Living with Integrity

I’m currently in Poland with my son. We’ve been visiting the concentration camps, remembering a very dark part of history.

We just left a camp called Sobibor. Approximately 300,000 Jews were murdered on this solemn ground. And the only remaining mark of the extraordinary atrocities that occurred here is an area of dirt covered with stones. It marks a mass grave of about 175,000 people.

As I scan this land, as I recount the many death camps just like it across Europe, I can not escape the question of evil. How could thousands of people comply with a regime that allowed for such immorality, that inflicted this level of organized torture? Could I have been capable of doing so?

Jordan Peterson, a famous philosophy and psychology professor in Toronto, has spent his career studying evil.

He is known for asking his class if they would have participated in the Holocaust. Not surprisingly, no one raises their hands. To which Jordan reply’s, “80 percent of you are liars!”

Such acts of violence throughout history are atrocious and unimaginable. Yet, they keep happening. Does that simply mean that evil recycles itself with every new generation? Are these just masses of bad actors working together? I don’t think it’s that simple.

Put in a situation where our lives or our families lives are at risk, the majority of us will do whatever it takes to save ourselves and our loved ones. Even if that requires us to participate in evil, to sacrifice another’s well-being, to act outside our moral code. We will at least consider the option.

So, how do we live our lives with the least amount of collateral damage? How do we resist evil, on any scale, and live with true integrity?

We choose persuasions of humanity over persuasions of evil. We choose not to live in fear. Hitler preyed upon fear and insecurity. He convinced masses of people to deem Jews the ultimate threat, as the cause of their imminent demise. Annihilating this enemy group was merely an act of defense.
But evil cannot spread when we are living in love, tolerance, and kindness. There is no need for it. These other things provide us with a sense of security and well-being. They persuade us to live peacefully. And this is ultimately what we’re all after.We must ensure then that we are cultivating such a life. We must actively engage in habits and behaviors that put us into a rhythm of integrity. That can be as simple as regularly showing gratitude to those around you. From the man who delivers your packages to your coworkers, family, and friends. It’s even more powerful when you show love and kindness to someone who you wouldn’t typically. Maybe you volunteer for a day at a homeless shelter, maybe you take the time to explore a different culture or religion than your own with curiosity and acceptance. Additionally, we must never forget that evil exists. That good people are capable of doing bad things. We must get to them with love and kindness, first.

This week, step into the rhythm or step it up. Messages of fear and hate are always out there looking for an ear. Yet, every action we take can have a positive and protective impact. From a smile to a respectful interaction with a stranger. It is our responsibility to drown out hate with messages and acts of love and kindness.

Unconditional Love, Accountability, Community

-Asher Gottesman, CEO & Founder of Transcend Recovery Community

 

Remembering Our Value

Remembering Our Value - Transcend Recovery Community

I recently had the privilege of spending time with a friend named Robert. Robert also goes by Rascal. Though I don’t think the man he is today would have earned him such a nickname. So I will refer to him as Robert.

Robert looks very different than I do. Our backgrounds, families, and life experiences differ in nearly every way. Regardless, we share a deep connection. Robert has spent every year in jail for the past 18 years. A roadmap of his choices printed in dark ink on his body and face. But when you listen to Robert talk about his goals for the future, it’s clear what a kind and caring man he is. He has become.

Admittedly, Robert has a history of making bad choices. Of benefiting himself at the sacrifice of others. Even though his conscious, his true self, wanted to do good. When I pressed him on the difference between his past life and his current, he answered that it is my enduring belief in him. Even though he said he’s had plenty of opportunities to mess up, he chooses not to. Just as I am committed to him, he is committed to staying on the straight and narrow.

I will get back to the best part of the story in a minute. The entire purpose of my commitment to Robert.

When Robert attributed his success to me, I immediately thought, “Asher, you fraud!”. It was a reflexive thought. It took no effort for me to invalidate my own good-doing. The underlying belief is that I, a flawed human with his own set of weakness, couldn’t possibly give Robert hope and inspiration. Usually, I buy into this belief. But yesterday I chose to pause and thank the higher being in me. The part of me that, like Robert, is uncompromisingly good. That defends me against such destructive evaluations of myself so that I can get back to the good stuff. It is my belief that together with God, I will continue to recognize and foster the most valuable, compassionate parts of myself and others. Which always exist.

