  • You have drinks.
  • You have dinner.
  • You buy a car.

Those things should make you happy, right? But they are not useful. You’re not creating anything. You’re just consuming or doing something. And that’s great. Don’t get me wrong. I love to go on holiday trips, or go shopping sometimes. But to be honest, it’s not what gives meaning to life. What really makes me happy is when I’m useful. When I create something that others can use. Or even when I create something I can use.

For the longest time I found it difficult to explain the concept of usefulness and happiness. But when I recently ran into a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, the dots finally connected.

Emerson says:

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

And I didn’t get that before I became more conscious of what I’m doing with my life. And that always sounds heavy and all. But it’s actually really simple.

It comes down to this: What are you DOING that’s making a difference? Did you do useful things in your lifetime? You don’t have to change the world or anything. Just make it a little bit better than before you were born.

If you don’t know how, here are some ideas.

  • Help your boss with something that’s not your responsibility.
  • Take your mother to a spa.
  • Create a collage with pictures (not a digital one) for your spouse.
  • Write an article about the stuff you learned in life.
  • Help the pregnant lady who also has a 2-year old with her stroller.
  • Call your friend and ask if you can help with something.
  • Build a standing desk.
  • Be a volunteer at a homeless shelter or animal shelter.
  • Start a business and hire an employee and treat them well.

That’s just some stuff I like to do. You can make up your own useful activities.

You see? It’s not anything big. But when you do little useful things every day, it adds up to a life that is well lived. A life that mattered. The last thing I want is to be on my deathbed and realize there’s zero evidence that I ever existed.

Recently I read Not Fade Away by Laurence Shames and Peter Barton. It’s about Peter Barton, the founder of Liberty Media, who shares his thoughts about dying from cancer.

It’s a very powerful book and it will definitely bring tears to your eyes. In the book, he writes about how he lived his life and how he found his calling. He also went to business school, and this is what he thought of his fellow MBA candidates:

“Bottom line: they were extremely bright people who would never really do anything, would never add much to society, would leave no legacy behind. I found this terribly sad, in the way that wasted potential is always sad.”

You can say that about all of us. And after he realized that in his thirties, he founded a company that turned him into a multi-millionaire.

Most people would say, “why would you work more?” And then they turn on Netflix and watch back to back episodes of Game of Thrones.

A different mindset.

Being useful is a mindset. And like with any mindset, it starts with a decision. One day I woke up and thought to myself: What am I doing for this world? The answer was nothing.

And that same day I started writing. For you it can be painting, creating a product, helping elderly, or anything you feel like doing.

Don’t take it too seriously. Don’t overthink it. Just DO something that’s useful. Anything!! ~CTW~



Open Topic

It’s All About Fucking Love.

Life is not about happiness, it is about love. We all want to be loved. ALL of us. Each and everyone of us. From Putin to the Dalai Lama to Mother Theresa.

We think happiness is it. We think being married is it. Rich is it. Popular is it. Powerful is it. The it is in fact love. But you are wrong. We are wrong. Love is not found in any of these pursuits.

Love is in you. It is in your blood, your tears, your fingers, your toes, your breath. Love is in you.

Life’s labor should be accessing that love.

For when you begin filling your cup with it, you open your eyes and see that all life’s constructs, money, society, power are but a joke.

Then you shall laugh. Louder then you ever had. Louder than you can ever imagine.

Yes you are going to feel overwhelmed and frightened by the depth of the well you uncovered.

But first, you shall fill your own cup. And drink as much as you possibly could. Drink every day. Drink in the middle of the night when your throat is as dry as the Arabian desert. Drink till you are drunk on love.

You won’t get drunk on love. Because there is no abuse in love.

And once you are satiated, your life’s meaning will become simply that: watering the world with your love.

Love is not a feeling, love is not a word. Love is action.

Love is writing these words.

Love is the warm smile you give to a stranger whose carrying his broken heart on the train.

Love is not the dollar you give to the homeless old woman on the street of San Francisco, love is when you look the homeless woman in the eyes and you tell her that you care, and then give her a dollar.

Love is telling someone you liked them, when you know they don’t.

It is crying tears of sorrow and calling a friend.

It is realizing that you deserve to have emotions. Big, small, petty, intense, illogical, wild, irrational.

Love is laughing at life’s misconnections, forgiving yourself for a white lie or two. Love is falling and getting up together.

Love is realizing your humanity, your creativity, your brokenness.

There is no where to go. It is here. You are here. ~CTW~