"Conscious Recovery: A Fresh Perspective on Addiction" Excerpt | TJ WOODWARD

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“Living this way will free you from the need to reject any situation, person, or memory; it allows you to stand in the midst of anything happening and welcome it all”

Conscious Recovery is a ground breaking and effective approach to viewing and treating addiction that will transform your life. Author and spiritual teacher TJ Woodward is changing the conversation about addiction, because he recognizes that underneath all addictive behavior is an essential self that is whole and perfect.

TJ Woodward's Conscious Recovery moves beyond simply treating behaviors and symptoms. It focuses on the underlying root causes that drive destructive patterns, while providing clear steps for letting go of core false beliefs that lead to addictive tendencies. Whether it is unresolved trauma, spiritual disconnection, or toxic shame, these challenges need to addressed in order to achieve true and permanent freedom.

Conscious Recovery offers a pathway toward liberation that can assist you in creating a life filled with love and connection. It explores methods for changing the ways of thinking that keep you stuck in a pattern of hopelessness, so you can come into alignment with an existence overflowing with compassion and purpose. TJ Woodward calls this the "great remembering" – reclaiming the truth of who and what you essentially are.

The Key Principles of Conscious Recovery

  • Underneath all addictive behavior is an Essential Self that is whole and perfect

  • The addiction itself has never been the "problem" but was a strategy that has lost its effectiveness

  • Treating addiction must go beyond addressing symptoms and get down to the underlying root causes of destructive behavior

  • The root causes of addictive behavior are unresolved trauma, spiritual disconnection, and toxic shame

  • There is a pathway to permanent freedom through the adoption of spiritual practices and principles


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The Power of Gratitude

Gratitude may be one of the most talked-about spiritual principles there is, and many of us have learned that gratitude is a powerful tool for spiritual awakening and recovery. Many of us make gratitude lists, or keep a gratitude journal. This is wonderful. It teaches us to feel grateful, to be more open to positivity. That’s very important for those of us working to let go of the emotional habits left over from our core false beliefs. If we’re working on unlearning, if we’re letting go of our stories of victimization, if we’re trying to stop living as if the world is doing something to us, then we can strengthen our gratitude by finding something to be grateful for in every situation, finding whatever light appears in the midst of the darkness. For there is always light.

From that insight, I want to take things a little deeper by talking about the tendency to force gratitude. Sometimes it seems like “living in gratitude” means we need to feel perpetually grateful. Our desire to be grateful might lead us to believe that we need to feel love for and harmony with everything and everyone, 24-7. Some spiritual communities, for example, seem to want to focus only on the light, to call everything good without addressing the deeper shadow, or the darkness. When we talk only about love and light without also addressing some of the more difficult experiences we have, it only adds to that familiar pressure to always pretend to be happy, which can be inauthentic. And it isn’t authentic to force feelings that aren’t truly there.

This brings us back to the power of authenticity. What would it be like to be grateful for all aspects of ourselves—not just those things that look like love and light but also the aspects of our shadow? Those things are part of our experience. It’s all fuel for transformation. Those parts of ourselves that we would like to change or shift can be helped by holding a space of gratitude, rather than trying to bury them. The more we can be grateful for it all, the less blocked we are by shame and blame. This in turn fuels our authenticity. When we are grateful for all experiences, all aspects of ourselves, not just for those things that seem “good,” then we have more courage to let others see all of us, which in turn invites more love and connection and more opportunities to rectify those things that need healing. So, gratitude feeds authenticity and authenticity feeds gratitude, in ever-widening circles of love and connection.

It’s great to be able to feel gratitude for the “good” things even in the midst of a terrible situation—the community that came together to support those hurt in a hurricane or the policy changes that occurred after a terrible injustice. However, the limit to this approach is that it still categorizes everything: “This was bad, but I’m going to find the good.” As soon as we have a feeling of wrongness, of judging the perceived perpetrator, or identifying the heroes in the situation, immediately that judgment solidifies the idea that we are separate. So even our practice of gratitude can end up strengthening duality, judgment, and inauthenticity, rather than focusing on oneness.

