Posted in Be The Change

I’m not scared of dying…I just don’t want to be there when it happens.

I am a strong, authentic woman who really does make an effort every day to show up congruently with courage and vulnerability.  And most of the time I believe that I am doing a pretty good job in that department.  I place personal development high on my list of priorities, as it makes me a better woman, partner, friend, coach, businesswoman and leader.  And yet there are just some things that are difficult to deal with…this week was one of those times.

Since getting sober, I also started to get well.  This means taking care of my physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual wellness.  So as part of this I take myself off for the advised annual check ups.  The stuff that we all dread, and sometimes because of that we slip into some sort of denial and postpone and delay.  However, I do believe in the marvels of modern medicine and have had a couple of health scares in the past so I make the appointments and hold myself accountable for my own (physical) health.  Alright, it takes me a bit of persuasion to get to the gym regularly…

My last few mammogram experiences have been a little scary, because of the last three before this one there were growths and I had to undergo an FNA (fine needle aspiration) on two occasions.  And erring on the side of caution my doctor recommended that it’s better to know rather than not.  And both times the results were benign and on we went.  This year when I went back, there had been a bit of growth in the lumps and the doctor suggested that I undergo the FNA once again.

The words lumps, too much vascular activity, growth and lab testing immediately creates all sorts of fear.  No matter which way I tried to look at it I was scared.  When I arrived the following day the doctor called me into his consulting room.  For me being called into someone’s office creates all sorts of anxiety and has since I was a young child.  The strange thing is that I have never really been in trouble with any sort of authority figure over the years.  Even seeing the metro police stopping drivers on the side of a highway makes me double check whether I have my seat belt on and glance at my license disk.

So in my pink hospital gown, he informed me that they were going to perform a core biopsy because he was concerned about the growths and wanted a definitive answer on whether there was a problem.  I like to think that I can sense people’s general energy and I was pretty sure I was feeling something verging on genuine worry.  I’m not going to go into details about the procedure other than to say the medical staff were loving, kind and supportive throughout.  Okay, my brain was not happy about what was happening, but 5mg of Valium and I was back on track.

The thing about any sort of investigative procedure is that the tissue samples (in this case) need to go to the pathology lab and that means waiting.  And that’s the worst part of it all.  Monday to Wednesday this week were horrendously emotional.  I vacillated between overwhelming fear and enormous strength.  There were moments when I was already dead at the hand of some aggressive form of breast cancer and others when I was quite logical and present and exploring what my next steps might be if the tumours were in fact malignant as I was medically advised they might be.

There were times when I felt as though there was no way anything of this kind was going to be my story and others when I felt emotionally hopeless and unable to control the tears.  I know how to bring myself into a present, grounded state of being…it’s all part of my personal work.  And yet there were hours over the week where I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience, unable to breathe or think.

The truth is I have always been scared of death and it’s something I really don’t like to think about at all.  So when faced with a situation like this which brings mortality front and centre, I am confronted with my single greatest fear.  I get it – we all die.  But if I got one wish I am clear that I would ask to live for 1,000 years.  I reckon by that time I would have done and seen everything I want to.  It’s not adult or reasonable, but hey.  There’s a Woody Allen quote that has stuck with me since I heard it in high school, “I’m not scared of dying; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

So it’s not the thought of being sick or weak that bothers me, it’s just that thought that after that there is nothing.  And while all these thoughts are careening around in my head, I have already made up the end of the story for everyone I love.  How they move on without me and get on with their lives.  This is of course exactly what I want from my tribe if I am not around, yet I feel immense sadness that it could happen.  I’ve made my partner promise to honour my life in that case by getting on with his, and the thought of this makes me cry just thinking about it.  So this was my week, with all sorts of waves of sadness, fear, anger and anxiety.  Interspersed with moments of calm where I am so focused on wellness and strength that there is nothing that is going to get me.  No matter what the outcome.

I don’t really sleep; I can’t really eat (that’s an extremely rare thing for me); I don’t want to be alone; I cannot focus on work!

I am a not a person who sees the worst-case scenario normally, but as you can hear this was not one of these instances.

And after a few calls back and forth with the doctor’s assistant, I get the call to say that although I do have tumours in my breast and they have frightening, impossible-to-say names, they are in fact benign.  And that was the second time in my life I nearly fainted.  The relief that ran through my body and mind was intense.  I cannot explain how uncertainty is my biggest trigger other than to say there is nothing that puts me more into my flight-fight-freeze state than not knowing.  This is where my personal work is…

I need to be present and grounded in my life to achieve the things I want to achieve.  I need to be mindful and responsive if I want to get the most out of my personal and professional space.  So I work towards a quiet mindfulness and presence in my life, and when I am not able to achieve that then I do take the opportunity to learn from the experience.

