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Inspiring Success on the Road to Recovery

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

TogetherAZ Blog: My Little Prisons

TogetherAZ Blog: My Little Prisons: Last month I was fortunate to take a real vacation. The kind where you leave work, stress and all busyness behind. My trip to Carmel by the...

The Struggles & Solutions When Your Kid is Addicted

By Mike Speakman, LISAC

There is no other human relationship like that between parent and child. Although parents have the most power and influence over their kids, when addiction enters the picture, the situation mysteriously reverses — and the child is in the driver’s seat. How does this happen and what can be done about it? This is the reason PAL (Parents of Addicted Loved Ones) was created. The following is a common story often heard in our meetings:
Up until a few years ago my husband and I felt we led a charmed life. We have a solid marriage, great jobs, beautiful home, good health and are blessed with two sons. 
Our oldest son, John is 27, Michael is 23. As they grew up, we went through the typical struggles with behavior, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Both boys were involved in youth groups at church. John played music in worship bands and Michael was a leader in his group. Many of their friends seemed like positive influences.
However, unlike his younger brother who always seemed confident and determined, John suffered from low self-esteem. He struggled with sports and was teased by his peers for his weight. Thankfully he was quite gifted in academics. 

After years of trying sports and other hobbies, finding nothing he enjoyed, in 7th grade John picked up an old guitar we had, and immediately found his passion. It did not take long for him to start hanging around other kids who were into music; though some of them appeared to be the wrong crowd. 

John loved music. He joined the marching band in high school and was featured on electric guitar when his school competed in contests. We were so proud of him we hardly noticed the changes in his behavior. He started to withdraw, smoke cigarettes and hang with a rough crowd. His grades were plummeting and we were not sure he would graduate. 

Knee Deep in Denial 

In his senior year, at age 17, we received a phone call from the mom of one his friends that would change the course of our lives. 
She informed us her daughter told her John was using prescription pills and most of his friends were concerned he would overdose. I can’t begin to express the level of astonishment and shock we felt after hearing this. We knew something was happening with John; but we were knee deep in denial. We had careers in law enforcement and often dealt with people on drugs. Between the two of us — wouldn’t we recognize a serious drug problem? 

As we would learn later through our connection to Mike Speakman, founder of Parents of Addicted Loved ones (PAL), our son had become a master manipulator and drug addict. 
After receiving that dreadful phone call, we immediately confronted John demanding he provide a urine sample for a drug screening. Opiates were confirmed in his system. He continued to lie, manipulate, insisting there was something wrong with the test kit and of course, us. For the next several years we were in and out of addiction doctor’s offices, as well as forcing him to be evaluated by a psychologist. 

John then legalized his drug abuse by taking Suboxone and Methadone, but we discovered he was using heroin, meth, spice, and bath salts. Our son was no longer influenced by the “bad crowd,” he was the bad crowd. 

Over the course of the next few years, he lived at home, saw specialists, floated from job to job, and worked diligently to work us against each other in order to stay in his addiction. Like most parents of addicts, we thought we could help him overcome the addiction. We worked tirelessly on his recovery “for” him. 

Living in Despair and Hell

Both mentally and physically exhausted, we struggled to keep our focus and work together as a couple. As parents, we maintained hope our younger son was on the right track — he graduated high school and went on to college. Unfortunately, due to our preoccupation with John, we failed to notice the obvious signs he was headed down the wrong road. Michael dropped out of college, lost his job and what we feared most became a reality....both children were now addicts. 

At this stage all of our efforts to “fix” either one of them had not only failed but John was now an IV heroin user. Michael informed us he thought smoking marijuana was perfectly acceptable and like his brother was using meth and heroin just like his brother. 

We reached the breaking point and finally asked for help — our way was not working. In a moment of complete desperation we had to remove our son from our home after he had destroyed it in a psychotic meltdown. We searched the internet and came across PAL as a resource. It has now been over three years since we found ourselves in that downward out of control spiral.

The Light

We started to see the light when we finally accepted while we could not “fix” our sons. What we could do was work on ourselves and hope to bring healing and hope to our family. Our history of enabling and rescuing had not only delayed their growth but had kept all of us stuck. We learned we were not helping, we were actually be hindering their potential for change.

In the beginning, the suggestions from PAL seemed preposterous. But, we have seen how important these changes were to our sons’ recovery as well as our own
We learned to focus on our marriage and at all costs stay on the same team in order to have a united position. Without it addiction will divide any family. 

