Your own mind is a sacred enclosure into which nothing harmful can enter except by your permission. – Arnold Bennett
One of the gifts of being sober is having the ability to feel a variety of feelings- happiness, joy, peace, serenity, anger, confusion, envy, fear- just to name a few. The beauty is that whatever I am feeling, I can recall why I am feeling what I am without the drinking shame, fear and resentment attached.It’s a “bare bones” kind of effect. Well, initially. I am getting pretty good at identifying the main feeling; then, I peel back the proverbial onion and see the sprouts, the roots, the core of what is really bothering me.
When I was drinking, pretty much everything was everybody else’s fault. I was a victim through and through; I was powerless in my life; everything was being done to me and there was nothing I could do about it. I was going to have to just accept the miserable life I was having: raising kids who didn’t appreciate me, teaching for pennies and feeling no gratification, being married to someone who just didn’t understand me and didn’t like deep, intellectual talks, being stuck going to a church I had to go due to the small town tradition. On and on. Over and over. It was truly madness. I had fallen so far into my addiction, I no longer believed a good, fruitful life was ever going to be mine. And even is it were possible or maybe within my reach, I sure as hell didn’t deserve anything good. One of my favorite lines was, “You just don’t understand.”
It’s hard to write those words because no matter how much work I do, how many recovery blogs I read, how many episodes of the Bubble Hour I listen to, (strongly recommend- particularly if you can’t make a meeting in person), how many times I reach out to my sponsor and sober community, I only need to scratch the surface and those feelings can come roaring back at full force. I need not dig deep to conjure up the feelings of disapproval and disgust. Despite how hard I have worked hard not to let my alcoholic mind take over, the creeping disdainful thoughts want to come in.
However, it’s so important that while I stay focused and accept myself where I am today, I do not amputate the old part of me. I am learning to explore all of my feelings- even the uncomfortable ones. And that is really the key: giving myself permission to feel my feelings. I’ve learned that giving myself the green light to sit with the thoughts for a bit, to breathe deeply, to center my mind, and then to be aware of what else my body is telling me to do all play a role in my recovery.
Another good part of remembering the past is to have a barometer of how far I have come. It’s hard to see how sick you are when you are sitting in the midst of it all. But to have the gift of time review is so helpful to me, especially on the days when I feel I have been stagnant. I can look at the old patterns of thought and see how I overdramatized situations, heightened the importance of my role, in order to justify how I was feeling.
Being vigilant of how I feel at any given moment is key to my sobriety. If I disengage myself from the “haters”, my mind is free to be filled with positive, happy energy. I am becoming aware of the energy I either have zapped out of me or flowing through me based upon the conversations I decide to engage in. For instance, if I know a particular coworker will be at the morning coffee klatch, I move on. I don’t have space in my mind to let her in with her trash. I can walk away today knowing that my mind is not a garbage can for others to dump into.
It’s liberating and it’s self care- two things before I began this journey (two years and four months ago today!) didn’t exist in my life.