Remembering Our Value - Transcend Recovery Community Back to Robert and the evolution of his truest, most human self.Robert asked me to guide him in helping someone he loves very much. He said it was his daughter for whom had spent her entire childhood and young adult life with a father behind bars. At 20 years old, this young woman had just gotten out of jail herself. And Robert was committed to preventing her from following in his footsteps.Today, we are helping his daughter, together. She is enrolling into a trade school and getting connected with a therapist. With the help of a higher-being above, we will hopefully change generations to come. It all started with a commitment to Robert. And a belief in myself that I could contribute something valuable to someone else.

You see, if I had bought into the fraud part, that I had no real value to give this man, I would have missed out on this miracle. Of seeing this father, in a great expression of selflessness and love, wholeheartedly commit to the daughter he once abandoned. To see her accept his love and support. And help them to repair such a beautiful and important relationship.

This week, the next time your mind belittles your value, resist! Such thoughts are undeniably false. No matter how strong your doubts, your value never leaves you. It’s always there, waiting to be called upon. Do yourself and this world a favor and lend out your gifts. As a mentor, a supportive friend, a helpful co-worker, or a loving parent. Express these human talents each and every day. You are not a fraud!

Unconditional Love, Accountability, Community

-Asher Gottesman, CEO & Founder of Transcend Recovery Community

 

Fostering A Sense of Community in Sober Living

Fostering A Sense of Community In Sober Living

What is the determining factor for success in recovery? The answer is that there is no single factor responsible for a lifetime of sobriety, but there are dozens of factors that make a significant positive impact on a person seeking to maintain their sobriety after addiction. One crucial factor is self-efficacy, or the ability to believe in your own ability to get something done. If you wholeheartedly believe you’re going to stay sober, you’re less likely to relapse. Another factor, however, is the environment you’re recovering in. A positive environment is more likely to encourage you to stay sober.

A big part of that is how the people around you affect your recovery. Alone, getting and staying sober can be very difficult. Addiction treatment is not a matter of willpower, but a chronic condition that heavily affects the brain. A person’s ability to think and calculate risk is compromised after regular drug use, and it’s much more difficult to resist impulses while still under the full influence of a drug addiction. Regardless of how you approach your addiction, all treatments ultimately harken back to a similar origin point: help is needed to get through this process.

 

Community in Sober Living

Through the lens of addiction treatment, the importance of a positive social environment in a group setting is crucial. Recovering addicts living together at a sober living house should be incentivized to help each other improve and progress at their own pace. Because sober living homes don’t have set programs, tenants are encouraged to seek out other resources for a more individual approach, including experienced therapists with a history of working with recovering addicts, and addiction recovery groups.

However, despite the lack of a clearly-defined collective journey, many recovering addicts share a whole lot in common. Many struggle with the same fears surrounding recovery and relapse. Many share similar forms of guilt. Many share similar stories regarding their early days as an addict. And all have the potential to learn from each other through these stories and the valuable experiences they represent. Fostering this sense of community in a sober living environment is part of why the sober living experience is very effective in helping people maintain their sobriety throughout early recovery and beyond.

 

You’re Not in This Alone

Addicts face a debilitating amount of stigma and hatred. Despite one in seven Americans facing substance dependence, many addicts experience ongoing shaming and negative perceptions throughout the media and society. On top of the way drug use heavily impacts an addict’s psychology, these negative perceptions further serve to diminish and undermine an addict’s confidence in themselves, their ability to overcome addiction, and the efficacy of any given addiction treatment. Even in recovery, many addicts struggle with feelings of guilt and shame, often too much to bear.

Many also feel that these are feelings they cannot discuss with others, out of a fear of stigmatization. Many refuse to seek out treatment, worrying that in doing so, they might be sealing their fate and risk facing ostracization. But a sense of community can significantly diminish this by helping recovering addicts realize that there is an entire nationwide network of addicts working together to provide opportunities for others to speak out about their experiences and problems, and work through them in a healthy, positive, and compassionate environment composed of a wide variety of individuals whom all share similar experiences despite very different backgrounds.

