“When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation "some fact of my life" unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.” - AA Big Book
Old (drinking) Cristina found fault in most people, places or things; but mostly she found fault in herself. Drinking ususally dulled out the anguish temporarily. There were also occasions it did the opposite and amplified the issues instead. New (sober) Cristina knows that she can only control her actions, reactions and choices. Taking a hard, heart-wrenching look in the mirror needed to happen for change to occur. Acceptance and faith are what keeps New Cristina sober on a daily basis.
The tools I use to keep acceptance and faith at the forefront of my days come in a couple of clusters.
1. Meditation & Therapy –
In order to find and grasp acceptance in my life, I needed to learn the tools to calm my brain down in order to be able to think calmly and logically. My anxiety and CPTSD can often get in the way of being able to process thoughts properly. My therapist and I first worked on the technique of being able to breathe first, which essentially slowed down my thoughts. I visualize my anxiety level as a meter and bring it down, down, down, until my breath is calm and I don’t feel like my heart is going to jump out of my chest. The very popular misconception of meditation is that you are trying to clear out your thoughts. What it truly is, is being able to accept the right here and now, exactly as it is in reality, without judgement, without over-analyzation. I use different mantras in order to “anchor” myself while meditating, depending on the situation. Most of the time it’s “I love and accept myself as I am” or “You are safe, nothing can harm you right now.” It helps me really focus on the moment and know that all those extraneous thoughts rolling around can suck it because they aren’t real. Once I am here… mindful… it’s easier to begin to accept that I really can’t control anything other than myself, but also that I have control over myself. How powerful is that?
I have control over myself.
What others choose to do or do not do has no direct correlation to me. Most importantly, how I act does have a direct correlation to what I believe. When I was drinking, I didn’t believe in much. I didn’t think I was worth love and respect. I didn’t think anything I ever did would be good enough. And I surely didn’t believe that I was complete just as I am now, flaws and all. My actions and outcomes based on my actions, proved these beliefs. Now I accept the mess and try and turn it into a message. I accept that I’ll never be perfect, but I’m totally flawsome. I accept that my weaknesses are just as important as my strengths. All this acceptance leads to true happiness and freedom. Because it’s truly a blessed feeling when I have complete and utter chaos or sadness surrounding me, but there is still calm and peace in my heart. That’s grace.
“To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark.” – Brennan Manning
Grace allows me to know that I am safe and held in the midst of terrible circumstances and there’s nothing I can do about it except accept myself as I am, love myself as I am, and extend my hand to others to show them love as well. Acceptance is an on-going process. I have the tools, but just as anything else, the more we practice at something, the better we get at it. Today, I can tell you that without meditation and therapy I would not be able to love and accept myself as I am. Because I love and accept myself, I make better choices today… healthy, nourishing choices. So truly acceptance is the door I walked through into the best part of my life, so far.
2. Higher Power, Church & Prayer
A wise person once said: “Faith is simple. Life is complicated.” For me, most of my life, this was completely opposite. Faith was hard, unimaginable and mostly non-existent in my life. But what I didn’t realize, until getting on my recovery path, was that my faith was always inside me. It was just hiding under the depression and anger and unproductive thoughts inside my head. Being a blamer, it was easier for me to say that all religion was awful because of my terrible experience with it. But there was always a spark inside that kept me somewhat connected to the spiritual part of me. For a long while I can say that I looked to nature as my higher power. Looking to the stars and the moon always gave me an introspective and peaceful feeling. Looking at the enormity of the universe often made me feel like my problems were too insignificant to be depressed about. At some point in my late 20’s I started re-believing in Santa Claus and unicorns.
Hear me out.
Santa brings out the best in people. I often lament that Christmastime is too short, and I wish we could live with those wondrous, warm and wholesome feelings all year round. I started telling people that I was Santa’s elf and tried to take those positive, fun feelings I felt and share them with everyone I met. It may sound silly, but it gives me such a good feeling to put smiles on people’s faces. Similar thing with unicorns. I believe I am a unicorn because being exactly who I am is magical and rare. Plus, I’ve heard from lots of people that now when they see a unicorn they think of me and smile! So I’m spreading love and joy without even knowing it! Ok, so where’s the correlation? I mean other than “God is love” and that’s the main reason behind all I do? At some point in my journey, I stopped fighting myself about my beliefs in a higher power. I told myself that if I can believe in Santa and unicorns, I can believe that there is something bigger than myself, looking out for my best interests and always on my side. It’s not just that I believe in God, it’s that I believe that God is in me or a part of me… in all of us. And guess what? Once I flipped that switch to just start believing, everything else started falling in line. Going to church is now something I look forward to and crave in my life, as opposed to something I committed to attending. It’s a part of my life that is truly necessary for my spiritual healing and growth. The church is my lighthouse in the storm of life. To loosely quote part of a sermon that truly touched me: “We need the hardships in life to give us the opportunity to continue to choose God. We have a Savior that understands our struggles.” So when I pray, it isn’t just a bunch of words recited over and over or a conglomerate of complaints. I pray to gain strength through Him. I pray because I know he understands. I pray because I know I am forgiven. I pray because I am grateful for it all… the lessons, the hardships, the choices, the magic of it all. Life may be complicated, but I know there is a reason for it all. Faith is simple. I chose to believe and I continue to choose it every day. My faith has become bigger than my fears and I am able to enjoy every facet of my complicated life.