A Quick Diagram of Alcoholism

I’ve spent way too much time of my life doing flowcharts….

So I figured, why not?  The basic idea of an alcoholic decision cycle… as done in wreck-less fashion over the course of too few minutes with colors that probably make no sense!  Enjoy:

alcoholiccycle

Perhaps later I’ll do a Power Point but….. nah….

We have greenage,

~Joe

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A Real Bummer

Down but not out

Last week I wrote about my goal of a career change and in particular a position that I interviewed for which had gotten me incredibly excited and wanting. Today I received word that they offered the position to someone else with a little more experience in the actual position. The president did mention in the email that he wanted to keep my name on file as he expects to be hiring again within a month or two and I would be his first choice. He also praised me on my eagerness to work for them. I absolutely wanted this job and must say that right now I’m feeling slightly crushed.

Fact is, finding a job is hard work even for qualified individuals and I cannot let this keep me from forward progress. I have established a massive amount of forward momentum over the past few weeks and letting a small setback drive me to quit is just not an option. Matter of fact I should be looking at this from the positive standpoint, all of the communication I received was directly from the president (and owner) of the company and each time he praised my eagerness and follow through. The fact that he stated “first choice” for the next opening is a very good sign as well.

 I can never go back to my old ways and survive

So dear readers, I must continue on forward. I may be feeling down today but I am not out of the game by any means. Changing careers is a difficult thing to do, applying for jobs that I have no direct qualifications or experience in while having a strong work history in a field that most consider a better paying / higher level career track. I understand the fears of potential employers that I may jump ship for better pay, and what the future holds for me is still uncertain but I do know one thing; I can never go back to my old ways and survive.

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As for today, I’ve spent a while firing off some applications and resumes and went straight to my most recent comfort activity of cooking!!

That which is well seasoned is bound to be good,

~Joe

Simple Things That Make Life Good

Memories and thoughts conveniently boxed and ignored

Last week I wrote about cleaning house and throwing away things I no longer need or want. I have had a day to explore the interesting newfound feeling of “just a little bit more freedom” and I thought I would share some of the thoughts that I have had in this short time.

Thought one: Things That Made Me Think

I came across a few items that had emotional and sentimental value, this naturally made me think back and remember things good and bad. I did get rid of a few items in this category but kept the bulk of them as they were small items (cards, letters, a rock my mother sent me on my 30th to hide under, etc.) and they did bring about a positive feeling overall. These items were set aside and dedicated a tub just for keepsakes in the interest of actually being organized for once!!

There were other items that made me think such as books, magazines, old notebooks from my time in the IT industry all of which I pretty much tossed. While it’s nice to know that I was able to teach myself a great deal of expertise in the past I don’t think a book on database management for software that was discontinued 10 years ago has any real reference use in my life today or tomorrow. The good news is that I realized that I can accomplish anything I want so long as I decide to put the effort in and not stop.

Thought number two, why did I even keep that?

Recently I wrote an article on collecting junk as a kid whether it was bolts, screws, even pill bugs!! This thought is still a very good and fond memory but probably not a very good habit in my adult life. I came across all manner of things that I haven’t the slightest idea what I was thinking when I decided to toss it! Some of these (well okay, most) things were absolutely ridiculous! I had cheap chocolate lollipops shaped like bears (broken of course), power supplies for nonexistent Walkman’s (yes the cassette players), rubber O rings for god knows what, film canisters full of little screws and plastic parts for laptops from 12 years ago, so on and so on.

I don’t consider myself a hoarder by any means I don’t find myself stopping at every garage sale and I can easily go into a thrift store and leave without buying anything. I just don’t throw anything away because I might be able to use it for uhm….. something? And so I find myself dragging around all these boxes and tubs of stuff on the premise of “it’s my stuff”. Toss, toss, toss and HAH! With each “thud” of something hitting the trash can I felt just a bit less tethered to garbage I simply do not need.

Thought number three, I can get more stuff!

