See Ya Later Old Friend…

self

I just realized tonight that since I started my new blog, I never posted the new site address here.  So I thought I would once and for all bid farewell to Thoughts From the Couch and invite everyone to enjoy my new site Peterisms as well as my lifestyle magazine raannt! This blog was a good friend but I have moved on to other things.  Please check out my new sites below! I love you all!

Peterisms is HERE!

raannt is HERE!

Much love and I’ll see you on my new sites!

Peter

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Decision Tree

This is a pretty simple concept. When I was in fifth grade all of the kids in the neighborhood decided we were going to steal alcohol and cigarettes from our parents and throw a little party. Needless to say, my best friend and I were the youngest, 9 and 10, while the other kids were almost in high school. Because they were much older, the told us we should bring the beer and cigarettes. If I remember correctly, I volunteered to bring the cigarettes and my friend stated that he would bring the beer.

Later that night, we met in the middle of the cul de sac, our loot in tow. We ventured out to the woods and began to have our party. I think we might have lit one cigarette and shared a fourth of one beer before a parent found us and the party was busted.

Being the my parents had recently divorced, but continued to always parent on the same page, my mother called my father. Later that night he showed up. I don’t remember much about what happened that night but I do remember sitting on the steps in our entry way talking to my parents. Although I cried the entire time, my parents were not harsh or bitter, only asking me to be as honest as possible about the activities of the evening and who decided what was to be brought to the party.

I didn’t know it at the time, but every other kid involved lied and placed the blame of the evening on me. Apparently I was the one who came up with the idea. I was the one who volunteered to bring the beer and the cigarettes and I was the only one who drank or smoked. Funny…I didn’t remember it that way?

My parents asked me only once, “Are you sure that’s the truth?”, and I answered yes. “If you say it’s the truth, then I believe it’s the truth.” My father said. “We raised you to be honest and I believe we did our job.” There was some discussion about what I thought my punishment should be and then I was dismissed while my parents sat on the front porch and talked about the incident…while drinking a beer.

For the rest of that summer, all of the kids in the neighborhood were unable to play with me because their parents had termed me a “bad influence”. They would ride up and down the street and shout “smoker, smoker” and “drinker, drinker” at me, knowing they had been part of the party as well.

I was 10. During that same summer, my friend and I had been caught by his father dressed in drag in the front yard of my house. My mother took a picture of us, every bit the Kennedy clan in wide brimmed hats, smoking tree twigs as cigarettes. His father had been furious. My mother laughed as our neighbor hauled my friend away while tripping on his long gown.

When I was in high school I got in trouble for another drinking party. While talking to my father over dinner he brought up the incident from the summer of my tenth year. “You know, I was always very proud of you for that night.” He said. “The other kids were rewarded by their parents for lying because those parents couldn’t deal with the fact that their children could possibly engage in such behaviors. They received new hockey equipment and shoes while you were punished for your involvement. Their lies will haunt them.” He told me.

“In life, there is a decision tree. The tree grows into a trunk which supports the rest of the tree. This is the foundation of your morals and values given to you when you are young as well as any of your genetic makeup. Next, we have the branches. Each branch splits in two eventually. Each branch represents choices you make in your life. Each choice leads to two or more choices and so forth. As you grow, your decision tree grows and all of your choices compound on top of one another. I wish I could show you my decision tree, and explain all of the good and poor choices I made in my life so that you could live your life to the fullest based on my experience. Unfortunately, you have to grow your own branches. Your mother and I always understood that which is why that evening, whether you had been telling the truth or not, we knew your choice would ultimately affect mostly your life. One lie would lead to another lie and to another lie. As life moves forwards, those kids who lied that not will display similar behaviors but you will be a finer human being for telling the truth and moving through difficult choices.”

And then he patted my back and the lesson was over.

I won’t bore you by telling you I became one of the most prolific liars this century has ever seen or that I had countless arrests and addiction treatments. I won’t bore you with how I treated people horribly, felt that I was owed something from my family and blamed other people for all of my mistakes. I won’t bore you with the countless drugs I did or how much alcohol and cigarettes I used over the years. I definitely won’t bore you with details about how I didn’t care about others’ feelings for years and only, selfishly, thought about my wants and needs.

