“Everyone’s got a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” While Mike Tyson may be a controversial figure in pop culture and the sports world, this quote has always hit close to home with me. Even the best laid plans can be rendered useless in the face of an adverse event or circumstance. The true measure of our mental, emotional, and spiritual strength is how we navigate problematic situations under fire. Anyone can plan for the best; learning how to adapt and overcome in crisis situations will afford us a wealth of tools in our spiritual kit – enabling us to freely experience serenity, peace, and be of real help to others when life takes a turn for the worst.

We’ve all had moments of weakness, buckling under the crushing weight of stress, disappointment, depression, heartbreak etc. Life throw’s a curve ball as it inevitably does, and we don’t react the way we wish we would. Hindsight is generally 20/20 and looking back I can see why I’ve gone through the things I have in the grand scheme of it all; to grow. To learn how to deal with drawing the wrong card, to win with a junk hand. “Pain is the touchstone of spiritual growth,” as we like to say in the recovery community. So, while you may find yourself disappointed in your performance in any given rough situation, whether it be failing to uphold personal boundaries, not getting the coveted promotion you were up for, or losing the race you spent a year training for, don’t be so hard on yourself. Give yourself permission to take a break, to collect your thoughts, to take a hard look at the record and see what could have been done differently. Without failure, our ability to embrace adaptation would be 10 times harder. In 2001, Tommy Caldwell, one of the greatest rock climbers in the entire world, cut off his left index finger with a table-saw in a tragic accident. One of this man’s most precious and coveted tools in his sport, his hand, was taken from him. Let’s be honest, most people would give up. They’d cower and quit and retreat into the voracious pit of self-loathing and pity. Mr. Caldwell did none of these things; instead he began the arduous task of re-training the mechanics of his hands sans index finger and went on to continue setting and breaking records. He came back better than before. One might even posit that he wouldn’t be where he was today WITHOUT the loss of his finger. In the face of tragedy, he built up his strength, followed his dream, and poured everything he had inside of him, mentally and physically, into overcoming an insurmountable obstacle. Throughout history there have been thousands of people like Tommy, who, by experiencing unspeakable loss and hardship, were able to regain their footing, learning how to live and operate even better than before. Don’t discount your miserable experience’s. Don’t discount your failures. They are worth their weight in gold when it comes to personal achievement and spiritual growth.

Without losing, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Without feeling the pain and sting of disappointment in myself, in others, in my seeming inability to wrest happiness and satisfaction out of life on my own power, I wouldn’t have been able to get sober. I wouldn’t have been able to get through the single most difficult experience I’ve ever had in my entire life. I couldn’t breathe without drugs. I couldn’t function, mentally, emotionally, or physically. I was completely lost. Through that pain and struggle was borne a determination, a willingness to follow God, to take suggestions from other’s, to take a completely hopeless situation and try desperately to see how it could be used for good. Looking back, I can now see that my own vicious battle with the disease of addiction can be reformatted into a story of hope. Of forgiveness, of God’s enduring grace. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it; I never would have learned how to accept help from others, to truly listen with ears to hear, or how to freely give of myself for those in need. My pain and suffering were not only necessary, it was vital. While I am by no means a perfect person, or some kind of “zen” master, I have been able to withstand the calamity of unexpected troubles in ways that I never would have been able to before.

So, take it easy friends. Rest assured that even in dire times there is a light at the end of the tunnel; even if that light is solely the fact that you walked through a conflict and came out on the other end alive to tell the story. Life can be hard. It can be troublesome. The people you love the most can fail you. Your work can fail you. Your fantastic plans can potentially not work out and fail you. Learn to lean on God, to ask for help from others, to pray and meditate on His will for us, and for Him to show you how these failures can benefit you and others. Always remember, getting punched in the mouth today might make for a better, promising tomorrow, where we not only duck and weave with grace and poise – but win the title itself.

With all the love,

Sean – In Recovery

You can read, comment and ask questions for Sean to address in his blog on the PAL website, home page – www.Palgroup.org