Colorado Life Coach: I am an addict!

I came home from a weekend retreat and said to my husband, “I am an addict.”

Addicts, in my mind, had always been shady characters living behind dumpsters downtown. They weren’t the “pretty people.” They certainly weren’t me! My addiction wasn’t crack or whiskey. Mine was anger. I couldn’t live without it. It controlled me, and those around me suffered the consequences.

Addiction: compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly : persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful.

There’s the obvious addictions (sometimes obvious to everyone, but the addict):

Alcohol, Drugs and Nicotine

What about the hidden addictions:

Pornography, Sex, Gambling, Prescription Medication

Or the socially acceptable addictions:

Shopping (spending), Work, Church, Eating, Sugar, Codependency, Working Out

Through the years, I’ve struggled with anger, codependency, anti-depressants, and codependency. How about you? Does your family brace themselves when they know you are angry? Do they hide, ignore, or plead with you to stop? Has anyone expressed concern for your weight, how much you work, how many church activities you’re involved in? Do you have bills you can’t pay for, but you continue to shop? Do you wish you didn’t (fill in the blank) anymore, but can’t seem to stop?

What’s this all about? What pain are you trying not to feel?

I dealt with my 4 addictions in different ways. When I returned from that weekend aware that my anger controlled me, I felt totally heartbroken over what I’d done to my family. I grieved. I wept. I cried almost constantly for about a week, sometimes so hard I felt like I would throw up! It was painful to realize the fear I’d caused my family. As the week came to an end, I felt different. I was not angry. I didn’t feel the need to scream or rage at anyone. I don’t really know what happened, but I pleaded with God to take this from me. I believe he did.

After using anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medication, and medicine for sleep, it wasn’t so easy to stop. Through therapy, I knew I was emotionally healthier than I had been in years. I didn’t need the meds for the reason they had been prescribed. I needed them physically. For 6 weeks, my body detoxified itself. I had horrible aches and pains, fever, sweats and chills, and headaches. I worked with my doctor to help alleviate some of the side effects. I gained a new sense of compassion for anyone going through detox!

Codependency is an extreme dependence on another person’s emotional well being. We are supposed to be responsible FOR ourselves and TO each other. When we take that too far, we can’t separate what the other person is doing from ourselves.

I couldn’t break this one with just me and God. I needed help. I voluntarily found a sponsor, and worked a 12-step program. It was not pretty. The irony of this was that I was completing my last semester of graduate school with a degree in Marriage and Family Therapy as I was working my 12-steps. I graduated while in the middle of step 5! It’s kind of funny now, but at the time, I felt like a total sham!

Sugar. I think most Americans have this addiction and don’t even know it. I didn’t think I did…until I tried to give it up. I’m not that into sweets, so I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal. Then I realized that bread, rice, pasta, and potatoes turn into sugar once they’re in your system. I quit cold turkey, and suffered about 2 weeks of headaches, flu-like symptoms, hot flashes, aches and general misery. Once it was out of my system, I felt much better! I lost weight and gained energy. Now I can have sugar and carbs in small quantities. Some people can’t. If they have any sugar, they can’t stop. I’m thankful that’s not me.

I’m not sure who this blog post is for. Maybe someone really needs to read this today. Maybe it’s just to help me remember where I’ve been and thank God I’m not there anymore. If it impacted you, please leave a comment below!

Written by Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole


Colorado Life Coach: Music Theory and God–Ear Training

“The music’s all around us…all you have to do is listen.” –August Rush.

Can you match a pitch? Can you sing along with your favorite songs? Can you tell when someone else is out of tune?

Some people are practically born singing little songs and making up melodies. They have an obvious musical gift. Some have perfect pitch. They can listen to a song on their ipod and start playing along on the piano or another instrument. They don’t have to ask what key it’s in, because they already KNOW. Without being told, they can hear and name any pitch. Most of us are somewhere in between.

Some people have been told they can’t carry a tune in a bucket. I hate that phrase. It’s unfair and untrue. Many people have a very small range. They can sing in tune with 4 or 5 notes and sound great. The problem is, most songs are not written in their range. When they try to sing along, they are too high or too low and they don’t know why they can’t match the pitch. No one told them this is a skill that can be learned. They just thought they’d never be able to sing (in front of other people).

