One of the best things that has happened in my time in recovery is having the time to try out new things. I used to waste so much time drinking, drugging and recovering afterwards, that it seriously limited what I could achieve in life. In fact I was spending a lot of time blanking my life out, and then having to deal with the consequences of being smashed half the time, which made me want to blank things out even more. it is probably true to say that facing the carnage with no chemical crutch, when you first stop is one of the hardest things to do, and is one of the many reasons that most initial recovery periods, tend to only last a few days. They used to say that a drink won’t make things better, when I was in AA, but that was quite hard to accept at first. In fact it was hard to accept for quite some time, as I felt like shit, but slowly life improved and I could justify sobriety at last.
I think that getting fit was one of the best things I done. I had not done any exercise for years but decided to take up running, swimming and Pilates and have been doing all these for a while. These activities have made me feel different about myself. My breathing is so much better and my overall strength is good. I walk in a different way – much more upright and look people in the eye. I have a lot more self confidence and feel more centred. It feels good to be repairing your body and after a few months you can really see the difference. It helps you mentally, especially after getting a good night of sleep which was something that was rare, when I was using.
Another thing that has really helped for me,is practising Mindfulness. I would never have tried this in the past. I would have considered it new age, hippy shit and ignored it. That would have been a mistake, I really enjoy it and try to do a small amount of meditation most days. There are several books on the subject and how to use it to treat addiction and I know that Stanton Peele and Ilse from Stinkin Thinkin are about to publish a new book on the subject. I look forward to their views on the subject, as I have enjoyed Stanton’s books in the past and found them to be full, of good practical advice. I’m reading the “Mindfulness workout for addiction” by Williams and Kraft at the moment and that has some good ideas.
I would like to claim that I started mindfulness to make my life better, but this was not the case. I was supporting somebody who was going to a pain management course, and friends and family were encouraged to join in to support the person being treated, and to gain some understanding, of what lifestyle changes were being made. So I started mindfulness due to a pain management session, that was not really aimed at me. I actually think this helped me in a strange way. If I paid for a course, I would have had high expectations and expected something major to happen. I would have had preconceived ideas about what I was going to achieve, but this was not the case with me just being thrown in. The person the course was aimed at,did not really take to it, so it is not for everyone.
The results have been dramatic. I am much more relaxed and I can take a step back from things. I can also accept things a lot more. I don’t seem to have the kind of invasive thoughts, that I once tried to block out with drink. I can keep the sort of longterm stressful things, that affect us in life today, in perspective. in the past, if I found something annoying, I would go over and over it. This was not a positive thing to to and something that does not seem to happen as much. I still get angry, that is natural and I don’t try to suppress it, in the way that some in the 12 step world suggest. When it happens I look at it, decide what to do and move on. Sometimes this takes a few goes! I’m not exactly a buddhist monk and I’m not afraid to have a go at somebody, but I’m not in the turmoil that I once was.
Changing the way you think, and aiming for better things is so important when you are recovering from addiction. It is important to not stay rooted in the past, and go over the same old things. It is important not to brand yourself as somebody who is useless and a failure. I felt I was doing that in 12 step meetings. I would much rather spend some time in a quiet place, improving my self image and viewing my life in an honest way, than sitting in some grubby basement calling myself an addict. Sooner or later I will act like one. At the moment, I’m happier going for runs round the park, breathing in fresh air by the river and spending time with people who do positive things in life. Their lifestyles have rubbed off on me and I have learnt a lot, from people who have spent years making their mind and body healthy.
Some times , life throws up strange things that work for us and it is great when you find something so simple, that has been around for so many years, that works. If you are interested in trying Mindfulness there are lots of courses or groups you can join. You can also download audio guided meditations and I started with the “mindfulness for Dummies” book which was entirely appropriate for me.