I want recovery now!
The subconscious mind is a like a coach for our emotions. It is operating in the background training our conscious mind to react through the filter of the past.
The conscious is not aware of what the subconscious is doing. This lack of conscious focus can lead to some frustrating experiences. Especially in early recovery.
It can really set you up for disaster because anger, anxiety, and resentment is a part of long-term addiction, and to the subconscious, addiction does not just come out of a vacuum, in fact, there are many parts that contribute to it.
Now to a person who is not familiar with recovery they may think that addiction or alcoholism is a problem of willpower or a moral issue. However, this is not the case. As for me, I started drinking when I was 13, so you can guess my subconscious has been recording this shit show like an award winning documentary videographer, and along the way, my memories, beliefs, attitudes, and anxieties have been thoroughly edited for continuity and dramatized for effect.
So getting past the perfect storm of abuse from our past does not just happen automatically when we get sober, getting sober is the easy part. The hard part is sustaining and growing in recovery. To do this we have to really get a grasp on our subconscious mind. Because if there is a lifetime of limiting core beliefs from years of mental and physical abuse ingrained deep down in our psyche than our whole existence is going to be a nightmare.
That is why we reached for the drug or drink in the first place; to alleviate the pain and suffering. But, in the very process of that defense mechanism, we were setting ourselves up for uncontrollable addiction. So in order to have any success in recovery, we have to reprogram our subconscious.
One of my favorite quotes that perfectly explain what people in recovery go through is by the award winning author and comedian Russel Brand; he states,
“Drugs and alcohol are not my problems, reality is my problem”.
This is a common thread in the lives of alcoholics and addicts, because, reality as we see it, is a self-made construct. It’s fully dependent on our beliefs, attitudes, and emotions towards the present moment. Everyone knows Eckart Tolle’s book “The Power of Now”, but to get to that point we really have to understand the problem with now!
Now is great, and being in the present is amazing but there is this little thing called the monkey mind that interferes with the divine connection to our true selves. It’s called the monkey mind. That’s the problem with now.
The Monkey Mind of an addict or alcoholic in recovery
is the equivalent of Donkey Kong on Bath Salts!
According to Wikipedia, the monkey mind is a Buddhist term meaning “unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable”.
Yes, all adjectives that you would not want to put on your Tinder or Linked in profile. We all have the monkey mind. It’s an intrinsical part of being a human. What feeds this monkey… is our subconscious mind. And you better believe that this monkey is untamed, reactionary, and if not unchecked it will wreck your house or “recovery” like Donkey Kong on bath salts.
So, guess what? Now that we aware of the problem, how are we going to fix it? The first step in calming down this rampaging monkey is to be present in our reality without judgment. Yes, to be fully aware of your surroundings as if you were a new born baby. Imagine that, no labels, no formulated belief structures, no future worries and no past resentments.
Just a child like curiosity, or like Jason Silva states “Ecstatic Awe”, the ecstasy of being fully present, a child hood curiosity, it’s fucking brilliant don’t you think? We have to get past that inner critic which isolates us from being fully present. This same critic isolated me from writing this blog, but finally, through a few weeks of meditation and exercise, I am now able to get out this information and hopefully help someone along the way.
How do we distinguish the monkey mind from the truth? This is another question that has baffled me for years. I remember being in the rooms one time and my friend Robert explained the monkey mind perfectly.
“It’s like five am radio stations of negative self-talk going on at once in your head”…
It’s pretty much the psychological equivalent of fake news. So in order to get to the real source, the real journalistic truth of our souls. We have to search for it. We have to find another source. We also have to practice and learn discernment.
In the book “The Monkey Mind” by Daniel Smith: He say’s “The hard work, you discover over the years, is in learning to discern between correct and incorrect anxiety, between the anxiety that’s trying to warn you about a real danger and the anxiety that’s nothing more than a lying, sadistic, unrepentant bully in your head. The hard work is in learning to step back and analyze the data dispassionately.”
Check out the reviews of “The Monkey Mind- a memoir of anxiety” by clicking this link from Amazon, it’s an amazing read. If you buy it through here I will be paid a commission from your purchase.
