Saturday, 14 July 2012

A Design for Living

“I’d always believed that a life of quality, enjoyment, and wisdom were my human birth right and would be automatically bestowed upon me as time passed. I never suspected that I would have to learn how to live - that there were specific disciplines and ways of seeing the world I had to master before I could awaken to a simple, happy, uncomplicated life.” - Dan Millman

I was born in a little African country called Malawi.  I don’t remember too much about those childhood years but looking back at family pictures shows how uncomplicated and simple that way of life was.  We had a little cottage on the lake and my brother and I spent weekends in dugout canoes, fishing with the locals and exploring the unspoilt, natural wonders of beautiful Lake Malawi. We attended the local school and there was no discrimination of race or social status.
Then circumstances changed my life forever.  We left for South Africa – never to return.  My parents had no choice but to put me into a boarding school and at the age of seven, I was confused and scared.  In a new country torn apart by apartheid, I could not understand why the very same people, who had been my friends, were treated with such disrespect.  My parents had always believed in discipline but now my life had a stricter set of rules and I was punished severely if they were not adhered to.  This is where all my emotional insecurities began. 
Lack of encouragement and love was my fate. As I grew up, the more I tried to please, the more that was expected of me in return.  I learned that nothing you do is ever good enough, however hard you try.   Today I can appreciate the fact that I had an opportunity to attend one of the best schools in the country but at the time I felt like I was a misfit amongst my wealthy friends.  I never felt that I really belonged anywhere.        
First year college introduced a whole new life to me – freedom and alcohol.  I thrived on it.  I could be whoever I wanted to be and when life threw me lemons, I grabbed the salt and tequila!  The more society put pressure on me, the more I made myself invisible with alcohol.  Alcohol gave me confidence and a new meaning to life.  Powerful, cunning, baffling – I hid so well behind those bottles that no one, including myself, could see what damage it was actually doing to my life.
When I look back now I can see the progression of my illness.  Alcohol dictated who I spent my time with.  It became more important than the needs and desires of those I loved.  It became more important than my health.  Alcohol made me self-abusive and unconsciously abusive toward others.  It made me dishonest and disconnected from the world around me.  Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity I became physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually ill.
Today I am so grateful for recovery.  I will not regret my past for that has moulded me into what I am striving to become today.  There is no place for resentment in my life.  I have taken my inventory, noted my character defects and made my amends and will continue to do so, on a daily basis, so I can grow spiritually.  Through prayer I find the courage to face any fears and obstacles that may block my thoughts to a positive attitude.  I still have growing pains but I will not wallow in self-pity and ego, but rather put my energy into reaching out to others who are still suffering.
Recovery offers me a simple design for living.  In the past I just existed.   Life should not be about discrimination of race or wealth but rather compassion, love and kindness.   It is not about how hard you fall, but the fact that you get back up and learn from it.  I cannot change others opinions and expectations but I can change me - from the inside out.  I have learnt to take a deep breathe, put my hand on my heart and smile.  It takes just twelve little steps and one day at a time - it really can be so simple and uncomplicated.

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