This sense that you are not alone can be very empowering, especially if the connection is maintained. Addiction requires treatment, not hatred – and a big part of treatment is calling addiction out for what it is and talking openly about how it feels to be addicted. Being able to do so without fear of being misunderstood or insulted can be uplifting.

 

The Benefits of a Sober Community

A sober community serves to provide its members a variety of different benefits, including:

  • A sense of belonging.
  • The opportunity to create lasting bonds of friendship.
  • Benefiting from the experiences of others.
  • Access to a positive support network that helps uplift members.
  • A safe space to discuss addiction without the effects of stigma.

By fostering a sense of community within a sober living home, tenants are encouraged to do better, and help others do better as well. Sober living environments live and breathe recovery, in the sense that they consistently promote behavior and thinking that helps recovering addicts manage their cravings and work on life goals that help them develop a responsible self-sustaining lifestyle, maintaining employment, a regular regimen of daily chores, and healthy social interaction with others.

 

Maintaining Contact After Sober Living

Sober living environments are meant to provide places for recovering addicts to stay for longer than most residential recovery programs usually allow, but they are ultimately designed to be temporary residences rather than permanent homes. At some point, whether after four months or a period of over a year, a recovering addict should move on to finding their own place to stay, continuing to work on the lessons they’ve learned while living at a sober living home. But that does not mean the recovery process is over – nor does it mean that a person’s involvement in the sober community has concluded.

Recovery is a lifelong process, and many recovering addicts feel that they can continue to help others believe in their ability to stay sober and the efficacy of their given program by sharing their experiences, talking frankly about the challenges and struggles of addiction, and providing resources and opportunities to communicate with other recovering addicts.

One of the greater benefits behind a sense of community in sober living is the opportunity to help others as time passes. Helping others in their recovery journey not only gives you the chance to do good, but it can make a positive impact on your recovery as well. Research confirms that it generally feels good to do good and continuing to participate in recovery communities after rehab and sober living can help maintain sobriety and prevent a future relapse.

Keeping Negative Thoughts at Bay

Keeping Negative Thoughts at Bay - Transcend Recovery

I have a tendency to point out flaws. To skew towards the negative. Whether it be in how I judge myself or the world around me. Which may come as surprising given my unswerving belief in the beauty and potential in others and this planet. Yet, my mind will always make a “problems list” first.

Thankfully, something happened this week that reminded me to check my approach. To override my reflex to critique and choose a point of view that serves rather than burdens me.

I have the privilege of working with a young man who is deaf. We usually have our meeting in-person, but last week we connected over a phone call. Through virtual technology, he was able to sign to an online interpreter who then verbalized his messages to me. The interpreter matched his own expressions and tone of voice to the thoughts and feelings my friend was conveying through sign-language. It was amazing!!

Keeping Negative Thoughts at Bay - Transcend RecoveryNow, as I’ve said, I’m a critic. And I often critique the pitfalls of digital technology and social media. With our heads down, eyes glued to a screen, we miss out on opportunities for true togetherness. And while we have this incessant urge to plug into a highly connected digital world, so many of us yearn for connection and friendship in real life. To be seen and loved in real life.

But, I can also appreciate that the technology that often leads to loneliness and disconnect, is the same that allowed me to have a wonderful, enriching connection with my friend.

The only thing that changed in my valuation of technology was my perspective. Yet, I only had this opportunity to have a more positive experience with technology because of a forcing event – my friend required the assistance of a virtual interpreter. While I still warn against the downside of technology, I can choose to recognize the upside as well. I can choose to engage with it in a way that adds to my life, like a conversation with a dear friend.

Keeping Negative Thoughts at Bay - Transcend Recovery

This week, my goal for myself and my hope for us all is that we kick ourselves out of negative thinking. That we take a positive mental approach and search for the good, first. Even if it’s just for the next week, wake up and think of three positive things. Three positive traits you possess or maybe three positive things going on in the world. We may just realize there’s much more promise to be found in this way of thinking.

Community, Accountability, Unconditional Love.

-Asher Gottesman, CEO & Founder of Transcend Recovery Community

 

Keeping Focus on the Marathon to Success

There is a proverb that asks, who will climb the mountain and who will sustain himself to stay on the mountain?

Throughout my life, I have struggled with the “sustaining” part. I pour intense passion and excitement into things at the beginning, but when the initial rush fades, progress stalls with it. One project or commitment gets traded for the novelty of a new one, or the fire simply dies out. And the cycle repeats itself.