We did what was suggested by regularly attending meetings and seeking the help of a counselor with expertise in family and addiction issues. We implemented boundaries and consequences; and cut the strings that were preventing all of us from growing up. Whatever our son’s did, we knew who to call and we were not alone. 

The past few years have had many twists and turns. Both sons have relapsed, been to detox, ER’s, recovery centers, halfway houses, and jail. They have lived in parks, cars and on friend’s couches. Both of them had to lose everything they owned. 

Today, John has close to a year of sobriety. This is the longest time he has had since the journey began 11 years ago. He now works at a recovery center. 
Michael just celebrated 90 days of sobriety and is back in school. He seems to have embraced the changes in his life and appears to be humbled by the experience.

We’ve learned we should not gauge our lives based on our son’s behaviors. As the preamble from PAL states: “...it is our desire that by attending our meetings you will learn proven ways to help your loved one and ultimately learn to find joy in your own lives regardless of the choices of your loved ones.”

Glimmers of Hope

Today we facilitate a PAL meeting and love working with other parents. We would have never chosen what happened or wished it upon anyone, but we are grateful. There is no judgment, no condemnation, just acceptance, surrender, empathy and compassion. Our journey to health has led to our son’s heading down the path of sobriety. One of the promises of PAL is — if we get better, it gives hope to our loved ones and that may in turn help them. 

At weekly meetings many parents show up for the first time looking like the “deer in the headlights.” Lost, desperate and hopeless. Like us, they carry massive guilt, shame, certain they are not only the cause of their loved ones addiction — they are the worst parents on the planet. 
Sadly, their children’s addiction has taken its toll on them, from heart attacks, depression, and a myriad of other health issues. Parents are so devastated some have said they don’t want to go on in life. They feel they cannot handle the pressures and their desire to “help,” their addicted loved one has continually backfired to the point they give up hope. It is not uncommon for a parent to say they would give up their own life for their loved one if they knew it would save them. 

They are willing to die for their children, at which point the question is asked, “are you willing to live for them?” 

PAL brought back hope, sanity and purpose in our lives. We have learned to live again. We are thankful for what we have learned and for all of the parents who have stood with us. 
Today, we’re feel blessed to stand with others as they venture down this road that no one would ask for. 
— Jan and Reed, Phoenix AZ


About Parent of Addicted Loved Ones
The PAL Group was founded by Mike Speakman, a licensed substance abuse counselor working in rehab centers since 1988. Mike started PAL because he saw the need for continuing education and support, through time, for parents trying to save a son or daughter from addiction.
Since the first meeting in July of 2006, PAL has grown to 16 meetings in Arizona and there are PAL meetings now in Indiana and Kentucky. PAL offers realistic hope to parents and spouses struggling with the complex challenges of trying to help a hurting loved one. PAL is blessed with more than 40 volunteer facilitator parents. PAL is looking to expand and formalize as the needs are everywhere and we are constantly receiving requests on how to start a new PAL support group (www.palgroup.org). 

In his private practice, Mike provides focused family coaching sessions. Recently, Mike captured his thoughts on how to help your adult child give up destructive addictions in his book, The Four Seasons of Recovery for Parents of Alcoholics and Addicts.  
For more information, 800-239-9127, email: mike@mikespeakman.com, or visit: www.mikespeakman.com.

Mindfulness for the Holidays

by Steve Price

Running to the window, [Scrooge] opened it, and put out his head. No fog, no mist; clear, bright, jovial, stirring, cold; cold, piping for the blood to dance to; Golden sunlight; Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells. Oh, glorious. Glorious! (from the last chapter of “A Christmas Carol”). Why do so many of us view the holidays as if it were a root canal, looking forward to when it’s over? Stress, depression, frustration, disappointment—it all comes down to one thing: Expectations.

What’s an Expectation? 

It is a strong belief that something will happen, or that someone will or should do something. Expectations are based on something learned or experienced in the past, and projected into the future, and they have nothing to do with the present reality.

