I know that this is a mad thing to say, but in a way I have always felt a little bit lucky to have been through everything I have been through. Don’t get me wrong, it was completely awful at the time, yet when I came out the other end, I realised how much I had learnt and how that knowledge could help me to be a little closer to the person I wanted to be. It has helped me to build the life I do not want to escape from.
When I was trying to quit drinking I would say to my husband that not drinking was the last big battle I needed to fight. I had overcome depression, stopped smoking, survived a breakdown, been through divorce and started to heal my life. I was so frustrated that after everything I had overcome I still couldn’t beat alcohol.
My previous posts have covered a lot of ground on why this was the case:
- The reasons we start and continue drinking are covered in Why do people drink
- Why those reasons are NOT TRUE is looked at in How to beat the alcohol illusion
- The difficulty of breaking the alcohol habit is discussed in Am I an alcoholic?
- And how to change those habits is covered in How to stop alcohol cravings
My last post, How I used alcohol to escape, looked at what I was trying to escape from.
The fact is that most of us, at some point, feel the need to escape from something. A mid-life crisis is a well-known example of this. People get on, living the life they ‘should’ live, having the babies, the jobs, the houses, earning the money, working all hours for children and then to save for retirement. It can be so easy to slip into this cycle, never really questioning whether it is what you want and whether you are happy. Then as children grow up and middle age comes, people become aware of their age and mortality, aware of the dreams they may not have fulfilled, the limitations that have been on their lives. If you’ve never questioned it before, I imagine it can come as a huge shock – leading to all the desperate attempts to regain youth and opportunity.
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I think my problem was that I was aware of all of this far too early!! My family used to like debating, and a common topic of debate was death, the apocalypse, politics, religion and wars. I was far too young to understand that all of this stuff is what has occurred throughout history, I interpreted it as meaning it was all happening tomorrow. So I always felt a pressure to do everything NOW.
I now have a massive issue with quotes like ‘live life as if there is no tomorrow’, ‘live life to the full’ and ‘carpe diem’.
Because while they might inspire people who are cruising through life, I was never cruising. I was striving, fighting, trying to fit everything into every day, trying to achieve everything as quickly as I could. As I discussed previously, these grand plans were often unrealistic within the time frame I wanted, leading to frustration and disappointment. I then drank to deal with those feelings, to dream that I could achieve everything I wanted to quickly, to hide from the fact that I might die tomorrow not having achieved or seized the day! The more I became embedded in life, work and children the more I felt that I couldn’t achieve what I wanted to with each day, so the harder I fought, the more frustrated I became and the more I wanted to drink to escape.
If you have a propensity towards cruising, the take those quotes on board, but if you are like me, step away from them quickly!
Ultimately, I was terrified of dying not having lived. All those dreams as a young person: the charity jobs, the travelling, the adventures, the excitement and glamour seemed further and further away, so I fought harder.
My favourite Dalai Lama quote, when he was asked what surprised him most about humanity, was this: “Man! Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
This quote applies to cruisers and fighters alike. We get so bogged down in doing what we ‘should’ do that we forget ourselves. No one is a machine. We expect so much from ourselves; working, being a good parent, being fit and healthy, managing a household and being good friends. I have talked about how difficult this it can be, especially in our current society, where people try to juggle it all with less family and less community for support.
What we forget in all of this is that we have the right to look after ourselves. We deserve to live a life that we want to live.
However, neither cruising nor fighting is going to get you that life.
Firstly, many of us do not believe that we have the right to look after ourselves or put to our needs as a priority. We struggle with feelings of inadequacy, and a lack of self-worth and validity. This is such a huge and important topic that I am going to talk about it in my next post, where I will talk you through changing your thoughts to improve your sense of self-worth. As we looked at in my last post, this lack of self-worth will often lead us to sabotage the steps we do take, so we need to stop this cycle in order to move towards the life we want.
For now, back to why you need to stop fighting your way through life.
I found that by fighting to achieve the life I wanted, I ended up micromanaging every tiny aspect of my life. There was no ‘going with the flow’ or ‘see where life takes you’. Every second of my time was planned in the fear that life wouldn’t progress if I didn’t make it.
I remember my sister telling me about the states of consciousness which are To me, By Me, Through me and As me. Later, I will write about them in depth because they are amazing and very relevant to your journey. But basically it is as follow:
- To me – life happens to you
- By Me – I make life happen
- Through me – you let go on control and work with life
- As me – A deeper state of consciousness and understanding of the universe – peace, freedom, enlightenment
I was most definitely in the BY ME category. I was going to make sure life happened and that I was in control and didn’t miss anything.
An example was that I used to plan the after school time precisely. There’s a lot to do in that time so I thought if I planned food time, homework time, family time, bath time, bed time, story time, get stuff ready for next day time and My Love and I time, then I would have the evenings I wanted to have. But it doesn’t work like that and so I would get frustrated when the plan wasn’t followed, anxious because I felt out of control, snappy at the boys and My Love and then resentful because after all my hard work planning, I still didn’t have the lovely family evening I wanted.
