Where do you start to change your life
It's 10 years later...
I have a much different life.
It started with that one choice.
When I look back at that terrified guy getting on that plane
Creating a new life
Moving to a new place
Starting a life of sobriety…
I want to tell him it's going to be OK….
It's OK to feel!
To feel all those emotions you're experiencing…
To feel scared
To feel overwhelmed
To feel alone
To feel confused.
You've been hiding for so long
Stuffing your emotions
Hiding from yourself
Hiding who you truly are….
You've been hiding from life.
You've been hiding from your gifts.
You have so much to offer.
You have so much to give.
You have so much to live for.
It's going to be really uncomfortable for a while…
But this is exactly what you need.
Because on the other side of all that discomfort is the magic!
That’s where you will find yourself.
I want to tell that guy on the plane that giving up the drinking isn't the end of the journey…
It’s only the beginning.
Because now you're going to have to face all the things that the drinking was actually covering up.
When I first arrived in California at the sober living community, I was out of my depth….
I felt scared
I felt inadequate
I had no more alcohol to rely on
I felt so far behind my peers.
I had just turned 30
And I had nothing to show for it.
My self-esteem and confidence were pretty much shot
I was emotionally bankrupt
I was uncomfortable going to the community meetings and being around people
I just felt bad about myself.
I remember one morning…
Looking at myself in the mirror
I didn't like who I was.
I didn't know who I was anymore.
I said to myself…
James, how could you let this happen?
How could you fuck up your life like this?
This is your last shot
So what are you going to do to fix this?
But that morning
Looking at myself in that mirror
As scared and as uncomfortable and as ashamed as I was of myself
I FELT RELIEVED!
Hopeful about what was ahead
And determined to make the best of this.
It was strange….
I felt like a burden had been lifted off my shoulders
I felt like I actually had a shot at this
I had made it this far and I had taken the hard steps of committing to my new life
And as soon as I made that commitment
A shift began
I had already begun to change.
But I was still scared.
I knew I needed something….
An outlet to start improving my situation
To start to feel better about myself
And the only thing I could think was to start working out.
I figured that if I could look better, maybe I’d start to feel better about myself.
And going to the gym was something I had complete control over.
So I decided to put just as much energy into going to the gym as I used to put into drinking.
This was something I could improve on my own terms.
I was determined to feel better and I knew this would help.
I started to go every day…
And before long I started to see results
I started to feel better about myself
I started to feel healthy
I would vividly imagine what I was going to look like in 6 months….
What I would feel like
How self-assured and confident I would feel.
Things kept getting better day by day.
And I kept getting better.
But there was still a problem
One major thing that wasn't changing…
Because I thought everything that I was going through was so unfair...
I had told myself that if I just quit drinking
If I started working out
If I kept improving myself
That my whole world would change along with me.
That my circumstance would automatically improve
That people would start acting a certain way towards me
That things would just kind of lineup and life would be easier
But it didn’t happen like that.
So I would say to myself…
This is so unfair!
Why are things so hard?
I’m doing the right things….
I quit drinking…
I'm going to the gym…
I'm improving myself every day…
So why aren’t my circumstance improving more?
Why am I still scared?
Why am I still alone?
Why aren’t I happier?
Things should be so much better!!
And the more I thought about this
The angrier I got.
Then one day…
I was at the gym, and a couple of guys came in and asked if they could work out with me.
I got real defensive and told them no
We almost got into a fight over it
And then they left
Throughout the day I couldn't stop thinking about it.
And I said to myself
Why was I so defensive?
Why was I so aggressive with these guys?
All they wanted was to work out with me.
And I realized I was this way with just about anybody I spoke to
Or anybody that even approached me.
And I certainly wasn't going out of my way to be nice to people.
That’s when it hit me….
I WAS AFRAID
This had nothing to do with those guys at the gym
They were just being friendly
It had nothing to do with anyone else at all
It was me.
I realized how the alcohol had helped me before I quit
The payoff for all that drinking….
IT NUMBED OUT ALL MY FEAR.
