No News is Good News

The Journey Continues…

It’s been awhile since I’ve updated my journal. On the one hand, it means that nothing exciting (or newsworthy) has been going on. On the other hand—and more importantly—the old idiom rings true: No news is good news.

Today marks 1,229 days of sobriety… so that’s good news!

What’s interesting is that the self-awareness I’ve gained through the program has been keeping me on my toes; my conscience is an ever-present observer (and judge) of my behavior. Sometimes it’s annoying and I wonder if it’s some kind of disorder; like I just enjoy casting guilt upon myself. But, the fact of the matter is… it’s a necessary process. It keeps me from straying (too far) out of bounds.

It’s not drinking that I worry about, either. It’s every other lure that catches my attention and cries out to me; “I am what you need, and you need more, more, MORE… of ME!” In other words, I can become addicted to anything. Food, bargain shopping, internet use, even blogging… wait… what?

I just wish it worked with healthier things. I joined a gym several months ago and thus far I’ve only set foot in the door once. And that was to pay my bill!

Speaking of the addictions, I wrote an essay for my English class last semester, Electronic Media: Entertainment or Enslavement. The question addressed was whether or not internet addiction should be added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). In doing the research, I stumbled on a little gem that I’ve stashed away; something that has helped me with my own ‘self-analysis’ when I’m worried that I may be walking one of those fine lines again.

Mark D. Griffiths PhD* said that the question he is asked most often is what is the difference between a healthy excessive enthusiasm and an addiction? Griffiths’ response is simple, and—if you ask me—the magic formula:

“A healthy excessive enthusiasm adds to life whereas an addiction takes away from it.”

That being said, when I’m taking my inventory and self-reflecting, the question that I ask myself now is not “am I doing too much of THIS?” Rather, it’s “am I neglecting too much of THAT?”

It’s been working for me. It’s not always easy to see you’re becoming addicted to a behavior, but it’s fairly easy to recognize that you’re NOT doing certain things. Things are getting pushed to the wayside; falling through the cracks; spiraling out of control. You can’t miss that!

So… that’s the latest news. That’s where I am today.

School starts in one month and I’ll be too busy to self-reflect or write about the details of my journey once that gets going. That’s ok though. I’ve already registered for my classes and I’m SUPER excited. I’m taking that Web Development class that I mentioned before, and I’ve also added The Bible as Literature. Regrettably, reading the Bible is something that falls to the wayside too often, so I’m excited it will be part of my curriculum.

Everything is moving along!

Now if I can just get myself to the gym. 🙂

The featured image is something I played with recently. I guess you could call if a foot-trait. Ha! It was actually a jogger on the beach. There wasn’t much excitement in the frame as a whole, but I thought it was cool to see her feet against the sand. It looks as though she’s on a very peaceful journey… something I can relate to!

Life is good, sobriety is awesome, and God is great!

—Janet

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: News

*Article mentioned in post: http://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-excess/201605/the-myth-the-addictive-personality

End of the Rainbow

Something wonderful happens when it rains here! I saw this ‘end of the rainbow’ a few weeks ago and thought it was a great image for this evening. I logged on a while ago and saw that I have 25 minutes to go until my sober anniversary. Woo!

School is keeping me SUPER busy, and I rarely come up for air… but I’ve been thinking about everyone!

Anyway, I added a lot of drama to this photo, just because. It was quite a dramatic feeling to walk out and see it in person. I never really knew if you could see the end of a rainbow until I actually saw it.

And now I’ve hit my 3 year sobriety mark and life is fabulous.

What’s funny is that I shared it on Facebook the day that I shot the image, and someone seemed adamant that it wasn’t real. I guess my Photoshop adventures have placed my photo shares in the “this image could be fake” category. BUT… it is real.

That’s about all for now. Miss you all and hope to have more time soon… “Spring Break” is just a couple weeks away. 🙂

Peace & Love Everyone!!

Gratitude Hour

Time can be a little deceptive. It’s been two months since the fall semester ended, and—to be honest—it feels like it’s been a year. I’m grateful for the “down time,” don’t get me wrong, but that old familiar feeling… that it’s time to get moving… has taken hold, and Tuesday can’t come soon enough.

It’s kind of like long, out of town vacations. They’re awesome! They’re fun, relaxing, and refreshing, but eventually you reach that point where you just want to go home. So… Daily Addiction’s word today is Inspire, and I’ve been thinking about that word quite a bit (burning the midnight oil again).

In my pondering, I realized that one of the reasons my life, and this blog, have morphed and grown so much over the past couple of years is because so many of you have inspired me.

Undoubtedly, I’ll be online much less once my classes start… so it seems like the perfect time to express my gratitude for that inspiration.

To all the photographers out there, thank you for sharing. Seeing all of your beautiful images inspired me to pick up my camera again… and learn to use Photoshop (well, at least until I get better). Ha!

To all the writers out there, thank you for sharing your words. All of you helped me realize that I DO want to write, and your posts; be it poetry, stories, or commentary, have inspired me to work harder at becoming the best I can be.

To all of the artists out there… I just love what you do. I can’t draw a stick figure to save my life, but thank God for digital art! Thank you for sharing your work with the world and inspiring me to create.

To every blogger who dedicates their time to encourage or teach us something… about God, about recovery, about work, about life or psychology… thank you. You inspire me for sure.

It’s funny too, as I write this post… I see how everything connects… and I can almost see my future unfolding before my eyes. More on that as time goes on.

I’ll still be here as often as possible…

…as the journey continues.

—Janet

Peace & Love!

To anyone who has ever taken time to read, like, or comment on something I’ve shared… thank you to you as well. You inspire me to keep going! 🙂 And now it’s past midnight… and I realize that this post sounds like a big goodbye… but it’s not! HaHa! It’s just a big thank you.

Go With the Flow

Late last night, as I pondered what to write about in my next post, the question “what are you trying to accomplish here?” came to mind.

I thought about how my blog started—how I wanted to share the story of my recovery, and offer words of “hope” to other people who were still suffering—and then I thought about how the subject matter has twisted, turned, and evolved over time.  

I wondered if certain words that I’ve written were (or were not) necessary; whether or not they conveyed anything “positive or uplifting” to the person they might reach, or if they were just “filler.”

