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sjmc1989's avatar

How do you go about changing your ways?

Asked by sjmc1989 (5489points) May 3rd, 2009

I have never been a really religious person. I have never really cared about the consequences of my actions. I know what kind of morals I believe in and want to have. I recently went to church and I am trying to right my wrongs, but I have no idea how to completely change the lifestyle I have been living and still be ME. I would love anyone that may have been in a similar situation and changed their ways but kept true to themselves as well and how they did it.

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27 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Even if and when you change, you will still be you – someone who chose the changes and remained truer to the future than the past…in my life, i have more often been changed by something or someone than have chose to change myself, and I’ve been in certain phases of life that are now unrecognizable to me but i am really good about the past being in the past

PupnTaco's avatar

The change you seek is already within you. All that’s required is for you to decide it’s important enough to make real.

Church won’t do it. You will.

sjmc1989's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Thank you for that answer I really appreciate it. You seem so wise :)

SeventhSense's avatar

@sjmc1989
Well swea pea, I think you’re great.
And I’m certainly no monk, but I came to a place around your age where I had to deal with some serious addiction issues. I found a twelve step group which encouraged finding a spiritual path of one’s own understanding. It took rigorous honesty to change. I still feel that I fall far from my ideals but I perservere. I pursued religion when I was younger but always felt that my understanding or commitment was greater than the people of a particular community that I was involved. I went from mainstream to fringe and never looked back again. My beliefs were always outside the norm but I never found support for my deepest convictions. Eventually I realized that I wouldn’t find them, but I could experience profound connection to honest people who had convictions. The dogma of religion gave way to a spiritual collective awareness of the interconnectedness of all things. I came to an understanding of the nature of life to be impermanence and all dependent upon an infinite coarising of interdependent events and happenings. The ideals and reality of Jesus, Krishna, Lao Tzu having an inseparable nature through the working of Tao, Word, Mantra and Tantra. The nature of samsaric death and rebirth as the only suffering and true mind the only reality. Eventually I found Zen as a form of practice. I found an enlightened teacher who was a catalyst for my further awakening but I let go of this as a form as well. I hit a road block with my own practice and needed to suffer some more. Today I practice nothing formally except contemplating my navel. I think one day I may travel to Southeast Asia and make like a wanderling but this may be the product of my imagination. The one thing that is certain is that formal religions don’t hold answers for me anymore yet I need to have compassion for all people. Releasing attachment to suffering through ego has been my greatest challenge. Whatever your understanding or relationship to spirit, God, Jesus, Buddha is, I would only say to be honest with yourself. I think that it must be experienced in an authentic way within and is so unique to each person to be like a fingerprint. Yet somehow it must be realized to calm the storm. And doubt is as significant as faith. True spirituality is transparent and should jibe with science and not be a foe of intellect. Yet neither should it be bound by either. If we were designed with intellect it’s for a purpose but the discursive mind is limited by its nature of dividing. From zen I realized that there was always something unsettled. In the most profound joy or sadness, there was always this something like the princess and the pea. This starting point is the basis for true practice.
“When we realize the everlasting truth of “everything changes” and find our composure in it. We find ourselves in nirvana”
Shunryu Suzuki

discover's avatar

One truth about god changing you is that you will be more lively, more yourself and a blessing to others.

Start by going to a good Bible based church, which has good fellowship.
Also do read the book, “Purpose driven Life” by Rick Warren, and get yourself the sermons of Joyce Meyer. They really helped me…..Not to forget—do read the Bible everyday (just as you read a novel, i mean read it spontaneously), get a simpler version such as NLT or contemporary english version.

check out these sites: everystudent.com, billygraham.org, leaderu.com

cwilbur's avatar

Read the Bible contextually—this means, don’t take verses out of context, and always look for the historical context that the passage was written in—and critically—you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible, and just parrotting someone else’s is not going to help your soul on your path.

To that end, I’d recommend that you take everyone’s more specific suggestions—in particular @discover, whose take on Christianity is probably very different from mine, based on his specific recommendations—with an entire shaker of salt. There are a lot of people out there who derive an awful lot of power from dictating what other people are supposed to think about what the Bible says. Don’t just take their word for it, but read the Bible and examine it in the light of other human experience (in particular, science and your own experiences of the world), and see what sense you make out of it.

discover's avatar

@cwilbur: I agree with you

Fyrius's avatar

I’d just like to throw this in here:

Becoming religious is in itself not self-improvement. The religious are not experts at morality. Believing in god will not make you a good person.
You do not need religion in order to believe in right and wrong, in good deeds and bad deeds, in virtues and sins.
And in my own ever so humble opinion, hope of heaven and fear of hellfire makes terribly selfish altruists. One shouldn’t be good out of fear of parental judgement. Be good out of personal responsibility. Be good for the sake of being good.

