The sinew didn’t want to stretch, the muscles burned, angry squeak’s and pop’s coming from a multitude of areas on my body. “My God,” I said to myself, how did I get this bad? I knew the answer, I didn’t want to say it out loud though, it would just be stating the obvious… Things changed.

Atrophy: Gradually decline in effectiveness or vigor due to underuse or neglect.

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The muscular atrophies and physical side effects are just a part of the bigger picture though. Life itself has undergone an atrophy of sorts as well. Seeing the effects of these changes is nothing new. The societal, interpersonal, and internal mental and physical health disruptions are far from what was once seen as such secure standards. It has left what remains as a puzzle too imbedded with doubt and unanswerable questions for many to begin to engage in, and with. Feeling the unsustainability, the shockwaves of reflection and loss of time; Making life work, produce, and be inspiring during these times is challenging to say the least. What does change look like? When all that there is left is a stack of change, the reflection in the mirror looks more and more like an unmotivated stranger. Life thus far has not been about our introverted nature because that is not a part of our nurturing processes, our growth. The interaction processes have slowed and in many cases atrophied, the human to human exchange of energies has slowed to a confounding, and disconcerting din. The mental health of many merely hanging on for those breaths of oxygen rich life. The old networks of acquaintances have become distant memories, and constructing life from the pieces that remain seem awfully insufficient.

That’s the task at hand though, constructing again. Putting together a comprehensive plan, something to not only adjust the sails in this Galapagos of purpose, but also help keep it all together when the seas start rolling again. Finding the impetus and motivation to change when it is you against yourself, when the avenues to others and help that is meaningful is more and more remote is not an easy thing to do, much less consider what and how to change at all? I know that in myself, the inroads to the bigger changes comes from using the tools that are at hand, the evidence that is right in front of me. Talking it out in the mind is one thing, but a better tool for myself is writing it down. That way the first thing I can see is if it even makes sense? The other things it allows me to do is get it out of my head. I find that holding onto too many threads without ending a few becomes overwhelming, which bleeds into parts of thinking it shouldn’t be in. It’s good that I know how my head is working, but how do I translate all of it into productive, and measurable real change?

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I’m not alone in this, I hear it, read about it, and live a good piece of it all myself. Changes happen whether you’re ready for them or not. When looking at my own configuration of conflagration that has occurred over the last few years, I am grateful for having the ability to understand the degree of changes I was/am going through. That outlook had me somewhat prepared for the bigger changes that I had the foresight to envision, the ones that never came to be, and the ones that needed a good filtering through my various neuroses, and states of mind. As I said though, the task at hand is to motivate the stranger and seeing my attempts fall flat, I went back to the basics again. In that effort I found that I started applying more of the tools that I would use dealing with any other stranger, and in the process filled in some foundational pieces that needed grout. I became a sponsor to that other set of voices in my head, and found old/new ways to poke the stranger. As the atrophy of relationships, connectivity, better mental health practices took root, so did the half ass lazy thinking. The throwing spaghetti at the walls of intellect with friends was left to circle the drain in whichever direction your hemisphere of placement produces. It wasn’t just myself, that part was understood well, it was unsustainable though. Over the years I had a good chance to do the introspect, the picking it apart, what remained though is a whole bunch of what the hell to do now? Ready for a world that had the rug pulled out from under it though was not a part of the planning. A change of course asked of the blind cartographer.

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With all of that work on myself, I already knew what I was missing, what I needed more of and less of. What I couldn’t find was some of the ways to kick start my thinking again, jump my body and life into the correct gears. So I started out small, the changes that I needed to start making began with the better thinking that I knew I had developed over the years. The checkmarks and signposts were still there, I just needed the motivation to walk past them once again. The emotional stimulus didn’t work as well, the apathy levels were way off the charts, and the selfish ego exploded with all manner of approval to keep it above the fears. Starting off small was just about keeping myself consciously aware. It started out with more nods, and thanks given, gratitude, and happiness applied. It has been an exhausting course change, just in that manner alone. The better thinking was pushed aside to a large degree by the survivalist instincts, the unconscious thoughts, the just getting by of it all. Those survivalist instincts are also what I found motivated me too, because I once said that I found that there is no there, there, that I’ve been trying to find. There is no change to be made if no change is made either.

I have plenty to do, to work on, bad habits to break, good habits to enhance, better thinking to install. In that atrophy, that Galapagos of it all, I had allowed the lazy thinking to mature again, the dimly lit days to clump together, mastering the hollowness of just getting by. The conscious contact with my thinking patterns began with returning to the practices that keep me in touch with my psyche, my spirit, my inner voice. In returning to those basic practices, like meditation, and breathing, walking, and writing it out, it allowed me to stay more conscious of my behaviors and habits. Driving that return to disciplines was harder to arrive at than I first believed. The lazy entertainment my mind was craving, the substitutes for brain patterns that I didn’t have to put much energy into was as addictive as anything I had ever faced. I remembered my sponsor saying early on that the mind was a muscle that needs to be exercised, not just satiated. I started looking back at my more recent posts, the history and patterns that developed over the years, and listed out those things I still needed to work on and, once again, started small. With the nods to gratitude, and breathing exercises, the small part of accepting myself and letting go of those things long past became the next conscious act, the next indicated thing. The practices that have helped me so much in recovery being retooled, re-honed, and adapted once more to help me in this new construction.

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I realized through this that I was using a good portion of my energies composting a lot of memories, and those memories were keeping my self esteem from going anywhere. I started to go over them as they came up more and more, and went over it in my head to let it be, let it end, let it go. Living in the present, knowing that while the changes that shape the world today are far from my control, my life isn’t out of it. Reminiscent of the First Step: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable; There are more things added to the powerless over than before, life has become more difficult to manage, to adapt to, to build from. Starting small and keeping in my lanes of thought, my next healthful indicated thing, esteem constructive, and actively working on change has felt cleansing. Without the abilities to be of service to others as before, being of service to yourself can help prop up that third piece of the triangle. The sign posts of recovery didn’t move, I just couldn’t see them being this far off in the weeds. This was something that required a little bit of fight reinstalled, the saying was to cease fighting anyone or anything, but it didn’t say to stop fighting for yourself inside. Maybe that’s the reason why this works for some so well, finding that the biggest mountain to climb is the one that crawls so deep.

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This month I mark ten years of sobriety, ten years of the best of times and the worst of times. I have climbed up those caverns that have dropped so deep. I have found the hiding places of the worst of me, and sometimes the resting places of the best of myself. I have lost everything and gained exactly what I had worked for, and in the end I am a better person, a better human being. I know that somewhere in the acceptance I had found, and the willingness to follow a simple suggestion of honesty, I have found all the strength that I needed to get through another day, another month, and another year of growth. Even now, after all of these years it becomes necessary to go back to the practices of one minute at a time, one hour at a time, and one day once more to find the serenity. The task at hand is to motivate the stranger, keep climbing to the depths, and renew the mission statement, that of change and growth. The one fight I still retain is the one in which I trudge forward with inside, to continue the better way of life, and provide a headwind out of the dangers of, a life in atrophy.

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