Most of us do this. We make wholehearted commitments. Our dedication is strong and unswerving. Our hearts and minds are totally on-board. And then, before we even realize it sometimes, the resolution gets broken and the project or commitment abandoned.

But why? And more importantly, how do we disrupt the cycle? How do we truly set ourselves up for success?

Well, if you’re like me, I immediately give myself credit for the initial commitment. Even without any action behind it! I’ll ride the initial wave of adrenaline and endorphins that accompany each new venture. But when my adrenaline and endorphins drop, so does the venture.

As I have found, success is an intense marathon. And endeavors, both big and small, often require support. They require a plan of action with checkpoints in place.

In order to sustain the marathon, to push through the discomfort or fatigue, we’ve got to create accountability. I do this by setting up accountability partners at the beginning of a new project – a phase when I don’t need external motivation. That way, when my interest wanes, when there’s not as much excitement to sustain the effort, I have people who can keep me in check. Who can steer me back on the path. And ensure I continue the trek.

Keeping Focus on the Marathon to Success - Transcend

As the proverb says, there is the climb, and then there is the work of staying there. There is the sprint and then there is the marathon. Gratification comes from seeing something through from start to end. From repeatedly showing up for your commitments and realizing potential. This week, protect your commitments by setting up a community of accountability. It could be one friend, a co-worker, a family member. The point is to share your goals with others who will hold you to your word. And keep you accountable to the goals that you set forth.

Accountability, Community, Unconditional Love.

-Asher Gottesman, CEO & Founder of Transcend Recovery Community

Find Your Passion, Find Your Success

Find Your Passion, Find Your Success - Transcend Recovery

I often evaluate success. And not in the “fame and fortune” sense. Rather, I wonder what makes some people charge through life with unmistakable energy and purpose. With a visceral ambition. An envious passion for whatever it is they’re doing.

You’ve met these people. You’ve read or heard about these people. Perhaps you are this person. Inspired and unstoppable. But how do we get there?

Many would say that to ensure success we must work hard, play fair, and have an iron-strong plan. All admirable actions. But I would argue these tips simply provide the prelude to success. They’re necessary steps, but not the pathway to personal or professional success.

First, we have to stop thinking about the outcome. Many of us are so consumed by aspirations of fortune, power, or prestige that we never acquire the necessary framework for success. Some people will do everything “right” to acquire these things (work hard, be persistent), but by luck or circumstance, never get there. Some people will achieve these things, but still not feel successful; they may even feel unsatisfied, void, or lonely.

Once we let go of the outcome, we can do the meaningful work of self-reflection. We can begin to hone in on our passions and skills and pay attention to the behaviors that ignite or dull the potential within all of us.

So, the answer? Find out what sparks your fire, what you’re truly passionate about. And that takes curiosity and courage. Because it requires us to try on different parts of ourselves, to explore our interests without self-judgment or fear. Fear that it will lead to nothing, or worse, failure and disappointment.

Find Your Passion, Find Your Success - Transcend Recovery

It’s truly incredible how unique each of us is and our individual desires are. Some of us want to dedicate our lives to medicine, law, education, religion, business, etc. But to find out where our heart leads us, where the passion lies, we must participate in different activities and resist our comfort zones.

Get gritty. Working on your passion doesn’t protect you from feelings of doubt, insecurity, or defeat. In fact, you may feel those things more strongly because you care so deeply about your work! That’s when the real work starts. Dream big, step up to the plate and swing hard. You might strike out. Success is a journey and only those who protect their vision with bullish hope and belief in its importance, through all the highs and lows, will come out the other side. Simply staying on the path, moving the needle forward, however incrementally, is a success that begets larger success.

And lastly, go first. If you see an opportunity to do things better or make a positive difference, then take action. Spark the vision in others, rally the troops, ignite the change. Many times we want others to go first out of fear or insecurity. But, sometimes, A) no one else will go or B) many others will go and you may retreat. Either way, you miss an opportunity to live your passion and leave your mark.

This week, I encourage us all to tap into our passions. No matter how many expectations, distractions, or excuses we’ve layered on top. Work towards the visions or goals that you believe strongly in. There is potential in us all to contribute something great to this world. Every action towards the vision or goal will build a sense of meaning, a feeling of purpose. And that is true success.

