Monday, March 16, 2015

Spring Cleaning: 3 Steps for Letting Go of Unhealthiness!

For several decades, my dad maintained an extraordinary garden filled with an assortment of
Deliberate Cultivation
scrumptious melons, colorful chili peppers, various beans and mouth-watering tomatoes! After enjoying several seasons of delicious delights, the cool temperatures of winter brought change with it. My dad meticulously removed all the dead plants from his designated garden boxes, rolled up his hoses, turned off his drip system, and methodically secured his plethora of tools in his neatly arranged garden shed.  The soil remained in its solitary mode until the warmth of spring signaled the arrival of planting season.  Beginning his yearly ritual, my dad tended to his boxes making sure their structures were solid and secure. He checked and rechecked the drip system. My dad spent days cleaning out the remnants of debris, raking through the layers of earth while gingerly feeding it nutrients from a nearby compost pile. And then with his hands, he tenderly removed any lingering foreign interferences. Upon completion, the earth’s smooth surface signaled its readiness for regrowth.

With winter closing in behind us and spring on our doorstep, it is time to do some cleansing.  As I continue to work my recovery practices, it is important to take stock of my current healing reality. For me, this process begins by identifying what is healthy and what is not followed by cleaning out and letting go of unhealthy intrusions.

Benefits of  Regrowth

Just as my dad reaped the benefits of regrowth through deliberate preparation, 
I have continually experienced the significance of renewal through purposeful cleansing.
 In other words, by letting go of unhealthiness, I give back to myself.

3 Steps for Letting Go of Unhealthiness. 

Clean Out What Is Not Working
Step One: Take a brutal and honest inventory.
When I get ready to do some cleaning out, I take a brutal and honest inventory. I ask and answer these questions.
  • What is working for me? What or who is contributing to my well-being, augmenting my recovery, enhancing my sense of worth and of self, and supporting me in healthy ways?

  • At the same time, what is not working for me? What or who is depleting me, draining my resources, and diminishing my capacity for inner peace, balance, and joy? Who or what is not supportive of my recovery?

Spending as much time as necessary, I answer all the questions acknowledging both the healthy parts as well as identifying the unhealthy.

Step Two: Implement specific strategies for letting go.

Once I have identified the unhealthy aspects in my life, I begin the process of letting go.  For me, this is not a one-time event. So, I take my time, do a little at a time, and I do not move forward until I have experienced success at my current level.

Letting go of an unhealthy behavior or of an obsessive negative thought or feeling is hard work.

I find I must have specific exercises which interrupt and arrest them. This 5 part cognitive-behavioral exercise does just that.

1. First, I take a baseline count of my unhealthy behavior, thought, etc. On an index card, I take a count of how many times a day I fall into this behavior. I do this for at least 3-4 days , until I have an average count.
2. After getting a baseline, I set my goals for reducing this behavior over the next several weeks or months. For the first week, my goal might be to decrease my baseline by 2 each day for one week, then by 3, etc. I do not move to the next goal until this goal is reached. Or, if I am not meeting my goal, I decrease it.

After I have my baseline and realistic goals are set, I incorporate the following strategies.

3. Placing a rubber band around my wrist so that it fits pretty snuggly, I snap it every time I start to fall back into self-blame or any negative thought. Yep, I snap it! And, I stop that thought.
4. Next, I immediately replace it with something pleasing, positive, and productive.  Sometimes I use a verse from a favorite song or prayer, a few words of affirmation, or a meaningful quotation. If the negative thought returns, I snap my wrist again, replacing it with a positive thought, again. I repeat as necessary.  
5. Lastly, when I have reached a daily goal or a weekly goal, I reward myself in healthy ways.  It can be anything from a tasty iced mocha, to an extra night at the gym, to lunch with a good friend.

Cleaning Out Is Hard and Necessary

For me, cleaning out and letting go also means releasing unhealthy people, relationships, friendships, and other places and things. 

Looking over the names of who or what is healthy and who or what is not, I specifically identity and describe the unhealthiness.  Is it a behavior? An attitude? Does this person or thing trigger me? How? By being brutally honest, I know what boundaries I need to implement.

Although boundary work is hard, I always remember that
 boundaries are not about pushing people away; 
they are about protecting my recovery. 

Boundaries Protect

1. While reviewing my list of unhealthy concerns, I set boundaries that will specifically address those issues.
2. Next, as I set boundaries with unhealthy people, places, and things, I clearly communicate to others what my priorities and expectations are. Then, I make certain my actions support my words.  
3. Lastly, but as importantly, releasing any unhealthiness to my Higher Power is an integral step to my cleansing. I continue to do so as often as needed.    

Step Three: Position myself for regrowth.

After my dad completed cleaning out of the garden boxes, sifting through the layers of earth, and nurturing of soil with nutrients, he watched and he waited. By not rushing the process, he gave the earth time to reclaim itself and to ready itself for regrowth.

After a period of cleaning out, I often find myself filling up those empty spaces quickly and falling back into the same unhealthy patterns I worked so hard at releasing! Step Three guards against regressing or relapsing by positioning myself for regrowth. It requires that I take time, both during and after the process of letting go to rest and to re-assess. I allow myself to feel what it is like to be without the weightiness and heaviness of unwanted unhealthiness.  I move slowly and mindfully as I examine my levels of readiness and learn from the lessons of the past. 

No Rushing Regrowth

And as I consider new investments, I remember that there is no rushing regrowth. 
Doing so sabotages its legitimacy and its longevity.

In closing, each year as my dad faithfully returned to his gardening rituals, he respected the earth and honored its process of renewal. And under his tender care, the soil continually gave back…season after season.

By frequently returning to and re-embracing the practice of letting go of unhealthiness, I continue to respect myself and honor my process of renewal.

 And under my deliberate cultivation, a mindset of wellness gives back to me…time and time again.

For more on boundary work...
Breaking Through Betrayal: And Recovering The Peace Within

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