If you admire Christianity for making people do good things, as it can be rightly argued to do, try identifying the component parts that work and adopt those without subscribing to the whole package. There are admirable things Christianity can teach us, and detrimental things we’re better off staying away from. An important part of intellectual independence lies in being able to tell these apart.

sjmc1989's avatar

I just want to clarify something. I did not just happen to go to church and decided to change my way because I went to church. I have been wanted to change my ways for awhile and working at it then I went to church not the other way around. I also do not believe that religion is a cure all. I know that Im going to need to want to change myself and have the will to do this. I was asking this question because I am afraid that changing my ways will change me completely.

SeventhSense's avatar

@sjmc1989
You don’t have to fear “losing yourself”. There is no you to lose anyway but that’s a whole other topic. One let’s go of the attachments that one is capable of letting go. The question becomes after a while: Why do I still cling to this and what do I fear losing or not getting as a result of letting it go? Honest reflection seems like a dangerous game to the ego for it is that (the ego) which fears.

sjmc1989's avatar

@SeventhSense I have tried to ask myself this. I have gotten away from a lot of addictions but I keep clinging to alcohol. I drink to the extreme and then that leads to permiscuous behavior and putting myself into situations where I have been taken advantage. I dont know why I cant let it go.

SeventhSense's avatar

As a former blackout drinker I know that can be dangerous. Apparently you still feel it serves you in some way or you are coming to a crossroads. I would strongly suggest sitting in on an Open meeting of AA- available worldwide. You can pick up some pamphlets and no one will make you feel uncomfortable regardless of your age, nationality or creed. These are people who have been through adversity and everyone is equal. Religion is for people who fear hell, spirituality is for people who’ve been there. I would be hesitant to seek help from a church in regards to alcoholism or addiction. This is where religion can mislead you in starting to make strong distinctions between holy and profane, sacred and base. There is no aspect of our personalities which is any less right or wrong, but just things that either serve us or don’t. We are all hurting people trying to get better not bad people trying to get good. Sometimes the losing face or shame is not to hurt us but to indicate where we still cling. Innate wisdom is always at work in us, even in our craziness. And you can still be fun, adventurous, interesting and sexual all while sober.
In fact it’s better.

sjmc1989's avatar

@SeventhSense I might have to try the meeting I have a long family history of alcoholism so I think that could be very helpful. I went a long time with out drinking heavily but lately I started again. Thank you for you honesty as always.
Im in Love :) No seriously you were helpful as you always are!!

hearkat's avatar

I suspect that as you travel along your path and evolve into the person you seek to become, you will find that you are more yourself than how you are now. I have been on a long journey of my own, and sometimes I marvel at how I have been through so much and yet I am still the same old me.

I married an alcoholic with a long family history, and we had a son together… now I see that although my son does not drink, he is having difficulty with the related issues of dealing with stress and controlling impulses that often lead people to self-medicate. This is very painful to me because I have worked do hard to remove him from that legacy and to give him a solid foundation and coping tools that neither his father nor I had when we were entering adulthood. The genetic influence is strong, and he will always need to work harder than the average person to deal with life’s stresses and control his reactions.

It is likely that this is the case for you, too. So my first piece of advice is for you to forgive yourself. You have made mistakes and have regrets. Those past actions can not be changed, so let them go. Learn from them so that you will be wiser with your choices in the present, and this will have fewer regrets in your future.

AA can provide a good foundation for you, but I think that individual counseling would be a good choice for you, as well. If you are a student, your school should have services available. If you have health insurance, check if you have mental-health coverage, and whether there is a network you need to use. If you have no insurance, go to nami.org to find free or flexible fee services in your area.

The reason I suggest counseling is that you are still quite young, and with a family history of alcoholism, you may well have other personal experiences in your past to address beyond what AA can do.

I’ve spoken of my personal journey many times on Fluther… I was abused and molested by a family member in childhood. I had issues of self-loathing and body image. I made many poor choices along the way. For me accepting and forgiving myself were crucial in breaking out of my old victim mindset. I also chose to let go of the illusion of control… all that I can control are my own actions in this very moment. And as I mentioned before, I try to choose actions based on what I’ve learned yesterday so I won’t have regrets tomorrow.