But I will tell you that because of those years, I do not behavior in any way like that today. In fact, I attempt to live such a right life by the standards I set for myself that I am completely offended when others challenge these values. About a year ago, a business associate accused Alex and I of lying about how we had witnessed an event and reported it. I won’t dredge up the past because, as I stated, I’ve learned from those behaviors and don’t react the same way today, therefore we are friends again and both apologized for hurting each others’ feelings.

Needless to say, in being called a liar I explained that I was completely offended because that challenged the foundation of my sobriety and my values. If I am a liar, then the rest of it is a scam true; my recovery, my relationships…all of it. I might be a lot of things. But I am not a liar. Those behaviors of yesteryear were my picking the wrong branches to climb. Today, I choose different branches because I’ve learned…and my dad was right. In looking at his choices and the choices of others, and learning from one another, I’ve been allowed to live a better life.

While dissecting your life, ask yourself, Am I happy? Are there things I want to change? Are there things I believe are out of my control? What would I change today that would make me happier?

Now look at your choices!

You have many choices. The fact is not that you don’t have choices. The fact is that you don’t like where your choices lead. Many of us don’t like our choices, but sometimes choices we didn’t want to take led us in the right direction. I had no intention of staying in treatment on December 17, 1994 but by going I’ve been allowed to have the most amazing life possible. While working in treatment, I was adamant I was not going to participate in a new family group therapy program that had been designed, but after making the choice to participate rather than be fired, I learned I loved working with families. I was also forced to do an internship in an inner city elementary school. I begged and pleaded with my dean to let me do another internship, but due to my lack of planning, it was all that was left. During that internship, I met my mentor and had some of the best life change experiences ever!

It is easier to let go than to resist.

That branch was my most important.

My parents were very wise. They knew how to raise me with enough liberty to become the person I was meant to become while guided enough to have the values and morals they had learned would further me the most in this life. They were wise because they never allowed me to see them argue, with the exception of a few occasions, and they never spoke poorly of each other. They never made parenting decision without consulting one another. They did this because they loved me. They were the best parents any kid could wish for in life.

My mother was very, very wise. She never threw anything away in fear of possibly needing it again someday. Downstairs in our basement, right on top of her old Smith-Corona typewriter, sits a gorgeous photograph of the Kennedy sisters, both draped in beautiful dresses, wide-brimmed floppy hats shading their faces as they drink lemonade and smoke cigarette tree branch twigs.

I might post that picture someday…hell, we’re on borrowed time as it is!

Dreams…

I nap every day. I love to listen to people talk about taking a 30 minute nap or a disco nap. A nap to me is at least 2-3 hours. I recently heard a statement that hundreds of years ago, people slept two times a day for 3-4 hours at a time. That would totally work for me. I love to sleep, but I like to be up really late at night. They say the freaks come out at night and that’s probably true. I think I achieve more between the hours of midnight and 6am then any other time during the day.

Today, I kept waking up from my nap and falling back to sleep and waking up and falling back to sleep. It was…amazing. I love sleep where I fall back into a dream. Do you ever wonder where dreams originate? I’m not talking about neuroscience and sleep studies. No…I’m talking about where are our dreams born? Recently, I’ve even wondered if my dreamstate is reality and my waking life is my dreamstate. Sometimes, I confuse myself or think I’m going crazy, but I know I’m not.

When I was a little kid, my mom gave me a journal to write down my dreams. She said if when I woke up I immediately wrote down my dreams then I would remember them more clearly. I now remember my dreams very clearly. Sometimes…too clearly. Today, my dreams were very, very strange. I’m thinking about beginning to write down everything I dream about and turning it into a weird little book. I need a title though…that’s what keeps me from writing most of my books. Oh well…

What do you dream about? Do you write down your dreams? Do you remember your dreams? I believe dreams are a woven tapestry of our subconscious mind with souvenirs of our daily life. What do you think? I’d probably have more to say about it if I didn’t need to go to sleep and go back to dreamland…because we’re on borrowed time as it is.

