I came across a new blog the other day, Craig over at Inward Bloom. His post, Right now you don’t have any problems, reminded me of how important staying in the moment was early in my recovery. Hang on, let me rephrase that, to say the power of staying in the moment was important is an understatement, more precisely it was critical, crucial, possibly life saving. Even today the ability to bring myself back into the moment is a vital ingredient of my inner-peace, serenity, and spiritual growth. For in this moment, everything is OK, it’s the projections I spin out into the future or regrets of the past that compromise my serenity.
Once a month for the last three years, I have been blessed with the chance to return to the alcohol treatment center where I was a patient and share my experience, strength, and hope with the current patients. One of the things I share is the importance and power of staying in the moment. Let me tell you, it is one of the hardest things to learn how to do. I remember counselors telling me over and over, “you think too much Jared, you need to stay out of your head.” Well that’s great advice and all, but how the heck do I do that? One nugget of simple advice I remember which did help, and was something I could take action on was, “if you do go in your head, don’t stay long and take someone with you.”
So I learned that by having someone go with me as I went rummaging around in my guilt and fear, they could provide me with a way back out into reality, back into the now where everything is OK. So how do you take someone with you into your thoughts? Simple, you share what you’re feeling and thinking with someone else. Preferable someone who is not emotionally invested in the outcome of your situation, someone who can provide you with a different perspective or more precisely, reality. When I am so deeply attached emotionally to a thought or feeling, it often gets distorted from what it truly is. It feeds off itself, and unless I have someone there to pull me out, back into reality, I run the risk of getting stuck there.
When I entered treatment as a result of my last bottom, the only choice I had made up to that point was to live. As a result of that choice, and the difficulty I had in making it, I was prepared to do whatever it took to get well. Part of the difficulty in making the decision to live, was the guilt and remorse of my past and the fear of the future. If I was to survive, I had to find a way to keep my mind off the failure I had become and the insurmountable mountain of a life that lay before me. I’m not sure if someone in treatment suggested it, or I figure it out on my own (doubtful), but I begin to use a technique of staying in the moment to survive. The technique was reminding myself that everything was OK in this moment, it sounded something like this:
Stop right now in this moment, look around yourself, get a sense of your surroundings and where you are at physically. Who is there, what are they doing and what are you doing? Is the sky falling? Realize that in this instant, right now, you are surrounded by people who will help you if you ask and everything, in this moment, is OK.
“What was has nothing at all to do with what is.”
-Craig from Inward Bloom
For me to survive I had to keep it simple. I learned that when I was surrounded by caring, supportive people who understood what I was going through, I was happy. I laughed with them and we shared stories about ourselves that others would not understand or would possibly find funny. We learned how to laugh at ourselves and our tragedies; we learned how to help each other stay in the moment. I would remember that feeling of happiness; and when the darkness and despair would start to descend again, I would think back about when I had felt it before, and what I had done to feel better—then I would do that, that which made me feel better last time. And if there was no one around to help me, I would stop where I was, look around, and tell myself that in that moment, everything was OK. I was alive, I was breathing, I was not in any immediate danger, no creditors were calling and I was not hurting anyone else.
As I progressed in recovery, this process became a little more natural. Today I practice this technique often, not as a response to a feeling of despair, but to remind myself of what is really important in my life; the people and relationships around me. I especially use this technique to get connected spiritually. I stop, get centered in the moment, and ask God for guidance throughout my day.
It works, it really does.
photo credit: G a r r y