For as long as I can remember I have struggled with an unquiet mind, it has always felt as if my mind was in a constant state of motion. It would race uncontrollably. It always felt like there were a million different thoughts going on at once and I was amazed that there was enough room in my head for all of them. It caused me to not be able to sleep well at night, as I found it difficult to shut down my mind. No matter how exhausted I was physically my mind never seemed to tire. I didn’t realize what this constant racing of my mind meant. For a long time I blamed it on my ADHD and though it definitely contributes that is not the only reason. I did not realize it foreshadowed something darker. That this tendency towards obsession and rumination were going to lead me down a dark road. Addiction in any form is defined by obsessive thoughts and the inability of the mind to quiet itself. This is why meditation and mindfulness are such important tools. For so many years I spent my life living in the past and the future unable to live in the present moment.
When I got older and found an eating disorder and struggled with substance use, one of the initial allures was that it seemed to quiet down my mind. I found a tonic for my restless mind, I wouldn’t think as much, and I would be able to sleep better at night. At the time I remember it seemed like a godsend because by that point years of an anxious mind were beginning to take their toll on me, and so for a time addiction in its many forms allowed me to reach a pseudo-meditative state in which I could find peace. That was until they started to consume my mind with the obsession that is a defining characteristic of their manifestation.
Unfortunately this brought a return of the racing thoughts and they come back in full force. I had to increase my behaviors in order to block out these thoughts, but the further and further that I got into my addictions the more difficult this was to achieve. One day I found that no matter what quantity of substance I ingested, the racing thoughts wouldn’t go away. It was as if I was standing on a beach, letting waves crash over my mind’s eye with no reprieve. With my solution no longer working I was faced with the dilemma that any addict faces, I had reached that jumping off point, where I had a choice to make, and luckily I made the choice to get sober.
After getting sober I learned that those obsessive, racing thoughts were dangerous and that I needed to find something to stave them off. I learned early on in treatment that mindfulness and meditation were powerful tools for quieting the mind.
The 12 Steps helped dramatically not just as a map for sobriety but also with quieting down my mind and I came to realize through working them that fear was a powerful motivator for them and that by letting go of my need for control they began to quiet. Meditation and prayer were how I learned to let go of the fear and control. The mindfulness came in learning how to live one day at a time.That being said I still find that at times my mind races regardless of the tools and these times I just have to hold on and realize that tomorrow is another day to start over.
I, like many people of our modern age, find it difficult to just sit still. The constant stream of information that I can receive from my phone, television, and computer seems to create in me a sort of addiction to digitized living, where if I sit still for too long I find myself grasping for something electronic. This in turn creates a space where my mind is never truly at rest, which causes anxiety and stress, producing optimal conditions for a racing mind. For most people this might be okay, but since I am an alcoholic having a racing mind can be dangerous thing, and so I have found that I must in some sense meditate in order to cut off the barrage of thoughts that seek to destroy me.
Before getting sober I believed that the only way to meditate was to sit cross legged in silence with incense burning, and while I sometimes do this, I have come to learn that there is no right or wrong way to meditate. One of the first ways that I learned to meditate was through the practice of yoga. The practice of yoga was particularly useful to me and often after an hour of doing yoga I would be so relaxed and my mind would be so quiet that I would find it difficult to drive home. It was a much-needed reprieve for my mind and when I was consistently practicing yoga, I slept better and was more mindful of my thoughts and actions towards others.
Another way that I learned to meditate was by taking a walk. There were days when I would be cooped up in the house working on something and at a certain point in the day I would start to feel squirrely. When this squirreliness set in I knew that it was time to go for a walk. During my walk I would try to notice the things around me, like the birds, or butterflies, or just the green of the plants, all while focusing on my breathing. All of this was done in an attempt to let go of the thoughts that were bothering me and re-shift my focus to something positive.
The importance of practicing some form of meditation or mindfulness cannot be overstated for the alcoholic or addict. There is a reason that it is included in the 11th step, and that is because we are a people plagued by our minds. The very thing that we trust the most, our thoughts, can at any given moment be riddled with the disease that is attempting to take our lives. So I have found that through meditation I am able to separate myself from my thoughts, and because of this they do not hold the same power over me that they once did, which allows me to experience peace.
Rose Lockinger is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.
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