Through the practice of mindfulness, we can let go of the past and the future to experience the joy and peace available only in this moment. Hey, if Scrooge can do it, anyone can. It’s never too late to renew our relationship to our higher power and the higher power in everyone around us, even our ex spouses, our disowned siblings and the neighbor who calls the cops when we use our fireplace on a no burn day. Here are a few tips:

1. Stay present. It’s easy to get stuck in the past, either attaching to fond memories or dreading repeats of not-so-fond ones. Commit to letting go of old beliefs, starting with the thought the holidays suck. Establish a direct, moment-by-moment interaction with what’s happening right now. Look into the eyes of the Salvation Army volunteer ringing the bell outside the supermarket. Smell your great-uncle’s vintage cologne as he gives you a hug. Taste those green beans. Be aware of everything you’re thinking, doing, saying and feeling, and how you’re breathing. Presence is the best present you can give anyone, including yourself.

2. Let go of judgment. When you’re in the present moment, there is no comparing, analyzing or anticipating. Only in the here-and-now is it possible to accept yourself exactly as you are, and others as they are. Looking through the eyes of your heart, you will see, very clearly, that everyone, including you are doing the best they can. It’s impossible to judge and love at the same time. If you happen to notice yourself judging; don’t judge yourself for being judgmental. Simply notice it, say to yourself, “Hmm, that’s mildly interesting,” and drop back down into your heart.

3. Whenever you find yourself resisting something or someone, do the opposite. If at any point you feel your heart closing, keep it open, and open it even wider. Recent studies show stress isn’t necessarily harmful; it’s our negative perception of it that causes problems. People who report a lot of stress in their lives but don’t view it as detrimental actually live longer than those who report very little stress but judge it to be bad. If you can relax with what is, your blood vessels, instead of contracting, stay open.
The instant you feel resistance, relax your heart, and breathe.

With all the anxiety and emotional intensity that can arise during the holidays, it can be especially challenging for those in recovery. This is the time to go deeper into personal power, courage, and connection to your own divinity. It’s also a perfect time of year to ask for help. There are as many or people out there who would love to give their time, compassion and generosity as there are people who need it. By asking for and accepting someone’s help, you’re giving them a gift. This isn’t co-dependence; this is interdependence, which is how the universe works. Barbra Streisand was right when she sang, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”
According to ancient masters from various traditions, the mind is located in the heart. This holiday season, focus there, and you’ll be surprised how things unfold. Like Scrooge, we all have the ability to throw open the windows, clear our minds, and be jovial.


Steve Price manages and teaches at A Mindfulness Life Center in Scottsdale. The center offers yoga, meditation, book studies, recovery series, community events and other ways to calm the mind and open the heart. To learn more, visit www.amindfulnesslifecenter.com.

New Prescott Treatment Center Focuses on Entitlement

Choosing the most effective treatment for a loved one can be a fearful process full of uncertainty. As you conduct your research, you will likely find some treatment centers claim: luxurious facilities, cutting-edge therapy, maid service, private chefs, and more. In this article, you will not find any promises for a cozy transition. Practical Development is Prescott’s newest treatment center, designed to reverse the privilege, bias, and entitlement issues are so common. 
Practical Development knows addiction is a deadly disease and is anything but luxurious.  After working for several years in drug and alcohol addiction treatment, Practical Development’s Program developer, Clint Richards, couldn’t help but realize the majority of his clients were suffering from severe entitlement issues. As time progressed, he felt these issues were often more harmful to his clients than the addiction itself, and leaving them unresolved would result in chronic relapse or an insufficient quality of life. As he processed hundreds of intakes for three highly accredited treatment centers, he found the request was always the same: “please fix my child.” Clients receive a “one size fits all” treatment style, engage in therapy, take a 6-18 month vacation, and eventually leave with a lot of knowledge about recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. 

While this treatment can be extremely beneficial to many, consider this scenario: what if the client has only experimented with drugs and is more of a case of a “failure to launch” than a case of addiction? If so, these clients have just spent half a year or more exposed to serious drug addicts who give free pro-drug education. The outcome can be fatal.
Practical Development was created as an Early Intervention Program for young men ages 16-26. 

Early intervention is specifically created for young men suffering from the early signs of addiction which include (but are not limited to) entitlement, affluenza, authority defiance, anger problems, excessive video game use, chronic impulsivity, depression, and experimenting with drugs/alcohol. At Practical Development, every client is treated as an individual. The staff is trained, licensed, and fully dedicated to focusing on the unique aspects of each client’s personality and struggles. Practical Development has a maximum capacity of 6 clients and each client receives full one-on-one attention for the entire length of stay. 