Lessons in Reverse

I’m extremely tired but I made the commitment, to myself more than anything else, to write on this blog every day for the entire year I am 40 and if I don’t write the very first day it doesn’t give me much of a head start. So here I am…3:34 am, having just finished the movie Red State while munching on an enormous bag of Swedish Fish and tolerated the 100 degree heat seeping in through the walls of our house. I’m 40…and a day.

Turning 40 wasn’t nearly as strange as yesterday. Yesterday was the last day of my 30’s and I realized this about half way through my work day. I was sitting at my desk, talking to a prospective client on the phone and I thought, “holy shit…this is the last day you’ll ever be in your 30’s!”. Blindsided.

But I’m over that now. Funny how things we find so profound or important quickly pass. Now my only real concern is finding my way up the stairs to the cool of the sheets and the wind from the fan. Today has been a mundane day. I was supposed to be in Vegas for my birthday but we decided to cancel the trip and take it later in the year when we had more spending money. If you’ve kept up with my reading you already know that I was pretty undecided about what to do for my birthday, so let me fill you in on what happened.

I woke up at about 11 and rolled around in bed reading all of my Facebook birthday wishes from friends and strangers. Then, while Alex went shopping for my birthday presents, I went to get coffee. I came home, made my daily YouTube video that will accompany these posts and waited for Alex. Minutes later he came home and we opened my presents. After a brief fight, which had nothing to do with the presents, we went to the pool, only to be met by several small children and an unbelievable, summer storm. I thought I might like to do a little shopping but instead we napped…for several hours. This was no ordinary nap, but instead the kind of sleep you wake from several times and try to fall asleep quickly to return to your dream because it is so good. When we woke up it was almost 8:30. We dressed quickly and went to Cheesecake Factory. After devouring a cheeseburger we walked outside to be met another couple who are quite good friends. We sat in front of Starbucks for hours shooting the shit and by the time it was midnight, I was exhausted and ready to go home…only to get my second wind. Alex was more than willing to watch a movie since it was my birthday. I chose Red State over Play Misty for Me and enjoyed every minute of it. I took the dogs out and they are now asleep next to Alex which is exactly where I’ll be the moment after I post this post, which by now probably seems to have absolutely no point.

It has a very, very important point…and lesson.

I was bored today. Like I was really, really bored. I was really happy to be able to spend an entire day with my husband, something we rarely get to do anymore, but still…I was bored. Not sad bored…happy bored. But bored nonetheless. And do you know who’s fault that is? Mine. That’s right. I didn’t plan a damn thing for my birthday because I wanted to play it simple and not plan anything…and that’s exactly what I got…simple and unplanned. I imagine if I had gone to Vegas or planned a big party or dinner, then that is exactly what I would have done.

The point I learned, as I was constantly reminded by Alex that this was how I wanted to spend my birthday, was that we dictate the outcome of our own lives…most of the time. If we want to sit around and be lonely and bored, we can make that happen. If we want to be happy and entertained, we can make that happen too! Its all up to us. If we want to be actors, we can audition for a play, or even direct and star in our own plan and show it in a public park or our own living rooms. If we want to write a book we just need to sit down at the computer or open a pad and start writing. I really don’t care what anyone has to say because the naysayers will challenge this but it really is that easy.

Period.

And you better get this quick before you spend the rest of your life bored, lonely and bitter. Trust me…it sucks…and we’re on borrowed time as it is.

Watch my video blogging series every day that coincides with these posts! Join my journey with me over the next 364 days!
HERE is my YouTube Channel Pemovision!

In the Beginning…

Most of you probably don’t even know how this all began. My mother died four years ago on May 14th, 2008. I had recently separated from my partner of 8 years and left a job of almost 13 years. I was alone. I was numb. I had no direction. The only solace I found was driving down country highways with a pack of cigarettes, a cup of coffee and country music blaring on my radio. I quickly became friends with the 3rd shift employees of gas stations and grocery stores. I came home late and went to sleep with my pup Griffin snuggled at my feet. Day after day I lost clients as I canceled or forgot appointments. Quickly my business declined and my credit card debt grew. While talking to my cousin Caroline one day, she suggested I start a blog for my business to help me get more clients. “You’re a great writer”, she said, “people will be able to relate to you and they’ll want to come see you.”