This to me is discernment, the ability to recognize what is real fear and what is false fear. It’s also the ability to create a pause between reaction. Impulse control is vital in today’s society. Also, getting past fear is like my friend DJ says “it’s where the sugar is at”. I’m not talking about the five grams of sugar going into your coffee right now which is causing your insulin level to spike. I am talking about the sweet sugar of the state of being calm. So that we can respond to fear or anxiety in a proportionate positive action oriented way not reactionary.
Calm is a state of mind that is not normal for the newcomer in recovery, neither is it for someone with long term sobriety that drinks 5 cups of coffee a day and ingests over 100 grams of sugar. It’s just not something that is going to be achieved.
Now I think the most hardened warriors will agree that being calm or free from anxiety is crucial in a wartime environment, imagine if a team came into a hostile situation with self-conscious fear? They would be wiped out in seconds. This is why training is paramount to creating a response that is accurate and proportionate to the situation at hand.
When I read blogs by high achievers like Jaco Willink (who is also a retired navy seal) and a foremost authority on leadership, self-improvement, and personal development. He says “calm is contagious”, and describes that if a leader in a wartime environment is calm than his command will take the same approach. This is integral in any situation that requires leadership.
Onto the pragmatic truth of meditation and breathing and the power of the now…
I was in a meeting today and I was observing the body language of the people in the room. Shaking legs, fidgety hands, closed eyes, and closed body positions was the norm, as it always is. Now a body language expert or poker ace would have a field day in this room because these were all tell tale signs of fear. I love the acronym for fear that is used quite a lot in 12 step rooms “False experiences appearing real” this bare naked truth explains everything that’s in my article.
Amongst all of this nervousness and anxiety you could expect someone to react the same, but thanks to my meditation practice I was able to be aware of this and step out of it by focusing on my breath and calming my nervous system down. I was able to create a calm state in mind that unfortunately had no effect on the person next to me. God bless his soul( he is one of my dear friends in recovery) but his caffeine intake is probably nearing a lethal dose every day, and sugar is his best friend. I am not going to name any names but I hope if he reads this he will get a kick out of it.
Only one person in that meeting really said something that actually resonated with me. She said that people with trauma are shallow breathers and that she had to relearn how to breathe. Yes, I quietly shouted Eureka in my mind! That is so true.
Trauma is an almost always present in an addict’s life more so than the genetic component. A consistent traumatic lifestyle will create a hyper reactive response to outside stimuli and will create the stress hormone cortisol to be released in response to stimuli that is not a real threat but a perceived threat to our conscious mind. Fight or flight, right?
One of my favorite books about addiction that I think is required reading for every addict or alcoholic is Dr. Gabore Mate’s “The Realm of the Hungry Ghost”, this is where I first learned of the “Adverse Childhood Experience Score”, or ACE. This is a score that measures your propensity to many different types of addiction and disorders like depression, anxiety, stress, co-dependency, and body disorders. Mine ranges around 7-8 on a scale of 1-10, so yes it’s wasn’t unusual that I became an alcoholic who has a depressive/anxiety disorder to go along with it.
I am not helpless though! I have tools and I utilize them. One of my tools is mindfulness meditation which prepares me for the day. It get’s rid of the fear and anxiety that is like my good morning kiss from a damaged lover which I awake too everyday. It sets my day off right and gives me space in between the fear and truth. It’s integral in my recovery practice and it allows me to confront the day and to be present of the insane chaos of the monkey mind.
I didn’t just start this practice automatically. In the beginning of my practice I could only have about thirty seconds of peace but the more I engage in a consistent practice and gradually increase my intervals. Now, I am up to 15 minutes but still, I am only able to really have about 2 minutes of quiet but that is like an eternity in the daily theater that we call life.
If this resonates with you please share it with your friends, on other blogs, or your social media. Comment’s are welcomed and encouraged also! Also, check out my about me page to understand where I am coming from and my experiences that have led me to write this blog.
Sat Nam, Namaste, and Peace be with you!