I have a vision board in my office. It is filled with words and images of things that I want to accomplish or acquire. I made the board with a bunch of other women at a vision board party. We pored over stacks of magazines while we munched on sweets. Each of us picked and snipped sayings that held certain significance to us as we chatted about the meaning behind the words. We called out images we were in search of. “I need a campfire” I said, knowing that I really wanted to go camping with my family.
I used to camp a lot, in my previous life, my first marriage. Every memory I have of camping, from childhood to motherhood, is good. They are nestled in smoky smells and drizzled with the aroma of burgers on the grill and bug spray. When I close my eyes and think about those lazy summer days I can hear the kids laughing and the pool water splashing. The warm summer breeze wraps itself around me as I nap in the tent camper just feet above the leaf filled earth.
Camping, a cabin in the mountains, road trips, being on the water more… these are just some of the things that wound up on my vision board. I also added being happy and fearless, strong and fit, and of course financially stable; states of mind and body that have somehow always managed to elude me. I have had some of these wonderful moments in the palm of my hand a time or two. But circumstances, sickness and my own bad habits always caused most of them to slip through my fingers before I could feel the full weight of their lasting joyous impression.
One thing that isn’t on my vision board is a bar stool. Just like camping, I have a history with bar stools. At first, they were actual bar stools at fancy restaurants, Irish pubs and hometown bars. The ambiance surrounding them was festive and flashy. Sounds of glasses clinking and jovial laughter swirled around these bar stools, completing the happy atmosphere. But over time, my bar stools turned on me. They were no longer reserved for special occasions or holiday parties. My karaoke bar stool was swapped out for a depressing laundry room, the only warm place to drink in my New England home. Days beginning with a celebratory cocktail after lunch soon ended with blackouts and remorse. This is why none of my past dreams, none of my past aspirations were ever sustained. Even if they managed to show up, I would eradicate them swiftly with my arsenal of self-medication and self-pity.
Bar stool dreams… What I realize today is that the bar stool is what stole my dreams. The same thing that inflated my ego and bolstered my self-confidence on many a night was responsible for robbing me of those same qualities in the light of day. When the sun would rise on my dreams, I would stare into the harsh morning light, searching for that motivation, that drive and determination I had the night before. But all that would be left was an overwhelming sense of fear and failure.
Through recovery, I’ve discovered that if I take the bar stool out of my bar stool dreams I am left with The Promises. I am amazed at the freedom I have found. Freedom from being shackled to an addiction and all the guilt and regret that brings with it. Freedom to dream realistically and have the courage, faith and support to follow those dreams. Freedom to be who I am, not who I thought every one else wanted me to be.
I have found that much of my self-pity came from feeling useless. I felt useless because I talked a big talk but had no walk to show for it. I knew I had been blessed with gifts, that God had given me abilities and talents. But I had squandered them. I bragged about all I would do, and then made excuses for why I hadn’t. I justified and rationalized all of my self-defeating behaviors. My endless procrastination was really preparation. And the new best thing that came my way every few months really was the new best thing. Really. In the end, the result was the same. I would find myself back at square one, wondering how it had happened again.
Uselessness and self-pity are not part of my daily diet any longer. Through the steps, recovery and faith in God, I have lost interest in selfish things. I no longer strive for the material. Although having a little extra money or some nice things would be great. But I don’t need them. I don’t need to impress anyone or make up for lost time. I know that I’m exactly where I should be, doing exactly what I should be doing. And I’m not doing it for me. I’m doing it for God. I’m doing it to help others. I’m doing it because I truly believe that is what God wants me to do. And that is as far from useless as I can get.
The culmination of these changes is that my outlook on life has truly shifted. I no longer worry about the little things. I know my God will provide. I know that the people I used to be afraid of are the ones who I now make myself available to. The people I used to judge now have my empathy. Situations that used to baffle me are easier to figure out. The ones that really puzzle me can wait. I know that I can step back, take a breath and pray for direction. I don’t need to decide now.
All of these things have come to me as a result of recovery. Many dreams still linger in my heart and on my vision board. But without the bar stool, they are within my grasp. I can take the steps to accomplish them when I’m not sitting down. I can make these magazine clippings come to life today. No longer will my dreams and aspirations be whitewashed with substances and sickness. No longer will my determination and drive be riddled with self-doubt and fear. Today I will walk toward my dreams, one foot in front of the other, one day at a time. I will walk tall and hold my head high. I will be patient and trust God. Because I know that some of The Promises are already coming true for me. It is just a matter of time before the rest materialize. Because “they will always materialize if we work for them.”
Work, work, work..