Ego and self-esteem both have an opposite effect on one another. Where one is fed, the other diminishes. We must exercise caution in differentating the two. Ego temporarily provides a sense of gratification and fulfillment but gradually creates separation, loneliness, and conflict. Self-esteem, initially, may seem contradictory where one shifts focus away from self and directs it towards others, but in time creates a sense of fulfillment, purpose, and connection. In short, the more I am ‘all about me’ the more disharmony I create; and the more I am about others, the tighter the bonds and greater the balance I bring into life. Mastering this art is the simplest way to happiness.
…And there’s a deep yearning within all of us to retrieve what has so gracefully been given to us: the purity and newness of viewing the world through the eyes of a child.
I woke up to a voice unlike any other- a voice with much authority and clarity, one that I could not pretend was an imagination, or a whim, or an echo emanating from a quote from the latest self-help bestseller. This voice resided in desolate and absconded territory, a place long empty, yet filled with pain and an ambience that could break even the most hardened soul. And there I stood, listening to the voice “Dig….Dig.” And so I did with no shovel, hands muddied and bloodied digging through filth, hardness, and nothingness. Minutes passed, hours passed, days, weeks, months, and years, and…nothing. Yet, the voice grew louder and clearer, “Keep digging.” I stood there crying, skinny, beaten, sleepless, disheveled- fighting the voice, telling it that there was nothing there. Nonetheless, it continued “keep digging!” And so I did. And from a distance I could see recognizable figures staring at the unrecognizable fragments of the man they once knew. Gasps, silence, disgust, some look away. Some dare to ask “what are you looking for?” And tears roll down and I start feeling like a blend between the two protagonists from Beautiful Mind and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. “I don’t know what” I say. Just then, a pastor I haven’t seen in years stands in front of a building with sincerity telling me to come here. But I went there for years and found nothing as clear as this voice and so I continue to dig. The doors of the building shut and fade away and an old childhood friend stands in its place, holding a bottle and a bag of cocaine. He whispers “this will quiet the voices and kill all the pain.” But I remember being dead inside and needing more just to get by… and so I, keep digging and the skin on my hands break and so does my heart as my old friend fades away, away from the voice. Many others come along but I keep digging. I dig through the pleas of beautiful women, money, careers, and almost oblige to the persuasive tactics of Appeasing Others. But the voice grew louder and I dig. I dig and dig until there’s nothing left of me. And then, from the same distance the pastor and my friend stood, my family cries out, my son yells “Come daddy.” I take a step towards them but the voice intensifies, gripping my soul into an understanding that if I don’t keep digging I will lose everything, I will lose them. Humiliated and greatly discouraged I dig with the little strength and sanity that remains. “There’s nothing left” I say to the voice as I stare into what is now the hollowed depths of my being. Cries, pain, mistakes, past hang ups, traumas, guilt, and heartbreak escape the void and I stand like the miner who has discovered the finest diamond on earth… I can finally see the great voice, clothed in infinite Love living within me.
What great pains and erroneous paths most of us take to find love! I have found that G_d in His infinite wisdom chose the finest abode in a place we’d often overlook…within us. Please, keep digging!
“Initially, the worst thing we thought that could happen to us was that we were addicts and could not manage our own lives, needing a program of recovery. And as time passed we learned the best thing that could have happened to us: That we were addicts and could not manage our own lives, needing a program of recovery.” -Anonymous
The best stance to ever take on any matter is that we really do not know. I have found that the most challenging circumstances, the events that would have surely taken me under once and for good, to have been the most beneficial in becoming more effective in helping others. The measure by which we are either empowered or crushed by our circumstances is reliant not on the events that transpire but our perceptions of these events. One thing to always be mindful of is that our lives are multidimensional and guided by infinite love and wisdom. So we can always be assured that every situation we encounter is moving us in the direction of understanding and encompassing this love and wisdom. The determinant factor in joy and despair is contingent on our willingness to go deeper. As a well known AA speaker used to say “ Heaven is a pair of new glasses.”