But fear of WHAT?
What was I so afraid of?
What was so scary
That it kept me drinking for 15 years?
What was so terrifying that I would push away everybody that came into my life?
And I knew then what it was….
Deep down inside was a belief I’d carried since childhood
And I was afraid that anyone who got close would see the truth…
That I just simply wasn't good enough.
This was a subconscious belief I’d been buying into my whole life.
If I allowed people in, they’d discover that I wasn't good enough...
So the price I paid to stop that fear was getting drunk
And it almost ruined my life.
Now that I’d stopped drinking, I was paying a different price….
I was surviving
But I was alone.
I was isolated.
So now I needed to make yet another change.
I had to start letting people into my life.
Even the thought of this scared me.
I was afraid.
And this time I didn’t have getting drunk to numb the fear
Or protect me
Or give me courage.
But I knew what I had to do….
Instead of waiting for people to be friendly with me
Instead of being standoffish, defensive and aggressive
I needed to change my attitude
To be open to people
To become friendly.
I had to see that they weren't going to completely judge me...
And they weren't going to see that I was worthless...
I had been blind to this
I was so conditioned to isolation myself
I’d been doing it for so long
I just wasn’t aware of it.
So I started just by smiling at people.
And people smiled back!
I began to practice this daily
Just like going to the gym.
And just like the gym
Things started to improve.
And wouldn’t you know it…
I started to feel better about myself...
I wasn't as defensive
I wasn't as aggressive
My self-concept was improving
And I discovered that the people I was afraid of weren't judging me.
Weren't rejecting me.
Weren't thinking that I was worthless...
Now I want to be clear…
This wasn’t easy
It’s still not easy.
And I’ve certainly gone back and forth with this
I still do sometimes.
It takes a lot of effort to break through that defensive shell
To overcome that fear.
But the shift comes when you become aware of what you’re really afraid of
And how that belief is a lie.
When I created a new story in terms of how viewed myself
It shifted the way I viewed other people
And how I viewed my circumstances.
By improving my self-concept, everything begin to improve around me.
And eventually my determination to want to change led me to this awareness:
YOU MUST WANT TO BE DIFFERENT BEFORE YOU CAN CHANGE YOURSELF
That realization for me on a day I will never forget.
I had decided to do something completely out of the ordinary
My attitude had been improving slowly
But I was still having a hard time connecting with people.
I had hit a wall.
So I enrolled in a workshop.
I'll never forget it….
I walk in the auditorium
And there must have been close to 200 people there.
I was so nervous and anxious seeing all those people
That I started hearing all those old voices....
This is never going to work
This is a waste of time
Nothing is going to change
These people are just like everyone else
They have their own agenda
And they really don't give a shit about you.
You're not on the same page with these people.
You're not ready for this
You don't belong here.
The voices kept hammering me.
But then I did something that surprised me.
I kept walking in
And I smiled.
And I'll never forget it...
A guy walked up to me with a big smile…
and said “Welcome!”
He looked me in the eyes and reached out his hand and said, “Hi, my name is Ryan. What's yours?
I'll never forget how genuine he was.
Or the feeling he left me with.
In that moment my fear just evaporated.
I felt safe and welcome.
Later that night I got home and I couldn't believe what it happened..
I had faced a fear of mine that was so overwhelming and paralyzing
And had come to find out that it wasn't even real.
I was blown away at how comfortable I felt .
When I had looked at the world before, all I had seen was judgment and rejection.
But when I looked inside and realized those feelings were coming from how I felt about myself, then I found a way to change.
When I started doing things so I could feel differently about myself, the outside world changed as well.
By just changing the relationship I had with myself
I started to feel better about myself.
By vividly imagining who I was going to become
A clear picture of me in the future
I started becoming that.
All that I had been experiencing was the result of my state of consciousness ..
The story I had been telling myself
Had created my outer world.
So a change of consciousness was necessary before I could begin to make my world better.
Whether you believe me or not, give it a try.
Start by smiling….
Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2)