Practical Development uses true social justice experiences that simulate many walks of life. The first phase of the program is a true test of humility, gratitude and appreciation for the small things in life. Clients focus on a life of poverty. Many people in today’s economy live with nothing but the clothes on their backs, eating in soup kitchens and pan handling to get their next fix, meal, or (if they’re lucky) a hotel room to keep the rain off their heads. This is a class of society many neglect to empathize with. If we don’t work hard and learn to value the life we have been given, we could all very easily become a part of this subculture. With exposure and slight integration to this population, Practical Development uses this social experience as a prime motivating factor to reach progress points. 

If you woke up tomorrow with nothing but the clothes on your back, no money in your pocket, no education or credentials, and a minimum wage job, what would you do? In the second week, clients begin to build a foundation for their success. With more ambition for a better way of life, it’s time to work their way from the bottom up. At this point, the clients are provided a job and personal assistance to advance forward to a self-sustaining life.

The second phase focuses on several different social aspects of life. First and foremost, Practical Development covers Financial Reality. Many clients have come to treatment saying, “I don’t need to go to college! I can make it on my own!” After a few weeks of “making it on their own,” they often have a change of heart. Today’s economic structure makes it impossible to live a financially secure life on a minimum wage salary.

The following weeks and social focuses revolve around responsibility: paying your own bills, buying your own groceries, maintaining your own home, etc. 

This is followed by a period called “1 Step Forward, 2 Steps Back.” Have you ever had one of those weeks where everything just goes wrong? We all have. Every journey endured at Practical Development facility is 100% proportionate to reality.
The next phase is “White Collar Week,” where the focus is on professionalism, ethics, appearance, and representation. To wrap up the second phase, clients focus on their accomplishments and begin to set their personal goals.

For the final week, clients have graduated from the work program and spend one week focusing on the next step of their lives. During this time, they fully engage with their therapists and support groups to finalize all individualized goals that were set prior to entering the program. Clients work diligently with a Certified Life Coach to build a 6-month, 1-year and two separate 5-year plans. This is an exit plan designed by the client and his financial sponsors to truly “prepare to launch.” Clients do not graduate from Practical Development until all of phase three criteria are complete and approved by their financial sponsors and all clinical staff.

Knowing first-hand the personal challenges of finding appropriate treatment placement, Practical Development is committed to helping all families and loved ones to find the best option for themselves. If you discover that Practical Development is not the right center for you or your loved one, they will assist you in finding the appropriate facility to meet your needs.  
For more information visit www.practicaldevelopment.net or call 1-928-899-6766

The iPhone, the iPad, and the iAM

By Coach Cary Bayer www.carybayer.com

You’ll know that our world is headed in the right evolutionary direction from a spiritual standpoint when people are willing to line up as early and as long to get the iAM as they do for the newest versions of the iPhone and the iPad. The iAM, you ask? 
Yes, the iAM; it’s been here since mankind first set foot on this planet. As a result, there are no new versions of the iAM. In truth, even the expression “since time immemorial” doesn’t quite do justice to the reality of the iAM because iAM exists outside of time, in every moment in time.
When you want to know a fact fast google it on your iPhone. When you want to know something on a computer file go to your iPad. When you want to know who you are, go to your iAM.

What is the I AM?

The I AM is your true nature. It’s found at the transcendental part of your mind — beyond all perception, like the hearing of music from your iPad, the thinking of your mind while googling on your iPhone, and even beyond the feelings you get listening to the most beautiful songs you’ve recorded on your iPod. It’s that place where you know who and what you truly are, and it’s available in the silent depths of your being through meditation. I know because I’ve been teaching meditation since the age of 20, and training dozens of teachers of meditation some years after that.

When Moses encountered the Higher Power of the Universe in a burning bush and was told to tell Pharaoh to let the Hebrew people go, he asked, quite reasonably, who should he say sent him. The answer he received was obtuse: “I AM sent me to you.” 
Not as regal but quite poetic is Popeye the Sailor Man’s mantra-like motto: “I am that I am and that’s all that I am, I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.” 

You can get directions from your iPhone and IPad. You are directed from your iAM. 

