READ IT TO ME: Click play to listen to this post.
Is an inner awakening,
And this inner awakening
We must share
With the rest of the world.”
― Sri Chinmoy
Finding the way of peace is a journey addicts in recovery long for. Turmoil and chaos is created by the junkie worm every day an addict lives. In desperation, addicts search for escape from the insanity that rules their life. Even in recovery, many continue to struggle in search for peace in the midst of sobriety. Stopping the runaway train going down the track is a relief but not necessarily peaceful. The question remains “How do I create calm out of chaos?” “Is it possible to have peace when there is a storm that rages all around me?” Of course, addicts are not the only ones who want to know the answer to this quandary.
In 1975 thousands of Vietnamese fled their country by sea following the collapse of the South Vietnamese government. Crowded into small boats, they were prey to pirates, and many suffered dehydration, starvation, and death by drowning. When challenged with rough seas, many in the boats panicked causing the boat to sink and many to drown. Thich Nhat Hanh remarked in his book Being Peace that when one person remained calm and lucid, knowing what to do, he or she would help others to avoid capsizing the boat. When their voice and facial expression communicated clarity and calmness, others trusted, listened, and avoided capsizing. (Page 12)
Addicts in recovery are boat people trying to survive the currents that pull and tug them back to the sea of addictive behavior. There is panic and an onslaught of craving that crashes against the recovery program of every addict who desires to escape the domination of addiction. Recovery requires that you become a peaceful person who sits in the midst of the storm around you with perspective and poise. Where does this panorama of equanimity come from in recovery? Consider the following:
1. In the midst of addictive chaos, return to being true to yourself. The demands of recovery are intimidating. It is tempting to compare your recovery journey with someone else’s recovery journey. Some people are talented presenters. At a speakers’ meeting some tell wonderful compelling stories about recovery and you wish that your recovery life looked like theirs. But it doesn’t. It simply looks like yours. This is a time that is important to maintain perspective and return to being true to yourself. That is all you must do. Remember an oak tree is an oak tree. That is all it has to do and be. If there was a demand that it grow and look like a palm tree, it would be in trouble. When you think you and your recovery must be something you are not, you will get into trouble. Just be you. It is your only requirement. Being true to yourself is where you will discover poise and perspective.
2. Seek Understanding. It will provide compassion toward yourself and others. Addicts in recovery come from a lifestyle of self-absorption. Addicts want what they want when they want it. Their life is about taking up too much space. There is no perspective or understanding that makes sense except that which leads to achieving a desired fix with their drug of choice. It’s a very narrow view of understanding. This distorted thinking does not change overnight in recovery. An addict must seek understanding in order to cultivate compassion for others. Understanding transforms addict behavior. Understanding why you do what you do accelerates self-compassion and love for others. It is common for an addict to compartmentalize their thinking to only seeing the world from their viewpoint. Yet, when you expand your understanding with deep listening, it provides a depth of compassion for self and others. For example, I recently celebrated a birthday. However, my three sons failed to recognize my birthday. I was disappointed. Yet, when I explored the situation that each was experiencing, it provided understanding. One was traveling out of state. Distracted with covering responsibilities for a small child and engaging pomp and circumstance of a special event, he became distracted and overwhelmed with his own agenda. Another was distracted with the adjustment of a newborn and suffered from a lack of sleep and the responsibilities of being a new father. A third did call me, belated, while snow skiing. He was huffing and puffing while boot packing his way up the mountain for his first ski rendezvous of the season. His thoughts were about climbing to the top of a mountain, not my birthday. When you put yourself in other’s shoes you awaken to deeper understanding which creates room for compassion for the conditions you encounter in your world. Practice understanding.
3. Practice cultivating community. Most addicts struggle with creating harmony and awareness in a meaningful community. Addicts tend to isolate. If they do create community it is with those in the group that they can “relate” to. Everyone in a 12-step group is an addict. We all can relate to each other. Addicts tend to be rigid and unable to adjust or become flexible with who they connect to. A 12-step community is a good place to learn how to create connections with people you would normally not relate to. This exercise is a secret to long-term sobriety. It is important that an addict take with them the ability to create community wherever they go outside a 12-step room. While easier said than done, mature recovery goes beyond a 12-step room and includes vulnerable sharing with others engaged throughout the course of life. Developing community must become a priority for addicts in recovery.
Peace in the presence of turmoil can be achieved when addicts practice community in the highways and byways of their lives. It is anchored when addicts are true to themselves and deepened through understanding.