As most of you know, I have been in recovery from addiction for 4 years. What you may not know, is that I didn’t stay clean all that time, by myself. There is a community of people just like me, that knew the secret of staying clean. I leaned on these people as I began learning to navigate the unknown territory of sobriety. The world is different when you are only accustomed to seeing it through a foggy haze, and if you don’t know your way around, you will most likely end up back on the path that is comfortable to you – the path of getting high.
These people were my lifelines, and they had something I wanted, they knew how to live clean. So I observed them intently, I listened to things they had to say and I watched how happy they were without the use of drugs. While listening, I have overhead countless clichés, advice and tips. Some of it went in one ear, and right out the other when I realized it didn’t apply to me, however some advice – struck me like a lightening bolt, and it changed my life.
I am going to share some incredible advice from some of the wisest people I have met. People who have been to hell, and risen from the ashes into a beautiful new creation. This knowledge has helped me to overcome countless obstacles, setbacks, and disappointments. These don’t only apply to addicts or alcoholics, I believe the following list can help anyone who is looking to evolve and better themselves.
Be gentle with yourself – We are often times our own harshest critics, we tend to beat ourselves up over something, before anyone else has a chance to. If I make a mistake, I don’t let my inner thoughts allow to me to believe you are a failure. Mistakes and accidents can and will happen. Embrace them, learn from them…and move on.
Look down at your feet– Someone in recovery told me this at one point and it has stuck with me ever since. He said “Look down at your feet, that is where you are at this moment in time. You are not in the past, you are not in the future – you are right here, right now, in this moment, the next moment is not promised. Focus on where you are at this point, and stop worrying about where you will be 10 minutes from now.” This changed me.
“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen you may learn something new.” – The Dalai Lama said this originally, and obviously he didn’t say this directly to me. A counselor at my old rehab center quoted him and it made a huge impact on me. In a conversation, I used to anxiously wait for the other person to finish speaking so that I could say my piece, which means I wasn’t listening to a word they said, just waiting for my turn to talk. I wonder how many important things I missed in doing so?
You can’t pour from an empty cup – Self care is so important. You can’t expect to be any good to anyone, if you are drained mentally, physically and spiritually. This is also why on airplanes they say to “First put your on your oxygen mask before helping others.” Because if I run out of oxygen, I can’t continue to help anyone else.
Learn to let things go that you cannot control- This one is huge, and while I truly understand the significance and truth to this statement, I regularly find myself having to verbally remind myself of this in certain situations. Trying to control things beyond your control does nothing but create relentless inner turmoil. I must Recognize I am powerless, take a deep breathe, and exhale the responsibility of fixing the situation, releasing it into the universe where a power greater than myself can bear the burden of sorting it out. I am always amazed at the weight that is lifted during that exhale.
“If you fuel your journey on the opinions of others, you are going to run out of gas” – Steve Marable – This author and behavioral scientist said this originally, but someone in the rooms shared it with me during a personal bout with low self esteem. This one took a lot of practice, because the need to be liked by others is ingrained in my DNA. I regularly need to remind myself that “my value doesn’t decrease based on others inability to see my worth.” (Another favorite of mine, although I’m not sure who originally said it, as there are conflicting reports.)
Resentments are like setting yourself on fire, and expecting the other person to die of smoke inhalation – This one really hit home with me as I am the queen of holding grudges. After hearing this I realized “my enemy” was probably going about their daily life, not thinking twice about me – meanwhile I was stewing in anger and hatred for the person. It was destroying my inner peace and achieving nothing.
The only difference between good days and bad days, is your attitude – They say life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. This is so true. If I get a flat tire, I can either allow myself to fill with rage, calling the tire company to curse them out and tell them how incompetent they are, spending the remainder of the day reflecting on my bad fortune – or – I can take a breathe, laugh at this misfortune and realize the tire has popped and that is now in the past. Then I can begin to calmly come up with a plan to amend the situation. One of these choices will result in a ruined day – and it is all up to me.
Play the tape all the way through – If you are in recovery, you have probably heard this saying countless times. What this basically means is “Before making the decision to use, don’t just think about the part that seems fun then shut the tape off, play it all the way through to see how it ends – usually in jails, institutions and death.” However this doesn’t only have to apply to using, it can apply any time we find ourselves on the brink of making an impulsive decision. What does the end of the tape look like, and will we be happy with the results.
Stop projecting! – This one is my favorite, because it is so important. So many of us spend our days looking toward the future, worrying about things that haven’t happened yet. The dreaded “but what if” causes fantasies of imaginary situations that are purely hypothetical and result in nothing but stress. We are projecting. We are looking ahead, instead of being present and we are meeting our problems halfway, instead of waiting for them to come to us. This advice has allowed me to spend less time worrying, and more time living.
I believe that I am a better person today, than I ever was, even before addiction. The reason being that today I live by a specific set principals, principals that I was taught through the program of Narcotics Anonymous. In the program, we don’t just learn how to stay clean, we learn to live a meaningful and purposeful life. We learn how to be the best version of ourselves possible. I believe that if we as people – addict or not – remain teachable, than there is no limit to the ways that we can grow, and the things we can achieve.