Be patient with the process, and don’t be to hard on yourself when you trip up along the way… you are only human. And you are as deserving of love, respect and happiness as everyone else.
(((((hugs)))))

@SeventhSense: I enjoy reading your comments and typically agree with most of what you say, but could you please add a paragraph break once in a while? My eyes have tracking problems, so I do better when there are breaks to help me keep my place. Lurve and Thanks!

wundayatta's avatar

I don’t know if I’m backed by research on this; it’s just my belief. I believe that people do not self-medicate unless they have some chronic, deep pain. Alcohol, marijuana, other drugs—they are all used to try to deal with the pain, if they are used compulsively and persistently.

So, if you’re trying to stop your addiction, then you have to know where your pain comes from, and you have to deal with it. Sometimes the pain comes from something in the real world—abuse like @hearkat talks about, or a rape, or from being in war or other extremely violent situations. These things require a lot of therapy to deal with. I suppose you might get that through AA meetings, or possibly at church, but I think someone trained to deal with this would be more helpful.

The other source of pain is organic. Some people’s brains are wired wrong, and they experience depression or symptoms of both mania and depression. These conditions are hereditary. Then again, alcoholism is also supposed to be hereditary. Maybe alcoholics just need a lower threshold of pain before they start medicating.

My point is that alcoholism often comes along with other mental illnesses. If one of these is present, then if you deal with that, through appropriate medications, you don’t have to use alcohol. Again, if you want to deal with these things, you need a psychiatric evaluation.

My advice is that whatever you think might be causing the pain—your environment or your brain chemistry—you research it first. Look around until you are fairly comfortable with things that cause what you feel. If it’s organic, see a shrink. If it’s environmental, you may want to see a therapist in addition to getting group support.

Religious groups can help support you in all of this, so long as they don’t tell you it’s the devil in you. You need all the support you can get to fight this, and a congregation is a good place to get that support. Unfortunately, there are not very many non-religious places for support. However, there may be some, so if religion doesn’t really suit you, you may be able to find alternative ways of achieving the same end.

SeventhSense's avatar

As it’s stated in AA literature- “Once the disease is arrested recovery is then possible”. First things first, if you are a problem drinker. The problem drinker or user does not need any reason to use. We used to celebrate, commiserate, to feel sorry for ourselves, holidays, weekends, when it was rainy, when it was sunny, because no one understood, because no one could possibly understand, because we were abandoned, because we were nagged and on and on. Once this is addressed and only when this is addressed can any real foray into underlying issues commence. Otherwise we risk death.

hearkat's avatar

@SeventhSense: My ex always promised to quit drinking after _____ (insert any possible holiday or occasion you can imagine in the blank). I know he truly wanted to, too. He adored our son, and really wanted a better life for all of us; but I think the prospect of change terrified him. He refused to go to meetings or therapy. When it was evident that our son was negatively influenced by the proverbial 500-pound gorilla in the living room, I had to set an ultimatum: Sober up or Move out. So he left. I hoped against hope that he’d choose being with his family over alcohol, but he wouldn’t. Instead, he used it as further fuel to beat himself up more. His death from liver failure at the age of 39 was truly tragic.

SeventhSense's avatar

@hearkat
Thank you for sharing that. It is really difficult for the average person to understand the malady. It’s like anything else. As a man I can never hope to be able to really relate to a pregnant woman’s issues. Alcoholics and addicts are the same. It’s seems strange but only another one can help the other to heal.

sjmc1989's avatar

@SeventhSense I can go a long time without drinking and then something will upset me and the first thing that comes to my mind is I NEED A DRINK!! Its automatic. I also think I might drink to get drunk because when I do stupid things I can blame it on the alcohol. I hate to admit that because I am a very responsible person and tries to own up to my mistakes but looking back on things when people ask me why I did something that was naive or shameful my answer is always “I was drunk”. Which in the back of my mind I know its still my fault but its almost like me saying that makes me not feel as guilty for things.

SeventhSense's avatar

@sjmc1989
Well you seem like you’re at the door..it opens on your end. But please don’t take it for granted. If you walk away from the opportunity to address it, it’s not a given that you will get the opportunity again
p.s. you had me at first fluther <3

hearkat's avatar

@sjmc1989: If 1989 is the year of your birth, my son is just a couple years younger than you… he has never had a drink, because I told him from the time he was about 5 that he was born an alcoholic and could never drink (@SeventhSense: I know that most adults don’t understand addiction; but try explaining alcoholism to a 5 year old who asks why his Daddy won’t quit drinking so the judge will let him have visitation again!). Still, my son tells me that when he gets stressed, he thinks I NEED A DRINK like you do. Scary.

