With the closing of all Face-to-Face meetings and Stay-at-Home orders it has been particularly difficult to stay connected to the recovery network. Many of us miss the personal connections, the many hugs and seeing our fellow travelers. But luckily today’s technology has allowed us to connect online. There is a plethora of meetings, groups and apps to help you stay sober during this difficult time.
I lived in a state of chaos and turmoil for many years of my life, not just during my active addiction, but even years before the onset of my alcohol dependence. However, I never realized that this behavior was an addiction in itself.
In sobriety I thought that being busy would help me stay sober. I believed that if I became a doer and a planner, and got things done no matter what they really were, it would make me feel accomplished and make my life feel exciting too. No longer fueled by my alcohol addiction, I thought that by running around and being busy I was finally working towards a successful and meaningful existence.
But in therapy, I discovered that I was actually addicted to chaos! I did not even realize that my addiction was so exhilarating that I literally was not able to stand still! And all the running around was also creating the internal chaos that always kept me in a state of fear and panic, with anxiety through the roof and a constant worry, just waiting for the next shoe to drop.
How did this happen?
Well, when I got sober, I started feeling uncomfortable when everything was going well and things were calm. That was not normal to me; normal was keeping busy and worrying about things getting done! Not realizing this, I subconsciously sought out excitement and drama because that was what I knew as normal in my drinking days.
But it was not just my drinking days! I grew up in a chaotic household. I threw myself in all and any activities in my school days. I sought out relationships that produced chaos and I stayed in jobs that were high energy and fast paced.
It all just seemed normal until, in sobriety and through recovery, it finally did not.
While in therapy I was able to recognize that every environment that I have been in and every relationship I had since I was a child to include my family, was chaotic and abusive. That was my normal and I had subconsciously recreated the same environment over and over and over again.
The article Addicted to Chaos by Barsky, R. (2007), explains this phenomenon clearly.
“Despite the appearance of everything being under control, we experienced continued chaos, developed a tolerance for chaos and I believe became addicted to chaos. I think it is important to say I have never done a scientific experiment to investigate this theory. It is based on observation of numerous people and their behavior.
During the recovery process life becomes more manageable and less chaotic. The addict begins to feel a sense of autonomy and safety. A feeling of calm settles over their life. The paradox for the addict is that feeling calm is so unfamiliar it induces anxiety. There is a sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop. When there is a crisis, whether real or perceived, we actually experience a physical exhilaration and it feels remarkably like being active.”
Learning to slow down and get out of my addiction to chaos has been a long journey!
It took becoming comfortable with just existing.
It took finding new outlets, like coloring, crocheting or reading.
It took observing situations around me without acting on them.
It took many days of trying and failing and trying again.
It took strength to avoid chaos when it was around me.
It took setting firm boundaries and sticking to them.
It took learning how to say No and saying it often.
I took breaking the old habit by creating a new one.
It also took some time to develop, and I am still work in progress but let me tell you about the amazing changes that had happened in my life! I am no longer running around frantically in a need to fix things. I no longer have a need to control everything. I no longer need to be physically on the move all the time. I no longer need to be in everyone else’s business and I no longer seek out chaos at all situations.
I can now sit through an entire movie and even binge watch TV! Today I am truly able to sit still, find peace and enjoy some time smelling the roses!
I had a whole bunch of stuff on my mind during early recovery. I was trying to apply what I learned in treatment in my new life, balance work and recovery, avoid triggers, and implement healthy routines. I felt very overwhelmed and my mind was constantly occupied.
The idea that I could just turn the internal chatter off by focusing on a single action or thought, was very exciting. This is what initially attracted me to meditation.
verb gerund or present participle: meditating think deeply or focus one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation.
Meditation: What is It?
The term meditation refers to a broad variety of practices (much like the term sports) that includes techniques intended to stimulate relaxation, build inner energy or life strength, and develop compassion, love, patience, generosity, and forgiveness. An especially impressive form of meditation aims at easily sustained single-pointed concentration, meant to enable its practitioner to only concentrate on one focus point thus promoting a sense of security.
You might want to recognize what meditation isn’t. It isn’t about zoning out, or having earth-shattering experiences, or even controlling the mind. Meditation, as a spiritual practice, is more about working with the mind and training its awareness. Simply working with this attitude leads to an enhanced sense of presence, calmness, and peace, and an increase in value of the simple things in life.
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The physical act of meditation usually consists of simply sitting quietly, focusing on your breathing, and/or a word or a phrase, or sound. There are many traditions and countless ways to practice meditation, and because of this, a person new to meditation may wonder whether they are doing it correctly. I was certainly afraid to start in fear that I was not going to be able to do it the right way.
The most basic and universal of all meditation techniques, breathing meditation is a great place to start your practice. You can start very slow, try to meditate for one minute the first time and when your mind wanders off, just pull it back in and focus back on your breathing. If the quiet is bothering you, try some calming music or the white noise of some type, like a humidifier, fan or sounds of water. I find the fan in the bathroom is a good white noise. Sit in a comfortable position. Follow your breathing. As you breathe, become aware of the rising and falling of your abdomen. Don’t make a conscious effort to change your breathing patterns, just breathe normally. When your thoughts enter, make a conscious decision to refocus back on your breathing.
Start out just practicing for a few minutes. Each time you meditate lengthen the period of your meditation, but do not jump too quickly; this is a learned skill that takes some practice. The mind needs time to learn to quiet and you need time to learn how to focus on your breathing and incorporate this new routine into your life.
Too Busy to Meditate? Think Again! The benefits of meditation are many and varied from reducing stress, blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes to increasing one’s cognition and creativity. As well meditation decreases our need for sleep by heightening our concentration, allowing us to be more productive. Many people think that they have to run off to a monastery or spend hours a day sitting in a lotus position to receive these benefits. WRONG! If you feel overwhelmed with work, family and personal responsibilities here are three quick and easy meditations to help you release unwholesome emotions, shift your mood and improve your relationships adapted from my new book. -continue reading at Psychology Today: The Wise Open Mind
Meditation is a great tool to help you stay sober, combat cravings, minimize restless nights, and reduce anxiety! I know that it may sound a bit difficult to get into the practice, but keep an open mind – like with anything new it takes practice and patience.
Do you meditate? How has meditation helped you with recovery?
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