So, today I am so grateful that I am healthy and that I am able to move forward.  I am grateful for the people in my life that have loved and supported me this week.  Times like this remind me of how loved I am and how many wonderful people I have in my life.  This is a time for me to refocus and move forward in a present and mindful way, remembering to pause and breathe when life gives me challenges to learn and grow from.

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Posted in Be The Change

Cross my heart! Hope to die? Stick a needle in my anxiety!?

I’ve been living with anxiety for as long as I can remember…and it sucks!! I’ve read the books, listened to the podcasts, incorporated the tools into my life, and the list goes on. I understand anxiety and I can talk about it in all sorts of different ways and yet when I wake up on one of “those mornings” almost nothing I know, understand or have learned equips me to deal with the feeling. As my eyes open I feel the steely grip of it around my stomach and the mechanical wings of robotic butterflies hammering against my chest. The thing is there isn’t always a reason as to why I should wake up to greet the day with the slightly acidic taste of vomit in the back of my throat, but hey, there it is!!

And no matter how I think or try to ground myself I am like a trigger-ball just waiting to snap at something and spiral into the depths of despair for no other reason than I am awake and the world is out to get me! Logical – No! Real – Yes! I have done the work around my disorder and have a plethora of tools and methodologies to use when it strikes, but when it’s a really bad attack nothing that I seem to know is enough to get me back into a space where I am able to tap into the wisdom, logic and executive thought processes of my prefrontal cortex – the part of my brain where all the good stuff happens. I know what it feels like to “flip my lid” as Daniel Siegel explains and go into that part of the brain where I am being held captive by my amygdala in a state of fight, flight or freeze. I have the “mindsight” to see what’s going on and yet my brain goes into runaway-train mode and I feel like a helpless heroine from a 1920’s train robbery silent movie.

And over the years it’s got better with all the personal work and learning I have done, consciously and consistently incorporating practices into my life to keep me present, grounded and tapped into pre-frontal part of the brain where I am thinking like a rational and reasonable human, and not reacting like an impala under attack by a pride of lions. And still there are days when the the world closes in around me and I am slave to the neurological processes of my ever-complicated grey matter!

What I am not trying to do here is excuse the fact that I become irrational, unreasonable and completely over-emotional in these times. The period between these attacks has got longer with the more practices and tools I use, but still it happens. And in these times not only am I freaked out and impossible, but I have a severely negative impact on the people around me. I become needy and seek affirmation and assurance from anyone within a twenty metre radius, but don’t necessarily believe the words that I hear. It’s really just a nasty emotional quagmire to be in!

And yet I never stop looking for ways to calm my brain and psyche, and develop new behaviour that is supportive of me being in a present, grounded space in my life. Among other things I exercise regularly, follow a healthy sleep and recovery regimen, eat a very balanced and nutritious diet, abstain from alcohol, narcotics and nicotine, journal, do plenty of personal spiritual, emotional and mental work, and follow a number of intellectual pursuits of a personal and professional nature. I am fully aware of my triggers and have a strong system, structure and scheduling process in my life. So it’s not like I am not aware of what needs to be done. The purpose of all of this is to support my well-being and personal recovery, and to ensure that my anxiety is under control on an ongoing basis, and yet I still get struck by the horrible debilitating disorder periodically!

Well, that was until fairly recently…let’s call it a month! And then I was introduced to the wonders of Acudetox otherwise known as sticking needles into one’s ears!? A method of using acupressure points in the ear to detoxify the body and enhance well-being. The reason I was interested to begin with was to help me wean off my prescription of Wellbutrin which could possibly have run its course and actually be adding to the anxiety, although there is no definitive evidence of this and confusing wording like “research suggests…”. On the morning of my first treatment I was having one of “those days” crippled by insecurity and my special brand of crazy thinking. When I get like this it’s like being an astronaut whose become disconnected from the spacecraft, floating around in the ether without any communication or oxygen, and knowing where I need to get to, but being unable to do so. I’m flailing in mid air, fighting the zero-gravity effect and feeling helpless!

So I arrived in a tearful and panicked state. All I really want in these times is to be able to pause and get back into a state of presence and calm, where I can reason, rationalise and respond to my life. I shared the space with my partner who is severely impacted when I am trapped in the anxiety spiral, and the practitioner quietly put the needles into my ears and then left me to sit for 45 minutes. I could feel the anxiety slipping out of my body as the minutes ticked by. To be honest merely being able to sit still when I am so anxious was a feat in itself, but something was happening. I could feel my prefrontal cortex coming back online so to speak and the irrational thoughts and fears ebbing away.

When the time was up and she had removed the needles I still felt the residual effects of my morning – it’s like an emotional hangover when I have a really bad bout. And although the rest of the day I still felt raw and uneasy, the following morning I woke up in a completely different space and time. There was nothing in my stomach or my chest…just a wonderfully peaceful empty feeling. And it was in that waking that I realised that even when I am not in full-blown attack mode, I actually live with the feelings of being anxious on a daily basis…it’s just my normal. Over the past fours weeks my world has changed considerably.