The same is true for hearing God’s voice. Some people trust God from an early age and enjoy a life of talking with and hearing from God. Many of us are told God doesn’t speak to us anymore. Others have been told you’d have to be crazy if you thought you heard God speaking to you.

God is speaking all around you…all you have to do is listen.

And know what to listen for.

It’s ear training, but it’s not about intervals. It’s about hearing God speak into your heart. When I first prayed for God to speak to me, I realized:

1. I needed to know him, know what the bible says about who he is, and understand he will never tell me something that contradicts what he’s already said.

2. I needed confirmation that what I really thought I heard, I heard.

3. I needed to be able to tell the difference between my thoughts, lies that came at me, and God’s voice.

If you don’t know him and would like to, please contact me.


I realized that one of the ways God speaks to me is by repeating a theme over and over in a short period of time. When my kids were in 4th and 5th grades, they asked me to home school them. This was not part of my plan. I had been a music teacher, but the thought of home schooling never crossed my mind. I prayed about it. All of a sudden, everywhere I went, the word home school popped up. I met a new friend. What does she do? She home schools her kids. I listened to the radio. There was an ad for a home school curriculum. I went to my bible study and they were discussing the same verse I had just read on the curriculum I had just seen. It went on and on and on. I got the point. I told the kids we would home school for 1 year and see how it went. We home schooled for 3 years through middle school before putting them back in school for high school. It was 3 of the best years with my kids! I have many other examples of this kind of thing happening.

His voice…or?

In my life, God’s voice sounds like my own voice. The thing is, he is much kinder and gentler than I am. I’ve learned that if my heart is sincere and my pride is not on the line, I can hear God speak gently. Not always. Not everyday. Not even when I really want. But, sometimes. Sometimes I wake up and have a thought (like this morning when I had this idea about ear training and God speaking). Sometimes I’m writing in my journal and I ask God a question and I hear a few words that speak right into my heart.

Usually I hear how much he loves me, how beautiful I am, that it will be OK, that he’s in control and I’m not.

The reason I know it’s not just my imagination is because I would never think these thougths.

When I hear something mean, cruel, vicious, or hurtful, I know it’s not God. That goes against everything I know about his character from the bible. He will not contradict himself. The negative thought may come from my own worry or selfishness, but sometimes it comes from a lie I heard earlier in my life and still believe. Sometimes it’s just plain evil and I have to change the focus of my thoughts.

Ear training…it’s not just for music!

Click for more on How God Speaks.

This post written by Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole.

Colorado Life Coach: Change Your Unwanted Behavior and Thoughts

How do you stop doing things you don’t want to do?

How do you stop thinking about something that you can’t seem to stop thinking about?

You don’t want to yell at the kids. You don’t like it when you overeat. You wish you could stand up to your mom. You hate that you can’t stop the negative thoughts racing through your mind.

Money, kids, marriage, job, school, relationships, doubts, food, whatever…

What’s it all about? It might be:

*Fear of the unknown

*Worry about things you can’t control

*Mistrust of God

Fear of the unknown

Do you ever blow stuff way out of proportion in your mind? You know the money might be tight, but you picture your family living on the street in a cardboard box. The kids may be struggling in school, but in your mind, they’ve flunked out and are living on the streets in a cardboard box. (What is it about living in a box?)

Our fears rarely come true. That’s not to say that some other thing that we see as negative might not happen. But, the thing we spend so much time worrying about probably won’t happen. We don’t tend to fear what’s familiar…even if it’s not good. The unknown can provoke anxiety because it’s, well, unknown.

Worry about things you can’t control

Isn’t it funny that we all think we can control things better than anyone else, even God. I’ve messed up so many things in my life, but I still struggle with things I can’t control. As if my controlling it would be the best choice. I have limited knowledge on many subjects (even though I am fairly intelligent). Others may have much more experience. I’ve raised my kids well, but I still struggle holding back advice, telling them what I think or what they should do. When do I trust that they can and will make good decisions and they need to figure it out on their own?

Mistrust of God

It all comes down to this.