The bottom line is that I want to write words that matter, and I critique my words harshly… reprimanding myself at times for being hasty; not thinking things through carefully, or failing to do my very best. I think it boils down to two things: impatience and perfectionism. I always feel rushed—like there’s some ‘imaginary’ deadline I have to meet—so I zig zag around to get things done at warp speed and then, sometime later, I look back to question everything and point out the imperfections.

Needless to say, the only thing that emerged from all of my overthinking was a bunch of unnecessary stress.

As I laid down to rest, I did what comes naturally now…

I surrendered.

I listened to my music, turned everything over to God… and I allowed my body to relax… as the tears rolled down my cheeks. They weren’t tears of sadness or frustration, mind you; they were tears of peace, tears of joy, and tears of love. Surrender will do that.

For today’s Which Way Challenge, I decided to use this photo because it reminded me that striving too hard, or failing to surrender, is like trying to force your way through rush hour traffic. You can push and prod, change lanes frequently, honk your horn… and even shout obscenities, but the fact of the matter is you won’t really get too far. Plus you’ll suffer from self-inflicted stress, and probably piss off other drivers in the process.

Surrender, on the other hand, reminds me of my road trips. I know it will be a long journey, I know I’ll run into traffic, and I welcome the unexpected detours. I relax, play my music, go with the flow… and soak in the scenery.

And if anyone asks me which way I’m going, I answer “hmmm… I don’t know… wherever the road takes me…”

Peace & Love—
—Janet

Which Way Challenge: January 24th

The strongest position you can be in is complete surrender.

New Perspectives

Oftentimes I tell the people I meet about my transformation; how much I’ve changed since entering recovery and coming to believe. The way I usually describe it is that all of these changes are internal… they can’t be seen. Well, aside from the fact that you won’t “see” me drinking anymore.

Sometimes I refer to it as a “new attitude,” and other times I say that a lot of it has do with “gratitude.” Even so, I still find myself complaining or whining at times (especially when I play softball), but I’m able to recognize my behavior, pull out my tools, and work on fixing the problem.

While pondering the word angle—I realized that looking at life, myself, and others from different perspectives is probably one of the KEY factors behind my transformation. My new attitude stems from seeing things from new angles, and the ability to do so keeps me grateful.

One of the greatest things I learned in recovery was that I need to look at my own reflection when something is bothering me, because… as they say: No matter where I go, there I am.

It’s easy to feel discouraged, hopeless, irritated or angry when you believe that everything ‘outside of yourself’ is the cause of your condition. When you learn that YOU hold they key, and that you have the ability to change how YOU feel or react to these things… well… suddenly the world looks totally different!

—Janet

RDP Tuesday: Angle

Life is good and God is GREAT!

Magical Makeovers

—A Page in My Journal

My best friend went to cosmetology school when she was eighteen, and I was the brave subject of her very first “perm.” It looked pretty BAD, but eventually my hair grew out. Over the years that followed (or decades I should say), she became the extremely talented hairdresser that she is today.

For many of those years, although she did exactly what I had asked her to do, I’d come away from her shop feeling slightly disappointed. Sometimes I wondered if it was just MY hair that never seemed to come out “just like” the pictures that I would bring her.

I don’t know why it took her so many years to say it; but finally one day when we were discussing my dissatisfaction, she said that sometimes people come in believing that their new color or cut will make them look just like “the woman” in the photographs that they bring in, but that just isn’t the case. And it certainly isn’t a reality.

All I can say is that I love my friend dearly—and her honesty—and she really got through to me that day. Getting my hair cut to look like Jennifer Aniston’s latest style will NOT make me look like “Jennifer Aniston.” Such a simple fact, but it took my friend’s directness to make me grasp that truth.

Today I read a post by another blogger, and I had an “Aha!” moment. I realized that sometimes I’m still looking for those “magical” makeovers—just not with my hair. I get trapped into thinking that if I do the right things, I’ll suddenly be “someone else.”

I’ll no longer procrastinate or stay in my sweats until late in the afternoon. I’ll be able to function without coffee. I’ll be a designer, a writer… or perhaps a cage fighter. (Hey, stranger things have happened!)

The point is that I’m beginning to see why I struggle with follow-through. I envision that “someone else” that I expect to resemble, and… well… I’m still me. I’m not Jillian Michaels in the gym, or [insert name here] anywhere else. And when I realize that I haven’t “magically” transformed into someone else, I feel that same disappointment I felt when I left my friend’s hair salon. Then I change directions—or I give up.

As I thought about these things, a phrase from recovery came to mind: “Just for today.

So I embraced “who I am,” instead of “who I want to be,” and I did the things that I love. I didn’t try to function without my coffee, and I stayed in my sweats way too long. And I was a writer… just for today.

Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!

Dr. Seuss

Sometimes I think Dr. Seuss had it all figured out.

—Janet

Introspection

Fear, like a giant boulder…
Stays weighted at my feet.
—Afraid I’ll miss the curtain call, I stay paralyzed…
Gazing at the stage to find my cue.

Impatience, like a cold wind…
Sends me sailing into a flurry.
—I shatter into pieces, chasing a million things…
Until all that’s left are tiny shards.

Reason, like a brilliant scientist…
Wants to put me back together.
—Like a puzzle to be solved, I inspect the fragments…
But many of the pieces have been lost.

Acceptance, like a soft embrace…
Whispers I am enough.
—The mystery becomes magical, and I feel love.

But, Gratitude… Sweet, sweet Gratitude
—Like a burning flame…
She warms my soul.

Inspired by the Word of the Day Challenge: Gratitude

I’ve decided to make a commitment this month. I’m going to “write something every day,” and “work on things that I find challenging.”

Today’s Accomplishment: Write a poem without a rhyme

Dr. Seuss likes to whistle tunes to me when I even ‘think’ about poetry, so this was extremely hard for me.


Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors. —African Proverb


Playing the Game

Well, I never made it outside yesterday (Boooo). Honestly… it is freaking COLD here! Not as cold as so many places, but in California these recent “extremes” are quite shocking to some of us natives.