Although I have fleeting feelings of anxiety, my days are far more centred and manageable, and I have been having weekly sessions with the Acu-Angel.  I have been more present, grounded and calm than I have been in ages, even with a chaotic job and a lot of pressure in my life. I am dealing with my triggers more effectively and handling my stress in a far healthier way, and all has been well. Until through unforeseen circumstances I missed my last appointment and along with a special set of stressful circumstances, I had a day!! A horrible, dysfunctional day where nothing I did would keep my in the space of being a responsive, thoughtful woman. And it was in that day when I undid so much of the good I’d done in the previous weeks, I realised just how powerful the treatment I have been receiving is.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that anything works in isolation. I don’t think that taking meds and sitting on the couch is going to create mental health and well-being, or that going to the gym will get me a great body if I don’t do anything else. I am sure that a combination of practices, habits and behaviour is what is needed to be in a state of holistic wellness. But wow! With all the work I have done over the years, I feel as though acudetox is the thread that pulls it all together. Because while I can be cerebral about my life and what needs to be done, it feels now as though there is something chemical and physical that the needles are taking care of. I don’t know enough to be able to fully explain it, but the feeling of aliveness, energy, well-being, peace and presence I have experienced over the past month or so is nothing short of miraculous for me!

Of course I will continue to use the sessions along with my practices and processes, but the combination is returning all sorts of incredible dividends. My days are calmer and more focused, my sense of self is more realistic and loving, my personal relationship is stronger and happier (as is my partner), and there is a new level of clarity and responsiveness in my professional space. So although I did have an atrocious day on Saturday, and there is some damage control to be done, I am relieved that if I continue with my treatment, these days will eventually be nothing more than a memory as I move into an exciting new chapter in my personal and professional life, free of the shackles that have held me back for what really feels like forever…

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We offer acudetox sessions at The Foundation Clinic, Oaklands with registered practitioner Kim Margolius every Thursday morning.

For more information about rates and to book a session, please contact Leigh-Anne on (010)900-3131 or email leigh-anne@thefoundationclinic.co.za

Posted in Be The Change

I didn’t say it would be easy…I said it would be worth it!

I love the work that I do (most of the time) and feel blessed to be able to work in a space where I get to support people in their personal processes.  In this process I get to be part of a my clients’ awakening as they move forward in their lives, but these connections sometimes come at a price.  As someone who works in substance abuse and mental health industry I am constantly giving of myself to others in the work that I do.  I show up as authentically as possible as often as possible and try and bring myself as courageously as I can in service of my clients.

But this doesn’t always work in my favour and there are times that the parts of my life I use in the learning are used against me by clients who are in a different parts of their journey.  And that is part of what I do…it doesn’t always go well and sometimes it’s just downright awful, but that’s the nature of the work that I do.  I have chosen to be in this world where I am sometimes open to anger, vitriol and projection.  I’ve done my personal work and I know when I have to stand back and just let the work happen without me.  It’s difficult to quiet my inner critic in these situations and allow the process to unfold, but it’s essential for my sanity and well-being.

At the moment I am in one of these situations.  Not only has there been a difficult situation in my work space, but I have also had an exceptionally stressful few months.  So I have had to put myself first and step away from my professional life.  On the one hand it is exactly what I need to do, but on the other hand it’s been a really bitter pill to swallow.  I need to take care of myself emotionally, spiritually, mentally, physically and socially and for this process to happen I need to be in a safe, loving space.  One of my biggest challenges in life is to practice self-love and right now I have no other choice but to do this.  I am having to show up authentically and courageously for myself for the time-being rather than the clients and patients that are such a high value for me.

So what s unfolding in my life at the moment is a real integration of the teaching and facilitation work that I do at the clinic.  I am having to put down some very strong boundaries at the moment in order to protect my recovery and wellness.  Working in the addiction space means that conflict, crisis and chaos rule and it can be hard to find balance and perspective when I am entrenched in the environment.  In order to build up my personal recovery capital I have to put myself into a mindset where I am practising humility about what I can and cannot achieve both personally and professionally at the moment.

The humility to embrace that I really am just human and that I cannot expect myself to always be able to show up in the messiness of the work that I do without taking time and making space for my own work, healing, fulfillment and goals.  Perhaps I also need to have the “mindsight” to remember that I have already battled a lot of my personal demons and that some of them still lurk in the shadows waiting for an opportunity to pounce into my life, especially when I am feeling drained and burned out.  The one thing I do know is that no matter what happens in my world I am living firmly within the universal principles of honesty, integrity and willingness to see when I need to focus on what I can control in any given situation, and what is complete outside of my control.  And that’s very hard for an “eight”.

I have never claimed to be perfect, I know that I make mistakes and I am aware of where I need to work in my various personal and professional roles.  My growth and development is ongoing and something that I consciously work on daily, weekly, monthly and further into the future.  Most of the goals, plans and actions I focus on are of the relational nature; with myself, the important people in my life, my clients, and the larger world around me.  Sometimes I get these interactions right and sometimes they don’t work out so well, but I am constantly striving to improve the way I connect with myself and the world.