Our growing awareness can help us when we fall into this pattern. If you become aware that your practice of gratitude is limited and limiting in this way, it may be time to move into a deeper practice: not just being grateful for things, not just feeling gratitude, but becoming gratitude. At this level, gratitude is not only a feeling—it’s also a way of seeing and of being. It’s a state of gratitude not only for the world, but in the world. When we’re in the midst of a difficult situation, being gratitude means honoring the difficulty, acknowledging the feelings of anger, sadness, or frustration, and yet at the same time tapping into the ultimate truth of who and what we are and living from an ultimate allowance of what is. To be gratitude, we don’t need anything to change in the outer realm. Nor do we need to change our experience of difficulty or to shut down our feelings.

As our inner vibration of gratitude grows, it manifests more in the outer world, which matches our inner vibration and gives us more and more things to be grateful for. In other words, the more we practice gratitude, the more life seems to give us to be grateful for. Even when things we desire have not manifested yet, we can be grateful for their approach, for their transpiring. And this gratitude changes our perspective and thus changes reality.

Another aspect of the power of gratitude lies in our awareness of ultimate truth, which we have been discussing throughout this book. When we can know, and have a feeling tone of our oneness with Spirit, then we can be grateful not only for the things that we see, but also for the healing that we know and trust is happening all around the world. So, I invite you to open to the possibility that you can live in a space of open-hearted awareness and be gratitude in the world. Living this way will free you from the need to reject any situation, person, or memory; it allows you to stand in the midst of anything happening and welcome it all.

In some situations, this might mean “finding the good in all of life,” or it might mean tapping into that ultimate truth and living from ultimate acceptance of what is. It's a continuous process. In order to be gratitude, we continually check back in with our oneness with Source. It’s a moment by moment choice. Whenever we recognize that we’re judging, whenever we recognize that we’re looking at a situation or a person or ourselves with criticism rather than openness, we can choose to return to this connection, which is love and gratitude. In the same way that love and fear cannot possibly live in the same moment, judgment and gratitude can also not co-exist. Whenever we step into judgment, we’ve stepped out of gratitude. And, each time this happens we can choose to return to the more powerful awareness of gratitude.

I invite you to ask yourself the questions: “What is my experience of gratitude? And is it possible that I can be gratitude in the world, in addition to finding things to be grateful for?” “Can I choose to return, moment by moment, to my oneness with Spirit?” This is a new way of being and seeing, a transformational power that can alter everything in your life. I invite you to give it a try. After all, life is a great experiment. Why not try it and see what happens?

The Power of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a very powerful tool in letting go of the perspectives that keep us in a limited and limiting way of seeing and being. Forgiveness allows us to move more deeply into the truth of who and what we are, to eradicate our stories of separation, powerlessness, and being stuck in blaming and victimization. Many of us have a terrifically hard time with forgiveness. We feel that terrible things have happened in our lives, and we are unable to let them go. So, let’s start there, with the experience of forgiveness that many of us have had. When we’re stuck in unconscious reactions, forgiveness is next to impossible. The beliefs we hold about ourselves and our world become the lens through which we view the world, the way we frame our stories. They limit our perspective and block us from freedom and authenticity. When we’re living at this victim/martyr level of consciousness, hearing about the need to forgive can push us further into limitation.

If we are holding the idea that we’re fundamentally a victim, then “forgiveness” may look like admitting that we are “wrong” or “bad,” that we “deserve what we get.” Or it can look like giving up, admitting that the other person is stronger or better and that we cannot ever win. From this level of awareness, forgiveness supposes that we’ve been harmed, or have lost, and that we need to forgive the person who harmed us, which can feel like basically admitting that the person who hurt us has won. From the perspective of a victim, forgiveness might also mean pretending that things that happened in the past never happened. This requires forgetting, and burying things deep in the shadow.