Anyway, even though I made a silent vow to stay away from my archived photographs, this morning I remembered some images I took at the park some time ago, and this one seemed perfect for today’s thoughts. Par for the course, I played around in Photoshop to make it appear a little “dreamy.” I couldn’t help but wonder if this young boy was dreaming a little himself at that moment; feeling hopeful about his future in baseball.

I don’t know if I mentioned it before… but this past summer I played coed slow-pitch softball. I’ve now joined a winter league, and this weekend is our first practice game. A friend of mine—who has never played before—has also signed up, and this past Sunday the two of us went to the batting cages.

After showing her how to hold the bat, how to stand, and how to swing, I gave my friend the cage and watched her go at it. I found myself a bit baffled by her performance (and I hope she never reads this!). She seemed distracted—always watching the entrance to see who might be walking in—and when she swung it seemed “halfhearted” to me. It’s almost like she had already decided that she sucked at it, so she didn’t even want to try.

The good news is that eventually her bat started connecting with the ball that was being delivered to her, and we were both happy that she made some progress.

The reason I bring this up is because yesterday I spent the day brainstorming—thinking about my ideas, my dreams, and my goals for this year. I took time to write the important ones down… and then pondered how to break them down into little steps.

I felt really good after that. It’s like putting them on paper (well, on screen actually) made them appear more real to me, more achievable. When I was heading to bed I sort of imagined myself taking even more steps—getting out there and being intentional about my next moves.

That’s when the vision of my friend came to my mind… I imagined how she stood there; swinging that bat with what appeared to be “zero hope” that she would ever actually HIT the ball.

Something inside of me clicked, and I realized that sometimes the way I think and talk about my dreams is like how she swung that bat—with no real hope of actually making contact.

If I’m going to turn those dreams into reality, I need to get my butt out to that plate, stand there like I mean it, keep my eye on the ball… and swing that bat like there’s no tomorrow!  

Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.

Babe Ruth

Life is good, and God is great!
—Janet

A Better Me

It’s always exciting to see a new year approaching, and the word goal really got me thinking today. Not about my goals for the year ahead, but about the goals I’ve already set—over the last couple of years—and how they have helped change, or shape me, in ways I never expected.

In all honesty, sometimes I have NO idea where this journey is taking me. When I made the decision to go to college, I was SURE that Graphic Design was the path that was meant for me. When I decided to alter my course, and major in Psychology, it felt “perfectly natural.” And now—while I’m figuring out how to work English into the equation—I can’t help but wonder: “Will I ever get this right?” Continue reading A Better Me

Unshakable

I used to feel invisible, and I was empty inside.

You wouldn’t know it by looking at me though, as I was beautifully bedecked with many embellishments. Coolness was probably the first (and the cheapest) ornament that I picked up, and it stuck to me no matter what I did. Of all of the decorations that I collected through the years, coolness was also probably the most vocal. “Be cool,” it would whisper, “just act like you don’t care.”

Shortly thereafter, I found the spirit (the liquid kind), and I discovered that consuming that spirit brought about all kinds of shiny garlands. My penetrating fears were veiled by courage, and in time I acquired pride as well. Courage came and went freely, but a healthy dose of the spirit usually prompted it to run back home, and sit boldly on its wobbly throne.

Pride, on the other hand, attached itself firmly. If the spirit was low, or courage seemed to be lost, pride would encourage arrogance, or feed on other things to help it grow. It treasured success, money, and even “things.” Eventually… pride started flirting with greed, and it seemed as though we never had enough—of anything. Sometimes I think the two of them were in bed together from the very beginning.

Soon all of these trimmings lost their sheen, and I became convinced that if I found love—the “one”—I would be garnished perfectly. Love was the ultimate frill, the tantalizing tinsel that I really needed. I was sure of it! The search went on… and on… but my efforts proved disastrous.

In a tragic whirlwind, I caught a glimpse of myself one day and realized that I was nowhere to be found. Swallowed up by my decorations—and drowning in the spirit—I was still invisible. That void inside of me was still there, hollower than ever, and not one of those adornments could save me.

That’s when I found you; free for the taking and ready to move in—without question. Unlike that temporal spirit that I used to devour, you filled that void with your spirit, and it was sturdy and concrete… something I’d never known before.

I couldn’t see it, but I felt it.

Since then, my life has never been the same. There isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not overflowing with gratitude and joy. Sure, I still get caught up in old habits and start festooning myself with things that seem glitzy and glamorous… that’s human nature.

But, as quickly as they come, these trappings fade away. Each time they do, I’m adorned with nothing but my childlike faith. There is no emptiness though… because you are always still there—my unshakable rock—holding me up, and keeping me strong.

And I am no longer invisible… I am clothed in love.

God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.

Augustine

Inspired by the Word of the Day challenge: Bedeck

Merry Christmas Everyone!! I love you all!

Dream Chasers

A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work. Colin Powell

In visiting some images from my past, I stumbled on this photograph I took of some of my friends taking surf lessons. I thought it was a good representation of my thoughts lately; about hard work and determination.

One of our math assignments last week was to read an article by Carol S. Dweck—the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University—about fixed mindsets vs. growth mindsets. What’s interesting is that in doing so, I learned a little something about myself.

A person with a fixed mindset believes that intelligence levels, talents, and abilities are fixed, that we inherently have what we have (basically what we are fortunate enough to be born with), and that’s it. A person with a growth mindset, on the other hand, believes that intelligence levels, talents, and abilities can be cultivated through effort and education; they are potentials that can be realized through learning and practice.

I’ve always had a tendency to bounce around when it comes to my passions, interests, and pursuits—I can’t always stick to one thing—and I’m now realizing why that is; I have a bit of a fixed mindset.

Whenever I hit a wall—when something becomes too difficult, or too challenging for me—I simply change my direction. I automatically assume that I must have been on the wrong track to begin with, and that I don’t inherently have what it takes to continue on the path that I’m on. I guess you could say that I believed I had reached a plateau; a point where I could never go higher in that particular realm. That was a fixed mindset.

A person with a growth mindset would have believed that they did in fact have the potential to go higher, beyond those plateaus that are actually momentary and temporary obstacles. A person with a growth mindset would believe that they could do it, but that the process would require something of them: 

Effort and hard work.