The Beatles knew that money can’t buy you love. They also knew that money can’t buy you peace of mind. That’s why they learned the mediation that I’d practice for most of my life. And that’s why they went to meditate at Maharishi’s ashram in the foothills of the Himalayas. 
Most people don’t realize that what they’re truly looking for — peace and happiness of the deepest magnitude — isn’t available in the world of things. The t-shirt that says, “He who has the most toys wins” isn’t true. It should read, “He who is the most things, wins.” 

In other words, when you live from your I AM, at the transcendental level of Being beyond time, you’re connected to that which is infinite. You can’t get more than infinite. Even Bill Gates’ money can’t buy an infinite number of things. Another wealthy person — Oprah Winfrey—learned to meditate in the same style as the Beatles — and made it available for free to her staff.
Jesus, trying to teach Jewish people of his time the deepest spiritual truths, said it eloquently: “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moths nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal.”

Physical things like iPhones rust and break, metaphysical realities do not. iPhones can be stolen, but nobody can steal your iAM.

The iPad comes in a mini design; the iAM comes in both mini and maxi. That’s because it’s smaller than the smallest things in the world and bigger than the biggest. It has no physical size but it has metaphysical depth.

Benefits of Knowing the iAM

The iPhone lets you make calls, hear music, see videos, take pictures and videos, and so on. The iPad lets you read books or use computer files. The iAm gives you infinite freedom, deep peace, great joy, awakening and enlightenment. So why aren’t you waiting in line to get your iAM?

 



The Many Positive Aspects to Recovery


By Celia Vimont

There are many positive aspects to being in recovery, suggests a new survey of people who are experiencing recovery from alcohol or drug problems. The findings of the national survey of more than 9,000 people will help both people in recovery, and those who treat them, according to the researchers.

Currently there is no agreement about the definition of recovery, says lead researcher Lee Ann Kaskutas, DrPH, of the Public Health Institute’s Alcohol Research Group in Emeryville, CA. Many people believe it requires total abstinence from drugs and alcohol, while others do not. “Most of what we know about the definition of recovery has come from scientists and expert panels, not from people in recovery,” she says.

The goal of the “What Is Recovery?” project was to develop a way of defining recovery based on how it is experienced by those who actually live it. The researchers did a tremendous amount of outreach to find people in recovery, including ads on Craigslist and announcements on radio programs. “People in recovery are a hidden population,” Dr. Kaskutas said. 

“There is a serious stigma attached to addiction. These elements that define recovery demonstrate to those going through it, as well as the general public and policymakers, that it is not something to be ashamed of.”

Survey respondents were most likely to say recovery is:
  • Being honest with myself.
  • Being able to enjoy life without drinking or using drugs like I used to.
  • Living a life that contributes to society, to my family or to my betterment.
  • Being the kind of person that people can count on.
  • Giving back.
  • Striving to be consistent with my beliefs and values in activities that take up the major part of my time and energy.

Dr. Kaskutas says people in recovery can use the findings to explain to family and friends what they are going through. “They can say, ‘When I say I’m in recovery, I mean that it’s an ongoing process, and I’m actually trying to live a life that’s contributing to society,’” she says. “Recovery doesn’t just (or always) mean abstinence—it can also mean you have a positive way of being that you didn’t have before.”

She said it is significant that almost all respondents said recovery is about giving back and helping other people. She noted that some people are reluctant to attend recovery programs because they think the programs will be religious or spiritual. “The survey shows that being spiritual can really just mean you’re giving back and helping others—and it’s not necessarily about religion either.”
Dr. Kaskutas says she hopes to keep in touch with more than 1,000 survey respondents who said they were interested in staying involved in future studies on recovery, to track their progress over time.

Pray to be Wrong

I had a neighbor I saw as a nasty alcoholic. Brenda would regularly sit around the kitchen table with her husband, drink, and complain. I did not find any good in her. Then she and her husband took in a young man to live with them. Mark helped the older couple around the house and stayed with them for years. When Brenda passed away several years later, Mark told me, “Brenda was one of the kindest people I have ever known. She and her husband treated me like a son. I will always remember and love her.” In that moment I realized how skewed was my interpretation of Brenda. I was focusing on one aspect of her that brought me pain to consider. Mark, on the other hand, had focused on an aspect of Brenda that brought him joy. Each of us was reaping the result of our interpretation. From that moment on I began to think of Brenda as a kind person, which has brought me peace.

“If we view the world as a place of kindness, filled with people willing and able to make life easier for each other, that is the world we will experience.”