As this shows, micromanaging your life doesn’t actually work. Although I got A LOT done, I was never really happy doing it. I felt satisfied when I had ticked something off my to-do list, but had I actually enjoyed the process and was my to-do list any shorter than it previously had been? Most of the time, no. Anything I actually wanted to do was usually shoved to the side because, as any parent knows, your to do list rarely has anything but ‘jobs’ on it.
When I used to get the odd bit of spare time, once The Bot and The Bear were at school, before The Baby arrived, I would fill that gap with studying or yoga classes or planning the future. Anything I did with that time had to be part of a future plan otherwise I would be wasting the precious free time I had. I couldn’t do a yoga class for the joy of yoga, I had to do it as part of a plan to become a yoga teacher. I still don’t know if this was to validate my time, because I felt I had to justify my right to time to myself, or whether it was frantically grabbing at any opportunity for the future in case it disappeared.
Micromanaging my life left me frustrated, dissatisfied, entrenched in my rut and no further towards the life I wanted to live.
No wonder I thought I wanted that temporary release of alcohol and the fuzzing of reality just to allow myself to lose control for a moment.
Things started to change after I read Deepak Chopra’s book The Seven Laws of Spiritual Success. It’s a tiny book and can be read in an hour, but the power of his words hit me like a tsunami! I will write a post later going into more depth about this book because it is SO POWERFUL! A lot of what he says resonates with other amazing books like The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and You can Heal your life, by Louise Hay.
He says that our present is a result of our conscious or unconscious thoughts. Everything in our lives now is happening because we wanted it to happen. Now DON’T FREAK OUT! Bear with me, and Deepak! I was so pissed off with this thought but I had heard it before. The idea that I had created my own unhappiness when I had fought and planned so hard not to get the happy life I wanted was frankly insulting. Yet he is completely right. I had not trusted in life, I was convinced I was going to be hit by a bus tomorrow, convinced there was no greater power and that I had to create the life I wanted. My thought pattern had created the life I was now living.
However, wonderfully, we can change those patterns and change the course of our lives. We can change our thoughts to create the life we want (much more on this next post). We have to consciously change negative thought cycles. My thoughts were telling me that I had no value and that I needed to justify my life. Just being me and enjoying life was not enough. Whereas, Deepak Chopra says that by doing this I was ‘stopping the flow of energy’.
So the theory goes that the energy of the universe is all around. We have to let go of control and let the universe step in to do the work (this is the THROUGH ME part of the states of consciousness).
While consciously changing our thoughts, we have to create quiet time for our minds to set our intentions for the future. These are the ‘what I want my life to look like’ thoughts. Our minds need to be still as, to paraphrase was he says, if we drop a pebble in a quiet pond you can see the effect of the ripples, but if you drop it in a stormy ocean, the universe won’t notice a thing! Once we have set our intention, we have to let go of trying to control how we get there (the planning part) and trust in the universe to control how we get there.
This frees up your time and mind to focus on the baby steps you need to take to activate change in your life. These baby steps, as I have talked about before, are the foundations to getting the life you want. Big dramatic goals lead to failure and frustration, so entrust those goals to the universe and work on you in the now.
Having just watched the new Men in Black film, I heard a quote that I used to know well but had forgotten, by Chinese Philosopher Lao Tzu –
‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step’
Try to search inside yourself for what you are unhappy with or afraid of, or what negative thoughts are holding you back. Pick one thing at a time to change. Focus on taking steps towards changing that thing. The more you practice changing your thoughts, your habits and your behaviours, the easier it becomes to tackle more than one thing at once.
My formula goes:
Small & Realistic steps = Sustainable = Big changes = Dream fulfilment
I know it’s a silly analogy, but I was watching The Baby trying to get undressed the other day and it struck me how true my formula is for everything in life. He desperately wanted his bath, he loves water and the sooner he is in it the happier he is. His goal was that bath. But he was so desperate to get into the bath that he was trying to pull everything off at once. He was getting into a tangle, falling over and crying with frustration. Eventually I said ‘Stop!!’ Take one thing off at a time. He looked at me, took each item of clothing off individually and quickly got into the bath. ONE SMALL THING AT A TIME!! Brilliant!!
One of the most amazing parts of my formula is that by taking these steps, you also learn to love your present. Loving your present does not, as I thought it did, mean denying your dreams. It just means entrusting those dreams to the universe and working on your present. Being happy in the present is like exponential growth. The happier you are in the present and the more you trust in the universe, the more amazing your life will become – probably different and better than the one you expected!
You are building a life you DO NOT WANT TO ESCAPE FROM!
Please do not think that this all airy fairy rosy nonsense that is far from reality. I am not saying this happens without a little effort (this is why you can’t be a cruiser either!) and I am not saying that you will not have days when you think it is all rubbish and you want to jack it all in – my sister has requested a ‘furious sober yoga mummy’ posts which will be forthcoming! I have had stretches of time where I’m feeling OK so my naughty brain slips back into habit mode and starts planning – queue worry, frustration and dissatisfaction. Then I eventually realise what’s happening, and bring myself back round to letting go of control again.
Whether this is before you stop drinking or finding the life you want after you stop drinking, just remember that like anything, it’s being conscious and aware of what is happening in your mind that allows you to make the small changes you need to build the life you do not want to escape from.