Like most people I come across I am simply trying to be a little better than I was yesterday, and make some mental notes and commitments as to how I can show up authentically, courageously and congruently in my life, my relationships, my work and my community.  So this afternoon I will spend some time looking at my upcoming week, setting out some intentions as to where I can do better in my life and focusing on the areas that fulfill me as well as the areas that challenge me.  I am aware of my “bright spots” in life, but I am equally aware of what needs to be addressed and looked at with an openness and willingness that is sometimes hard when it comes to self-reflection.

I didn't sat it would be easy... I said it would be worth it

But in order to do the work that I do with others, I need to be able to do the work on myself.  Not always easy.  Not always pretty.  But always, always necessary…and always worth it!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Be The Change

There will be no white flag above my door!

Flyer 1.jpgI am passionate about the work that I do as a coach and for the past four years have been blessed to be part of the team at The Foundation Clinic in Johannesburg.  The clinic is a substance abuse treatment and recovery centre that has not only been part of my professional growth over this time, but has also deepened my personal recovery and growth in ways that cannot be measured.  I have seen so many people walk up the stairs of the clinic broken, shattered and empty and watched those same people leave with new hope, promise and possibility.

Sound like fulfilling and purposeful work?  It is!  And I am blessed to see people move from illness to wellness on a daily basis.  The problem is that treatment is expensive, and in our quest to help as many people as possible, we have sometimes made people decisions rather than financial ones.  Often waiving shortfalls and payment gaps on the medical aids so that we could help someone who really needed it.  And these decisions have seen us fall into something of a dire situation.

Because when we forgo shortfalls, we also forgo income that is needed to keep the clinic running.  So, I guess by putting individuals first, we’ve come short in a business sense.  The place needs some TLC and aesthetics have a huge impact on future clientele who are planning to undergo treatment, because before they get to know us and experience the ethos of the clinic all they can see is what’s right in front of them and it’s not looking as good as it should.

I feel sad and depleted at the idea of seeing the people that desperately need help with substance abuse disorders go untreated.  But it also makes me feel helpless when the bills are not being met and the staff not being paid.  The commitment from the team is unparalleled and the passion that they bring to their jobs unequalled by any organisation that I have worked in.  I am proud to be part of the organisation, even with it’s peeling paint and basic bedrooms.  But I  know that there needs to be change and this takes money.  And the best way for us to generate the income we need is to fill the clinic.

It’s so hard for me to write this post, because I feel exposed and vulnerable and that’s not a comfortable space for me to be in.  But my need to do what needs to be done to help save this business outweighs my personal discomfort.  I just feel like the recovery community in Johannesburg would be poorer without the clinic to run support groups, community meetings, in- and out-patient programmes, and be an empowering space for the creation of #recoverycapital.

This is  not about me and my job, this is about fighting for something that is REALLY worth fighting for.  The Ubuntu Addiction Community Trust (U-ACT) has worked with hundreds of individuals in communities and organisations across South Africa to assist and empower those challenged by substance abuse.  The team has trained recovery coaches to become resources in their own communities and support the individuals and families that are stricken by the drug culture of this country.  And much of this work is done pro bono, because the people that need the help most are those that can least afford it.

I have to admit that I do feel resentful at times when I look at the work that this organisation does in return for very little at the end of the day.  It’s made me question the fairness and equality of the system more than once, because the work that is done is life-changing for so many people.  But then I remember that I need to be grateful for the opportunity that I get on a daily basis to touch and change peoples’ lives as they learn to know and love themselves again, and so on I go, because I am not ready to throw in the towel just yet and walk away from a place and a team and a purpose that feed my soul and allow me the chance to really live life every day.  Even though the challenges are immense, the rewards are far greater than can be measured by any bank balance.  There will be no white flag above my door and you can take that to the bank!

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If you are in the position to assist either on an individual, organisational or corporate level, please visit our funding page for more information on how to help.

THE FOUNDATION CLINIC REVIVAL: BACK A BUDDY!

If you would like to chat about helping out or making an donation in the form of renovation materials, please contact me on (010)900-3131 or leigh-anne@thefoundationclinic.co.za

Posted in Be The Change

You’re Just too Good to be True!?

Call Valentine’s Day whatever you like, but I have to be honest that I like a little bit of romance…  Of course, I don’t think we should wait for the price of roses and teddy bears to increase 1000% in order to be able to show our person that we love them, but I really love the idea of a day that’s all about love.  I genuinely believe that the world would be a better place if we spent more time engaged in love; self-love, romantic love, love for friends, family and colleagues; but for now, let’s talk about the romantic, intimate kind of love that we all seem to be so focused on so much of our lives.

