This latest season for CCAR is unprecedented.

COVID pandemic, opioid epidemic, social justice issues, politics, extreme weather…

Personally, at various times, I’ve encountered fear, anxiety, grief, sadness and stress. Many situations we face are out of my/our control.  Such is life.  Yet, through the gift of decades of recovery, I have learned that I don’t need to stay mired in negative emotion. Forced to live in a locked down world, I’ve practiced some strategies that I’ll share here.

  1. Schedule time to step out of my self-assembled screen world. Recently, I had 2 computer monitors, laptop, large screen TV, iPad and iPhone all on at the same time (OMG emoji).  I wonder if I’ve lost touch with reality. Am I Mr. Anderson (Neo) in the Matrix, asleep in my bubble of goo? It helps my serenity to step away frequently.
  2. Block time to be outside. Whether it’s a walk in the woods or fishing on the beach in front of Taylor Swift’s house (I have yet to meet her). Having my feet on the ground grounds me.
  3. Thanks to the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma, I’ve chosen to spend way less time on social media. I encourage you to watch it and contemplate the intention and manipulative power of the drivers of social media, and how it may influence you. The lesson for me: I like what I like and social media is absolutely and deviously brilliant at funneling and bolstering my preferences. That feeds my desire to be right, narrows my perspective, reinforces my walls and inhibits my ability to learn… and grow. And breeds division.
  4. Avoid major news channels on television. I no longer trust what they report. This saddens me. I grew up with Walter Cronkite, when the role of the media was to simply report the news, unbiased, unopinionated. Those days? Like a Babe Ruth home run; long gone and hard to find.
  5. Practice being kind. I’ve practiced kindness with varying degrees of success for decades. With so much aggressive behavior prevalent, kindness has once again surfaced as a top priority. I’ve thought of getting “BE KIND” tattooed on my forearm as a daily reminder. I confess it’s often easier for me to be kind to strangers than loved ones. Why is that? The exception? Stupid drivers. I rarely offer them kindness. Yesterday, this old Subaru Forester sped along at about 17 mph in a 45 zone.  Side note: I’ve noticed that a person who owns a Subaru is most likely a poor driver (second OMG emoji). So, I roar past the Forester in my magnificent beast of a truck, ready to be righteously indignant. I glance to my right and espy this old woman, close to 102, wrapped up, against and around the steering wheel clutching it in trepidation. The anger immediately dissipated. THAT voice whispered in my ear, “Be kind”. Damn it.

One other question: how many of us are kinder and gentler with our pets than the people we live with?

  1. Monitor your anger. See above. I learned early in my recovery that “If we were to live, we had to be free from anger. The grouch and the brainstorm were not for us. They may be the dubious luxury of normal men, but for alcoholics these things are poison.”.  I’m not normal, I’m an alcoholic in recovery.  Have I had a lot to get angry about lately?  You bet.  But for me to live, I can’t stay angry.  I’ve learned to let a lot go.
  2. Look for the good, the true and the beautiful. If I am constantly on screen, then this becomes difficult. You can find a good meme, video or sentiment on occasion, but how many anger-provoking posts do you have to scroll through?  You can find beauty too.  But the quest for THE truth is fraught with peril; the trail filled with pitfalls, traps and perilous descents.The truth is not what I want to believe. Rick P. taught me the 10-finger exercise. On one hand touch each finger and say, “I Know I Am Right”.  On the other hand, touch each digit  and say “But I Might Be Wrong”. It keeps me away from intellectual arrogance and superior thinking. Speaking of Rick, he drives an ancient Honda CRV (equal to a Subaru Forester) with more than 873,000 miles on it…  but, I cannot accurately assess his driving ability; probably pretty crappy (3rd OMG emoji).
  1. Be grateful. I have a choice every day, to focus on everything I have and can do OR to focus on what I don’t have or can’t do. When I enter into the gratitude space, a sensation of richness permeates my being. If I am thankful for everything in my life, I am truly rich; I want for nothing.
  2. How’s your sense of humor? Is anything funny anymore? I find there’s still a lot to laugh at, particularly things I do. Last week, we had a technology glitch and couldn’t figure out how to print an employee’s expense check. After spending way too long on it, I gave up. On the way home, it occurred to me that I could have just written one, by hand!
  3. Be of service. Get out of yourself.  Break the isolation. Call someone. Help someone. Volunteer for something. As an example, Sandy and I recently volunteered in a beach cleanup event. On the way home, we discussed that the couple of hours of service rewarded and refreshed us remarkably. Shameless plug – check out the Ocean Recovery Community Alliance (ORCA).
  4. This too shall pass. Born in 1959, I’ve survived many seasons. My experience informs me that we will get though this. It’s not permanent. We will use this time to transform.  Transformed people transform people.
  5. The best is yet to come. Recovery ingrained in me that faith and fear cannot coexist. I have my fearful moments, but usually I am faith full.  For me, having faith alleviates the fear, anxiety, grief, sadness and stress associated with this time in our history.  I know I’m going to be OK, no matter what happens.

As Executive Director, I am super proud of the team here. Through strange times, CCAR soldiered forward offering hope to the hopeless, promoting recovery at every turn. I am acutely aware that I am not alone, that everyone here has had similar struggles with personal fears, doubts and concerns. Yet we have all kept recovery first. For that, too, I am extremely grateful.  Well done.

Continue.

Phil "Right Click" Valentine

Phil "Right Click" Valentine

In 2015, I finished a thruhike of the entire Appalachian Trail, a trek of 2,189.2 miles. It took 189 days and 6 pairs of boots. During that sacred time, my purpose in life became more precisely defined. I am, simply, to coach recovery. Recovery saved me from an early demise and brought purpose to my tattered life. I have learned that I’m a coach to my very core. I am blessed to put the two together. I started work at the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR) in January 1999. I became the Executive Director of this recovery community organization in 2004. I have trained the CCAR Recovery Coach Academy© dozens of times and have a hand in modifying, improving and adapting various recovery coach curricula. I’m old enough now to start considering my legacy. This is one way for me to share lessons learned in my recovery, in my role as Executive Director and a trainer. When I engage with others, I present the same messages repeatedly. It’s time to write them down.

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