I have struggled my whole life with holding onto myself; trying to balance individuality and togetherness. I make the choice to be negatively influenced by others, going against my true thoughts and feeling. However, through self-awareness, I can stop this from happening again in the future. For me, this takes a lot of patience and practice. Breaking it down for myself, I realize that I edit my reality because of self-doubt. In the past, I never put the time into understanding myself and in-turn I let others make decisions for me. At 6th-months sober, I still struggle with self-doubt. The whole word is brand new again. Nobody has ever showed me the ropes, therefore I am learning as I go. I realize now that most people don’t really know what they’re doing and I’ve been letting others negatively influence me for far too long. My individuality is all mine and is much more valuable to me now that I am sober. Today, I’m consciously awake to connect with others without letting them edit my behaviors.
I find inspiration through other addicts in recovery. To see other people fighting this battle as well as maintaining sobriety motivates me and inspires me to continue to fight as well. As a kid I always felt different, and the things that inspired me weren’t positive and I always had something selfish or negative to achieve to make myself feel like I belonged. I aspired to be anything other than what everyone else wanted me to be. This led to bad habits and an endless cycle of negativity in my life. It wasn’t until I hit my bottom in active addiction that I had a realization that I needed to do something different. I was lost in the insanity that my drug and alcohol use induced. I had been to meetings and treatment a handful of times before, but I never found real inspiration, hope or spirituality within others or myself. I felt hopeless. I discovered my spirituality when I finally faced my fears and my denial over being an addict. I gained spirituality through God and through other addicts. I finally sat down and listened to what people were saying and suggesting, rather than wallowing in self-pity and acting on things that were purely for selfish gain. Without inspiration through others stories, as well as their commitment to a new life, I would never know what peace and serenity looked like for myself. Today I am able to say that I find inspiration daily, through the small things in life to inspirational people who have experienced the same things I have. I have a spiritual connection and hope for myself and other addicts now that I have opened my eyes to the positive influences in life. I no longer have to live in fear on a daily basis.
Our Word of the Week series continues here at South Orange County Detox as we highlight “influence” as our featured word. Influence is an interesting word as it doesn’t necessarily denote a positive facilitator of change, but merely any tool by which the agent has been modified for the good or bad, one way or another. We’re going to work backwards today in our attempt to unravel how to best integrate positive influences into our lives while keeping negative ones at bay. We also want to take this examination one step further in order to stay mindful of how the negative influences throughout our impacted us in order to avoid these pitfalls in the future. As most of us are aware of by now, our initial and most impactful influences, positive and negative, come from our primary caretakers, or in most cases, our parents. While it would be comforting to believe that the parents we love and adore were only the harbingers of positive change, which can also be true, the devil lies in the details in that they have also likely helped to lay the foundation of dysfunction and even trauma as well. I won’t go into the advantages of psycho-therapeutic work for brevity’s sake, but I do want to point out that while we are not at fault for our parents shortcomings vis a vis their parenting, we are responsible for how much care and energy we expend on the process of unpacking these emotionally-charged issues and dynamics so that we may live as liberated as we can be from the skeletons residing in our closets. Now that we’ve touched on the more difficult, time-consuming, and longitudinal-type work, let’s look at what how we can address issues of influence within the present. First and foremost, let’s stop running on the assumption that sobriety is the only litmus test that matters with respect to how we seek positive people as influences within the recovery culture. You wouldn’t evaluate a “Normie” who had overcome obesity as a generally “good person” simply by virtue of their weight loss so let’s not make the same mistake when it comes to addicts in recovery. Is it an incredible accomplishment? Yes; does it give an accurate depiction of the whole of the individual? Absolutely not. We need to be incorporating a holistic approach even when looking for new friends, sponsors, or sober friends in general. The old saying goes, “You’re can only be as successful as your least successful friend.” While this is probably overstated, the point remains that we are deeply influenced by our friend and peer groups and therefore we ought to be choosing people that will exemplify positivity, honesty, integrity, compassion, and loyalty. This all sounds pretty simple, and it certainly can be. One last tip I’d like to suggest while discussing influence is this: think back on someone who has influenced you in a negative way and try to get to the bottom of why you were attracted to that person. Did their confidence make you feel secure as it did with your father? Were they caring and compassionate as your mother was? Were they fiercely loyal as your big brother was growing up? What matters here isn’t how you reacted during this period where you allowed for negative influence to breach your consciousness, but rather to understand why you were attracted to this dynamic in the first place. Now that we have come back full circle, the realizations you have gathered may be a good place to start within the context of long-term work with a therapist, mentor, or sponsor. Finally, the least obvious yet potentially most impactful influence on any individual can be found in their relationship with a Higher Power. While necessary components of any influential system, humans can be fickle, compromising, and fallible, however, God always remains a constant source of love and connectedness within a world of ever-changing chaos and discord. Nikola Tesla stated this point beautifully when he said, “Every living being is an engine geared to the wheel work of the universe. Though seemingly affected only by its immediate surrounding, the sphere of external influence extends to infinite distance.” When we learn to embrace the divinity of the cosmos we can begin the work of sharing the sustenance of divine influence to those who are spiritually malnourished.