A Course in Miracles.... 

Tells us that perception is not a fact, but an interpretation. The world we see is determined by the kind of vision we use to observe it. When we view the world as unsafe and threatening, populated by ignorant, evil people, we will find plenty of evidence to prove our assumption. All belief systems are self-validating. If, on the other hand, we view the world as a place of kindness, filled with people willing and able to make life easier for each other, that is the world we will experience. An infinite variety of realities exist simultaneously. The one we live in is the one we focus on.
If the reality you are currently living in is not bringing you joy, abundance, connection, and healing, pray to be wrong about the judgments that form the platform of your beliefs. You cannot simultaneously be right about your limits and your possibilities. For one to proliferate, you must release the other. Jesus said, “A man cannot serve two masters. He will hate one and love the other.” You can live in but one belief system at a time. Jesus also said, “Choose ye this day whom you will serve.” Ultimately there are only two belief systems: love and fear. You are either serving love or serving fear. Nothing in between.

 Last summer a crazed gunman killed the parents and four siblings of fifteen-year-old Cassidy Stay, and, after shooting her, left her for dead. Miraculously she survived. At her family’s funeral service she quoted Harry Potter’s mentor Dumbledore: “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” 

This young woman made an extraordinary choice about how she would process such a horrendous ordeal. She chose love. On the day I read the news article about her eulogy I was upset about a credit card bill. Suddenly my upset felt absolutely trivial. I realized that if Cassidy could choose love in the face of such a terrible experience, I could choose love over far lesser challenges. Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling heard about Cassidy’s oration and sent her a personal handwritten letter in purple ink from Dumbledore, a wand, and several autographed books. While these gifts could not undo the tragedy the young woman underwent, they demonstrate our power to soften each other’s pain. “What are we here for but to make life easier for one another?” 

This holiday season you will have plenty of opportunities to pray to be wrong about what’s wrong and to be right about what’s working or what could work. You will have many chances to make life easier for yourself and others. You may experience the stress and pressure of shopping for holiday gifts; crowded travel during high season; family upsets, feuds, and dramas; financial fears; and handling end-of-year details. The season of joy, for many people, is not so joyful. This would be a fabulous time to remember that perception is not a fact, but an interpretation. When faced with fear, anger, or guilt in yourself or another, ask yourself, “Is there another way to look at this that would bring me more ease, relief, or peace?” If there is, pray to be wrong about the way you have been looking at the event so you can see it from a new, more healing perspective. 
A Course in Miracles asks us, “Would you rather be right, or happy?” 
   
The approach of the New Year brings a powerful invitation to let go of the limits that have kept us feeling small during the past year, and replace them with greater possibilities for the new year. Pray to be wrong about everything that hasn’t worked in your life, so you can be right about everything that could work, and will. Bless the old year for leading you to the new one, for both the challenges and blessings have lifted you to higher ground. As you consider what hasn’t made you happy, heed the profound advice of Kahlil Gibran: “Knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping and with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.”
   
A happy and blessed holiday season and New Year to you and yours. 

Alan Cohen is the author of  I Had it All the Time: When Self-Improvement Gives Way to Ecstasy. Join Alan’s upcoming Life Coach Training Program to become a professional life coach or incorporate life coaching skills in your career or personal life, join. For more information visit www.alancohen.com, email info@alancohen.com.

The Best Holiday Recipe

The best holiday recipe is everything! We are taught that everything in the world, and in life, is this or that— good or bad, right or wrong, here or there. Actually, it’s about both and all. Life and everyone in it is about and meaning — life — a big soup that contains all of it.

We are all good at times and bad at times, right at times and wrong at times. Life can feel great and in that very same moment, some part of it may be uncomfortable or sad because we are missing someone. The trick is in your willingness to embrace all of it without judging your feelings, pushing the feelings into denial or pretending. Stop seeking this and avoiding that. The holidays are a time when we do a lot of that.

We can’t stand Uncle James, but for an afternoon, we act like he is a good guy. We think the turkey is dry but we rave about dinner. We look forward to the holidays but we worry about the money we think have to spend. The problem is when we are into either this or that, we lose the moment. And for that, there are no do-overs. Maybe the best gift we can exchange this holiday season is turning presents into presence.