I’m not saying I’m not a hard worker. What I’m saying is that when I DO work hard I tend to want to work at something that comes easy to me. Something I already understand or know how to do well. That’s not growth; that’s repetition. In looking back at my old business, I recognize this. I did what I did for a living (and for so long) because it came easy to me. I could do it with little effort or thought!

So, now that I’m aware of this I’m going to work on changing my beliefs. No more fearing or running from things that are difficult or challenging. I also thought this was good information to share because I’m sure there are other people who may be stuck in a fixed mindset; believing that they aren’t cut out for something.

It really IS possible, it just takes determination, hard work and practice.

Don’t sell yourself short!

If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere. Frank A. Clark

Bringing Out the Bold

The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves. Carl Jung

It’s been a battle between intellect & creativity for me this week. Right brain vs. left. I needed to do something playful because I wasn’t having much fun with what I’ve been doing—still tweaking the blog. O.C.D. much?!?

I know they don’t get seen much, but my intellect’s been telling me to delete the posts that are too irrelevant, remove old images that seem weird or boring, fix those accidental double line spaces, and edit some things I said in the past that now sound silly (Hey, this isn’t twitter! I can do a re-do, right?!)

So, speaking of silly; I mentioned that looking back on my story was a great gratitude exercise for me, but there’s something else that I noticed that’s been really eye opening for me. In every other post—be it a story or an image—I was constantly explaining myself and apologizing!

In introducing images, the opening line would read something like “well this didn’t really turn out like I wanted but…” or “I know this isn’t the clearest image but…” and if I was writing my thoughts—I said things like “well, this probably sounds silly but…”

When I took that short Writer’s Boot Camp course, I actually did that once with my instructor and he jumped all over me. “Never introduce your work by downplaying it like that. Your reader will have formed a negative opinion before they’ve even read what you wrote!” He said that when you do that it means that either your work actually DOES suck, or that you really DO think your work is good, but you’re fishing for compliments. There was a third option though; you have no confidence. In that case—he said—you probably shouldn’t pursue writing.

I’m not sure that hearing him say that ever really sunk in—in fact I’d forgotten all about it until now—but when I started going over the past I was shocked at how often I’ve done that! Almost every time!

What’s awesome about this is that I haven’t felt compelled to do that after coming back from my long break. I think that I’ve found some of that confidence that was missing before. That’s not to say that anything I write or create has improved—in fact I’d say that my skill levels are exactly where they were when I left off last year. Nothing has changed. Nothing… except my confidence!

It was so exciting to learn that this past week, and something that’s definitely worth sharing. Just keep on the path—turn it all over to God—and you see changes, growth, and transformations that you didn’t even expect!

That being said, I wanted to create an image that expressed my mood right now. Something with movement, something a little crazy & wild, and something abstract—that I’m not going to explain or apologize for.

I guess you could say that I’m bringing out the BOLD.

Life is good and God is great!
—Stay encouraged—

There’s no “I” in Team

But there’s a “Me” in Mentor.

First of all, I wanted to share at least one of my school projects here. I’ve butchered it now, but before I made the edits it was the backside of an album cover I created. I haven’t been too thrilled with many of my projects thus far, but the good news is that taking the classes helped me figure out that I needed to go in a completely different direction. And I’m so happy I did—so it’s all good!

Secondly, I thought I would elaborate on my idea—my vision—about a program for people who are in recovery. My initial thoughts about it started when I was trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my (sober) life. My passion for photography and art —or anything that entails creativity really—was where it all started. I imagined an art gallery of sorts, with walls covered in various pieces done by people who are new to recovery, who are trying to get their lives back in order, and are in need of a creative outlet. Or even people who are looking for new ways to fill their time; time that they used to spend on unhealthy habits.

The first thing I wanted to do—and felt was absolutely necessary—before I even considered making this dream a reality was to get really good at something. I figured that starting up some kind of Creativity Center would require me to be an instructor at the facility, or at least teach newcomers how to use the computer programs. So… I made my way to school with the intention of learning some serious skills that I could pass on.

I started realizing that me and graphic design weren’t compatible partners, but—unfortunately—that’s what I had signed up for. In the meantime, however, I was learning things in my other classes that were pointing me in the same direction, but with twists, turns, a little morphing and some expanding.

The-Eye
One of the kickers was when our Pastor spoke about mentoring. He talked about how others had been mentors to us in the past—our parents, teachers, our friends (Gil), and so on—and how now that we are all grown-up, it’s OUR turn to be mentors. I know “grown-up” sounds odd, but many of us there are in recovery so it’s fitting—if you know what I mean.

Anyway, his lesson helped me understand that mentoring is about providing someone with emotional support and guidance. It means helping your protege discover his or her own gifts and talents—and encouraging them in their process (Gil). I guess that’s when my vision started changing the most. I started seeing that limiting it to an art center would be too restrictive, so it morphed into a place where people could do all kinds of things. A place where they could focus on phase two of their recovery. The living sober part.

And photography, writing, and art would be a huge part of it, too. Of course.

So that’s where my thoughts are right now. Up until now it’s been simmering safely in my head, but I read that if you want to take your visions seriously, you have to talk (or write) about them. It makes them more real.

So… talk I will!

The Next Chapter

Just hours after I said that I don’t have much to share these days, all kinds of thoughts started churning around. I haven’t even slept well the past two nights because my mind’s been racing! It reminded me of all the times I proclaimed that I was going to do a new image series, and then the whole idea would just fizzle out. I can never seem to stick with a plan! This time it worked for my benefit though… sort of reverse psychology, I guess.

I was going through my files yesterday, doing a little housecleaning, and I came across one of my old posts; back when I first started the blog. It was such a great reminder to me, and the timing was perfect!

When my friend Gil first encouraged me to write, and to share my story with others, it was the first time in SO long that I felt my life had purpose. I not only had my sobriety, I had this HOPE that I could share with others. I think my exact words were that “I was going to write the story of how my life was transformed.”

I’m going to cut to the chase now: I’m ready for the next chapter!

I’ve had this idea—kind of a vision about my future—for over a year now. If you hadn’t noticed, my image here represents a page of my book. I know, I know, it’s not exactly spectacular and it kind of looks like a paper bag, but HEY, it’s slowly being turned to reveal the first page of the new chapter; Chapter Two.