When I think of the word leadership I think of guidance, direction, supervision but not in the sense of control. In the sense of someone who is doing such things for the greater good or because that person in the position of leader wants the best for you. I always wanted to be a leader growing up, I thought I could boss others around and tell them what to do when I wanted them to do it. Oh how my mindset has changed, leadership means quite the opposite to me now, though I feel like some people in leadership roles specifically currently in our world may still feel that is what it means to be a leader. I find a lot of the time it’s those quiet leaders that have the greatest impact, those that lead by example, with integrity. Those that make you want to do something because you see it working in their life. When I was using I did lots of things to make me feel like I had power or control or effect on others. When in all reality I was completely powerless and had lost all control and absolutely all choice in matters, and specifically my life. Now that I have gotten clean and sober, some of the leaders who stand out to me are in fact, those quiet leaders. Those people who don’t have to say much because their actions speak so much louder than their words. When I got to South Orange County Detox & Treatment (SOCD), I learned a lot of things, one thing of a lot importance was reconnecting with God, of my own understanding, who has become my real leader. My Higher Power is “The Real Persuader” and power in my life. I feel that he leads me right to those people in leadership roles that can help me grow and blossom into the person in sobriety I was always meant to be. Most importantly He is starting to show me ways that I can come in to that role of a leader and how I can do good with it instead of evil, as I used to.
What is leadership? Is it looking up to someone who’s bigger and stronger than you?
No a leader is a person making an effort to do the right thing and show others the path to take behind them. Leaders aren’t better than anyone else. Good leaders show heart, faith and courage, leading by example in a chaotic world. Leaders maintain composure by pushing through the muck to the other side is the only way out of the pain. I believe that Salina has shown me leadership the entire 15 months I’ve been sober. I’ve done the hard work but her leadership has helped me push through the muck and the pain towards success .
Leadership is definitely important because without it we would never have anyone to look at for guidance or as the starters of something. Good leaders are there to lend a helping hand when you need a person to listen to your issues or give advice to you when you are down on your luck. I have personally been helped by good leaders in my recovery from people at SOCD and from “leaders” in AA who have helped me understand what AA is about and what sobriety is and what it can offer not only to me but to the people I am around.
The quality of leadership consists in one who takes a stand within a group of people and knows how he or she feels about the greater good. A leader is courageous and willing to put themselves in front of others to demonstrate independence. A leader is someone whom others admire and who offers motivation and a positive influence for others to follow. Naturally, we look up to someone with these traits mostly because we seek those traits ourselves. I’ve learned much more about leadership and how I can obtain these traits through the example of leaders at South Orange County Detox & Treatment (SOCD). I need to live in appreciation for those examples through showing leadership qualities in my own life.
Leadership is a good quality to have and it reflects in someone who leads by an example. Normally, in every group of people there is a leader. In recovery, for myself, having someone who leads me in the right direction is important to help me stay sober, normally it’s a sponsor . Leadership should always come from a place of good intentions and should be followed by action, by doing the right thing when nobody is looking. I haven’t always done the right thing when nobody is looking, nor when people are looking. I have never seen myself as a leader but I’m inspired by good leadership to better myself when I observe others who are doing the right thing. Positive leaders are typically in that role because they are independent thinkers, who don’t care about what others think and act for the greater good. These people inspire me to not listen to my self-doubt and to do the right thing, just because it’s the right thing to do. Early in recovery I’m easily influenced, therefore it’s important that I’m aware of the intentions of the leaders whom I follow. Leadership isn’t something you can teach. I feel that individuals either have leadership qualities, or they don’t. I can see myself down the road taking a leadership position in recovery, as I feel I could inspire others in a positive direction and be a person that others can look up to in recovery. It’s about no so much about finding leadership within, it’s more about letting it out.
When most people think about the word “leadership” they may think of the leader of a political party or the leader of a Country or President. For me growing up playing sports most of my life, the role of leader was typically given to the Captain of the team or someone who communicated well with teammates. When I played sports I was usually that person, I was either Captain or Assistant Captain of most of the teams I played for and that position usually had more responsibility then other players. You were expected to be at practice and games earlier, working harder, and if something was going wrong within the team you were the first person the coach would talk to. As I got older and my addiction got worse, I became more selfish, cared less about my team and how we did and eventually stopped playing sports all together. I forgot how important it was to be a leader and to have a leader around you to help guide you to success. When I first entered rehab and the program of AA I was new to everything. I knew nothing about AA and what it took to get and stay sober and at first did not have any intention of learning or growing. Once I went to some AA meetings and people told me I needed to get a sponsor to help guide and lead me through the steps and help me get sober I was resistant to that at first. My pride got in the way and I was not able to see that I was not the leader that I once was and that I needed someone to help me get through this hard time so that I could lead and guide people through the steps and helping them get sober.
