I don’t know about you, but in my active addiction days I lived by an all or nothing motto. And that was not just regarding my substances of choice. It spanned every conceivable compartment in my life from exercise, food and even cleaning my house. Everything was to the max and extreme. It had to be bigger, better, faster and shinier. Ultimately though, as many of you will relate to, none of that made me happy and just completely depleted me of my life essence. Nothing was ever enough to quench the constant search for happiness and contentment. No person place or thing could fill that void inside that seemed, on a daily basis, to just get bigger and bigger.
So as much as we would all love to have a team of highly skilled and highly paid professionals to help us along our way, as people like Lindsey Lohan do, the fact is that most of us are struggling to get money together to feed ourselves – especially in early recovery. So life coaches and personal trainers for me come under the heading of mythical creatures, perhaps that I may have hallucinated about while high. But being the ever adaptable and creative girl I am, I decided I would become my own recovery coach. Below are some of the things I have had to change and adopt just to become functional and somewhat sane.
1. Abstinence: Ok so for an alkie/addict/co-dependent/depressed drama queen such as myself, nothing was ever going to change if I didn’t stop ingesting chemicals. These pesky collection of elements and scientific molecules enabled me to live in LaLa land and basically exist in a parallel universe of my own making. Yes I had to stop EVERYTHING and so will you!
2. Support: When the fog of addiction had lifted just a little bit and my head was actually clear enough for me to see out my own eyes, I realized that most of the people I was accustomed to having around had pretty much run for the hills. Those that remained were having their own crisis trying to figure out who this non intoxicated person was standing in front of them. It seemed however that I was even crazier than when I was drinking. People were at a loss to know how to help or even know how to be around me most of the time. Many of us feel very alone when we decide to seek recovery. Most of our family and friends do not understand or know what to do so we must seek help elsewhere. I chose 12 step programs. What can I say – I’m a huge fan. They saved my life and opened up a whole new world that I never knew existed. Of course there are other recovery programs available and new ones being developed all the time. Find one that appeals to you. Believe me you will need it.
3. Meditation: If there is one thing that I would recommend to absolutely everyone I meet as a method to improve your life in every aspect, in recovery or not, it would be to practice meditation. Learning to meditate has been as important and beneficial to me as going through the 12 steps with a sponsor. It has improved my mental health (although some would disagree with that statement), physical health, sleep patterns and basically given me a new sense of reality and direction. If you are looking for a road to a spiritual life and an understanding of a Higher Power – meditation is the way. Meditation enables me to pray with sincerity and honesty. As with everything I do, I of course jumped headlong into meditation thinking I could sit for an hour in peaceful contemplation. Eh yeah – didn’t work like that. I started with 5 minutes because that’s all I could manage. I now meditate daily for 20 minutes as that’s all my monkey brain can cope with. Someday I will manage that hour. If you need some guidance on how to meditate you need go no further than our very own In The Rooms, where the wonderful Philly T offers guided meditation on Wednesdays at 9pm EST. If you can’t make that I recommend Deepak Chopra guided meditations until you can manage it by yourself.
4. Stop waiting: Ah yes. I was and still can be an expert at the waiting game. Waiting for the right time to stop drinking, ask for help or indeed to meditate. Waiting for the right man to come along, the right job or whatever else was keeping me stuck in the hell I was in. Of course we must learn patience. Often we find that waiting for the results of the work we put into our recovery is intolerable. Such is the nature of the addict. However, waiting to take the necessary actions to improve our lives will only prolong the pain. The minute we take that first step the transformation begins. Our recovery develops without us even noticing sometimes. For me that first step hasn’t stopped gathering momentum and life is indeed improving.
5. Comparing: “Comparison is an act of violence against the self – Iyanla Vanzant. Just stop it immediately. Please. This was one of the most destructive patterns I had. I compared myself to everything and everyone and it left me with nothing but a constant assault of negative self talk and destruction of my soul. “I’m fatter than her, I can’t write like him, she is a far better mother than me.” And it went on and on even when I wasn’t fully conscious of it. I literally had to retrain my brain to not have those thoughts. I have my own attributes and fine qualities but boy did it take a lot of work for me to even begin to think that I had anything good about me. I had to go as far as to stop buying magazines because my comparing myself to impossibly beautiful people triggered eating disorders. You have so many wonderful and beautiful attributes. Give yourself a chance to learn what they are and fully appreciate them. There is no one else like you!
6. Nutrition: I hate to be such a bore but you really are what you eat. Every cell in your body is renewed by the food you eat and personally food that is full of chemicals makes my body very sick. I may have mentioned this before, but my body does not tolerate chemicals very well. I’ve even started to make my own household cleaners with lemon juice and baking soda. I don’t even use shop bought beauty products but make my own from natural oils. When I say I’m super sensitive I mean it – in every aspect. Eating clean, natural, chemical free wholesome food is a must for me. There was a time food was my enemy. Every gram of fat and calorie was controlled and even then every mouthful I ate produced such guilt in me that it was hardly worth eating at all. What I eat has a profound affect not only on my physical health but also on my mental and emotional health. I also take supplements such as vitamin B complex, omega 3 fish oils and the herb Rhodiola, all of which help with my addict brain and my tendency towards depression.
7. Exercise: Ok I know you are losing the will to live now, but really exercise is so vitally important for everyone and especially for those of us in recovery. I’m not talking about becoming an Olympian here, although that may be quite achievable for some of you. I’m just talking about movement to keep your wonderful body functioning as best it can. I was once a gym fanatic, sometimes going twice a day when I was really nuts. There was no possible way I could be thin enough. I would exercise until I was so dizzy and exhausted that I could barely stand up. You really do want to avoid that level of insanity. Unfortunately body image plays a big part in social acceptance. If you are pretty and thin or handsome and buff you are seen as special and privileged. It doesn’t matter what’s underneath to those who admire you. But that is just so wrong. Everyone is beautiful when we love who we are and appreciate individuality and diversity. There is something so beautiful about every person I see and usually what will attract me is not how you look but the energy you give off (unless your Johnny Depp in your Pirates of the Caribbean costume – then I’m taking you home). And while I’m sure the pirated suited Johnny could give me an excellent workout, my favorite way to exercise is hiking and yoga. I love being outside and in nature and I love the holistic effect yoga has on my whole being. If you’re not into sweating it out on the treadmill give those a try.
8. Love: I have learned in recovery that love is not merely a feeling or a word, it is an action. It is reaching a hand out to someone who needs help. It is saying sorry even when our pride wont allow it. It is accepting someone’s flaws – not particularly liking them but accepting them – and loving that person anyway. It is showing appreciation towards those who love and care for you by loving them in return. It’s making sacrifices so the other person can feel special. And most importantly for me it is loving myself by practicing self care so that nobody has to constantly worry about me.
While I would love to proclaim that I practice all these things religiously, the truth is I don’t. There are days where I will eat a large bar of chocolate all by myself or be too tired to cook something from scratch so order pizza instead. There are days I get up and I hate my c-section scar and the fact my tummy isn’t flat anymore from having two children. I have bad hair days and days I’m so depressed that I am mad at God and refuse to meditate – because I think I’m hurting Him/Her/It. Days like those days are part of being human and I’m learning to embrace them as whole heartedly as the good ones. Eventually doing those things that make you feel good will just become your routine and very soon you will notice that the good days outweigh the bad. Let today be the day that you do something good for yourself and make one small positive change. You are so worth it.
This article was first published in Iloverecovery.com where you can find more of Nicky O
Content Originally Published By: Nicky O @ Iloverecovery.com