But, there’s nothing there!

That’s exactly where my vision came from. One of the biggest hurdles that I had to get over in sobriety was to stay that way. 60 days, 90 days, the countdown went on. And on. Coming from a place where I’d done so much damage to my life that I was left standing in a pile of rubble, and then reaching all of those milestones and realizing that life was good, God was great, and that I was sober; I found myself at another hurdle. A more complicated hurdle. What next??

That’s how going back to school came about, and with every passing day my vision is morphing and growing, and becoming more and more possible. So… what next? I’d like to set up a program to work with others who are in recovery. People who have reached or are nearing that hurdle; that what next phase of their recovery. Getting sober is hard, but “living sober” is a journey. And for people like me who hit rock bottom, it means there’s a life to rebuild. A second chance. A new beginning!

I’m still making notes, doing my research, getting questions answered, and so on, but I thought that now was a good time to share the idea. I was hesitant because… well, sometimes I have a hard time sticking to a plan! But, a year’s gone by and the dream hasn’t gone away. It’s been blossoming, really. I pray about it a lot, and lately everything keeps pointing to the fact that this may actually come to fruition.

I’ll start small—baby steps—with just one person, but I gotta be honest here…

I’m dreaming BIG.

Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.

Perfectly Imperfect

Even imperfection itself may have its ideal or perfect state. Thomas de Quincey

It’s the first day of “spring break” here in California, and I wanted to share a photograph I took last year, just before fall. I shot this while I was working on a project for my photography class, but I ended up changing my subject to water and I never turned this one in. The tree may look familiar to some of you; it’s the Ginkgo that sits in the backyard.  I wanted to do something in black and white today, and I’m crazy about all of the organic lines.
Tree

Everything is going really well these days! I celebrated 2 years sober on March 7th – and a full load of classes this semester is keeping me busy (and out of trouble). I’ve been exploring different majors, and have been told that this is actually par for the course; most students change their majors up to 4 times before they finally find what fits.

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Easter! I’ve missed being here, I’ve missed you all, and I look forward to sharing more of my writing, photography and art again – on a regular basis.

The Facade

Don’t trade in  your authenticity for approval.

The photography book that I’ve been browsing through is really inspiring me. I’ve said before that I prefer black and whites, and that was actually the only thing I would hang on the walls of my old place, but I rarely finish and/or post one here.

So… I thought I would try one today. It was a struggle to go through with it, because the original photograph had some awesome color! But, I stuck to my guns. My goal here was to create contrast. I think I did pretty good lightening the sky, but the bushes and mountains in the background still leave some clutter that I’m not crazy about. I think I like it though!

This photograph was taken in Jerome, Arizona- the old 1800’s mining town I talked about before. I love old places!

I liked the idea of a “facade” for this post, because I was thinking about authenticity last night. I’m SUPER excited about being in a classroom full of people come August, but I have to admit that the introvert in me is kind of nervous. I work hard at not letting fear and insecurity get the best of me, and sometimes things go so smoothly that I wonder if I’m really even an introvert at all!

Once I’m comfortable with my surroundings, I don’t even think about it- but that first step into something new can be a little stressful! Especially if I think too much, and anticipate the anxiety. I definitely need to stop those kinds of thoughts.

This all went through my mind last night because I met some new friends for coffee yesterday. I can clearly see that it has a lot to do with my state of mind. I was in hermit mode all day, and spent a lot of time reading and on the computer. While driving to the coffee house, it felt similar to coming out of a dark movie theater- into the blinding light of day… it requires some adjustment!

Everything went fine, of course, but when I got home I felt my muscles relax and thought “boy, it’s good to be home again.” Does everyone feel like that at times? That’s what was going through my head last night.

After pondering it awhile, I decided that authenticity means just being me. And if being me means being a little anxious at times, maybe that’s OK. I accept that. I guess I’d be phony if I said I never get nervous! As long as I keep going and don’t let fear stop me from doing the things I want to do, there’s nothing to worry about!

As my pastor said the other night…

“It’s always too soon to quit.”

I like that!

Anyway, I thought these thoughts were worth sharing today. I guess the moral of the story is just be you, and don’t let fear win.

Have a beautiful day everyone!! Life is good and God is GREAT!

Love, Fear & Courage

There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. -John Lennon 


Well… it seems that my study of the word trust kind of fizzled out. I knew a whole year on one word was not my cup of tea! 😉

Regardless, even a week (or a month) spent on studying a word is something I would recommend. It seems to work better as an evolving process for me. I move from one word to the next, as I learn and discover things.

Lately love, fear and courage are words that keep coming up.

I’m learning so much about self-love, which these days I would have to call acceptance. It’s not about my past, or about what anyone else thinks of me. And it’s not about what I have accomplished (or failed at); where I live, what I do for work, or even what I drive… it’s about being the best ME that I can be. And it’s about building character.

I read something about walking with God. It said that God cares more about how we handle our journey than about where we end up. Makes complete sense! And it helped me stop the worrying about where I’ll be in the future.

It really IS amazing how love and acceptance for yourself; for where you are at this very moment, changes your outlook on life… and your perceptions of others, too. The more I accept myself (just as I am), the kinder and more patient I seem to be.

Imagine that. 😉


The other thing- that I’ve probably heard (or read) a thousand times, but somehow never let sink in- was about fear and courage. That it’s not about the absence of fear, but the courage to go on in spite of your fears”. I don’t know why but when I heard that the other day it finally clicked. It helped me truly accept the fact that YES I still fear things… but that’s OK… because I have courage now.


Anyway, I thought this was a good topic to go with my image. Opposing forces. A Yin and Yang kind of thing.

I got a load of new books from the library today and I can’t get myself to sit and read even one of them right now. I needed some art time. My meditation.

It’s so nice to simply clear my head… create… and just BE.

That’s about all for now. Happy Saturday…  and Peace and Love to you all!