Memories and moments are created around love…first love, first kiss, first date, not necessarily in that order.  Birthdays, weddings, funerals and anniversaries are essentially a celebration of love and connection.  And almost every song I’ve ever heard has been about some kind of love…  But what is it to truly be loved?

I’m no expert in the matter, having spent much of my twenties and all of my thirties as a single-something.  There’s was other stuff going on in my life at the time, like travel, drinking, adventure, drinking, partying and drinking, and that’s not the ideal situation in which to find true love as I learned.  I fell in love many Friday nights, only to see that maybe that’s not exactly what it was in the stark light of a hungover Saturday morning.  And so passed the time.  With me always secretly hoping that just one of those encounters would develop into something – anything – resembling a real, loving relationship.  But alas that was not to be my rom-com happy ending.

And for many years that was where my ideas of love and romance were born – by watching movies.  I also stopped drinking when I was 35 and then any interaction with the opposite sex was whittled down to some very nervous, awkward conversations and exchanges as I relearned to socialise without the help of alcohol.  Never one for half measures I chose sexual celibacy while I worked on myself and how I’d like to show up in my next relationship.  I was later to learn that the only way to get relationship-fit is to be in a relationship and that five years of celibacy is more caustically referred to as being sexually anorexic…not profound personal development as I thought.

What I did do during that time was to really think about what I was looking for from a partner.  The kind of guy that I wanted to share space and time with, and who I was prepared to be vulnerable, authentic and congruent with.  And around 40 I met a guy who I thought was that guy, but after three years I realised that I was never going to be his priority and there were a dozen things that came before me on the emotional, mental, social, spiritual and physical to-do list.  I walked away at the right time after fighting to be seen for the last 12 months of the relationship and am exceptionally grateful to him for the lessons I learned.  One of the biggest was that being really seen by the person that said “I love you” was a non-negotiable for me.  And I mean really seen…

I learned that I needed to be considered, the be respected, to be prioritised and to be acknowledged.  Not simply by words, but most definitely in actions.  With my love languages of quality time and acts of service that means I’d rather he stood with me and cooked dinner after doing the grocery shopping than buying me an expensive meal.  And the most life-changing lesson I learned was about self-love, because if we don’t love ourselves then how can we possibly ask and expect someone else to love us.  It’s really difficult to love someone who doesn’t see their worth and what they bring to the world…

So, the relationship ran its natural course and I walked away with the intrinsic knowing that it was the most self-loving thing that I could possibly have done.  And walked into the most unexpected relationship I never saw coming.  It’s a complicated story, but what I have learned over the time we have been together is what it truly means to be loved…and it’s nothing like I expected it to be.

It’s been a whirlwind, in the style of a typhoon, that bends strong, preconceived ideas to the limit and breaks false beliefs that have no place in a relationship.  But for the first time in my life, I know how it feels to be part of something genuine and authentic when it comes to love.  I know what it feels like to have someone courageously and vulnerably tell me how they feel, rather than dribbling out the sentiments when the right amount of time has elapsed.  Being really seen by a man for the first time has been an amazing, yet overwhelming experience.

No one in their forties can hope to come into a relationship unburdened by past experiences, and what I have come to learn is that’s what a real relationship is about.  It’s a beautifully messy meeting of minds, hearts and souls, so totally perfect in it’s imperfection.  It’s about a deep knowing that the person in front of you will be there for you when you need them the most, and that they’ll hold your hand just to be there holding your hand on a difficult day.  But they will also challenge the hell out of you and call you on your bullshit and incongruity immediately as they see it.  They won’t give you a free pass to project your bad day onto them, but they will love you unconditionally for who you are and forgive you those silly outbursts that were brought on for no apparent reason, or maybe some over-inflated life situation.

Only living with a man for the first time in my forties has come with a whole special set of hockey-stick learning curves.  I thought we’d just slot into cohabitation effortlessly, knowing where we belonged and who did what…I was a little left of reality.  And it took time some time to figure it all out.  I honestly didn’t know the household chores, duties and responsibilities needed to be discussed…that never happens in the movies!!!  I guess I was completely naive…surely love would simply allocate shopping, cooking and cleaning to the right person and we’d live blissfully in our universally-assigned roles.  Who knew that men didn’t simply assume the “take out the rubbish” and “change the light bulbs” role!?

What I have learned in this time is that the only way to work all this stuff out is to talk it out, which was “unromantically” surprising to me!!  Wasn’t moving in together and being in love just some exciting series of moments and memories??

#tbtBut in all the logistics of it, I have come to know what it means to be truly loved.  That a disagreement over the most trivial or important of issues does not mean that the relationship is going to disintegrate in a couple of minutes or hours.  That the stress of daily life continues, but that there is someone there to come home to and feel the feeling of real safety and certainty.  To know beyond knowing that if that horrible lump in your right breast were to turn out to be malignant, that he’d be there with you every single step of the way.  And yet, it doesn’t mean that he’ll accept bad behaviour or put up with endless rounds of ineffective communication.