Accountability, Community, Unconditional Love.

-Asher Gottesman, CEO & Founder of Transcend Recovery Community

Who Is the Author of Your Day?

Who Is the Author of Your Day? - Transcend Recovery Community

There is an exhibit at the Israeli Children’s Museum called “Dialogue in the Dark” where visitors are led through complete darkness by a blind or visually impaired guide. My sons and I completed this tour yesterday. And it was an incredible reminder of the power of perception.

Who Is the Author of Your Day? - Transcend Recovery Community

Our guide encouraged us to ask questions. I asked him how long he had been blind for? He told me that he spent the first 30+ years of his life with full sight but had been completely blind for the past three years. I then asked him how he deals with the hardship of losing his sight. He admitted that he was in fact depressed and in a bad way for a while. That was, until he took back his control.

He realized he had a choice – be the victim or be the hero of his own story. He chose to be the hero.

On a daily basis, he commits to writing a gratitude list so that he can focus on all the positive things in life. And on his most difficult days (because he still has them) he doubles down on the gratitude. The decision to name himself the hero of his life altered the course of life.

So what can we do to attain a happy and stable life, even through profound hardship, like this gentleman? We can take ownership of our thoughts. We can hold onto beliefs and practice habits that uplift and inspire us. Because when we refuse to give away our control to negative thinking or false beliefs (that we are victims of the bad things that happen in our lives) we can author our own story. A story that serves our truest selves and ambitions.

I left that museum fired up with good intentions. I was reminded to appreciate my gift of sight and ever more committed to a practice of gratitude. But by the next morning, I had already forgotten about the gratitude I was feeling for my eyesight. The day’s responsibilities and commitments had claimed my energy and attention.

But, I too write a gratitude list. And repeat a daily mantra. My mantra is, “HaShem (God) I surrender to your will for me as I know you love me and will always steer me in the best way possible. I know you have my back!”.

After repeating my daily mantra, a calmness came over me. I experienced a stillness in which I could appreciate my gifts and, again, bring gratitude to the forefront of my thinking.

Who Is the Author of Your Day? - Transcend Recovery Community

This daily ritual is a simple method to put me in a mindset of self-empowerment. And a belief that the world is working for me, not against me. Every thought and decision I make can stall or further my happiness. And the choice is mine. The choice is ours.

This week, write out a daily affirmation and gratitude list. Speak it out loud for added reinforcement. List out all the things, big and small, that provide you happiness, love, and security. Not only will you benefit from a burst of dopamine, but it will help you navigate the harder times. We can all be the hero of our own lives. And it all starts with the power of perception!

Accountability, Community, Unconditional Love.

-Asher Gottesman, CEO & Founder of Transcend Recovery Community

What Strengthens My Faith

Many of my friends say, “To believe in an afterlife without proof is foolish. It’s tantamount to a fairy tale”. And those who believe in the prerequisite of an afterlife – a God or a higher power – are also living in a “fairy tale” land.

I have a dear friend whose religious beliefs have evolved quite interestingly. He is the son of a Christian minister and he himself was a minister. But, after a series of events, he decided he didn’t believe in God. He now declares himself a humanist. Dedicated to helping others, being kind, and sharing all because it is the best and healthiest way to live life. This is now his humanist doctrine.

This same friend recently questioned how I could remain a believer amidst all the daily atrocities in this world. How could I remain in the “fairy tale”?

My answer was simple. I know and believe people to be fallible. But I also know and believe that there exists a God, a higher being, who maintains absolute faith in our greater good. Even when our fallibility manifests in horrific ways.

What Strengthens My Faith - Transcend Recovery Community

Every world atrocity could dilute our faith in a greater good or a higher being. But every act and receipt of love, benevolence, and generosity can restore it. Can strengthen our faith. And, at least for me, provide reassurance that there is a relentless force at work. A God who believes in our humanity without a doubt.

So, I suppose my faith ultimately serves to move me towards more love, benevolence, and generosity. To do work that plants hope and inspiration throughout my community. Because, like the God who I believe in, I trust that within all of us is a desire to be and do good. A good that will prevail.