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear. -Mark Twain

A Bright Burst

“Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.” – Max Lucado

My journey sure is getting interesting! Every day I learn a little something about myself, about my habits, and about the power of thoughtsContinue reading A Bright Burst

Light Trickles

Indecision may or may not be my problem. -Jimmy Buffet

After altering this photograph enough times I decided to go for the variety pack image… (thanks for the suggestion Nickel boy) hence the somewhat applicable quote. 😉

I think the purple negative at bottom right is actually my favorite. Below are clickable versions for anyone interested.


After all of the reading I’ve been doing it was nice to sit and clear my head by working on this. But I’ll get back to my reading soon. I am absolutely fascinated by all things relating to psychology.

More and more light trickles in as I discover things about our minds, our personalities, and society- and it really HAS helped me with the whole self-acceptance thing. You know… something I realized is that it’s not looking back at my old self that gets me off track and feeling a little “less than”… it’s looking too far ahead.

I do believe that God is taking me to amazing places, but spending too much of my time and energy trying to zero in on what I think the future will (or should) look like is what’s been tripping me up. Especially when you consider that I spend a lot of time in my head.

It was SO enlightening to see the light! The past is gone, and I’ve let go of that… but trying to peer into the future is what’s been stealing my NOW moments. Not only do I miss what’s in front of me, but my self-acceptance starts to diminish- because I am HERE- NOT THERE… not in that futuristic imaginary place that I so vividly painted in my mind.

ONE STEP AT A TIME needs to be my mantra these days. I’ve already learned what God thinks about shortcuts, so the next indicated step is the only step I need to take. I’ll never be a thousand steps ahead if I don’t take those 999 other steps that lead there!

My old self was always in a hurry. Trying to get 1000 steps ahead in ONE death defying leap. 😉 But, no more!

Anyway… I guess it all comes back to living in the present, which I already knew! But I accept the fact that I forget– remind myself…

…and here I am again!

Right HERE, Right NOW! Being present! 🙂


Life is good, and God is GREAT! Love you guys!! Off to catch up on some of your posts! xo

Love & Acceptance

Most people need love and acceptance a lot more than they need advice. Bob Goff

I forgot to include something in my previous post. I was trying to watch my word count, and I left out an important part of the story; which was the reason that I chose to do the visualization of my inner critic in the first place!

My friend that asked me to share Saturday night spoke after me, and something he said really stuck with me. About love and acceptance.

There’s something that I’ve felt I lacked… you know… that something that was holding me back from being more of service before. I thought perhaps it was the thought that I didn’t know enough, or maybe I didn’t have enough sobriety time, or…. ??

The point is that I’ve never been able to pinpoint what it was that was holding me back.

There are two sayings in the program that baffled me, because they are almost conflicting. One is you can’t transmit something you haven’t got… and the second is that you have to give it away to keep it.

I have God and I have sobriety. I have peace, and joy, and serenity (most of the time). But something still didn’t seem right. What was I missing?!? Did I have IT or NOT?

Anyway… his share was about having love and acceptance for yourself. Because if you don’t have THAT, you can’t very well transmit it.

Wow. Was I ever glad that I went to that meeting. That’s what I’ve been missing!

In doing the 4th step (my fearless and searching moral inventory), and in learning about humility, so much time, focus, and energy had to be spent on discovering what was wrong with me. My faulty beliefs, my wrong thoughts and actions, and my character defects.

And I totally understand that, and am so grateful that God opened my eyes!

But, somewhere in the process… that nasty inner critic of mine took up residency and he likes to hammer away at me. Not constantly, but usually about the time that everything seems to be going really well. That’s when he starts sending me negative messages. Those imaginary roadblocks; like fear and doubt.

I know that God loves me. There is no question there. He has removed the desire to drink from me, and has shown me how to live. But sometimes my light just doesn’t SHINE.

How can I shine if I’m not feeling good about myself?!?

YES… I need to keep an eye on my thoughts, actions and motives… But NO… I can’t allow that old negative geezer to pick me apart.

So that’s what prompted this. And things are going GREAT.

I’ve got some new ideas for writing and images, something that will benefit others, and I will share more as things unfold. In the meantime, I have an interview tomorrow at a staffing agency. Just for some temp work while I get things back in order. Well, that’s the plan anyway.

Life is good and God is GREAT.

Peace and Love Everyone!!

Food For Thought

First of all, I was asked to do a panel Saturday night. When I got there and saw my friend behind a podium (with a microphone!)… I almost lost my cookies. And yes… that is what I had to do. Share my story in front of a fairly large group from behind that podium. That’s a FIRST for me, for sure.

One good thing about “telling your story” is that you really can’t mess it up, because it IS your story! It never changes! Overall I think it went well. Which leads me to the point of my post…

My inner critic.

Let the Lunatics Out of the Attic

I read the coolest thing in a book on introverts. Visualizing your inner critic. I’m sharing it with you because there must be someone else out there who could benefit from it. That’s my guess anyway.

So, the inner critic starts out looking like a big ogre. A large, mean and very grumpy looking character. He looks a bit like a judge; wearing a robe, a frown and holding a gavel. Why he’s a HE I don’t know… you tell me (that’s supposed to be humorous).

He says things like “you can’t do that!;” “you’re not doing enough!” or “You don’t know enough!”

Sound familiar?

Anyway… this guy just got an overhaul. We changed his look, AND his demeanor. Now he’s a cool looking dude with a hat, flip flops, shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. And he only says encouraging things. “Nice job!” — “You’re doing great!” — “Don’t worry… you are right where you need to be!”.

So… that’s what I’ve been practicing, and I can tell you it’s made a huge difference. And what’s funny is that I don’t have to do it much. Just knowing that this new guy rolled into town seems to be enough to keep that old grouchy judge at bay. He’s learning that he’s no longer in charge, and that he’s not allowed to spill out his negativity.

I’ve been looking forward to sharing this because it really IS very helpful.

Don’t worry—be happy.
And stay cool man.

Painted Sunset

I mentioned before that I felt I was entering a new season, and… well… I believe that it’s here! This seems to be a season of learning for me. That being said, you’ll probably hear from me a little less often, simply because it means talking (or writing) less and listening (or reading) more.

