Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Got Hobbies?"

One of the things I like so much about my therapist is that he’s very matter-of-fact. I suspect that it wouldn't matter if I were talking about how nice the weather is outside or crying about childhood trauma, he would still respond with the same, steady, even-keel. Lately, we’ve been talking a lot about building self-esteem. “And how do you build self-esteem? You do stuff,” he says. Simple, yet profound; matter-of-fact, and so very true.

Our self-esteem comes from having success in our lives. The longer and harder we work at something, the greater our self-esteem will rise at the successful accomplishing of what we set out to do. The old saying, ‘the harder the battle, the sweeter the victory’ comes to mind.

I had very few victories as a kid. I didn’t participate in sports. I didn’t really play much with other kids. I was smart, but most of the time I didn’t do nearly as well in school as I could have because I was afraid of the bullies who came after me when I did. My overprotective mother had conniption fits if I didn’t stay close to the house, and my fear of her reaction kept me from exploring the neighborhood. Most of my childhood was spent inside my head, in my imagination. As an active addict, I didn't have much success, either. I’ve never owned a home. My cars have always been hand-me-downs from other members of my family from when they bought new ones. What furniture I had was mostly leftover from when my grandmother died. I did have hobbies, or one rather--my music. But even that, there wasn’t much to show for it. I started many projects that were never completed. My band never played any gigs.

Things are so different now--I’ve completed and brought to production two full CDs of music this year. I do still have Nana’s couch and table, but my bookshelves are ones I bought and assembled myself; the TV I bought sits on a stand I got from Ikea. Bit by bit, things have changed.

Working the program in and of itself is a self-esteem booster. There is no feeling more amazing than to put time together where we once were unable to get through a single day without getting loaded. There is a sense of satisfaction that comes from getting through a set of Twelve Steps. Working those steps is NOT easy. Being of service can touch us in places, too, where we feel good about doing good--for others and for ourselves. But the program of Recovery is merely the foundation for living our lives, not life itself.

My music is only one of my interests. I’ve recently started shooting pool again. Many years ago, I had played in a league, even shot in tournaments. It’s been very cool to see my skills come back. I’m a member at my local art museum. I enjoy going there to see the art, of course, but also because it’s a peaceful place. Walking around, contemplating the different works, is almost like meditation for me. Modern art is especially captivating. I love to stare at a painting or a sculpture that seems to be of nothing, noticing the feelings that come up inside as I do so. I’m even getting back to exercising. It’s been a few months, and I can’t do nearly as many pushups as I used to be able to, but I know that will improve with time and practice. I found a cool website that gives a 6-week plan for building up enough strength to do 100 pushups in a single set.

Building self-esteem takes work, but it is doable. We can set goals, ones that are easily achievable at first, then add in more difficult ones as we make progress. We don’t have to beat ourselves up if we don’t succeed at first, either. We can just keep on trying until we do. Exercise helps the body as well as the mind to feel better. Our hobbies help us to round ourselves out, becoming even more fully human, more complete and whole. What we do isn’t nearly as important as the actual doing of it.

One of my sponsees talks from time to time about how he ‘doesn't like doing anything’. He says it as one of those half-joking truths. I recently passed on the advice of my therapist--do stuff. Go out and exercise; take up a new hobby. Try stuff. Do something different. Discover something you never knew you liked doing. Keep on doing it.

Sure, it ain’t easy, but it is simple. Get out there and do stuff.

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