While in active addiction, I lived in the absolute emotional extremes, and there was very little balance in my life. I often felt out of control while I was trying to control everything, not realizing that my excessive drinking was the cause of the chaos. Instead, I continued to drink because I believed that it actually helped me manage all the turmoil!
This cycle created a huge amount of anxiety and instability for me because I was often failing at controlling everything. In turn, the more chaotic my insides felt, the more drama I got involved in or created, and the more I tried to impose my control.
I was never just content with the way things were. I did not know how to just be. I was always trying to get to the top of the heap, or win the race, or succeed no matter what. I was never satisfied just being a worker among workers or a friend among friends. I always had the feeling that there was much more to life than this, except all of my desires for those things that would possibly better my life, would quickly vanish after a few drinks.
Early in sobriety, I realized that this chaotic cycle and all my efforts to control everything made me absolutely miserable. All that drama made it hard to live, be happy, and stay sober at the same time. It just becomes too much work to constantly have to control everything around me. I needed to change it. I had to find happiness; after all I did not get sober to be miserable!
Today what I mostly strive for is to live emotionally in the middle, or in balance. I no longer enjoy the extreme highs or lows. I would rather let things be and not intervene if I do not need to. My life now does not have huge highs or lows anymore, I sort of coast in the middle. This is a place where I feel comfortable and relaxed, and I have no need to control anything.
Here are the few things I do to help me stay in the middle:
- I practice living in the now: I keep my focus on what is in front of me right now. If I am driving, I only think of driving, if I am cooking, I am only focusing on cooking. This takes some practice, and if my mind starts wondering to other things, I try to quickly redirect it.
- I approach each day with no expectations: the less I think about the outcome of what might or might not happen, the better chances I have of having a good day. There is something to be said about just going with the flow of the day and letting it unfold naturally.
- I do not bother with things that I have no control over: the weather, the traffic, being late, being lost, being sick, canceled appointments, work schedule changes, things breaking down – I can’t control any of those, so there is no need for me to worry about them. Worrying does not change anything or make anything any better.
- I stay grateful for everything I have today: being grateful for things I do have instead of wishing for things that others have, and wondering if I will ever have them.
- I practice letting go: carrying around anger and resentments is like carrying rock on your back. It has not purpose and makes life harder than it has to be. Letting go allows me to stay free of my internal conflict.
- I try to put my emotion into words. “I’m feeling anxious.” “I’m feeling angry.” “I’m feeling sad.” Putting the emotions I experience into words by making these simple self-statements can help me identifying the emotions that I am feeling in the moment, and observing them without being overwhelmed by them. Just accepting them as what they are.
Emotions, especially powerful, disturbing ones, can seem as though they will last forever. But they come and go like guests who come to visit: some are welcome and we’re delighted to see them; others not so much. Sometimes they leave sooner than we would like; other times they stay way past the point when we want them to leave—but eventually they all leave.
When I stay in the middle, I am accepting things exactly as they are, without judgement, and neither making them good or bad. This lets me stay balanced and comfortable with me and things in my life.