We need not all subscribe to a single religion. We need not all pray to the same God. What we need is to live a productive life. A life that is driven by love, compassion, kindness, and empathy. That is the ultimate point.

What Strengthens My Faith - Transcend Recovery Community

My hope this week is that we all firm up our belief in ourselves, each other, and this world. And work to ensure each other’s well-being. Because, whether you believe it matters in this life or the next, to love one another unconditionally has an immeasurable impact. One that exists beyond any one person, or any mortal or fairy tale world.

Accountability, Community, Unconditional Love.

-Asher Gottesman, CEO & Founder of Transcend Recovery Community

From Hearing to Listening

For most of my life, I heard very little. My physical hearing was perfectly intact. I just muted out that which displeased me! I could hear the pleas and suggestions of others, but I did not absorb their truth.

I read something today that speaks to just that phenomenon. It said roughly, “Just because someone can hear physically, does not mean they actually hear”.

The ability to mute our own negative thoughts or self-talk, and truly hear and heed the advice of others, without bias or judgment, is a difficult skill and practice. In my experience, if we are not making progress on our goals or falling deeper into our weakness, we’re probably not listening carefully enough. Or really, at all.

The permanent changes in my life didn’t come until I started truly listening. And letting the messages sink in. I gained control of my life when I accepted that I was out of answers, that I would listen intently and take actual direction from my mentors, helpers, and supporters.

Despite the best efforts of my ego trying to convince me otherwise, when I am in my recovery, I can hear the honest, well-intentioned words of others. I can recognize and comprehend the lessons and wisdom in the message. My recovery, and the recovery from any hardship, requires thoughtful listening. Otherwise, it’s all just noise that you can, and likely will, drown out.

From Hearing to Listening - Transcend Recovery Community

All of us will experience our own personal challenges throughout life. Whether it’s substance abuse, loss, failure, fear, or something else. That’s OK. It’s part of the experience. The key is to look to others who can guide you through the challenges with love, insight, and support. This week, find someone you trust and seek their advice on a problem or issue. Ask for feedback. Have them check your judgment. And listen to the answers. You may just find that you’re better off for it.

Accountability, Community, Unconditional Love.

-Asher Gottesman, CEO & Founder of Transcend Recovery Community

Our Responsibility to Each Other

We have a tendency to group up. It’s human nature. We’re conditioned to feel connected, safe with people who look, behave, and feel familiar. Like ourselves. And we look after our “tribes”. Whether it be a religious, work, or friend group. We advocate and protect our members.

But every morning as I drive to work, I can’t help but notice the growing homeless population in Los Angeles. And truly, every major city.

And I constantly ask myself, as a member of the human race, the tribe which claims us all, what is my responsibility to these people?

The Torah states well over 30 times that “we shall treat the stranger kindly, as you were once a stranger”.

Why must we be reminded so many times? Isn’t it obvious that we must treat others, including strangers, kindly?

Well, in truth, I was afraid of homeless people as a child. Afraid when they would shout or pace back and forth. All signs of mental illness. And more often than not, homelessness follows untreated mental illness. Now that I work in the field of mental health treatment and do much work with homeless and at-risk populations, I know better. I know not to fear the unfamiliar, but to reach for understanding. To learn and identify with their story so that I can help.

It wasn’t until I made a concerted effort to explore the issue of homelessness, to get to know the mental health challenges and social disadvantages that many face, that I was able to exercise a deeper level of compassionate. Focus more on that which connects us versus that which separates us. And ultimately, understand everyone as my tribe member.

It may feel unnatural to help or reach out to a stranger. Someone who doesn’t fit within your current circles. But a stranger is only someone we haven’t yet found a connection with.

So what is my obligation to the homeless community? To serve them with the same degree of humanity I would anyone else. And that requires more than giving money here and there, it requires human connection. I will introduce myself, say hello, and acknowledge them as my fellow man.

This week, I challenge us all to seize opportunities to exercise humanity, to show compassion. I’m not suggesting you put yourself in danger, but even a warm smile and a simple hello create a connection. For those who feel glanced over and “other than”, these ordinary actions can feel extraordinary. These simple gestures spur progress, kindness and empathy from which we all benefit.

Accountability, Community, Unconditional Love.

-Asher Gottesman, CEO & Founder of Transcend Recovery Community