Uh oh….. Now I’ve got this thought that I just made room for more stuff I want! This could be dangerous territory, I’m going to have to watch myself from here on out in this area. Several people I know have expressed a little confusion about why I am doing this blog let alone trying to get an article up daily. The answer has three parts (bear with me, the third is important to this thought):

  1. I have been journaling daily and have found it cathartic
  2. When journaling I tend to focus on the negative, by switching to writing with the idea of creating something positive for others, I can train myself to think more positively
  3. I never go back and read my journals, I do go back and read my articles particularly when someone likes or comments on them

So the focus on number three here, I can remind myself to not collect useless items by simply sticking with the ideas I present in this mess of random thought that is my blog. In fact I might PDF this one and just keep it on my desktop to read at my leisure, or screenshot this particular section. Who knows, depends on my mood I guess!

Thought number four, OH MY GOD THIS IS COOL!!

Finding things I forgot I had has had some downs as illustrated in thought 3, howevimg_6363er I must say there were a few really excellent up’s!! I found some pretty cool things that either already have been used or will be used quite soon. Bringing out my inner child I’ll use the best example of excitement I came across. Pictured right is a blow gun, I don’t expect everyone to know what it is or understand the absolute fun that can be had from such a contraption so let me explain. One inserts a dart into a simple tube, the dart has a set of fins or plug that keep it firmly in place and creates an airtight seal within the tube. The tube is then aimed at a target (in my case typically a paper target taped to a cardboard box) and the user exhales a quick strong breath into the tube thus launching the dart at the target. How fun is that!!!

 

So in closing, I must say the idea of just cleaning house has led me to a rabbit’s hole of emotional excitement! I’m incredibly excited to go through more boxes and tubs in the future for sure.

Aim straight and let the darts fly,

~Joe

The Positive Benefits of Creation

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One of the authors hobbies, Gummy art.

Why not take action to improve yourself?

Creating something, whether baking a cake or building a table, even snapping together a Lego set or creating a blog entry can become an incredibly cathartic process of not just focus and self-reflection but also discovery of one’s own capabilities. Often it can also serve as a distraction or outlet from a myriad of problems we encounter through life be it anger, depression, addiction (urges and cravings), and of course boredom.

Smart Recovery © calls this a form of VACI or Vitally Absorbing Creative Interest and it is recommended in point 4 of the program “Living a Balance Life”. While it is very true that engaging in a hobby or activity (which can be anything ranging from hiking to simply meditating) is not just beneficial but in many cases required to achieving life balance; I would like to suggest that activities that produce some sort of output can be useful in all stages of life (or to frame within SMART© Point 2 “Coping With Urges” and Point 3 “Managing Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors”). In the interest of not seeming to focused on one single program I will also point out that many 12 step sponsors will recommend a sponsee perform a task when called about an urge or craving.

This translates farther than addiction though; often with scenarios of high anxiety, depression, even avoiding or reducing the extent of dementia, or Alzheimer’s symptoms. The positive effects of a hobby are far reaching in that it exercises the mind, helps to achieve focus, generates a sense of accomplishment and, in the case of creating something it can also produce income or a gift for someone else.

Recently my personal experience has been that when I have an urge come on I can manage it very quickly and easily by engaging in one of my favorite “creational” hobbies, cooking. Often by the time I assemble all the necessary pots and pans and utensils and whatever ingredients I will need the urge has disappeared. Sometimes instead of cooking I will start a wood working project or fiddle with any manner of craft from stained glass, building a camp stove out of a coffee can, photography, and yes even this blog.

The articles for this blog is not only a very good example of a creational hobby but also in my opinion a very timely and excellent demonstration of how effective such things can be on changing overall attitude and improving well-being. I started this blog approximately three days ago, this is the fourth day and I have already noticed a major shift in my overall attitude to the positive. I find it easier to engage in conversations with a much more upbeat and relaxed tone, and shrug off comments that I would ordinarily respond to with argument or insult. I haven’t had an urge or even so much as a slight craving in the last two days, and my sleep has been better than I can ever remember throughout my adult life.

Here where I am at in Colorado, I impatiently await the days I can go out with my cameras and snap pictures of whatever strikes me in hopes for those few great shots that I may print and frame as gifts for friends and family. I cook a meal once a week for my much younger cousin who is living on his own for the first time a few blocks away. These creational hobbies not only provide me joy and absorb time that I might have normally spent looming in depression, but they also bring along a secondary feel good when I do something for someone else just because.

