On Sobriety Challenges…

Please consider this, that the point of removing vice is to get clearer about your core being.

I’m not talking about your core physical being, I’m talking about your core existential being, your spiritual self.

What’s the opportunity of getting sober?

Inspired by this article on vice.com, I was moved to express a more complete consideration of giving up vices.

The exercise that can be played with is noticing the filters that are added, or not, with various substances. Spending weeks, months, or years using alcohol on a regular basis, and fundamentally alter your perceptions and your interpretations. Same is true with any mind altering substance or process. Sex, overworking, gambling, are all processes that alter your mentality, and whether that’s past an unreality threshold is up to you to decide (though it’s highly recommended to consider this with a healthy, objective advocate).

It’s up to you to determine whether or not that affect is beneficial to your life or not, but a period of sobriety can give you a chance to compare and contrast how to affect you. The same as with any other substance or process, take work versus vacation as a simple example as well, and compare and contrast the difference of your being in each of those different activities.

A greater, more fulfilling payoff

It seems to be trendy and exciting to simply remove vices, but the opportunity presented is much greater than just getting through a 90-day challenge of not partaking.

Thus, I propose a distinction between “sobriety” and “recovery”. In recent personal research, I found numerous alternatives to AA being listed as “Top XX Ways To Get Sober”, but the distinction with AA is that a fundamental part of the process was to reconsider how we were moving through the world, what type of character we were living with.

My time of sobriety was the most transformative of my life, and I can only wish others to experience the same depth of transformation that I had, or that I’ve seen in others that have seriously explored sobriety, or more specifically, recovery.

What are your biases towards “mental health”?

When you hear, or think of, the term “mental health” (or “mental illness”), do you jump to conclusions, or do you have a simple attitude of “all mental illness is bad”?

When I was diagnosed with clinical depression, I didn’t really know what to think at first. It was a shock, it was something I had to sit with and let sink in. I couldn’t easily see how my actions, behaviors, and choices were symptomatic of clinical depression.

It took some time, but I was struggling already, and if this got me a step closer towards not feeling so crappy about myself and about life, then I was going to investigate this as open-mindedly as I could.

How severe are mental disorders?

I had this thought, recently, that mental illnesses and disorders come in all shapes and sizes. My depression, in hindsight, was like a really bad case of pneumonia, stubborn, took me down hard at times, but in the end, was curable or manageable.

There are plenty of disorders or illnesses that are far more severe, but in the end, it’s a matter of seeing it as clearly as possible, and choosing the most effective way of managing/treating it. It’s likely not always as easy as taking a pill, that wasn’t true for me, and sometimes it’s difficult/impossible to treat all the manifestations of a disorder. Also, there are times when multiple disorders are in play, and they have to be broken down to understand what symptoms are manifest from which disorder.

But, in the end, with patience, care, and healthy support, most everyone I’ve ever known with mental disorders/illnesses has been able to treat or manage their condition(s) well, and able to live fulfilling lives.

How does this relate to spirituality?

Our perceptions and interpretations can be grossly distorted by mental illnesses and disorders. It could be as simple as affecting how we hear things, or what thoughts they bring up.

“With our minds, we make the world”, is a Buddhist adage, and if we’re contemplating distorted perceptions or thoughts, then our emotional responses will be affected, as well as our world view. You can imagine that our thoughts about ourselves would be affected as well, and this can impact our self esteem, self image; anything egoic, really.

So, from my experience, part of getting clearer in our spiritual path is to humbly and honestly consider our mental health.

The Takeway

Like I started, it’s important to have a more educated attitude towards the scope of mental disorders, to not simply lump them all as one-size-fits-all, which it terribly dehumanizing and causes nothing but harm.

Just like you would care for your biology with a regular physical exam, do the same for your mental well being. Find someone you trust, someone that has a breadth of education and experience, to be able to give you some healthy, honest feedback. You might simply get a clean bill of health, or you might become informed about something you couldn’t see objectively.

In the end, it’s about optimal health, so that you can live your life as fully as you desire.


Managing my personal energy levels

Will I see you tomorrow?

There is no greater indicator of future behavior than the answer to this question.

Fly-by, drive-by, anonymous, see-you-sucker interactions are easy to start, easy to be disappointed by, hard to count on when it comes to civility or a career.

We work to create the alternative. Masks off, snarkiness set aside, committed to long haul. That’s the connection that the connection economy is built on.

Seth Godin

Whew. This really hits home.

I just sent out my very first email blast yesterday, offering my Life Coaching services. I got a tremendous response from, so encouraging and exciting, yet this blog entry brought up an important aspect that is fully my responsibility… my energy levels. I want each of my interactions with others to be pristine, as clear-minded, transparent, and vulnerable as possible, but a major hindrance to that is how energized I feel, wholly dependent on how well I’ve taken care of myself.

Lately, I’ve had a lot on my mind, and have been acting inward. This, too, determines how much energy I have available to share with others, and is also wholly my responsibility. While I can’t create more energy out of nothing, I want to be aware of how I manage myself, how I present myself, and how I interact.

I think this is important because, when I’m inward at times, people perceive me as less loving, or that they are less important to me. This is absolutely untrue. I have so many people in my life, but I can’t share myself to the same degree at all times, simply because I have such a full life; sometimes full just being by myself.

