my internal world.

It’s been a few weeks since my last post and life has been quite full on lately. Spring has sprung and with it my social and family obligations have escalated. There are multiple new babies appearing in my circle of life and I’m happy to report that I have become a godmother (again). This time is a bit different though as my friend is a single mom so I’ve been extra involved.

I have written on this blog before about some of my issues around childlessness and lately I feel like I am in a good place with it. I adore my new little godson and part of me aches when I hold him but it’s mostly because I just love him so much. It’s taken me some time but I am starting to believe that not having children is the right path for me. I am fortunate to have godchildren, a stepson, a niece, a nephew, and more on the way who bring me so much happiness and joy. And although they add so much to my life, I have to say that I cherish the alone time I have too.

What I now know is that life ebbs and flows. Sometimes there are down times and low moments- I struggle at times with feeling bored and lonely and disillusioned with life. Then there are times that life feels full and busy and exciting.

Not only does life go through these cycles and changes, but so does my internal world. Even though my external life is busy and full right now, inside I have been feeling quite low and anxious. I have been struggling with feeling unmotivated. Every day after work I just want to come home and rest. I haven’t been exercising or eating very healthy. Maybe it’s because I have been so busy that those things have fallen off my priority list, but I am having a hard time getting back into things.

When I don’t eat well I don’t feel well. Which, of course, makes perfect sense! But I think we tend to overlook how much what we put into our bodies impact us. When I eat too many processed things, sugar, and dairy and not enough fresh clean plant based foods, I feel lethargic and depressed. And because I feel lethargic and depressed, I make poor choices, and want to sit around more, eating chocolate. The cycle perpetuates.

I have been full of anxiety lately. On the surface I am a pretty confident person but I came to the realization that I am so susceptible to what others think of me (or what I think they think of me). At work I often have to speak in meetings and I will re-play in my mind something I said for hours afterwards if I didn’t think it was well received. I had so much anxiety on the weekend while I was trying to coordinate multiple plans, I was exhausted by the end of it because of the self-imposed stress. Yesterday I sent out an email that was part of my recovery group chain and I agonized over something that was slightly misinterpreted. I wanted to crawl out of my skin I was so uncomfortable. No wonder I used to drink!

Luckily, last night I saw a post on social media from Tara Brach and thought I would have a listen. It was uncanny how perfect the timing was. The podcast was entitled “Freedom from Fear Based Beliefs” and I strongly urge you to check it out.

Through her talk I learned some important things. I learned that I felt anxiety all weekend because I was afraid of failing. I put so much pressure on myself to organize things and have everything be perfect, and I have this anxiety that something is going to go wrong. She talked about our human ‘negativity bias’ (which is part of the flight/fight/freeze brain which is meant to protect us from scary life-threatening things) and also how some of us are more hardwired for anxiety than others.

The thing I realized is that I could have gone through the whole weekend not feeling anxiety and things still would have turned out fine. It’s like I think the anxiety and stress I feel is what helps to ensure I get things done. Which just isn’t true.

The other awesome thing I learned was that the stress I feel at meetings at work or around other people is based on some pretty disturbing beliefs. Brach did an exercise on the podcast which helped me to get to the core of what those thoughts are… and mine are things like “I am incompetent”. Brach asks the listener to question the core belief, asking “is this true?” Now this was really interesting because as soon as I questioned it, I immediately saw the falseness of it. It was almost comical. I mean, I might not be the best at what I do, the most experienced or talented… but I am not incompetent! Faced with that, it was like this stress I had been carrying around for days just started to loosen up.

Then Brach asks, “who would you be without this belief?” And I thought, “I would be happy!”

It was like freeing myself from a mental prison. Sweet relief.

So, the moral of the story is, do not believe all of your thoughts. Investigate the core beliefs that shape your internal world. Question everything.

The other moral of the story is, for me, it’s time to get back to basics. My meditation and mindfulness practice is not just some kind of pastime or lark- it is the part of the foundation of my well-being. I’ve been feeling too busy, or uninterested in my recovery group and work lately, thinking that maybe it’s not for me… but the truth is that I need it. I need that refuge from myself, my ego, my brain, my addictions. I need it to feel healthy and peaceful.

I also need to treat my body well. Eat more vegetables. Exercise. Basics. So I got some stuff to make green smoothies and planned a hike for the weekend. Yoga tomorrow after work. And right after I finish reading up on sober blogs, I’m going to go meditate for 20 minutes.

These are the ingredients needed to make my internal world well. So simple but so easy to forget!

