Monday, February 25, 2008

Methods of change

In the past four years I have:

1. Changed faith denominations after fifty years
2. Quit drinking
3. Quit smoking
4. Enrolled in a writing class
5. Started getting up early to write and exercise

Here's how I went about each one:

1. This was the easiest. I was simply feeling lethargic at my old church and the new one called my spiritual name. I left without a backward glance and am actively and happily involved in the new church.

2. After many years of thinking I might have a drinking problem and one night of falling around in a public bathroom, I decided it was time. I quit abruptly the morning after the falling around incident. The hardest part of this was going to my boat where drinking is the most important activity people engage in. I cried for about 30 minutes the first time I went after giving up the booze, developed some coping mechanisms, and now don't mind being a recovering alcoholic for the most part. And I know without a doubt that I would not have been able to accomplish #3 if I were still drinking.

3. I gave myself one year of sobriety before I undertook giving up cigarettes. When I went outside to smoke, I asked myself, "What will you do at this time when you are not smoking?" I picked a date of signficance - the date that I quit drinking - and prepared myself mentally for life without the ritual of smoking.

4. Finding out about the writing class was purely and simply serendipity. I ran into Angela, the teacher, at Whole Foods. She told me that she was teaching a writing class and I began throwing up obstacles to my taking the class. Every obstacle was overcome in the five minutes we talked. One week later I was signed up to take the class.

5. The early morning discipline took the most preparation. I had given myself one year after quitting smoking to ignore any weight gain which came about from substituting eating sugar for smoking. I knew that I would not go anywhere to work out. I knew that I would not do it after work. And I knew that I hated to wake up early, especially to the obnoxious sound of a clock alarm. So I invested in(practically had to go to the bank to buy) a zen alarm clock that chimes once at the designated wake-up time, then chimes again every five minutes until turned off. I set up a writing desk that is inviting. I bought some yoga tapes.

If you had asked five years ago if I saw myself doing or not doing these things, I would have raised my drink in one hand and my cigarette in the other, laughing and toasting to the absurdity of the idea. In some ways I feel that changing churches, breaking a fifty-year habit, led me to be able to break the forty year habits of drinking and smoking. Then I began to think about wanting to preserve myself rather than destroy myself and the writing and exercising were natural outgrowths of that desire.

How do you go about making positive changes in your life? I would love to hear.

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