Are You Truly Present?   by Dr. Dina Evan

When you are truly present, you are able to shift your perception into that of recognizing the gifts of every moment and every person in your life. It could be Uncle James is teaching you acceptance and helping you release your judgments about how people ought to act or who they ought to be. And maybe if that turkey is dry, the Universe is saying you could be more helpful in taking some of the burden off your hostess.

Do you even know what her year or the challenges in it have been like? Once everyone had arrived, in my arrogance, within about ten minutes, I had already decided who I liked and who the putz was, whom I didn’t like. Inevitably, the Universe, the one I had invited to kick my ass, did. The putz became my greatest teacher and the person I just knew would be my best friend was an incarnate of my mother who never was. If someone at your holiday gathering is bothering you — it’s something inside of you getting bothered and it has nothing to do with the other person.

Deep inside you already know we actually do create our own reality and on some level of consciousness, everyone at that table is someone you invited. It might be fun to pause and ask yourself, what am I supposed to learn from this person?
Is it tolerance, gratitude for yourself, who you are and what you know? Is it acceptance, humanity, humility or the skill of allowing someone else to have the floor?

Maybe it’s about you not needing to be right or the most important. Maybe it’s a time for you to actually relax and do nothing! It might even be a time for you to NOT be in charge and just learn to receive. Maybe if you just relax and listen to your thoughts you’ll discover how many are judgmental and how many are loving or conscious.

What ever it is, it’s a good time to remember it’s all about you. What you bring to the table can come from your heart. It can come from your willingness to learn something new about yourself. And if it does, you’ll have a great day.

You may be delighted to find how many gifts have been waiting for you. You may also discover what an incredible human being you are. That’s a gift worth having. Or, you may discover some things you want to change so you can genuinely be the incredible human being you are…and that’s an even bigger gift worth having.

We all have so much to be thankful for during the holidays and the rest of the year. Whatever you do, please remember we are thankful for you. It is a gift to us that you read this paper, and let it touch your heart and mind. We are thankful to be part of this great community that supports and cares deeply for each other. We are grateful for your open minds and giving hearts and we wish you the very best of holiday joy. And, just for the hell of it, try to remember even that big turkey in the room has something to teach you. Enjoy it!

Dr. Evan is a life/soul coach in Arizona working with individuals, couples and corporations.  She  specializes in relationships, personal and professional empowerment, compassion and consciousness. For more information 602-997-1200, email drdbe@attglobal.net or visit www.DrDinaEvan.com.

My Little Prisons


Last month I was fortunate to take a real vacation. The kind where you leave work, stress and all busyness behind. My trip to Carmel by the Sea was something I looked forward to for months. It was time to be with ‘me and God’. And this particular spot is where I found my connection to Him — almost twenty five years ago.

Within an hour of arriving, my mood relaxed, my mind cleared almost becoming vacant, which is what a vacation is supposed to do — vacate, clear, heal and renew. Without a set schedule, all I knew was, I’d follow my feet for the next 12 days.
Sitting on the sand, wading in the ocean, inhaling the sea breeze, walking, reading, meeting new people, wandering through the art gallerys — this was what I needed to restore my spirit.

During one of my strolls through the quaint neighborhoods, it occurred to me I sometimes live in a jail cell… not literally, but one I create. Living in the moment is difficult. Like most people, I think about the future or relive the past. The hours spent in the “What if’s, the should-a’s, the could-a’s, the if only’s,” hit me like a wave. I need to work on being here… now. Not just in Carmel, but every day of my life.

I visualized a cell with lots of bars; in the white space between them were words that often keep me a prisoner. Fear, projection, resentment, anger, grief, pity, loneliness, could-a been; should-a been; they popped out like billboard signs. I couldn’t help but smile as I realized I don’t have to live that way. Wasn’t I given the key to freedom long ago? Doesn’t it reside within me?

Now that I’m back, the practice of what I’ve learned has begun. As a human being, I understand my focus will never be 100% in the ‘right this minute’, but if I stay conscious when I am trailing off, all I need to do is ask to be brought to the present, even for a minute. One of my good friends often says, “it depends on how free you really want to be.” So I’ve decided my end of year and new year commitment is keeping “A get out of jail free card” in my pocket at all times!


Thank you to all who support Together AZ and the Art of Recovery Expo. I look forward to continuing to provide our community with hope and inspiring others on the road to recovery. We are on one heck of a journey together and I would not have it any other way.  Happy Holidays.