So yes, there are the fairy-tale parts to the love, the magical moments of blissful synchronicity where it feels as though our souls are locked in wordless conversation.  There is connection, togetherness, deeply felt emotion.  And there is action…lots and lots of doing, talking and showing up to express our love to one another in an everyday, moment-to-moment kind of way.  There’s also all the messy stuff that makes a grown-up relationship.  The missed conversational nuances at the end of a long, hard week that sometimes lead to silly arguments.  The misconstrued, unintended projections that happen from time to time, and really piss the other person off.  Yet none of that can ever take away from how it is to truly be loved.  To stand in the chaos of life with a deep, knowledge and certainty that I am seen and loved for being exactly who I am (as long as I am working on the not-so-okay stuff).  And that’s much better than being in a Hollywood rom-com any day of the week.  To look into the eyes of the person who truly loves me and know that everything is exactly as it is supposed to be and that no matter what comes up he’ll be there with me; maybe holding my hand, maybe kicking my butt, but he’ll be there and that’s how it feels to be truly loved.

 

 

Posted in Be The Change, Life Coaching, Recovery Coaching

Are You Living Courageously?

Recovery Coaching

The theme of the week has been courage and vulnerability...and without sounding like one of Brene Brown’s PR team, it really does keep coming up over and over again with the individuals and groups that I coach.  And so often this last week, the conversations have gone to where people feel they need to show up courageously in their lives and be able to ask for what they need; emotionally, socially, spiritually, mentally and physically.  Being vulnerable as an eight on the Enneagram is extremely challenging for me at times, as this requires me having no control over what might or might not happen in any given situation and learning to be comfortable with that.  And believe me that scares the crap out of me on a good day, never mind a day when I am feeling a little insecure about myself.  And those days come even with all the tricks, tools and techniques I have at my disposal as a coach.

Of course, there are plenty of situations in any given day or week that require me to allow my vulnerability to be tapped into as a personal strength.  Whether this is asking my partner for support or love, reaching out to a colleague on a project or letting down my guard with the clients that I work with in the addiction treatment centre.  And when I do this, the most incredible things happen and I feel authentic and congruent within myself.  It’s when I feel spiritually connected to myself and the world around me, as if hooked up to the universe by a powerful force of love and acceptance.

Then all of a sudden I can be disconnected from this sense of presence and belonging, trapped in the crazy of my thoughts!  And try as I might, there are times when getting out of my head and into my body can be extremely difficult.  Personal development, conscious living and awareness are wonderful when I am plugged into the world through my executive thought functions in my prefrontal cortex, but when something short circuits in the inner workings of my brain and I suddenly go “offline” because of an event that has triggered me, it’s not always easy to come  back into my body and reconnect back into the universal energy.  That’s when having the mindsight to see what is going on, and how I am not doing what I know works, can just be frustrating!

There is no magic to any of this.  It’s about using those little tools and tricks that I’ve learned, and teach to others, consistently and patiently.  I’ve never professed to be a master at any of this, just another soul navigating the roads, avenues and boulevards of life.  I know that hitting the pause button between stimulus and response is incredibly effective – when I am able to find the sometimes elusive pause button. This doesn’t always happen! Of course there are times when I am able to catch myself and S.T.O.P. (Stop–Take Three Breaths–Observe–Proceed) which is one of Deepak Chopra’s little tricks to bring ourselves back into the present.

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And I have learned to T.H.I.N.K. more often, before I fire off a series of reactive retorts in the heat of the moment.  So I S.T.O.P. and ask myself, “Is it TRUE?  Is it HELPFUL? Is it INSPIRING?  Is  it NECESSARY? Is it KIND?” before being thoughtless with my words.  Often I don’t get past the true bit, and it’s a wonderful tool when I use it.  But as I have mentioned I am perfectly imperfect when it comes to keeping it all real, and of course there are times when I say and do things in that cowgirl-style of mine, having to go back later and sweep the debris off the saloon floor after the verbal gunfight!

The real power though, is if I allow myself to remain vulnerable with myself and the people around me.  I find it less likely that I am going to feel under threat from the people I interact with when I adopt this mindset.  That if I am courageous in my daily life and speak with a gentle compassion to myself and others, I have the ability to stay in my authenticity.  And the irony of it is that when I am being vulnerable and open, I feel incredibly strong.  By exposing my softness I am actually more protected than if I put on  masks, build walls and armour myself in preparation for how the world’s going to, maybe, fuck me over.

So, going back to my original thoughts; over the course of the week as this theme was discussed in the coaching groups that I facilitate, I realised that there are so many people letting down their fake personas of strength and infallibility.  Watching vulnerability and courage finding their voice in men and women who have long been silenced by the guilt and shame of addiction is nothing less than an honour and a privilege.  As mothers and fathers talk of breaking the cycle of substance abuse in their families and showing up for their children differently to their parents, I feel the genuine desire for change.  When individuals allow their truth to find a space and explore their deepest core beliefs and values, I am humbled by the tenacity of the human spirit.  Many times over the last week I have seen people share from places deep within them, bringing fears, insecurities and humility into the light, instantly diminishing their stranglehold on their hearts and souls.

