For as long as I can remember, my life was fundamentally altered and eventually comforted by chaos. If chaos did not physically surround me, it was ever present within my thinking. I was five years old when I had my first encounter with trauma. Trauma eventually became a common theme for my life. I even began seeking it out. Over time, the pain I was experiencing became too much. I couldn’t find enough codependent relationships, spend enough money, eat enough comfort food, read enough books, seek enough validation, or indulge in any activity to relieve my insanity.
My mother passed away unexpectedly and that’s when I began indulging in opiates. I was prescribed opiates for a chronic kidney disease—how convenient. I was able to maintain for a while until the oblivion I was chasing could no longer be satisfied by substances. Running out of options and looming legal consequences brought me to my knees. I knew something had to give.
Stepping into treatment, I was convinced I was entering a cult of some sort. How were these people so happy? I vividly remember the first time I was introduced to meditation, envisioning Buddha, in the lotus position, making weird humming noises. I wasn’t convinced that meditation would work for me. We were instructed to SIT STILL for five minutes and “just be.” At this point, I knew this must have been initiation day, a cult-like ritual mimicking the “kool-aid.”
The corny timer bell chimed and the guide on the tape led us into a field, bringing awareness to every inch of our physical bodies. I found myself distracted by the slightest sounds and thoughts of evening plans flooded my mind. Frustrated and seemingly defeated, the meditation guide calmly said, “Don’t let your thoughts distract and frustrate you, let them freely come and go.” Trivial as this statement may sound, the entire experience shifted. I was welcoming my thoughts to operate freely and my willingness cultivated space to clear my thoughts.
I would cringe every time I heard this word. I naturally had this misconception that to surrender was a sign of weakness. My distaste for authoritative figures and ideas played a major role in my prejudice against this concept. Practicing surrender, especially up against this ravishing disease, exemplifies courage over weakness. I was convinced that I wasn’t like ‘them.’ I didn’t have a real problem. Surrounded by addicts whose experience differed from mine, I immediately isolated myself. After all, I was a victim—I was actually suffering from chronic pain and my diagnosis came from a family-trusted specialist. I maintained the delusion that I was not like them. I am prescribed opiates—I need them.
My rebellious perceptions ultimately led to my relapse. I was thoroughly convinced I could “drink like a lady.” My defiance propelled me right back into full-blown addiction. I had to fully surrender myself to the stark reality that I was no different than the next addict. The blissful promises of recovery met me in the obedience of my surrender. In order to be freed from addiction (or the bondage of my indisposed thoughts), I have to continuously surrender to an entirely new way of life.
When I look back at the last two years of my life and the lives of those that journey down the road of recovery, I see how much more pleasant the outcome is when I accept people, places, and things exactly as they are. I have been driven by the idea that if other people in my life would conduct themselves the way I saw fit, things would go much smoother. The reality is, everyone else was not the problem, I was.
Practicing acceptance, in all of my affairs, has been most successful when it follows suit to surrender. At least once a day, I encounter a situation that doesn’t align with my plan of action. When I refuse to accept things as they are, chaos ensues. From the aggressive drivers on my commute to work to the unplanned cancer diagnosis of a family member, there’s an overwhelming weight and stress lifted when I accept the outcome of any and all circumstances looming over me.
Taking time to quiet the noise and calm the chaos, meditation has become a huge asset to my daily routine. How easy it is to get caught up in the painful memories of the past and obsess over the anxieties of the future. At times I still allow chaos to overwhelm me, rather than shifting my energy into a peaceful solution. One day at a time. It seems so simple, yet my unhealthy habits and seemingly involuntary thinking say otherwise.
The core issue of an addict is the fundamental inability to process emotion. I was always seeking an ‘easier, softer way’ to change the way I was feeling. Mindfulness meditation has been an ever-evolving practice that I turn to when I find myself drowning in irritability, restlessness, and discontentment.
Meditation requires surrender and acceptance of what was, what is, and what’s to come. Practicing meditation has taught me how to pause before reacting. Before I indulge in committing to any major decision, I try to pray and wait quietly, anticipating a response. Through the practice of mindfulness meditation, a connective awareness has been established. Today I am able to reflect on how my actions may affect others and ultimately I am able to avoid an abundance of unnecessary pain.