We have become too hung up on the description of addiction rather than on an effective solution. Focusing on consequences or engaging in dialogue over its nature has its place but does absolutely nothing to treat it. Scare tactics, statistics, substance classification, route of administration, celebrity stories of tragedy and recovery, emphasis on meeting attendance, religious rituals, alternative feel good therapies are all inefficacious forms of addiction treatment. It is time to wake up to this epidemic and begin exploring what has always worked: bringing men and women who suffer from addiction to a practical spiritually permeated life in which attitudes and behaviors are significantly altered to suit a life of continuous abstinence. The more we treat this problem on a spiritual level and less on an entertaining or aesthetic one, the greater the chances of survival.
Fear is the symptom we experience when we have deviated from G_d’s plan. Every challenge we face is perfectly orchestrated. We are also inherently wired to overcome our challenges either through toiling or surrender. Our hopes to conquer fear should not rest on illusory methods to temporarily relieve worry posed by men. Rather, our eyes should be set on the Designer of life Who has meticulously etched out every second of our lives to fulfill an individualized objective. A man who can say “G_d is in control” in the midst of his problems is likened to one who has conquered the world.
“What’s with the beard?, she asks as the last drops of coffee spill into the forestry of salt and peppered chin hairs. I should have known the question was coming as it happens to be as of recently she turns her gaze from my eyes to the puzzlingly scouting of untamed facial hair. I sip air, hoping the quieted seconds will quell her curiosity and she’d derail her questions to colorful topics like politics or conversion or counseling in prison. But I’m stuck and break the silence with “ideals.” I realize I’ve already gone too far, recognizing I have missed the exits of ‘early Movember’ or ‘fashion statement.’ And then enters the anticipated dread of un-interruptions so I continue: “The beard is a sea of ideals, a vast and seemingly infinite ocean separating who I long to be and who I am. The strands of hair represent the endless journey, an ongoing battle to merge the contents of the mind with the desires of the heart. My beard is a story composed of daily dialogues with the Creator- it is a panoramic museum depicting refined poets and unrestrained savages in combat. My beard is a composition of curled letters telling tales of wandering peoples through the desert- an anatomy of a broken heart daring to mend itself. The beard is a covenant, a promise to always recall what I’ve been through, where I stand, and where/who I want to be.”
Man was created to shine brighter than the sun. With a great capacity to generate power from within and illuminate the world surrounding it, man, just as sun, has been granted the ability to give light to those around him. In turn, he is free to flourish and grow from the abundant light granted to him by those he encounters daily.
When it has crossed a man’s mind to put an end to his own existence, he should be aware that three things eagerly press him. 1) He hopes to escape his feelings; 2) He hopes to escape his circumstances; and 3) He hopes to escape himself. “Suicidal” can then be perceived for its true meaning: a call for a person to change and recreate themselves. When we hear someone say the grievous words “I want to die”, they are expressing an intense plea for a new reality. Unfortunately, many have misperceived this sign as a want to end their physical lives. Our feelings of despair can serve as the point where we make the decision to leave the old self behind and embark on a journey towards living a deeper and more meaningful life.
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There is something within every addict that resembles a universal battle between man and his inner demons. The compulsion to drink or use substances may serve as reflections of our own inabilities to commit towards change. Or better yet, the addict symbolizes our collective failure to refrain from a path of self-destruction. It is in the craving of the drug user where the opportunity presents itself for us to look at the reasons for such reluctance. And it is in the resulting consequences of the loss of control aspect that we search for something outside of ourselves to restore us back to sanity. It is a life changing, life saving process by which the behaviors and stories of the addict grants us a gift to confront and even embrace our most hidden compulsions.
I was given the chance to work with people suffering from alcoholism and drug addiction and through this journey I noticed there was one essential component that enabled growth and change for both the addict and myself. The critical piece lied in several characteristics of every patient: understanding the internal conflict of repeated unsuccessful attempts at quitting, the realization of the damage created through addictive patterns, and the decision to surrender the “will” in order to welcome recovery. It was in the intense yearning and desperation of the addict that I found a common road that led me to develop a more genuine and empathic approach. Moreover, it is the condition of the suffering addict that should lead us to look at and deal with our own bad habits. For this, we should be very grateful.