After slips and relapses, I knew enough that I was not going to be able to sustain drinking. And I didn’t want to. I desperately wanted to not drink alcohol. But I often found myself drinking, sometimes crying while I lifted the bottle.
I was searching for a spiritual solution… for a sense of peace and tranquility. I wanted to create a life where I didn’t crave the oblivion of alcohol. I desperately needed to integrate the vision I had for my life with thoughtful actions. In my mind’s eye, I meditated daily. I was part of a recovery community that utilized mindfulness techniques in order to heal. I did yoga almost daily. In reality, none of those things were happening. Today, all of those things happen. And when I go inside through meditation and yoga to listen to my inner voice and often connect to a divine silence, I find peace, reflection, tranquility and inspiration. I can say I am finally the friend to myself I desperately needed.
Where I live, there were a couple meditation meetings for recovery going. They are still active today. I attend one almost weekly. It is not attached to a recovery program. We sit in meditation together, for around twenty minutes. A seed thought is read, most often a quote regarding addiction by Pema Chodron. After the guided meditation, we comment on the seed thought and/or share where we are today, what we are feeling. It’s lovely and welcoming. The feeling of sitting in meditation with others in different stages of recovery instills me with the abiding calm I had been craving. There is something about listening to my inner voice in the company of my tribe that centers me.
I knew I wanted to base my recovery around meditation, and I needed a program to do so. I did a lot of research on the internet, and I found the Refuge Recovery program. The closest meeting in my area was 60 miles away. Ever thankful for the “sober web,” I posted the question gauging interest in starting a Refuge Recovery meeting here in Chicago on several recovery groups and forums I frequent. Boom. Instantaneous. By happy fortune, I heard a lead that week in a 12-step meeting where the young man spoke of the importance of meditation in his recovery. I asked him if he had heard of Refuge Recovery, and he was very familiar with it, as he had meditated with the founder, Noah Levine, and held a similar desire to have meetings like that in our area.
My job was to connect interested people. The recovery community came together in assisting us with a donated space for the meeting and support. It has been an instant success, and now we are up to four meetings weekly in the city with a growing sangha, meetings growing in the suburbs, and tons of enthusiasm and support for each other walking a Buddhist path to recovering from addiction.
To be a tiny speck in this process because I was hungry for internal peace fills me with a quiet happiness- it was the true embodiment of being one ripple.. it was the true manifestation of having a beginner’s mind. I knew nothing except I wanted more of what I felt in the meditation meetings for recovery I had been attending. People in the recovery and Buddhist community, each holding a bit of knowledge or experience the others perhaps did not possess, came together in a fluid and cooperative dance in order to form this sangha together, and to share healing with anyone searching recovery in our area.
Another way I incorporate meditation into my daily recovery work came to me through Hip Sobriety school, run by Holly Glenn Whitaker. I cannot recommend her program enough, which delves into neuroplasticity, nutrition, creating a nurturing home environment and so many other delicious facets in order to find, maintain, augment and blossom recovery. Holly took me from sober to thriving. I adore her generosity of spirit and knowledge. She is a kundalini yoga teacher, and we were taught meditations and encouraged to begin a daily practice. I remember how happy I was to brag I had begun a daily meditation practice. Of three whole minutes at first! I am still happy to be a beginner, and to delight in every little new thing, I learn about meditation and mindfulness. Hip Sobriety school isn’t free, but it came out to a minuscule percentage of what I was spending on using. It was unquestionably worth it for me to attend.
The last tool I currently use for meditation is a free app I am enamored with called the Insight Timer. It is completely free, and full of guided meditations regarding any aspect you can think of where you may seek peace and healing. You can also customize your own meditation timers, with bells, ambient sounds and duration. I am currently doing the 365 Days meditation challenge with 50,000 other people committed to sitting in meditation every day of 2017. The 20/20 Meditate for Peace series by Michelle Zarrin kicked us off and taught me how to sit for twenty minutes, adding one minute a day. It was a gentle and peaceful way to build my practice. There are several meditations for recovery in the app, and you can track your activities such as yoga, healing, breathing, chanting and others. I find the tracking charts highly beneficial as a person in recovery who struggles with negative self-talk. I can reference my activities on the app and recalibrate my thoughts, knowing I am actively contributing daily to my serenity. There are several opportunities to create and participate in sangha through accepting and sending friend requests and joining groups that pertain to your interests. There are Refuge Recovery groups on there!
Finally, I have been developing and maintaining a home yoga practice through Yoga with Adriene. The way she teaches and speaks has brought me to a place where I can practice yoga almost daily and not resent it. I am encouraged to Find What Feels Good and gently explore where I am daily. The videos are generally a half hour long, which is helpful for me as I am slowly working on increasing stamina in recovery. Her 31 Day Revolution, Yoga Camp and many other videos are free of charge. Adriene is simply wonderful, and I encourage you to check her out on YouTube.
My internal landscape is now rich, full, interesting and frankly, I would call it glorious. This is coming from someone who used to live in active addiction, in immense pain and suffering every negative emotional consequence you can imagine, or perhaps you have experienced. My life is not very easy and I have to apply concerted effort daily in order to maintain equilibrium and to remind myself to simply be in this present moment. I have come so far and I have truly found the refuge in recovery.