Follow Your Bliss

By: Ashley Dane

Follow Your Bliss is the blog of Ashley Webb Dane, a mother of two teenagers who has been in recovery for five years. She is committed to carrying the message of the spiritual aspect of recovery and the empowerment of women in recovery. She is a certified hypnotherapist, and is currently Director of Communications at ONE80CENTER, a drug and alcohol treatment facility in Beverly Hills.

Destroying old belief systems in sobriety

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Aug 16, 2012 of my favorite quotes in the world is: "All that is gold does not glitter. All those who wander are not lost."  

It really brings home the idea that everyone is exactly where they are supposed to be. It also speaks of value systems; what one person may consider wandering and being aimless may actually be someone finding their way. Or, things of real value might not look like it at first. This reminds me of Indiana Jones when he goes into the ancient ruins to fetch the Holy Grail. He looks at all the beautiful, golden, jewel-encrusted cups in front of him, and he selects the crudest one, made out of clay. That clumsy mud chalice was the sacred object so many had sought after.

Life is funny like that.

It’s like on Christmas morning (even if you don't celebrate Christmas, humor me here), when you run to the tree and tear open the most gorgeously-wrapped presents, only to find nothing inside them. On the other hand, opening the most awkwardly-wrapped gifts covered in newspaper and duct tape you might find gifts of great value. Initially, we go for what is appealing. But if you consider what it means when something is appealing, what is it speaking to?

Something that is attractive to us holds the promise of awesomeness. Alcohol and drugs were like that for me. They both whispered to me empty promises. They told me I was funnier, more social, more bold. They told me things would be better with a drink in my hand and a straw in my nose. I would be more creative. People would like me more. I would like me more. Lies!

The Ego wants everything to be fabulous, all the time, while it sucks your blood dry. It loves it when we believe the lies that will eventually destroy us. Bad old Ego.

It’s been interesting in sobriety to look at what I previously considered appealing — on all levels. From relationships with friends, to clothing styles, to men, to the things I chose to spend my time doing. I leave no stone unturned in questioning what is valuable to me. Is it really valuable? Why? What does it truly offer to me and to my life? Is it sustainable? Does it make sense? I can tell you now that much of what I held dear in my using days, in retrospect, made little sense.

I went in my closet after I got sober and it looked like a bunch of costumes, outfits for a life I wasn't really living, but wanted to. Caftans for if I was on a yacht; 1960s cocktail dresses. These were not for MY life. I got rid of them. I looked at the type of man I was attracted to: Emotionally unavailable, stormy, moody, brooding guys. I had to let go of that notion. It served my purposes for when I was also emotionally unavailable, but in sobriety, I am learning to be available on levels I never before considered. At one time, I thought I had to dress up and go out to have fun, going to the cool spots where people gather to look cool for each other (this includes some AA meetings in LA, I might add). It wasn't until my second year in sobriety, after trying to make this shoe fit, that I realized it wasn't how I wanted to spend my time.

I am really a reader. I like to have coffee with a friend, play chess, air hockey, build a connection with a person. I like to play in nature. To travel. I had no idea. But it’s clear that I had it all ass backwards, and in sobriety, I learned not to take things at face value, least of all my own belief systems. Everything has to be examined. As I have heard it said: An unexamined life simply isn't worth living.

There is also that part about wandering. At some point in my early sobriety, I felt some remorse that I had been so aimless. I had just gone where the wind blew me. It blew me to Colorado, to Seattle, New York, LA. It blew me into the arms of men I had no business being with. I went from doing one kind of drug to another — wine to vodka, from heroin to cocaine to pills. Whatever was there, I would take it, and wherever the wind blew, I went.

I was full of regret for a while. But then one day, after going over some step work, I realized that I wasn't wandering as in being lost. I was on my journey, and it couldn't have been any other way. If I changed one or two small things, it all would have turned out different. It’s not supposed to be different. It is exactly the way it is supposed to be, and it always has been. I can't judge my path, but I can, and have, made it a success story by getting and staying sober, and helping others. If all that hot mess of a life turned into this life now, then it was all worth it. It justifies everything. I wasn't wandering. I wasn't lost. I was taking the scenic route to now. 

Here is the rub: in recovery, we learn we have to be ready to let go of old ideas absolutely. As we get more sober, we begin — if we are diligent — to recognize an old idea and to examine it thoroughly. AND, most importantly, to be ready to surrender it absolutely. Staying attached to old ways of thinking is dangerous. I am always ready to jump in and tear it up when I hear myself saying, "I won't," or "I can't." Is it really true that I won't or don't or can't, or is it something I told myself once and then attached myself to that way of thinking? And if I have an opinion, I love to shred those up. Opinions can bring a lot of disharmony; they are like a closed system. In a closed system, as energy is used entropy is created, and chaos and randomness ensue. Opinions take a lot of energy, and thus create a lot of chaos, in the mind. Whenever possible I want to be neutral. And if I am going to have an opinion, I need to make sure it’s one that is alignment with my truth in totality, and worth the risk of losing a neutral stance about it. It’s not easy to let go of long-held opinions, but in my experience, when I go to the source of them I discover they don't have anything to do with me. 

Going back to Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail made out of mud — I find this an apt metaphor for my life.

Before I got sober, I often overlooked the sacred things in my life, going after the glitter and the gold, the dazzling false idols and meaninglessness alluring pursuits. Now, I understand that it is in the simple things that I find that which gold and glamour promises but never delivers — a sense of belonging to myself, a feeling of being part of this thing, of being whole and complete just as I am, above the bad or good opinions of others. Freedom, the kind that is inspiring and exciting and playful. The kind that says I am in touch with what is sacred, and it is in touch with me. It doesn't get better than that.

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