Do I really believe the God of the Universe can handle things, or not?

Do I believe He knows better than me, more than me?

Do I trust that He loves me?

Do I believe He has my best interest at heart?

Here is a practical tool I’ve used to change my behavior, heart or thinking when I got stuck in a negative pattern:

  1. First thing in the morning, I acknowledge that God is God and I am not. I remind myself that I can trust him and I don’t need to control (fill in the blank).
  2. I ask myself if I can make it to the bathroom without doing (fill in the blank).
  3. When I make it that far, I thank God for the little win and do a little celebration dance (dance style is optional).
  4. I ask myself if I can make it downstairs to breakfast without (fill in the blank).
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 all day long.
  6. If I don’t think I can make it to the next goal, I make it a shorter goal. Ex: Can I make it for the next 5 minutes? The next 1 minute? The next 30 seconds? When I make it, thank God and celebrate.
  7. Begin again

If the issue is negative thought patterns, I’ve tried listening to worship music or really upbeat songs. I’ve read verses from the bible that tell me how much God loves me, or how awesome I am because I am his child. I can’t think about 2 things at once, so when I decide to think about something positive, the negative thoughts tend to disappear.

After doing this for a few weeks, I noticed I was able to make it longer and longer without worry and without doing the thing I didn’t want to do. I was more focused on God, his ability to do what I couldn’t, and his love for me.

When I’m free from these unwanted thoughts and behaviors, I have energy to focus on helping others.

Please note: Sometimes deeper issues prevent us from being able to just change behavior. If you need more help and support, please call 1-800-New-Life to find a professional counselor.

If you have other suggestions, please leave a comment below so others can benefit!

This post written by, Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole



Colorado Life Coach: Guilt at Christmas

Do you ever feel guilt at Christmas?

It seems like many people are willing to offer their opinions on how to do Christmas: You should be with your extended family, you should have time with just family at home, you should invite those who don’t have family, you should help at the local rescue mission, you should go to church, you shouldn’t spend much on Christmas, you should buy more for Christmas, you should remember what Christmas is all about.

When I was young, we went to one set of grandparent’s home on Christmas Eve and the other on Christmas Day. We set our gifts out on our beds so any visitors could see what we got. What’s funny about that is no one came to our house, we went to other people’s homes!

After Bob and I got married and had kids, we usually spent Christmas Eve with my family and Christmas with his. We had some communication and boundary issues, however, and Christmas Day was super stressful. We ripped our gifts open in the morning and raced over to be with family. Our kids didn’t get to enjoy the gifts they got from us, because we had to hurry to open more gifts with our extended family. There were years the kids got so many presents they were totally overwhelmed and ended up having absolute meltdowns. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what to do about it.

I read an article on how to downsize Christmas and we began a new tradition in our family. We now give the kids 3 gifts and some things in their stockings. The gifts signify those brought to Jesus by the Wisemen: Gold: something of value that they can’t buy for themselves (wrapped in Gold foil paper for easy identification!). Frankincense: something warm and cozy, and Myrrh: something that will provide them an opportunity to grow closer to God. This helped with the overabundance of gifts.

When Brendan was 16 he said, “I only have a few more years here. Will we EVER have a Christmas at our house?” That really hit us, and we determined to change things. Since then we have either stayed at home on Christmas Day, or gone out of town to get away from the pressure of racing from place to place. This year we will stay home during the day, go to see Les Miserables with friends who don’t have extended family in town, then return to our home for dessert.

Somewhere along the way, I believed you shouldn’t do anything but be with family on Christmas. Where did that come from? I don’t believe I heard anyone say that. I just assumed. I felt pressure to do things right.

What is right?

I prayed about this today. Sometimes I’m too busy at Christmas. Sometimes I spend too much. Sometimes I won’t get a gift I really want to buy for someone, because I feel guilty for spending too much (what is too much?) even if I budgeted for gifts and have the money.

Even if I don’t do it well, it’s still Christmas! God still came for me! He still loves me! I express love the best I know at the time. I’m not perfect, but I try to show love to those around me. Whatever I do, I want to be thankful for what I have and those I love. I make choices and can try something else next Christmas if it doesn’t turn out the way I hoped this year!