Funny thing about saying I’ll be writing less. I actually plan to write MORE, but less on the blog and more in my private journal and some short story projects. As interesting things come up, I will definitely share… but I want to focus on completing projects before I write about them. I seem to be one of those people that halts action once I share the steps I plan to take. It’s like I jinx myself! As a precautionary measure, I’m keeping things to myself until I actually finish the tasks I want to complete.

I’ve learned some fascinating things about Introverts. I picked up another book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. And about 6 other library books about behavior and character.

Did you know that around 1920, America began the shift from a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality. Americans were being captivated by people who were bold and entertaining- while being shy (or introverted) was becoming the uncool thing. That’s when people started becoming performers to impress others, or just to fit in.

And what followed next?

Understandably…. the popularity of “anti-anxiety” drugs!!

In the 1960’s an ad campaign for a tranquilizer read “FOR THE ANXIETY THAT COMES FROM NOT FITTING IN.”

Wow! I never saw that ad (that I can recall), but I discovered that alcohol was a great tranquilizer, none the less. And it certainly did the trick, and helped me perform. That’s just crazy!!

I’ve reached a new level of understanding (and appreciation) of the Scripture “Do not conform to the pattern of this world…

Anyway, I just thought I would share that. I’m not sure where God is leading me with all of this, but I can tell you that these books have given me something. As the author of Quiet stated- she hoped that readers, at the very least– would take away a sense of “entitlement” to be themselves. I get it!

I’m really looking forward to seeing where all of this is going. I feel more comfortable lately, and am much more accepting of myself. I am more calm and relaxed, and the idea of speaking in front of groups isn’t bothering me much anymore, either. Probably because I’m spending less time beating myself up for not being different than I am.

Maybe now that I’ve UNLEARNED so much of my bad thinking and behavior… God is helping me learn about how He created me to be?! Who knows?! This journey is getting exciting, and I TRUST that He’s taking me to new and wonderful places. 🙂

HAPPY EASTER EVERYONE!! He Is Risen and He LIVES!

Love you all and hope that you have a blessed weekend. 

The image is the sky in Leadville, Colorado—taken from my living room window. 

Another Life Boat

Fish Out of Water!

That heading is from a book that I’m reading and I just HAVE to share about it. Yesterday was a really tough day. I met with my sponsor and we talked about my re-entry into the business world. At some point in the conversation I felt overwhelmed and started to cry.

Every time I talk (or think) about this upcoming job search, this crazy fear comes out in me. Fear of mental exhaustion is what I’ve been calling it. I haven’t felt ready to go back to ANYTHING full-time, at ALL. Not right now anyway.

After our meeting I felt a bit beaten, sad… and VERY tired. I felt myself sinking into a depression, BUT… I held on and did what she had suggested. I reviewed my resentments (which happen to pertain to some old business relationships), and my character defects… and read some of the A.A. prayers. One of those prayers is asking God to remove the defects that are standing in the way of my usefulness

One thing that’s been bothering me for awhile is this feeling that I just can’t seem to get OUT of myself. I feel like I spend so much time pondering, self-reflecting, thinking, overthinking, and then self-reflecting more. So much thinking! And I LOVE my solitude- which has also worried me- because isolation is dangerous for alcoholics.

For months now I’ve had this nagging fear that I’m just too self-absorbedand that it’s going to be a life-long struggle to break free from this bondage of SELF.

Shortly after the prayers were done, I was looking in my Kindle for a book to re-read. One of the “recommended for you” books caught my eye. I knew that I HAD to read it!

The Introvert Advantage: How to thrive in an Extrovert World, by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D.

It talks about feeling like a fish out of water, and I thought about the years that I suffered from that dreadful teenage angst… and all the times since then, as an adult, that I’ve felt like that flopping fish, as well.

Anyway, this book is a gift to me from God. I’m sure of it. I’ve always thought that I learned this introverted behavior (from my mother, no less) and that I NEED to change this tendency to focus inward. What I’ve discovered, instead, is that it’s how our brains are wired. Introverts focus inward to get energy! And the ratio is one introvert to three extroverts, so YEAH, we DO feel like a fish out of water sometimes.

Our brains LITERALLY work differently than extroverts. And there are ways that we can monitor ourselves and learn to use our energy wisely- and not get so fatigued. This information is going to help me a great deal in figuring out what kind of work to pursue!

So a bad day turned into a great day! I also mentioned it in my meeting today and the woman sitting right in front of me had read the very same book when she felt that something was wrong with her. Crazy.

What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely being alone can be. Ellen Burstyn

On another note… I did another panel tonight! Things went great. Not only am I finding out out how to conserve my energy levels, I’m also learning to condense my story, so I can tell a good share in less than ten minutes now.

That’s about all for now.

I hope that everyone is having a great evening, morning or afternoon! Peace and Love…

Finding Rest

I found the words this morning! So, I am going to go with it, with very little editing… so I hope this all makes sense. I guess the coolest thing I’ve found about studying the word trust is that it keeps leading me to new words.

This morning the word was REST.

First of all… here is what I’ve learned about what it means to trust God…

He is a place of refuge, and (in) Him we are surrounded by His protection and embraced by His compassion. Trusting Him means: to lean on Him, to rely on Him, to hold onto Him, to flee to Him for protection, to stay, to hope, to expect, to be patient, and to linger in expectation… and wait.

It also has a lot to do with being on the inside. Examples are:

to be firm (in), to confide (in), to have confidence (in), to be secure (in), to seek refuge (in), to feel safe (in), to have assurance (in), to abide (in) and to find rest (in).

This morning finding rest in Him was what I decided to focus on because it relates to surrender…

My struggles with surrender have very LITTLE to do with “lack of trust” in God, but have everything to do with what I am accustomed to; which is ME being in charge.

That’s my former way of life.

I spent DECADES as an unbeliever, so the fact of the matter is… I spent decades trying to play God. I was seated on the throne, and I remained there until my imaginary kingdom was in ruins, and I was as close as I ever want to be to… death from alcohol.

Anyway, I feel really good right now because I know it just takes time.

When I call myself an alcoholic it feels really weird. I don’t drink anymore, nor do I have any desire to. But… as they say… alcoholism is but a symptom. In truth, alcohol is just ONE of things that I’ve been addicted to, chased, followed or even worshiped. False gods.

My life was FULL of them; Alcohol, drugs, money, success, shopping, and the love of a man… to name a few.