I invite anybody reading this to take a good look at what creational hobbies might become a useful tool in adjusting attitude and lifestyle to a more positive and productive meaning.

Happy creating,

~Joe

The Value of Self Determination

Accomplishments despite contrary influence

Authors note: Today is Saturday, I have decided to try and make Saturday a two post day (because it’s my blog and I can!).  Be sure and scroll down to read todays other post “Coping with Societal Negativity” and of course input is always welcome! ~J

So interestingly, the last two days have given themselves up to a very excellent stream of positive consciousness for me as well as an awareness of how strong people can be. I have two stories to relay in this article, both popping up over the last couple of days and both I have found to be quite inspirational to me. The first story had me in such a good mood I can only classify it as an emotional high even though the achievement in the story had absolutely no impact on me directly. The second story while, not actually so much of a “feel good” tale illustrates a long-term determination to succeed and how our failures might assist us over the long term. So, let’s dig in:

Story one comes from a member of my favorite HipChat group (I have mentioned them in prior posts) A Farewell to Recovery. I will note that any stories that I relay in my articles are done with permission and unless requested otherwise I keep the person anonymous.

Our subject recently had a very big announcement, the achievement of a GED or General Education Diploma which is an alternative to a high school diploma here in the United States. You might think “well what’s so special about that many people have GED’s or high school diploma’s, heck that Joe guy has his GED”. What makes this story so positively refreshing to me is that this person was told throughout life that it could never be done! In fact, some of the exact words were harsh enough to include the term “retarded”. Imagine going through your early life being told what you can’t do at every turn and not hearing much about what you can accomplish.

Over the course of about a year and a half this person exhibited the drive and perseverance that most people rarely tap. A fundamentally raw persistence to accomplish what according to the surrounding environment could not be done. What I find even more inspirational about this is that a year and a half is not a particularly long time to study for a GED. Add to that the continuing conversations about the next steps, aspirations to possibly become a Veterinarian Technician or possibly something else. Someone who had nothing but “bound to fail” reinforced over and over, and now quite successfully on a forward track that many “normal” people lack the stones to achieve. This story made my day, and inspired me to work just a little harder on my aspirations as well, thank you for that!

wow must be some socks!

Story two is a little bit different and close to home it involves a family member, my mother who is an avid weaver (don’t ask). She apparently has a “sock machine” which is some strange loom used for weaving circular deal for knitting socks (again don’t ask) which from our conversations is incredibly difficult to use. I had a conversation with her very recently about a pair of socks she was trying to make, in her words she calls them her “F***ety F*** F*** socks” wow must be some socks!

In my mind, mistakes are nothing more than learning opportunities that begin with a negative consequence.

She has been trying to make this pair of socks for what I think is several weeks now (just go buy socks!) at one point having finished the pair but not being happy with them taking the pair apart back to yarn and starting over. Something happens here or there with the loom…. Tear down and start over…. Full moon…. Tear down and start over. At the time of this article posting, the socks are not complete and I’m willing to bet are either in a state of tear down or a state of start over. The endgame is decided in this case, there will be socks! While the idea of toiling so much for a simple pair of socks might not be a positive thought, the side effects are of a very positive nature. With the continued use of the machine, and the continued identification and fixing of mistakes my mother has been able to better master the use of her beloved sock machine! In my mind, mistakes are nothing more than learning opportunities that begin with a negative consequence. (you can quote that).

May your feet stay warm,

~Joe

Coping with Societal Negativity

coping_with_societal_negativity <- PDF download of this article!

Dealing with the Emotional Negativity Pulse (ENP)

Authors note: This is not a political article so don’t worry! This is a smattering of my thoughts on how we can cope with generally negative people and maintain a good healthy attitude about ourselves.  Also, it’s Saturday!!! I will be trying to make Saturdays a two post day so be sure to check back for the second article!

It’s bound to happen. If you leave your bed, possibly multiple times a day. If you isolate in your home but turn on your TV, hop online, read the paper, turn on the radio. If you leave the house and are within earshot of human beings, maybe even dogs…..

I felt empowered!