Am I cracked? Yes! And God loves me!

Please share how you have felt guilt at Christmas!

This blog post written by Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole


Colorado Life Coach: God Gave Me A New Name

Stupid!  You’re so stupid!  Why did you do that, say that?  Why can’t you just be quiet!  Why do you talk so much?  You feel too deeply!  If you hadn’t…then…wouldn’t have happened!  You never have to wonder what SHE’S feeling!  You take too much work!  You’re too difficult!  Why can’t we just live instead of always having to work on something?  Why can’t you ever be happy?

Those were questions I heard most of my life from my family, friends, Satan. My heart longed for God, for His comfort, for His love, for His affirmation that I was OK just as I was.

My religion growing up didn’t emphasize a “personal relationship” with God.  In fact, in my teens I asked my mom about those “born again” Christians.  She explained that some of us were born into Christian families, but others weren’t.  Our faith grew steadily throughout our lives, but God had to take those other people to their knees to have faith.  I never understood why God treated those other people so harshly, and why I was one of the lucky ones to be born into a Christian family.

Life went on and difficulties hit.  My heart longed for that “personal relationship” with God.  Once again, why did some people seem to hear from God and have the ability to talk to Him while I couldn’t?  If I was born into a Christian family, why couldn’t I have that kind of relationship with God?

During a particularly difficult time of infertility problems, I sought out the help of our church priest.  I talked to him about my longing to hear God speak to me.  He promised me that if we prayed together that day, I would hear God speak.  I prayed harder than I had ever prayed.  He prayed for me.  I listened to the best of my ability, which at that time meant trying to ignore all the racing thoughts and things I needed to do when I left.  I couldn’t seem to focus and felt stupid once again.  I truly felt like something was wrong with me.  Why could the priest hear from God, and not me?  He prayed with me and for me, but I couldn’t hear.  I finally told him I heard something so I could leave!  That episode convinced me I would never hear from God and shouldn’t even bother trying, because the rejection I felt was overwhelming.

Years passed.  I searched for God.  I joined a bible study and understood that even if I was born into a Christian family, my relationship with God was my responsibility and didn’t pass down through my genes.  I had to get things right with God.  I became one of those “born again” people who fell to my knees in front of the God of the Universe as I understood how great He is, and how far apart I was from Him.

As I grew in my faith, I met a few people who seemed to really know God intimately.  They spoke of hearing God and knowing what He wanted for their lives.  These people had a glow about them that I longed for.  I wanted to be someone in whom God’s presence radiated!  When people saw me or spoke with me, I wanted them to see God in me.

In my early 40’s, I attended a women’s retreat with my church.  The speaker for the weekend led us through an experiential exercise that forever changed my relationship with God.  First, we picked out a rock from a basket.  My flat rock fit in the palm of my hand.  She asked us to paint a name we heard in our minds that accused us.  My word was easy to recall: Stupid.  Next, we painted the rock white until it covered this name.  My rock took several coats of paint.  This signified Christ taking away our old life, name, image, and sins.  As we let the white paint dry, the speaker had us pray and ask God to give us a new name.  My insides started jumping with anxiety.

Here we go again!  I’ll be the only one to not hear from God.  I didn’t even want to participate.  The fear of rejection was so great, that I almost left the room to ignore the exercise rather than not hear the voice of my Heavenly Father when I so desperately needed it.

God is so awesome!  None of this surprised Him!  He knew my fears and anxiety.  He knew my sense of rejection was high.  He knew I thought I’d be the only one to not hear His voice.  In His grace and mercy for me personally, He did what only He can do.  First, He gave me the courage to ask for a name before I ran out of the conference!  Next, He answered my prayer before I finished asking.  When this happened, I didn’t quite understand.  I prayed, “OK God, I would love to ask You something, but I’m afraid to even ask!”  Before I could even finish the request, I heard a word.  I didn’t hear it out loud, but sort of in my own voice deep down in my heart.  I heard the word “Brilliant.”

Now, you have to understand.  I never used the word brilliant.  It wasn’t even in my vocabulary.  I had struggled with questions like, “How do you know it’s God’s voice”?  “Am I just wanting to hear that, so I believe God is speaking when it’s really just my own thoughts?”