And the more vulnerably I show up in this space, the more unspoken permission there is for real healing and growth.  When I am authentic and congruent, speaking my truth, others are shown that there are no rights or wrongs when it comes to being ourselves.  Rather that each and every person has the personal power to show up and be heard, seen and loved if they are ready to allow themselves to drop the shields we all carry and let their courage, authenticity and vulnerability guide them towards their true purpose in life, whatever that may be for them.

Posted in Be The Change

Braving the Wilderness…

26173302_1927914530556980_1642093532013202156_oI have just about finished listening to Brené Brown’s new book, “Braving the Wilderness“, and it has resonated so strongly with me from the very first chapter.  Listening to her talk about courage, vulnerability and authenticity never tires for me, as she talks to parts of me that I thought were mine alone.  The way she covers topics like boundaries, and how to love generously without judgement, inspire me to continue contributing wholeheartedly in the work that I do.

What it reminded me of is that it doesn’t matter if sometimes the lesson goes unlearned by the people in our lives, and that the most important learning is the one that we receive.  I have oftentimes felt so alone in the world, wondering if it was only me who thought I was being misunderstood, feeling too much and questioning the status quo, but listening to this book (which I want to buy and make lots of notes in) I now know that there are other souls just like mine that are trying to make a difference to those around them.  And sometimes that feels like swimming through syrup.  Wondering if there is any value in putting little bits of my soul out into the ethos…  And then I receive the lesson, not only through the words I am hearing spoken in the wider community, but from the lips of a client who is sitting in front of me, speaking exactly the same ideas and thoughts as I have been having listening to the book.  And once again I am reminded that I am not alone.  That the universe is scattered with individuals, families, groups, organisations and communities that are all braving the wilderness. 

This I endeavour to do this with compassion and authenticity in the coaching work that I do…mainly in the field of (addiction) recovery.  My greatest aim is to show up courageously in my personal and professional life, living in congruency with the universal truths of integrity, openness, patience, tolerance and forgiveness (to name but a few).  In this principle-centred approach to life I feel that I can find peace and presence, something that I feel like I have been chasing my whole life.  The funny thing is that I just need to stop and just be still, and allow the years of personal work to settle quietly around me, guiding me towards an inner stillness.  So much easier said then done!

A couple of weeks ago I started reading “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” which I bought nineteen years ago, have carried to various homes around the world, and only just opened now.  Maybe this was the perfect time for me to read it, as I realise that I have been living many of Stephen Covey’s teachings and practices for some time, and coupled with the more spiritual work of Eckhart Tolle,  Simon Sinek’s “What is Your Why?“, changed and developed my “Mindset” thanks to Carol Dweck, and the phenomenal book “Switch” by Chip and Dan Heath, I have somehow developed a wonderfully holistic little map book for my adventure of life.  I am not saying that I have all the answers, and sometimes when I dig into my head it is so full of clutter that I can’t find my spiritual road map.  But when I make sure that my mind is empty of the noise, my soul is clear and my intentions are pure, I am guided by my own inner wisdom in exactly the right direction.

Of course, there are times when I argue with my intuitive GPS and because of that end up lost and confused in the quagmire of indecision and self-doubt.  Learning to stop, take a deep breath and respond to situations has been a lifelong challenge for me.  I am more of the kick-down-the-door-guns-blazing kinda girl, and to hell with the consequences, (which I always need to go back and deal with later when the dust has settled).  But as my awareness and consciousness grow, I am able to experience genuine peace in my life, where I can simply sit on the sidelines and watch the drama unfold without becoming involved in it…of course those are the good days!  But to be honest these are not as frequent as I would like them to be.

So, this year I am committing my energy towards learning to be more present and grounded in my personal centre.  Where I am able to breathe through the anxiety and as Brené Brown puts it so powerfully, “lean into the joy, rather than pushing myself into worst-case-scenario mode.  I aspire to be wholehearted in my pursuit of adventure, however that may show itself this year, and go out into the wilderness with courage, vulnerability and a genuine commitment to support, love and empower those whose lives I may touch through my collaborations, partnerships, friendships and casual meetings.  And for those in my little tribe of much loved individuals, I hope to enrich and sweeten their lives through my words, actions and unconditional love.

Now I think I am going to go and have an afternoon nap…it feels like a loving thing to do.

Posted in Be The Change, Nutrition & Lifestyle Coaching

Want a Chocolate? Have a Chocolate!?

Dreams_ActionAnd who would be surprised if I said that the biggest challenge in my recovery recently has not been relationships (although there have been a few major changes there), work (also a stressful, chaotic space at the moment), or my personal growth and development (the Enneagram work I am doing has been enormously grounding), but rather my health & fitness…AGAIN!

