Thursday, August 22, 2013

Choosing Hope Over Despair

This week I am hosting a guest blog from a young man named Matt. I love his positive message and hope you enjoy it as well. Also, if you know someone who is suffering and may be helped with this message, please share it.

Three and a half years ago, I was sitting in Washington County Jail with three felony charges. I was addicted to drugs and alcohol, without a home, and did not have very much to offer the world. Feeling hopeless, afraid, and confused, I had completely given up on happiness.

Today, I am absolutely content with my life, where I have been, and where I may go. I have been sober for three and a half years, own The Easier Softer Way, work full-time at a job I absolutely love, have a wonderful relationship with my girlfriend, family, and friends, and I am fully self-sufficient financially. Although I am only 22 years old, I have achieved more in my life already than I ever thought I would be able to.

I share these things neither to brag nor to make these things seem overly important. I share my experience with the wish that somebody who is hopeless may hear it, and know that we are never truly without hope. Although my life looks great on the outside, these external gifts are only a tiny piece of the happiness I experience. The true gifts come with peace of mind, contentment, and the ability to be present.

When I was using drugs and alcohol on a daily basis, I was constantly running from reality. I had innumerable problems that I perceived, all of which rested outside of myself. I was rarely present for my life, and my unhappiness ruled me.

I found when I got sober that I had to look within myself if I were to find contentment in my life. The key was that I had happiness within me all along. When people use the term “recovering,” it means to me that we are able to recover our true nature, our hearts. As my true nature was lost in my addiction, I had to recover who I was. Through a fair amount of work, I was able to find the person that had been within me all along.

One of the greatest tools I have toward ridding myself of negativity within myself is mindfulness. Mindfulness teaches me to be present, and recognize what I am feeling. In a way, it is the opposite of averting from our feelings and thoughts by drug use. In mindfulness I am able to meet my thoughts and feelings head on. When I know what is going on within me, I am more easily able to deal with the problem. A teacher of mine reminds me that if a car breaks down, you can’t just simply fix it. You have to open the hood and find out what is going on!

I know today that when I am lonely, I can reach out to my loved ones and do something fun. I know when I feel bad about something I did, I can apologize and work on that behavior. Knowing what is causing the discomfort, I must take action! Sitting around thinking about my problems is a sure path into negativity for me. When I take action, I am able to change my headspace and open up to a whole new positive world.

Together, mindfulness of what is going on within and immediate action have helped me grow each and every day. The path from hopeless to smiling and free is not always easy, but it is often simple. I must look at the unhappiness in my life and take personal responsibility. I am very careful to not beat myself up. I look at what I have control over (myself), and I focus my energy there. In this way, I can take action to change who I am, rather than letting my happiness always rest in the hands of others.

I am indescribably grateful for the life I have and the person I am today. If you had told me how my life would unfold when I was sitting in that jail cell, I would have chuckled at your insanity. I know today that I have no idea what the future holds, and if I stay sober and deal with the issues as they arise, I am able to live happy, joyous, and free.

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