I believe this may be true for others, and that people may misunderstand “distance” in time or space for lack of affection. Not always, of course, but I know this is true for me… perhaps its true for others as well.

As an amends to this behavior, I commit to doing better managing my energy, and/or clearly communicating when I’m less available than I care to be. At the same time, I ask that you give me the benefit of the doubt, and presume I love you just the same (if not more) than the last time I spent time with you. If you need more from me in the moment, please ask, and I’ll communicate what I have to give.

How quickly can I learn to NOT take things personally?

It can take an instant, if you’re willing; it took me a couple years because I wasn’t. When I finally became willing, things shifted very quickly.

For me, it had everything to do with the two-sided coin of: 1) self acceptance, and 2) unknowingly needing something from someone else, that being “acceptance”. When I came to understand that it was my job to accept myself, the opinions of others just didn’t matter.

I’ll use a crude, oversimplified, yet common, example on purpose: I feel insecure about how sexy I am. There are two people in front of me that have an opinion; one I feel attracted to, and another I don’t. With the latter, the one I don’t care about, they can say whatever they want, but I’m not putting my acceptance of myself in their hands, simply because they don’t mean as much to me. I have the ability to not take their comments personally, because I don’t value their opinion. For the other who I _want_ to like me, if they say “ew, you’re ugly”, I could take that personally because I’m giving them some authority over my sexiness.

If I’m in a healthy place of acceptance about myself, they could say I’m ugly, and I could easily not take it personally. Instead, I could joke about it towards having a good time together, I could ask them about it towards learning about their aesthetics, I could agree with them towards more vulnerability, etc…

Of course, as I change and come to know myself more and more, I find more of myself to accept. It’s a process and an attitude. We can’t just say, “as of today, I accept myself and will never have to do so again.”

Nowadays, if I get a twinge of feeling like something is a personal “attack”, I’m pretty quick to realize that it’s more (if not completely) about them, and/or it’s an indication of something I can own more of, take more full responsibility for.

Make sense?

Emotional Fitness for Techies v1.1

I’m hoping to present my topic “Emotional Fitness for Techies v1.1” at the LA Drupal 2012 camp at the end of this month, July 28-29, 2012. You can see my submission here: http://2012.drupalcampla.com/sessions/emotional-fitness-techies-v11 The intent is to take the topic of emotional development, and to help frame it in the context of “personal style”, an individual’s truth. We’ll review clear communication, emotional content, and I might even throw in some tips on “how to approach strangers”. Of course, this is an Open Source conference, so it’s absolutely not all about me. I’m bringing up topics, but am very eager to hear what others have to share from their experience and knowledge. I hope to see you there!

My Appreciation for Father’s Day 2012

It’s my niece’s upcoming wedding that compels me to write about this. On this sleepless early morning of Father’s Day 2012, I recall my brother being “brotherly” when I was a teen; trying to make me appreciate the sense of compound interest, being fiscally intelligent and responsible.

“Jeez, yeah, I get it, Cal…”, which I did in a conceptual way, being a smart kid. Regretfully, my smart ass side didn’t _appreciate_ it, didn’t appreciate _him_.

So, thoughts of me sitting on a branch of the family tree: frankly, at times, I feel _somewhat_ alone (me and Sarah); Dad’s dead, Calvin’s dead. I’m clearly _not_ alone: I have a healthy and loving relationship with my Mom (after we cleared up decade’s-long misunderstandings); a clean and healthy relationship with Sarah’s mom, too; a very quiet relation with my step-daughter; loving relations with my distant cousins and step-mother; a loving-albeit-distant relation with my nieces and nephews (all four of them); and a vibrant, loving “family” of community brothers and sisters.

Yeah, it feels good to think of us all as being all one big family here on Earth. I truly hold that to be close to my heart, yet I see and feel the reality of it. I do share deep devotion and commitment with certain friends, but not with all my friends. Most are wonderfully close, very intimate (we are very vulnerable with one another; even some I’ve never met in person), and many will I expect last the rest of my lifetime; my heartfelt gratitude to those who, this past decade, showed me how to have healthy relationships.

But when I turn towards what I feel emanating in waves from my nieces and nephews of my (deceased) brother’s family (two women, the second about to marry, their kids and spouses, and a young man in my nephew), I sense a strong core of deep, intense love, and I can’t help but attribute that to the sense of family that my brother and his wife built. As many of you know, there’s an intangible thing that comes so freely between siblings and many family members, that sense of commitment and devotion because “they’re blood”.

To be clear, I’m not thinking about myself here. For whatever reason, I’m introduced to many people who have far less than I do. My point is this…

Value one another, especially those that you might seem to get “for free”. For one thing, like with my brother and father, they may leave this life far too soon. For another, that _thing_ that you have with your loved ones, if you _know_ what I’m talking about, cherish it, work at it, build it up, and don’t let it wilt, wither, and die. Those bonds of commitment and devotion did not come out of thin air; they came from persistent choices, day-in-and-day-out, from some one, some couple, some group.

Please, if you choose to, pay attention to it, love it, learn about it, figure it out, and live it heartily.