I had never heard of blogging before and I didn’t really understand much about the internet. I had exited a relationship into a world of Facebook and Myspace. Youtube and dating sites. To say it simply…I was lost. Nothing made sense to me anymore. I couldn’t even figure out how to do my bills online. But I was determined to try.

One night in July, I found myself distracted while driving around and went home early. I sat down at the computer and began my blog which was originally titled Suicide Birds and Seahorses. I started to explain why I was starting the blog. Actually, it might be easier if you read my first entry. Here it is, Suicide Birds and Seahorses July 28th, 2008:

Hmmmm….where should I start…well, I guess at the beginning…I’m not even sure that I understand the purpose of this, but I know eventually it will find me. Let’s start, Halloween, 2007. Unsatisfied, unfulfilled with my life, I sat on the porch in the Smokey Mountains at 2:30 a.m. with a friend discussing that I was nearing 40, and I didn’t feel as if I knew what I was supposed to be doing, or better yet, wasn’t doing what I felt I should be doing anymore, but I didn’t even know what that was I guess. My friend, a very wise, yet unfulfilled 57 year old, sat back, stared right into my eyes and said, “Don’t wait until you’re 57 and you’re husband sits on the couch all day watching CNN news.” It was the moment in Thelma and Louise when Thelma can no longer go back, those words released me. And I could not go back. Within the next few months, I left a seven year relationship, which at times, I am unsure was the correct decision, resigned from a job I had been with for 12 years and began writing a book. And then not one book, but two and now three. Oh, did I mention I’m a recovering addict and as such, I can’t limit myself to any one thing. And then, my mother became extremely ill and was in the hospital until May 14th, when she passed away. And driving away from the hospital that night, Bob Dylan singing “Shelter From the Storm” through my speakers, a bird swooped down and dove directly in front of my car. A suicide bird, I thought. But why would they take such a risk. For the excitement, for the test, the chance that maybe they would make it to the other side and maybe they wouldn’t? Could these small creatures really be that wise. Swallow Sage? And maybe, we were all suicide birds, putting ourselves in risky situations, or taking chances to feel for one small moment that we were truly alive. And that’s how it began for me, through all this crap that has happened, although I’ve always known it served a purpose, I’ve begun my own nosedive in front of cars on the interstate late at night. It started with dedicating one year of my life to living freely, taking chances, going where I wanted to go and not being afraid to meet new people. But now I think, maybe this is the way it’s supposed to be for me. Maybe I’m not supposed to sit like a bird on a wire, waiting for winter to fly south. Maybe, I’m supposed to fly south now, or tomorrow. But nothing makes sense and everything makes sense, all at once. Suddenly. And I don’t question anymore. Or at least I try not to. Haha…I’m not that arrogant. And one thing I know, is that the magic still exists in me, and that is part of my journey, to forever stay four, wading through the creek behind our house, watching the sunlight hit the moss on the rocks, or seven, my mom and I checking out twenty books each at the library, or nine, and still now, believing that somewhere, way down beneath the still waters of St. Barts or off the coast of Tulum, live sea horses who sport bright red top hats and sing Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon”…at least I hope…I hope they do…

Wow! That just made me start crying. Four years later and my life has changed so drastically. I’m in a new relationship and married. I’m living in my mother’s old condo. I have three new dogs. I have a successful practice with clients who love coming to see me and I delight in waiting to see them. I run a full service website with my husband where we interview celebrities and do social reviews. I haven’t finished a book and now I’m writing 10 instead of 3. I still drive around at night. I still get sad. I still miss my mom.

But time goes on.

I can either sit back and be sad all of the time about things I can’t change and continue to be that lost and numb person I was four years ago, or I can ebb and flow with the tides of life and enjoy what comes my way. I prefer the later.