Using the alcohol as a scapegoat is a mistake. And perhaps that is a piece of the puzzle for you. Overcoming the addiction will be hard no matter what, but you will also want to consider the psychological factors that reinforce it, which is why counseling is recommended. There appears to be some issue regarding attention from or your relationships with guys, which is a part of your promiscuity; so you use the drinking as a cop-out to to justify disrespecting yourself (and allowing others to disrespect you).

There are many layers to your lifestyle choices, and it will take a lot of patience and persistence on your part to work through it and find yourself on the other side. You will succeed as long as you believe that you are deserving and capable of it.

sjmc1989's avatar

@SeventhSense I do feel like this is my one opportunity to get help and change so I have no intentions of letting it slip by me.
Your sweet honey

@hearkat That is scary I have thought that way since I was at least 14. I think you might be right about the relationship with guys. I have a very hard time trusting and getting close to men but I love them as well so its like I feel I need to drink so I can let my guard down around them but of course this leads to an empty and meaningless relationship which in return upsets me and then leads to the “I need to drink” thought. Vicious cycle I know

Counseling does sound like a great idea but I dont know if I can do this because I have a hard time talking about things talking face to face with people.

My own mother who is my best friend and I tell everything to does not know the severity of my problem because I feel so guilty telling her because she had to deal with her own alcoholic parents. She did her best not drink around me so I wouldnt be around it and then I turn out to have a problem. I fear it will destroy her.

SeventhSense's avatar

@hearkat
i’ll try to remember the paragraph breaks. :)

hearkat's avatar

As a mother who my son also calls his best friend, I promise you that she’d want to know. Yes, it will break her heart, but she’d rather find out about it now and be there to help you through, rather than being kept in the dark, and having it be harder for you not having her support. She’ll find out sooner or later, so sooner is better.

@SeventhSense: Thanks!!

sjmc1989's avatar

@hearkat Thank you again for all your wisdom and advice. I will have to talk to her about it and hopefully she wont be to disappointed. She kind of knew I had a problem with it when I was 16–17 and I did stop heavily drinking like I said before for awhile. I dont believe she knew the full extent of it and I dont think she realizes that I dont drink to have fun I drink to not think, remember, or to feel.

hearkat's avatar

She knows that drinking is about numbing and avoidance… she just wishes it weren’t so in your case. She knows that you didn’t choose this, so she isn’t disappointed in you. She is disappointed that there was nothing she could do to protect you from this. She knows that she didn’t choose this for you either; but regardless, she feels a burden if guilt for passing it on to you.

You don’t need to give her all the details. Just tell her that you feel the urge to drink pulling you again, and you want to attend meetings and to get counseling. I believe that she will be proud of you for choosing to face the challenge than to succumb to your impulses… it takes a great deal of self-awareness and courage.

Instead of looking for a source of inspiration outside of you, have faith in the divine that is within you. I never really addressed the spirituality aspect of your question, did I? Well, I was raised in an oppressively religious household, and yet there was abuse and neglect happening under the same roof. Although I agree with the core of Christian values of not judging and loving all of creation, I saw firsthand how hypocritical many who preach those morals are. So I rejected religion in my teens, and even denied the divine for quite a while, calling myself an atheist… how could there be a God that would allow such suffering?

Becoming a mother changed my perspective, and certain experiences that were too incredible to be ‘coincidence’ led me to consider that there is more to life than existing and random chance. I have not studied any religions or philosophies, so any beliefs I hold are formed purely from my own conclusions that I’ve drawn from my life experiences and observations. I am not able to express some of my concepts, because I can’t even find the right words.

The best way I can put it is that there is a reason for everything. We can not always see the reason within the experience – oftentimes it takes hindsight to bring us clarity. But having been through enough and spoken with enough others who share this belief, I have learned to put my faith in the process and to be patient. I have learned that if I make poor choices rather than allowing the lesson to unfold for me, I remain stuck. I have learned to be careful what I wish for, because what I think I want is often not what I truly need.

Even as I type this response to you, I am gaining some insights regarding issues I still struggle with, as well as regarding my son. So while there may be other things I could be doing with my time that might be deemed more productive than intearacting on an Internet forum, I am in the right place at the right time for me – and hopefully for you, too!

Talk to your mom. She loves you and wants to see you succeed. Feel free to share this with her if and when you think it might be beneficial to either of you.

It’s been a long day… good night!

choreplay's avatar

@sjmc1989, periods in my life where I have taken time to meditate/pray each morning and read something pure (bible or other) I find I am more grounded and deliberate about my actions. One of the best quotes I heard about addition and those that are successful are the ones that get up just one more time after falling. Work each day to make yourself a little better, change is glacial but if you keep at it, it happens.

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