Either way, this kind of forgiveness can further strengthen the belief in our own victimization because it’s based on the idea that something “bad” needs to be made right by either rationalizing it or burying it. This tends to create more suffering, more limitation. And that is not empowerment. As you begin to identify and let go of all those deeply held beliefs about yourself and the world that keep you in a reactive state, as you experience more authenticity in the safety of supportive community, as you practice the spiritual principles described in chapter 6, as you open to the power of Spirit, your experience of forgiveness will begin to shift.

We may think of forgiveness as making peace with the past. That means different things from different perspectives. From a place of non-judgment, the past is what it is. The past cannot be different—we cannot go back and change what happened. But we can alter the way we see it. As the saying goes, “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” What this quote means to me is that as we do our healing work, we can look at the past through a different lens. We can truly find a place of gratitude no matter how our childhood looked. This is in no way saying that we don’t sometimes feel pain or sadness about our past. What it is pointing to is that we have the power within ourselves to reframe and find gratitude in any of our past situations.

This shift may not happen overnight, and in certain situations reconciliation might not be easy. Even as you’re doing the internal work and growing in awareness, you may still tend to experience forgiveness as directed outward, focusing on how someone, even you, has treated others rather than on your own inner movement. If your experience of forgiveness pushes you back into your stories of victimhood, that may mean you need to do some more of the work described in earlier chapters to help break the cycle. Or it may just mean you need to ask yourself some further questions, to reap the benefits of all the inner work you’ve been doing. So, let’s look at some of those questions.

Think of a situation in which you find it difficult to forgive. What is the story you have been telling about that situation? Where have you been especially attached to that story—what belief does it support? Is there another way to look at it? Keeping that situation in mind, what happens when you let go of the idea that one story is “right?” What happens when you approach what happened with the neutrality of an impartial observer? Can you let go of your initial reactive story about the situation and open yourself to other possible perspectives? If you can, what happens when you do that?

When we let go of the ego’s attachment to a particular story or a specific verdict about who is “right” and who is “wrong,” could it be that we no longer even need to forgive? If we release our hold on “right” or “wrong,” it’s easier to see people as reacting and responding out of their own perspectives, their own limited experiences and imperfect knowledge. It’s then a relatively short step to move from guilt, remorse, and forgiveness to something more like responsibility, resolution, and reconciliation. We don’t need to ignore the pain in our lives. For instance, we would not stay in an abusive relationship out of the idea that “There is no guilt here; whatever happens, happens.” We would not believe that we are no longer accountable for our actions because, “Hey, I’ve let go of ego.” That is not witness consciousness. It’s possibly denial.

Of course, we’re accountable. Of course, we might still feel pain. When we feel hurt, our first reaction might be to feel anger, to lash out, to want to harbor a grudge. When we experience those reactions in conscious awareness, we might still feel that pain, but then we go on to witness it, to observe our reactions, and then choose how to respond, letting go of the need for someone to be wrong or right. Similarly, if we do something that causes pain to someone else, we may still feel an initial trigger of shame, and maybe from that feeling springs defensive anger. In conscious awareness, we’re able to look at these reactions compassionately, which empowers us to then move beyond them to choose the next step.

When we arrive at the mystical level of consciousness, of recognizing our oneness with life, there is no longer anything to forgive. This place of alignment with ultimate reality acknowledges that the cause of anyone’s harmful behavior is separation from their essential self. When we reach a state of oneness with Source through the process we’ve been examining throughout this book, we recognize that there’s nothing to forgive because we can see that everything that’s happened in our life has played a part in our transformation; it’s been useful in getting us where we are. And as we grow in conscious awareness, forgiveness becomes more of a natural process. At this level of awareness, we shift from forgiveness to compassion and gratitude.

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