Negativity! Body language, comments, and sighs OH MY!! As I write this and think about how powerful negative energy is I conclude that our ultimate display of strength is not in how we push our feelings on others but how we react when influence is pushed on us. I once worked the counter at a small neighborhood convenience store, not exactly a 5-star job but I decided each day regardless of how grueling the work was for so little pay that I was going to try to make every person that stepped foot in my store want to come back. So, I would put my uniform shirt on, and a mask every shift. I would greet people happily while mopping the floor and occasionally one would stop and comment something like “Every time I see you your happy man”. I felt empowered!

Like some super hero; I was changing the future for people, one happy “how’s it going today? Can I help you with anything?” at a time.

Despite everything that was going wrong in my life I had accomplished something great, I had changed somebody’s attitude! This may sound (or read rather) somewhat silly, but the fact was simply by being aware of my outward appearance and actions I had found this inner super power that allowed me some level of control over those around me! Like some super hero; I was changing the future for people, one happy “how’s it going today? Can I help you with anything?” at a time. The double edge sword to this super power is that it can also be used for evil. The most interesting thing about this super power is that all humans possess it should they decide to use it; the decision of good vs evil is quite often a subconscious one making it an even more dangerous power. Think nuclear warheads of the emotional variety.

So how do we defend against the nuclear attack? What kind of anti-negative missile battery can we deploy that will defend our own attitudes and well-being from this ever-present threat? After a lot of careful thought and consideration, I started to reflect back on times of stress where I have reacted in calm and effective ways; a time when someone entered my workplace with a handgun looking for his ex-wife’s boyfriend, all the times I’ve been hiking and come across someone that fell or had an allergic reaction and I had to reach into my trusty pack to render aid, stopping to pull someone out of a car after a bad interstate accident, the list goes on and on (sometimes I wonder if my presence causes the problem). Then I begin to think about how used to verbally insulting staff meetings, customers, co-workers, and bosses I became working in Information Technology.

Lots and lots of instances, I eventually had to stop thinking as I felt I was dwelling on the past. The lesson though had been found! In almost every case, the action under pressure, the getting screamed and cursed at, watching the fist pounding and throwing of glasses and pens; in most of the cases during the actual event I would focus my mind on staying calm and rational and attack the situation as it needed to be handled. This does not mean it did not change my attitude to the negative after the fact but during the event I would put myself on autopilot to solve the problem at hand.

So, what if we train ourselves to put some form of “positive defense” on autopilot? Maybe maintain that autopilot for a period that lasts not just through the event but also after the event? Maybe we focus on keeping rational when people are negative around us and think positive but also accepting thoughts like “I’m not sure what kind of things are going on with this person but maybe if I stay positive I can help”? Our best defense might be a 1-2 punch of positive self-talk and acceptance followed by a counter strike of positive outward attitude against our negative opponent.

When I was in active shooter response training we were taught AlICE: Alert, Inform, Counter, Evacuate. While there are several different trained methods this was the one I was taught; we can apply the same principles to a let’s call it “active negativity pulse” or ANP. I know, cheesy huh? Just bear with me here I know I’m going to get all kinds of comments on this one.

Let’s set a scenario where we are in conversation with someone who begins to emit ANP via body language and conversation. Our first step is to Alert ourselves consciously that we are under ANP attack this prepares us. Our second step would be to Inform ourselves and possibly others around us that the ANP is in fact happening, this can be through body language, conversation, and of course internal positive self-talk “okay we need to be on our toes”. Now we Counter with a positive interjection towards the source of the ANP, “hey did you see that (insert object here) made it to (insert achievement here)!” with luck this will deflect the ANP by changing the subject to something we can work with, it may not in any case we continue our work. Finally, we Evacuate if we can continue about other business we do so leaving the area, if we simply cannot leave the area we consciously hit the mute button on the ANP source or we consciously imagine walking through a door and having a wall between the speaker that deflects the ANP.

While this sounds silly, my thought process has three simple points:

  1. We are consciously aware of the negativity
  2. We attempt to change the subject or impart positivity
  3. If the situation does not change, we stiffen our defenses and allow it to “roll off”

As always, I invite your comments and thoughts. This one was a doozy to write given all the stuff swimming in my head but I have a little bit of confidence now that maybe it will help me to be more mindful of negative situations and when I need to put more active focus on positive influence.

Duck and cover,

~Joe