In exactly 10 days I turn 40. I will be posting a journal entry every day on my blog and doing a video for my YouTube channel every day. When I started this project four years ago, I did it for myself. I didn’t care how many views I got or how many people commented on my posts. I did it because I loved to write and I loved to find things to write about. I think I’ve lost some of that passion. Today, I write to inspire, not to be inspired. I need to be inspired again. I need to get back on that old, dusty road and continue my adventure…because we’re on borrowed time as it is!

*I need to ask my readers for a favor! I’m trying to put together some great goals to accomplish in the next year. I’m already determined to finish writing my first book, be in the best shape I’ve ever been, pay off all of my debt and quit smoking. What are some things you think I should do? What are some books you think are important that I read? I’ve come so far in four years and accomplished so much I’d like to prove what can happen in a year. When Adele won Album of the Year at The Grammy’s she talked about the power of just one year and I agree. If I can overcome three major losses and come out on top, so can anyone else. Follow the journey with me…even make your own…because, like my mother always said, we’re on borrowed time as it is!

Please follow me here for my year long journey!
And follow my videos on YouTube HERE!

If you’d like to take a look at my old blog, Suicide Birds and Seahorses, check it out HERE!

Help the Kids!!! All of the Secrets Revealed!!!

Please Help the Kids…Serve as Hope for Someone Else!!!
Contact me and be part of the movement!
petermonnmsw@gmail.com

My Twelve Steps Companion iPhone application tells me that as of today I’ve been clean and sober 16.76 years or 201.14 months or 6,122 days or 146,927 hours. That’s a lot of time but honestly, sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday that I was with my friends in high school drinking and partying. For years I worked with teenagers in an inpatient, addiction treatment center but today I am a private practice therapist who works with clients with varying issues and ages. Pain is universal.

But before I get too deep into the background story…for those of you who just want to be part of this project, let me take a moment to pause and explain. Daily I’m asked for advice on the strangest, but most honest, parts of the lives of teenagers using drugs and alcohol. Most days I receive phone calls from teenagers asking me how to talk to a friend or what drugs are safe for them to use. While my answers to these questions varies, I rarely give advice on safe drugs to use, what is apparent is most kids feel they have nowhere to turn for the real answers. Parents, teachers, other counselors, nurses, etc…call me daily too asking all kinds of questions about new over the counter drugs, or how much certain drugs cost or what boundaries they should or shouldn’t set. I have decided to begin a project where all of this advice can be easily accessed so parents and teenagers can be more successful and have the lives they dream of having. You want to be the next Jennifer Hudson, Kurt Cobain, Kid Cudi or Lil Wayne…it’s all waiting, you just have to reach out and grab it. I am asking anyone who had drug and alcohol problems as a teenager but is successful today to be part of my project. I am also asking anyone affected by these teenagers drug or alcohol use, but learned what worked and didn’t work to be part of this project. If you’re interested, please contact me at petermonnmsw@gmail.com for more information…but I encourage you to read on!

I can still remember being on the adult unit of the hospital where I got sober and listening to the teenage girls while they smoked on the patio at night, laughing with each other and talking about the dude’s number they got at the AA meeting they had gone to earlier. I remember watching in disbelief as the counselor monitoring them sat inside writing group notes, not paying attention to the girls or they mindless chatter. How could she not want to be part of this mesmerizing conversation? For years I had therapists who would fall asleep during our sessions or would trust the word of my parents instead of mine, never attempting to relate to my youthful beliefs or even remotely trying to see things from my point of view. So I thought to myself, I could do this. I could be that counselor or therapist I never had when I was a teenager. I could relate and show kids that adults can relate to them. Adults can be wrong and apologize first. Adults can listen to the same music, watch the same music and watch the same movies and television shows…not because they’re fake, but because that’s what they enjoy. (I can’t stand anyone fake so in my years of working with teenagers it’s been vital that when I am uneducated on a certain band or movie, to honestly more about their interests and ask for suggestions so I can decide on my own if I like a certain band. Some I’ve loved…some I still can’t stomach.)