To keep me from going to those questions, God interrupted my question with His answer!  I knew that I couldn’t think up a question and an answer at the same time.  It was, dare I say, “Brilliant!”  Before my question had fully formed, the answer came.  It had to be God!  Not only that, but my new name did the 2 things my heart had longed for: 1. God sees me as Brilliant, not stupid, not annoying, not too much, not overwhelming, but Brilliant! and 2. Brilliant things shine!  They sparkle!  I wanted people to see God’s glory through me, and that is what Brilliant means!  He knew the longing of my heart and answered the question before I even asked it with the most perfect answer.

I am Brilliant!  God said so, and He is never wrong!

This blog written by Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole


Colorado Life Coach-The Big Gift

Do you wonder if God cares about your life? Really cares?

Do you wonder if he is involved in your life, or if he just sits back and watches?

I’ve wondered about these questions before. Lately, I’ve been trying to watch for his involvement in my life-in the big things and the little things. I’m finding the more I watch, the more I see!

Something happened this week that is awesome! First a little background. I wanted to play in the band in 5th grade. My parents had already bought my sister a flute and she quit after 6 months, so when I asked, they showed me the flute. I didn’t want to play the flute. They told me to ask the band director what instrument I could play for free. His answer? The tuba! I was thrilled! He wanted me in the band and my instrument was needed! There were many benefits to playing the tuba: 1. I got extra help because if the bass stinks, the whole band stinks. 2. I was allowed to play in select groups early, because they needed a tuba and I could play. 3. I never got told to play softer. 4. There are lots of boys in the low brass section (and they’re happy to see a girl). 5. The school always provided an instrument, so I never had to spend thousands on a horn. 6. It’s fun, I love the low sounds, it’s unique, and it’s an outlet most people have never experienced!

CSU provided me with a great horn (a Miraphone, with 4 rotary valves), and when I taught band, I could take one home to play when I had a gig. I actually did have gigs! I played with the Aurora Symphony, the Loveland Symphony, and a brass quintet. Since I quit teaching 19 years ago, I haven’t had access to an instrument.

Last spring, I was talking with a group of women about the phase of life we were in, and what things we did in the past and would like to do again. Like everyone (NOT!), I said “I want to play the tuba again!” The next day, I received a facebook invitation to play in the grand opening of a performing arts center in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, a small town I lived in for 9th and 10th grade! Everyone who had played with our director, Buz Hoeffer, was invited to get in shape and play. I couldn’t believe it. With enthusiasm and a little fear, I found a really ugly tuba to practice, and got myself back in shape. I played in that grand opening and it was awesome. My heart came alive again in a way I had only dimly remembered from all those years ago. I want to play again!

Here’s the thing, I don’t have a tuba. I never have. They’ve always been priced out of my reach. I got married right out of college and we decided to buy our first car instead of a tuba.

Before I went to the grand opening, I prayed that God would provide me with a tuba so I could keep playing after I returned.  I asked that he would bring me a pretty tuba and that I wouldn’t have to pay for it.  We have lots of expenses these days and once again, it’s not practical to buy a tuba right now.

Last week, I got a notice that I still owed money for my grad school. We paid off the loan this summer, so I called to find out what happened. I waited on the phone for 45 minutes to talk to the finance department at the school. Just for fun, I went on ebay to look at the tubas (I’m a geek). There was this used, 4 valve Miraphone that kept calling my name. It’s way too much money, but I kept looking. I finally got a response from the loan department.

Somehow, we overpaid our loan. I owed a bit, but there was more in another account that they needed to refund to me! It’s enough for a beautiful, used, 4 rotary valve Miraphone and a case! I prayed: “Really, God?” A still, small voice deep in my soul replied, “Play it, baby!”

I’ve seen God provide for really important things, for seemingly insignificant things, and now, for big, low, beautiful things! I know he can do anything he wants, and I’m so thankful for this personal gift that makes my heart sing!

For a video example of another gift, go to: and “God Cares About the Little Things.”

This blog is written by Carrie O’Toole, Colorado Life Coach.

Contact Carrie O’Toole to schedule a confidential telephone call or appointment for coaching.