I won’t say that I sat on this imaginary throne feeling all-powerful, because I had very LITTLE power. I just didn’t know any better. I lived a life run by self-will, and I sought anything and everything that I thought would fill that huge void, make me happy, and fix my life.

Page 62 of the A.A. big book states “…the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot” and that is truer and true. I ran rampant!

Not until I had no other options… and was completely and utterly hopeless, did I look to God. But, He did exactly what He promises to do. He was there for me, and He led me out of that dark pit. Even after decades of rebellion.

So… what does this have to do with today? Well… what I discovered recently was that although I have great passion for writing and photography, those are “extras”. They are His blessings, and I cannot REST in those things, nor can I look to them to be the source of my happiness and security.

This is something that I was feeling inside, so it might not be so obvious to anyone else. But the fact of the matter is, what is happening inside of us is THE most important thing.

I began pursuing something and… without really realizing it… I was leaving God behind. I put something else FIRST. I ended up feeling irritable, confused, a little lost… and depressed. I knew something was wrong. Everything was bugging me. My camera was not good enough. I couldn’t find the right things to take pictures of, I was tired of trees and birds, yada yada yada. That’s one reason I was so happy to go to my sister’s house for a week. I needed to regroup.

Anyway… I realized what was wrong, admitted my problem, took a U-turn, and there He was. Waiting for me to return so that He could shower me with His love and surround me with His grace. How sweet is that?!

Everything is just as it should be today. And I came across a great quote that I want to keep close to me from here on out:

Everywhere the King is King, there is the Kingdom.

That’s so easy to remember, and a great reminder for me to stay OFF of that throne.

I need to surrender daily, and simply allow the King to be King. In HIS kingdom is where I am content, loved and full of joy…

…and it is where I find my REST.

Today is a good day, and God is GREAT!!!

Success is not what I’ve done compared with what others have done. Success is what I’ve done compared with what God has called me to do. Lecrae Moore, Unashamed

This doesn’t mean I’ve given up on my art. No way!! I’ve just put it back into it’s proper place in my priorities.

In This Moment (Trust)

Separating topics is not easy. Not on the blog, anyway. I did some tinkering and there is no logical way to do it. I think that going to regular A.A. meetings (and looking to be of service) was the real STEP that I needed to take, and I’m doing that. At least I’m gaining clarity!

Anyway, it’s been four whole days since I started studying the word TRUST, and I want to share my first day. I chose Psalm 40, verse 4.

Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!

What REALLY struck (and amazed) me were verses 1-3.

I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.

Can I relate to that?!? He pulled me from the PIT of alcoholism, made my steps secure, and put a new song in my mouth? Yes! Yes indeed. As I said… this word study started off with a beautiful bang. A great reminder of what He’s already done for me. I have a renewed sense of gratitude these days!

I SEE now- how easy it is to get distracted. Thinking TOO much about what’s next, and losing sight of what’s GREAT… TODAY, right NOW!!

Love always, laugh often, and enjoy every moment.

Trust

Trust: firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.


Well… I’m starting something new!

I’m making my way back into A.A. meetings, and still very passionate about writing, photography and art- but I’m adding on to my activities. I need variety and more balance in my life.  Continue reading Trust

The Light Ahead

Being at ease with not knowing is crucial for answers to come to you. Eckhart Tolle

Warning: Reconstruction Ahead

Sometimes I wonder if [some of] my posts need a warning label or disclaimer, just to alleviate my own anxieties. Sharing pieces of my journey, while I am in the midst of the journey, sometimes leaves me feeling vulnerable and uneasy- because I know from experience that it’s a work in progress (and subject to change).

The word Journey suggests travel or passage from one place to another. With that in mind, the truest and most accurate disclaimer I could ever add would be…

I have NOT reached my destination.

But I think everyone already knows that. None of us has.

Anyway… I really liked the quote I found because I need to hold tight, and be at ease with the fact that sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m wrong, and sometimesI just don’t know. It’s ALL just a part of the journey. Write or Wrong.

Blessings, peace and love!!!

*The image is from Phoenix. It’s an ominous cloud, with the light breaking through…layered with a piece of sheet metal.

Walking My Walk

So… I guess this would be the portion of my blog where I share about my walk, and where I’m at; the My Journey section. Maybe I over-complicated the whole thing by trying to explain it. I do that sometimes. In time it will all make sense. The main thing I want to do is properly categorize.

I hope to organize this “hodgepodge of a blog” and it ain’t easyEventually I will nail it.

I emailed my sponsor about my decision to dive back into A.A. and to start making myself more available to be of service (which I guess you could call re-committing). I just love her! Her reply was right on point…

“We can preach a better sermon with our lives than our mouths.”

One thing I failed to mention in my last post is that ALL of the meetings I’ve been attending these past six months are not your typical A.A. meetings. That information probably helps to make sense of my thoughts.

Monday night recovery is actually a class at my church, and it’s taught by our pastor (who has about 35+ years of sobriety).

Thursday and Saturday, my meetings are both through Overcomer’s Outreach, which is a Christian 12 step support group. We practice the twelve steps, but we also read Scripture… talk about Jesus… and share with the group about where we are in our lives.

We also go out to eat a lot.

It is for any and all addictions or compulsive behaviors, and Al-anon… so pretty much anyone who wants to recovery from anything. I would highly recommend this program.

My sponsor has tried to tell me (a few times actually) that it would be “most helpful” if I was to get back into regular meetings, because those are the meetings that need more light. I guess I’ve been looking at it through my self-seeking lens… which told me that I only want to attend meetings that fill me up.

Feeling stuck lately made me realize that my involvement in the program isn’t to sit around and soak it all in. You have to give it away. That’s the whole purpose of step 12; to get OUT of myself and share all that stuff I’ve been soaking in. Wring out the sponge, so to speak.

Anyway- I made it to a regular meeting this afternoon and got to see lots of old peeps, took over the phone list commitment, and got some information about being on a panel that visits hospitals and institutions.

So… things are moving along today. I know I’m going in the right direction because a little teeny cloud of guilt that’s been hanging over my head has suddenly dissipated.

Amazing.

Life is good, and God is great!!