May 19, 2020 at 11:05PM
Every time I would get sober, I would feel anxious, discontent, and easily annoyed in my own skin. Whenever I would desire a change, I’d reach for something outside myself—drugs, alcohol, relationships, or food—in order to feel something other than discomfort. The bottom line is that I was looking for an outside fix for an inside job.
These six steps were the things that finally helped me turn it around. I’m not going to pretend it was easy; it wasn’t. But it was worth it. Now we’re living in quarantine and facing the reality of COVID-19, and I can say from experience these six things are still holding me together. I’ve realized that the tools that help us get sober are the same tools that enable us to thrive in our lives, no matter what life throws our way.
I had taken steps to get sober before, but it wasn’t until I made meditation, along with these other steps, a consistent part of my daily life that things really began to change for the positive.
I learned that meditation wasn’t silencing our thoughts but accessing the calm beneath them.
Just like underneath the waves of the ocean, there is calm at the sand grain floor where it is hundreds of feet deep. The same goes for our mind. Underneath our 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts a day, there is stillness and silence. Meditation isn’t about stopping our thoughts; it’s about accessing the silence that’s beneath them. This was huge in my understanding of meditation.
The problem is most of us just haven’t been taught how to go from the busy surface of the mind to the calm below. When I got sober and did a step-by-step comprehensive training in Vedic meditation, I learned how to access my own inner reservoir of “bliss.” Understanding the correct mechanics of meditation has enabled me to produce the change I sought in the way I felt from within, instead of having to look for relief through engaging in negative habits and addictive behaviors.
For this reason, I believe meditation was the most important step for me to thrive in recovery. Learning to meditate is truly the greatest gift I have been given in my sobriety, and that’s why it is my most heartfelt desire to share meditation with as many people in addiction recovery as possible. If we feel filled up from the inside out, we won’t seek to fill ourselves up from the outside in.
I learned to surround myself with people whose values I aspired to hold and who offered me the right kind of support.
The collective is more powerful than the individual. They say we are the sum total of the five people we surround ourselves with most. One of the most important steps in ending my addiction was to find other people who had what I wanted in life and take their suggestions. I had to find others who were physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually in the space I wanted to be myself, and then ask for their help.
Humbling myself and asking for help was not easy but was worth it, and this is also how I learned to meditate. I found meditation teachers like Deepak Chopra, Emily Fletcher, and Light Watkins, who were happy and enjoyed the practice, then I followed their suggestions. But I also found people who had been where I had been while in the throes of my addiction, who were sober and thriving, and took their suggestions also. Following their guidance on everything from working the 12 steps to listening to positive audiobooks to feed my mind is how I stayed and continue to stay sober.
I learned that my diet has a tremendous effect on how I feel.
Everything we take in through our senses either has a negative or positive effect on our mind and body. Think about it, if you had a Ferrari, would you put 87 or premium in it? Premium, right? Well, since getting sober, I discovered that my body is my “vehicle,” and in order to stay energized and joyful in my sobriety, it’s best to eat healthy.
Eating unhealthy was the first behavior I realized was no longer serving me, and so I switched my diet. Today, after eating plant-based since around 2014, I am sure that this is one of the crucial steps to thriving in sobriety and one of the most overlooked.
I learned to listen to my inner truth rather than my inner critic.
When I first got sober, I relied totally on the guidance of others to know what was right for me. While others’ suggestions were (and are still) helpful at times, always needing guidance to be OK was not sustainable. Because I depended on that, I wouldn’t allow myself to feel better until someone I trusted told me I could let my fear go and feel good again. I needed the affirmation.
Today I know this was because I was too afraid to take the leap and trust my inner guidance because every time I would have a fearful thought that was telling me the opposite, I would believe it. However, I have learned to witness my fearful thoughts and, as I learned from Eckhart Tolle, understand that, most of the time, they are “ego.” The realization that “I am not my thoughts” led to self-trust, which is an imperative part of thriving in my life and recovery today.
I learned how to share with others the tools that helped me get sober and made it my life’s mission.
When I first got sober, I discovered that a big part of my problem was my “selfishness,” which was an inability to stop thinking about myself. The incessant activity of my mind would stop me from feeling at peace in my own skin—which, if you couldn’t have guessed, was not a good recipe for staying sober. I was in a constant state of anxiety, worrying about keeping everything in my life together. When this feeling would become too overwhelming, I felt the only way I could find relief was numbing it with drugs.
Today, through my daily meditation practice, my inner dialogue has shifted from “What’s in it for me?” to “How can I help?” First of all, today I know that what we give we receive. If I wanted to stay sober, it made sense that I must help others do the same. Doing so is also one of the easiest ways for me to shift out of my anxious feelings, which is crucial because they can cause me to desire to act out my addictions again. Today I know seeing where I can fit myself to be of service gets me out of my self-centeredness and reconnects me to the feeling of abundance that comes when we reconnect with the whole.
I learned that practicing yoga facilitated a physical release.
Nowadays, it is widely acknowledged that there is, in fact, a mind-body connection. This means that when we experience the fight-or-flight stress reaction, a number of physiological changes start to take place, including an increase in our body’s stress hormones, as well as increased blood pressure and heart stress. Over time, regular activation of the fight-or-flight response in non-life-threatening situations can affect our health.
For me, I believe the stress I experienced while trying to live a double life in active addiction was stored in my body. This is where yoga showed up for me in my sobriety. Through yoga asanas and breathing exercises, I was able to release stress. It was when I combined yoga asana with the practices mentioned above that I was able to finally address the stress that was hindering my ability to show up as my best version for myself and my recovery.
Sobriety is not just about abstinence! It’s about creating a life in which we can thrive without being dependent on our addictions. No one journey is quite the same; however, you can trust that if you put your sobriety first and take steps like the ones mentioned above, what will come to you will be better than anything you could ever imagine!