Years ago I read a book by the editor of Sassy magazine where she described her attitude towards putting a magazine out for teenage girls. She described how her reader was the girl who walked down the hallway and had freckles or underdeveloped breasts, or overdeveloped breasts. Every boy looked at her or no boy looked at her. These girls didn’t feel they “fit it” and for them, this was traumatic, much the same way we consider sexual or physical abuse. She talked about sitting down on the floor and pulling her jeans up and getting down on their level to talk. Later, I had a professor who worked at Indiana Girl’s School who shared that she had a huge basket filled with cheap bottles of cheap nail polish. In exchange for talking to her, the girls were allowed to paint her nails. Often, she walked out of those sessions with a different color on every fingernail…but the girls talked…and they eventually felt better. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

And then the boys. The forgotten diverse population of our times. After 15 years working in the field of teenagers I have realized we assume our boys are going to be just fine because they’re boys. We make statements to boys like “grow up” or “be a man”, but nobody teaches them how to be men. They are afraid of growing up in a world without instructions and therefor front to make it appear they have a clue about the real world. Most do not and we are setting them up for failure. It is our job to hold their hands, even if they are resistant, through the dark, guiding them until they find their way. As a gay counselor I was apprehensive at times to work with male clients, but even to this day, I’ve always had amazing trusting and therapeutic relationships with the hardest core teenage men. They don’t care for bullshit and I do not bullshit.

Parents have asked me for 15 years what my secret has been working with teenagers. I just think like a teenager. I don’t have to try because honestly, most days I feel like I could wake up and this could all have been a dream and I’m still in high school myself. I try to treat teens the way I wanted to be treated, while still setting limits, boundaries and structure because I believe that’s what I wanted and needed. I had a mother look at her daughter during family group while she was discussing the love she felt for her boyfriend and the mother shouted “you don’t know what love is! You’re 15!” Let’s be honest. Love doesn’t feel a whole lot different at 15 than it does at 50. Quit lying to your kids. They know you’re full of shit when you do!

And that’s really the secret. Really listening to what the kids are telling us.

This has never been better stated than in the movie Bowling for Columbine when the director Michael Moore interviews singer Marilyn Manson whose music supposedly served as inspiration for the violence.
Michael Moore: If you were to talk directly to the kids at Columbine or the people in that community, what would you say to them if they were here right now?
Marilyn Manson: I wouldn’t say a single word to them I would listen to what they have to say, and that’s what no one did.

Today…I am listening. I have cleaned my ears out and I am listening like I have never listened before. For years I have been frustrated with the lack of resources for teenagers, parents, siblings and everyone who has been affected by drugs and alcohol as a teenager. The parents have no clue what to do and what decisions are right and the kids think what they’re doing is normal. I get questions daily like, “Since my son is in treatment, should I pay his dealer because he owes him $1500.” or “I don’t really care that she hangs around Sally. They’ve been friends since they were in 7th grade and Sally is a really good girl and comes from a good family. What about the other friends.” First of all, don’t ever pay your kids drug debts, you might as well have bought the drugs, which indirectly you did so own it. And second, Sally isn’t as pure as you think she is but that’s not the point. Your daughter is the worst friend she’s ever had so stop focusing on her friends.

But where is this advice? Where is the truth from kids, teachers, drug dealers, parents, siblings, therapist, probation officers and cops that everyone searches for and ends up calling me or some other therapist. It doesn’t exist…yet.

Every day I am contacted in some way by past clients or patients who I worked with as teenagers. Not all of them liked me when I worked with them, but somehow, they made it out and are successful today. Not all are in 12-step programs and not all of them are clean and sober, but ALL are successful in my book! I had a passing thought of starting a small project and so I chose ten of these young people and contacted asking for their help. ALL ten immediately responded and said they would be more than happy to help. Thus grew a larger idea and a larger idea and a larger idea. At this moment, I have a project in place to provide this advice and guidance my past families and patients have been looking for but couldn’t find.