When I came to South Orange County Detox & Treatment (SOCD) and started helping people get clean, I felt that sense of leadership starting with Salina the Program Director. Being at SOCD, seeing Salina’s vision and knowledge, and seeing so many peoples lives transform has given me that confidence back to be a leader and to be able to help people get and stay sober. To me, a leader does not have to be powerful or better than anyone else, a leader just needs to be open and honest, willing to help people, compassionate, loving, and caring and that is what a true leader is to me.
As I evaluate the word of the week, Leadership, I try to incorporate many different aspects of what makes a great leader and the roles where leadership exists today. I feel a responsibility to channel my passion into this blog as it is derived from a place of sadness over the current discord between leaders of this country and between the political polarizations in an effort to find a greater solution. With that said, my first true evaluation (as it should be with everyone) is with my own leadership roles, as a Mother, Business owner, Christian, Social Worker, Woman, and fundamentally as a human. While recognizing my own human frailty and acknowledging my own imperfection daily, I choose to fight to improve areas that need to be strengthened, to acknowledge mistakes, to seek guidance from other leaders, and to pray and share with those who I am leading, my understanding for each of them and their struggles.
My utmost higher calling in life is my leadership role as a mother. This leadership role should be given more praise and respect in our society, as parenting of today’s youth shapes the future leaders and citizens of tomorrow. It is often a humble and sacrificial role where action is the key element of leadership in teaching our children how to treat others and how to live with integrity. This teaching role, to me, has been spiritually inspired and beneficial in my personal journey, as I am honored to see my boys grow into young and intelligent men of integrity, faith, compassion, and loyalty. As I look at some of my friends who stay home as full-time mothers and educators, I am inspired by their creativity, love, care, and dedication to their families, which is often over-looked by many as there are no raises, promotions, or materiel rewards. However, as I see it, each of them shines bright in beauty and inspiration for their roles as a mother. Psychiatrist, Carl Jung, eloquently states, “One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.
I have the pleasure of being the President and Owner of South Orange County Detox and Treatment. I have the honor of leading the staff and clients in a much-needed field of addiction recovery. I never aspired to be a business owner and the more years I have been in the role of leadership, the more I empathize with the complexities of leadership that I never before considered. I have always been flexible with following God’s path for my life, but I never saw it being in leadership. Leadership is something I learned from both of my parents, and from having an independent spirit, that was often rebellious and eccentric in nature. To me, a true leader needs to be independent, strong, creative, optimistic, invested, and this is often the outcome of individuals who are leaders long before given that role. I never saw my own strength until this role was given to me, and I felt compelled to forge a path and make it my own.The opiate epidemic and the rising tide of those who suffer from addiction has become a war we are losing whereby people all over America are experiencing a horrific tragedy that is taking too many lives. Families of sufferers are in a state of perpetual post-traumatic stress with limited answers to quench their thirst for solution. With passion, purpose, and love for saving lives, I found a place of leadership that I felt worth leading. It has been a painful journey and I have sat with many parents and loved ones as they grieve the loss of their child, sibling, friends, and partners; brilliant and beautiful people lost in the depths of addiction too soon for all of us to understand. For the many who have been able to find themselves, their higher power, their passions and vocations, and their sobriety, the fight has been worth struggle and leadership has been natural as I have a passion for this divinely inspired path of trying to save as many people suffering from addiction. The honor of this leadership role comes not from self-exaltation but from seeing people’s lives transform because they were willing to allow me to help them.
If more leaders, specifically political leaders, would take the time to remember why he or she first got into politics, rekindling the passion that led him or her to serve as leaders of the people, the self-driven and selfish desire to be powerful may dissipate and a greater vision emerge for America. Hate corrupts the heart, and never solves problems without war, death, and pain. I have found myself having to discuss the honest truth about current politics with my sons where hypocrisy, hatred, and corruption seem to take precedence over the real issues that need to be discussed, debated, and resolved with intellect, understanding, and resolution. If we stopped to listen to each other and stopped trying to prove points by attacking others, more of the problems may be solved with less solution sacrificed. Too often, there are news stories of mass shootings and the aftermath of hateful debates on how to solve them, it seems like we are far from providing a solution.
My daily efforts in practical and pragmatic solutions in my other leadership roles of life, often leaves me indifferent towards politics at times. In that way, I myself haven’t been part of the solution. The TV debates and criticisms of the left and right, leaves me so overwhelmed that I often find myself avoiding it at all costs. Martin Luther King stated, “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” Dr. King’s statement encourages all of us to start showing more love, justice, and strength that is necessary to create the change that needs to happen within America, despite the outcome of any election or any media event, so we can all be part of the solution and not part of the problem.