Guest Post: I am what I Choose to Become
I didn’t grow up wanting to be an addict and an alcoholic, (I wanted to be a police woman!) but today I’m grateful that it turned out that way. That may sound crazy, but the truth is that addiction forced me to get to know myself, and learn how to enjoy life through creative, not destructive means. This process of change allowed me to release old destructive patterns and lay down healthy, life changing practices, which are the foundation of my life today.
Carl Jung recognised that the only way for an addict to break through their condition was to have a spiritual awakening. It’s easy to picture this as a dramatic epiphany with Angelic hosts bringing a message of salvation, but for most of us it is much more ordinary and mundane and boils down to one word – practice.
In my experience the most important practice in overcoming any destructive habit is mindfulness. Addiction is an extreme case of the modern condition – when the going gets tough we reach for something external to numb/distract/avoid the pain. Over time our neural pathways are wired for this reward system, and even the anticipation of the external reward releases hormones into the system that start to bring relief. You may recognise this reward system in yourself when you’re having a stressful day and anticipate enjoying your favourite snack, a glass of wine, a night out or a holiday. And while you may not consider yourself an addict, you may have persistent unhealthy habits that you’d like to kick.
Breaking with deeply rooted patterns requires mindfulness – we must become aware of ourselves and begin to know the thoughts and emotions that lead us to act out in destructive ways. This comes hand in hand with learning to take responsibility for who we are – our thoughts, our emotions and our actions. No more blaming, no more justifications. When we are mindful we have the power to choose in the moment. We determine how we respond to life.
Getting to know ourselves and our triggers allows us to set ourselves up for success. Although I no longer use drugs and alcohol as a solution, when my buttons are pushed (think difficult conversation with Mum, or being under pressure at work) I can easily act out with sugar, which gives me a serotonin hit that instantly changes my mood, but leaves me feeling heavy, irritable, tired and restless. Knowing my triggers and being aware of when they’re activated gives me time and space to avoid a mindless reaction and choose how to respond.
Today when the going gets tough I have plenty of responses to hand. Just as the old reactions had something in common – giving me a hit of instant gratification followed by downer of self loathing and shame – these new responses have something in common too; they allow me to let go of tension and find perspective, they bring me back to myself and remind me everything is OK, even if I’m not feeling OK.
Here are some of the practices I use regularly: I go for a short walk. I get up, stretch and breathe. I pick up the phone and speak to someone I know will get it. I practice gratitude and list all that is going well in my life. I read something uplifting. I pray to my higher power. Or I simply focus on my breath, and allow the inhale and exhale to calm me down. It’s a daily practice and I can still ignore all I’ve learnt and reach for that 70% double chocolate magnum (OMG have you tried them?!), but it’s all about progress not perfection.
If you’re struggling to change a particular habit or behaviour that you’ve outgrown, mindfulness is a great place to start. Observe yourself; notice when the behaviour pops up, how you think, feel, act or react. And then reflect – what do you see about yourself? What could you do differently next time? What other choices do you have available to you?
Change doesn’t have to be forced, and your actions don’t need to be judged; encourage yourself while being vigilant. Stay committed. Commitment allows space to learn what we need to know for change to take place. When we’re committed we can let go of the when, where and how. We can learn from perceived failures and mistakes, and recognise all of it has value and teaches us what we need to know to reach our goal.
We can all make radical changes in our lives and enjoy the benefits. As Carl Jung said, “I am not what happened to me I am what I choose to become.”
My love for seeing people flourish and grow comes from my own life changing experiences. I’ve been lucky to have amazing teachers and mentors who have taught me much about the nature of living. And life itself has consistently shown me where I need to put my attention to grow. Even the most unwelcome experiences, such as cancer, have proved to be enriching and have deepened my understanding and appreciation of life, and death.
My coaching approach draws on over 12 years of coaching experience. I first trained as a Self Expression and Leadership Coach, and worked with individuals and teams in the UK, Africa, Asia and the Americas. This experience convinced me of the power of coaching, and showed me how the greatest obstacle to us fulfilling our potential is ourselves.
As I became interested in my own health and wellbeing, it was a natural step to train as an Integrative Health Coach. I left the company I was running, trained at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and have been running holistic coaching programmes with Life Changes ever since.
Drawing on a diverse range of tools and approaches from psychometric testing and the Strategy Spring Board, to Kundalini Yoga and Meditation, I work with clients so they can reshape their lives. To find out more visit www.roselong-lifechanges.com or give me a call to book a free discovery session 07967 089 805.