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refuge recovery: an article and my experience

Here is an article on the Huffington Post written by the founder of the recovery program I have been attending:

Here Noah writes about addiction and I think we can all relate to these words:

What usually starts as a search for happiness and pleasure almost always ends in tremendous sorrow, loss, confusion, and suffering. Very often it leads us to suicidal thoughts, despondency, and shame. For the addict in the midst of addiction, life is often a downward spiral that ends in incarceration, institutionalization, violence, loss, and death. Some may continue to function in seemingly normal ways–working,
parenting, and participating in society–but an internal death occurs, a numbness arises, and they start to disconnect from themselves and from others. A wall of denial and suppression, too high and too thick to scale or break through, keeps others out and keeps the addict in, trapped by his or her own defenses, prisoner to his or her addictions.

The article also discusses how the foundation of recovery is acceptance of the ways that addiction is causing suffering in one’s life. This Buddhist approach uses the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path as a means to recovery. The program doesn’t ask you to believe in a higher power (not that there is anything wrong with that, but it’s not for everyone) and has the following suggestion for a program-

Of course, like every path, you can only get to your destination by moving forward, one foot in front of the other. The path is gradual and comprehensive, a map of the inner terrain that must be traversed in the process of recovery. The path includes daily meditation practices, written investigations of the causes and conditions of your addictions, and how to find or create the community you will need in order to heal and awaken.

My experience of this program has been very positive. The people I have met have been like-minded and down to earth. I like the way this program and Buddhism seems to be more of a psychology or philosophy of living rather than a religion. There is no worshipping of gods (not that there is anything wrong with that), no heaven or hell or sins. But at the same time it teaches about morality, compassion, and kindness for yourself and others.

At the same time, I feel myself rebelling! The more I am getting involved, the more I am doubting and questioning. I am questioning if I want to become a buddhist (not necessary) or live by any kind of set out principles, I’m doubting that meditation really works and my commitment to my own practice is wavering, and I’m wondering if going down this peaceful path will make me a dull and passive person. I’m afraid of dedicating myself to a program because what if I decide I want to change or it’s not the right fit for me anymore? I said to a sober penpal this week that I feel like I’m in limbo- I don’t want to commit further to my recovery program and change my life more, but at the same time I need to to stay sober.

All of those are I think the big question I’ve been dealing with is- what happens if I decide I want to drink again?

I struggled a lot in the last week or so. It was really difficult for me to be around booze. I was visiting with my brother and his family and my SIL made a couple of comments about how she missed drinking wine with me. It’s not that she is not supportive, but I get that a person gets used to indulging in a certain activity with a companion, and then it’s weird for them not to be able to do it anymore. I used to be a huge wine drinker- when we would go there it was all about making delicious food and trying out different wines. So, I understand that she was only voicing what she notices an absence of.

I said goodbye to my car this week. It needed more work than it was worth. I can’t really afford to go into more debt for a new car with the amount of student debt that I have but I am a fairly car dependant person. So I’ll go further into debt. This is stressful, but being able to go into debt, in a weird way, is a privilege. I am fortunate that I have a good job and a good credit rating that people trust me with borrowed money. I will pay it off eventually, it just sucks.

I miss my party friends. I miss hanging out with them. We’re going to a friends place today- a former big drinking buddy. I need to see people and socialize and feel connected. I need to get out of my head. I get why I used to drink all the time- it numbed that inner voice, the stress or anxiety. It worked, until, of course, it stopped working. And then it turned on me.

Last night I was close to ordering a drink with dinner. Thank the universe for my partner who was able to talk me out of it. There must be something in the air because I’ve noticed that a few bloggers with a good amount of sobriety have slipped or relapsed in the last little while.

I need to focus on my recovery and my spiritual practice. I need to learn how to balance that with regular life. I have this sort of either/or mentality- like I can’t be both spiritual/in recovery and also participate in areas my old life with old friends etc. Part of me just wants to take the booze out and keep on with my old life but that doesn’t work. I am scared to change but I don’t really know why.

Letting ourselves fall

A good reminder.

Mindfulbalance

File:Honduran American Halo Jump (10018977176).jpg

As human beings we share a tendency to scramble for certainty whenever we realize that everything around us is in flux. In difficult times the stress of trying to find solid ground — something predictable to stand on — seems to intensify. But in truth, the very nature of our existence is forever in flux. Everything keeps changing, whether we’re aware of it or not.

Pema Chodron, The Fundamental Ambiguity of Being Human

photo USASOC news service

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