I was looking back through my posts and in “It’s not the substance that’s the problem…” I talk on this very issue with such hope and optimism.  At the time I was on a very extreme medically-assisted diet, and I was doing great!  I was on the pink cloud of weight loss and completely unconcerned about how I was going to sustain the drastic, low-calorie approach with daily supplements and self-administered injections…I really had no intention of thinking it through as the kilos dropped off.  Which is not unlike the same phase that many of my clients go through in early recovery.  This is great!  I feel great!  Everything’s great!  BANG!!! I just ran into a wall.  And surprise, surprise that is exactly what happened to me.

I had a bad financial run at work, the injections, weekly consultations and supplements became too expensive, I was battling with the 650 calories a day and extreme hunger and I just became plain miserable.  On top of that I was “not allowed” to exercise and I’ve never needed much encouragement to avoid the gym.  Needless to say I relapsed into old behaviours, and about 14 months later I had regained the 15 kilograms I had lost and a couple extra.  So there I was back in the same place, feeling guilt and shame, battered self-worth and considering myself a complete failure, with a cupboard full of clothes that didn’t fit properly.

And so began the process all over again…  I don’t understand the science of nutrition or what’s really going on with my metabolism, so I once again I deferred to an expert.  Motivated, willing and more than a little desperate I booked a series of appointments with a dietician.  I mean, after all, I have been on Weigh-Less, Atkins, Scarsdale, low-fat, high-protein, no-this and no-that diets, with more than a few medical diets, and a period of starvation, so I thought I’d try something new.   But at the end of the day it’s all exactly the same…a completely unsustainable approach to eating that fills my kitchen and bathroom with another set of ingredients, most of which I am not particularly enamoured by, and a stack of supplements, vitamins and concoctions that  don’t come cheap.  And after weeks of minimal weight loss, I am left feeling despondent and frustrated, with the implied narrative that if I had more willpower and discipline, I would be doing much better, “But don’t worry just try harder this week!” Try harder than what?

And of course, the determination that was there in the beginning starts to rapidly wain and I still cannot fit into my clothes (or afford to buy new ones).

By December 2016 I was so fed up with empty promises and weight-loss failures, I was more than ready to throw in the towel completely and work my way towards a size 20.  But then something amazing happened…  A client that I had  been working with offered to help me, by looking at everything food, nutrition, diet and exercise from a completely new perspective.  And instead of telling me what to do or how to do it, he simply explained that there was another way!  And then he started to work with me in an open, honest accountability partnership.  With the use of “My Fitness Pal“, weight and measurement tracking and certain targets around nutrition, we began the process.  And instead of being prescriptive and authoritative he began coaching  me around the emotional, physical and mental aspects of healthy diet and exercise.  The diet is a calorie-controlled diet, but with the use of technology the process has become remarkably simple and sustainable.

Want a chocolate?  Have a chocolate!  Just remember that it means you might have to eat smaller quantities of your other food during the day.  So it’s about sometimes being able to have that little treat, without feeling guilty about “cheating”, while at the same time starting to develop a really healthy mental and emotional relationship with food.  Instead of seeing food as good or bad, it’s simply food, with a certain amount of calories, carbs, protein & fats.  Either I have the available calories to eat it or I don’t.  It’s been a liberating few months, coupled with almost daily exercise as I am coached and educated around nutrition and exercise.  Not once have I been sent to the treadmill for an exhausting 45″ power walk, but have had the opportunity to do short(ish) workouts using weights and machines.

The results have been amazing as the centimeters have started to fall off, my clothes have been brought out of the “skinny clothes” cupboard, and I have a completely different sense of self.  I feel more intentional, self-assured and grounded as my body awareness deepens.  I am not constantly obsessed by what I can’t eat and am now working with myself from a space of compassion and self-love.

And as I go through the process, once again I see how without the right environment & resources, it’s really challenging to get well and stay well.  The right  kind of support system plays an essential role in recovery and wellness, because getting healthy is one things, staying healthy is something else entirely.  Education and understanding are proving to be invaluable tools for me, rather than simply being handed a formula and told to stick to it.  Being given a degree of flexibility and not being told to give up my daily cappuccino has been revolutionary.  There’s balance and accountability, and I am starting to see exactly how essential these are to me in most areas of my life.

So, instead of feeling stressed and deprived, I feel grounded and supported.  Rather than feeling judged and criticised I am feeling accountable and responsible.  And unlike all the other times I have felt self-loathing and shame about previous failures, I know feel understood and personally empowered.  I have been given the space to get honest about my relationship with myself around food, body image, health and fitness and it’s been a game changer.  Knowing the power of the coaching model it’s actually not that surprising really, but as with anything else that we want to change, it starts with an honest conversation and a willingness to make the necessary changes to move forward in life.  And for that I am extremely grateful to Alex.

For more information about Alex Campbell Transformation, email alexcampbelltransformation@gmail.com or visit Alex’s Facebook page.