Growth Mindset

As a teacher, I am afforded the luxury of being home in the summer. This means I can sleep more, read more, clean more, relax more, parent more.  For the most part, I have done all of these- except the sleep part. My body seems to think 5:00 a.m. is a great time to start the day so I roll with it.

Being sober for almost 3.5 years has given me a new life and many new facets to this life. I eat better, exercise more, take care of myself more, am a kinder, softer version of my former self. I am a more compassionate mom, loving wife, and open-minded sibling/daughter. My teaching has changed and I no longer care deeply about test scores, completion of all assignments or letter grades. Rather, I focus on the individuals I have in front of me and how to best meet their needs to help them grow.

This growth mindset is affecting me as well. The book Growth Mindset by Carol Dweck, M.D. is a fascinating read! I have identified many areas in my life where I have been prone to a fixed mindset: I am fearful of making a mistake therefore I don’t try. if I don’t try, I can’t fail. While there is truth to that statement, I also don’t grow. I am navigating a new life where failure is an option because, after all, if I try, I haven’t failed. I’ve opened new pathways for my brain to expand and to change. I find this pretty exciting.

In my drinking days, I would grumble and complain about my miserable life, job, marriage, home, car, family- you name it; everything that was negative in my life was because of someone else’s doing. It wasn’t until I got sober and really started to dig deep within the recesses of my mind did I recognize how wrong I was.

The first step (other than getting help and getting sober, of course) was to take a good look at what I could control and what I couldn’t and then determine if any action was needed. So I started with the easy parts: I couldn’t control other people in my life, but I could control how I responded to them. In some cases, no response was the only pertinent action. In other cases, it meant taking a step back, taking a big breath and trying to see the situation from their point of view. What was it my husband was trying to tell me? Regardless of his approach, (He is not physically or verbally abusive- those are different animals and I would NOT recommend this approach.) I needed to look to the issue. I had to put aside the bs, my emotions, my perspective and look for a new way. This often requires me to take time- once it took me two weeks! But when I approach our differences from a stable, sane point of view, I am better equipped to resolve the issue with him- not for me, not for him, but with him.

The next part was looking at my health. I knew I could change by eating better, drinking more water, working out and work towards smoking cessatation. So I took small steps. I drank water instead of Diet Coke; I got off the couch and started walking more; I looked up recipes and made some pretty darn good, healthy meals- something that benefits my whole family. The smoking has been a devil. I quit cold turkey for three months and made the error of thinking of could have one or two while on vacation. It was my coping vice while others were drinking. While I went back full force and then some, I did learn. It is a great reminder that if I take one drink, I will be back the same way if not worse than I had been before. So I set a new goal and plan to be smoke-free by summer’s end. These are all doable changes that I can control. I feel better; I look better and I behave better as a result. The self-confidence in my clothes doesn’t hurt either. 🙂

Taking care of the relationships in my life happened once I decided which ones I needed to keep and which ones I needed to let fall away. It is much like cleaning out a closet. The clothes that don’t fit, are dated, have tears or stains beyond repair- toss ’em. The people in my life who wouldn’t support my sobriety, didn’t care if they made comments like “Oh, he is SUCH a raging alcoholic; I can’t belive he just doesn’t have the will power to quit” or even said they like me better when I was drinking were all put into a bag of throwaways. I cannot afford to have people in my life that I think I am going to change. While I understand I cannot change anyone, my point is I cannot change the stigma of alcoholism overnight. The people who were a dire threat to my sobriety needed to go. The others were like the special occasion clothes: You wear them to a wedding or a funeral or a baby shower and then dry clean them and hang them up for another time. Some people in my path are like that. I run into them for certain special times; I am careful, I am kind, but I don’t go out of my way to reach out and communicate on a daily basis. Just like I am careful not to snag a special occasion sweater, I am careful not to offend, shame, or denegrate a special occasion friend. Some of my other clothes are the everyday ones: People I work with, people on my kids’ sports teams, people I see at meetings who are on the outskirts, friends of the family. I try not to take them for granted; I treat them with care; wash and dry and fold them neatly until the next time.  My husband, my kids, my siblings, and my sisters in sobriety are my favorite pair of jeans that look great, feel great, don’t stretch out. The ones I can pull of out the closet no matter what and I won’t be disappointed. They are the staple of my wardrobe and my look wouldn’t be complete with out them. I am sure to treat them with great care and respect and I always know where they are. Like my relationships, they evolve on certain levels, yet remain a constant in my life.

The other parts of my life with which I found misery: my home, my car, my yard – have all improved with time. I take much better care of my “things” so they are not in a state of disrepair. I have also found gratitude and I have seen firsthand how good I have it. It’s funny when I changed my world became brighter and my steps were lighter.

The part was my job. I love my job – most days, but I also know I am called to do more. I am in control of this. So using the growth mindset, I am setting out this summer to develop sobriety based curriculum geared towards high schoolers. My first goal is to present this to my admin and work on having it implemented in my school. Later, my plan is to work with neighboring districts and expand into their schools. I would also like to have parent networks so we can work as a community to flush out the drug and alohol problems in our schools. Eventually, I would like to go on a national level and make this an extension into the grade schools and high schools. Our youth deserve the best chances in life and it starts with education. I feel empowered and passionate about education and wish for all people to be able to live a clean, healthy sober lifestyle.

Having a growth mindset will allow this dream to become a reality. I believe combing my teaching experience, my masters in currculum development and my road to recovery have all been laid out for me on this path to keep moving forward.

If any of my readers have practice with this, I’d love to hear from you!



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