This is where I help YOU to HELP THE KIDS!!! I am looking for anyone who struggled with drugs and alcohol as teenagers but made it out and is successful today. This does not necessarily mean you are clean and sober, but I am encouraging those people as well. I am also asking parents, sponsors, teachers, probation officers, therapists, counselors, doctors, friends, siblings, neighbors…anyone who experienced working with a teenager suffering from drugs and alcohol who has the inside scoop on what did and didn’t work for you that helped them be successful. If you are interested, please contact me at petermonnmsw@gmail.com with your name and email and I will forward you the outline for the beginning of this exciting project. And let me be very clear! This by no means is an attempt to replace any 12-step program. I am hoping that members of 12-step programs will also assist to offer examples of what works for them to be successful as well. I no longer want anyone, no matter their age, to feel that they don’t know where to turn for an honest answer about addiction and recovery.

Please help the kids! Serve as hope for someone else!
And if you have any questions or need immediate assistance you can always reach me at 317-796-3101.

The Best New Advice for 2011!!!


I haven’t written since October, a realization which is a little numbing considering how many ideas for posts I have jotted down on napkins in coffee shops and on the back of receipts. It seems that some of my best “thoughts from the couch” actually occur in the aisles of grocery stores or, like this morning, listening to talk radio shows on National Public Radio.

Five months is a long time though and my shoebox of writing ideas is filled to the brim with scraps of paper. I had wanted to write about Halloween and the notion of irrational fears versus rational fears. During November, I wanted to write about my mother’s birthday, Thanksgiving and several other small ideas such as how the smallest details in my life, such as the finest cup of coffee or a cheese sample at the grocery store can turn my day to the positive. In December, I had outlined posts for my sobriety date, December 17th, to talk about the week that led up to my entering treatment as well as a few chapters from my memoir I am writing about me and my mother’s recovery’s as family members and how to set boundaries while still supportive of one another. And of course I wanted to write about Christmas. Every year it is important for me to write a piece about some lesson I’ve learned at Christmas with hopes of it being a small gift to my clients. This past year, I was going to write about the last Christmas Eve I spent with my mom on the mountainside in Tennessee, stuck in the middle of the night, while we tried to find ourselves off of the slippery road.

January brought the new year and with every new beginning comes a time for renewal. This year is my year to be my most authentic self, creative and loud, colorful and positive, thoughtful, challenging and risk taking. I had an entire post ready to print and then was criticized for something I had written so I withdrew, which is no excuse, and waited once again.

I’ve asked my readers for tons of suggestions and they have compliantly given me months full of ideas so I really have no reason not to write, but until today, I didn’t really feel it in my soul. Several times when I have been down, Alex has suggested I write, stating that I seem happiest when I am creative and writing, which is probably true. So today I decided to write. I sat here in front of my computer, unsure of what to write, and almost closed the computer with the notion that I would just put it off until later. And then I smiled realizing I definitely had something to write.

There are certain things we know as truths in our lives. I am also a believer that knowing your weaknesses and being willing to change them to strengths can be one of our greatest learning experiences. If you don’t know by now, I believe that everything that happens to us happens for a reason and that life is full of translations and lessons waiting to be revealed.

Recently during a session, a client and I were talking about strengths and weaknesses and he stated, “don’t ever give anyone a reason not to like you.” I smiled and listened as he shared something, which I considered small, which had bothered him. “You are an amazing therapist and I love the insight you have, and being that I have been to several therapists, I know your worth in my life. But not everyone is like me and people look for reasons to not like others. So never, ever, give anyone a reason not to like you.”

Later that day, I thought about what he had said and that day, put into place a policy which would change some of my procedures because he felt it would make my practice better. And then I began looking at the weaknesses in myself that would keep, not only my clients, by my friends, family members, boyfriend, whoever, away from me if they were to focus on those weaknesses.

Earlier this week I made a list of those weaknesses and changed them to positive statements and wrote them on a Post-It Note above my desk which, as I read every day, reminds me of how to turn my weaknesses into strengths and how to grow as a person and be even better than I am already.

My client was so right on with his statement. It was really the best advice I’ve been given in a very, long time. “Don’t give anyone a reason not to like you.” We all want to be liked. We all want to do good work, have close friends and make a positive impact on the world. So, if there is anything that is standing in your way, turn it around, make is a strength and become the person you always wanted to be. Because we’re on borrowed time as it is!