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Recovery and Rehabilitation
Looking back, my life has seemed to be on a gradual decline with social anxiety and a general unhappiness being my main focus for the last 25 years or more. I maintained friendships somehow as my anxiety kept driving me away from anything but the minimum of social contact. I eventually succeeded about 3 years ago as I had barely seen the friends I'd had for 20 years for about 2 years. I had gotten into spirituality and found I was isolating myself more and more except for going to work. My personality as it were was disappearing and just felt like a dull shell as my work mates went about their lives.
I used to go walking in the hills alone hoping for a respite from my ever chattering negative thoughts and the times when the biting wind and rain silenced my mind were bliss. About 2 1/2 years ago I reached the top of a hill I was climbing and sat down and realised I had no friends, no girlfriend, I have always had a problem with relationships and have been with some great women but my anxiety couldn't handle it. (Bear with me it does get better... ha, ha). I had nothing to say to people as I was doing nothing, even to my family.
I was at my lowest ebb and in searching the web I found John's website and gave it a go. Well, for a couple of months after, I had some really really low moments but they passed and then I felt like life had decided to stick its boot up my arse . I gave away all my spiritual books to the charity shop and stopped searching for others. I decided to take up golf lessons just to try something new and get out of the house.
It was at about this same time one of my old friends appeared at my door for the first time in over 2 years. It was uncanny as he liked playing golf too, so we decided to have a game.
From there I began going out with my old friends again. Don't get me wrong, all my anxieties didn't just disappear but they are gradually diminishing .The first sign I noticed was that whenever I seemed to meet anyone or even hear a sound, a knot immediately appeared in my stomach. After a while, I realised that wasn't happening anymore.
As these anxieties disappear I find I can talk to the neighbours and not worry about what they think of me if the usual small talk is a struggle and also allows room for me to relax more and conversation happens easier.
I have also joined the local squash club and even played for their league team last night. Sitting on that hill a few years ago I wouldn't have believed I could spend an evening with a group of people I don't really know that well and feel welcome.
My friend in work also asked if I'd play for the local bowls team. He'd asked a few years ago but then there was no way. But this time I decided to play. It's as if the anxiety has disappeared and a "I'll give it a go" attitude has appeared.
I always use that hilltop moment as a reference point in my progress because you start doing things that seem to be no big thing now and so you easily overlook the fact that sitting on that hill these things at the time seemed completely impossible. So I would highly recommend you also find a reference point.
I haven't got a girlfriend yet and I know that when that happens and I feel comfortable in that relationship that for me will be total confirmation that this has healed my mind.
I have never felt so excited about the future knowing that, after 25 years or more of unhappiness, after such a short space of time all the things that have been holding me back are falling away and my personality is freeing itself from the shackles of fear. I can't wait to see what unfolds.
Thank you John and Carla for everything.
Thank you Paul moonmonkey,
I have been creating unique guitar pieces for many years but have had a very difficult time sharing them in a live performance scenario.
Despite my fear I have gone out to open mics over the last year or so and faced this anxiety.
I found that my fear has left at times and then it comes back.
After doing the self looking act a few weeks ago I still feel anxiety with performing but I can focus on my breath and begin to understand that it is a self defence mechanism based on a fear of the unknown(future/criticism/lack of attention)which could also be seen as a unhappy persona agenda.
Life seems to be full of distractions that, if paid attention to, have the possibility to cause depression and a lack of self-confidence.
This self-looking brings one back to the radical root source of who you are in its simplest form.
Nice posts! Welcome to the forum, moonmonky and Ian.
Thank you for these posts. I'm happy for you, Paul. I've been in a similar situation regarding socialising with people. I don't feel very anxious around people, but I don't find them interesting, which might be some kind of defence. Still, I've had good times among people during recent weeks. Just last week I had my friend visiting with her lovely 1 year old boy who's full of curiosity and life in general, and he is such a delight to watch, as he goes about his life with a lovely smile. It's easy to fall in love with such creatures.
I think my time having a baby of my own has passed, but I do wish I could still have a relationship. I just don't feel very hopeful about it. But if I too develop in a way you described there might even be a chance, in principle.
Ian, I can see how overcoming performance anxiety is important to your art form. I don't think I could ever play for an audience even if I could play something. My art has been painting and I wish I got it back. I've been paralysed with meaninglessness. If one only lives for oneself and feels no connection to anything or anybody, there's no point in art either, in my mind. I'm being constantly told how talented or skilful or some such thing I am and that I should be making art, not mopping floors, but it's hard to explain that life means nothing to me and there's no energy for painting.
It's a nearly constant mind-numbing torture to live on in this isolation where nothing means much and life often feels like a overrated affair or plain error and deception. What's all the fuss? Besides, if this is a world where little innocent creatures like small boys and girls get horrible sicknesses and are victims of violence, it seems to me that it would a duty for all of us to hastily exit this world if not for anything else as a protest for such a God that allows it all. And do it over and over again if we are reborn and never give up.
If my mind can change on this, I welcome it. I can see the mechanism how this could change, but so far it persists. I can see how suffering is part of this world, and how those little children bravely go through it, and we with them, and it's all life, not too big a deal should be made of it with our suffering imaginations. Just momentary suffering in a basically benign Universe. I hope it can be true. There are billions of other mes here, so if one misses life entirely, there are others who don't. That's a kind of consolation.
Three months in and today's word for me is patience. My personality and the world of interacting it has always reacted to continue to stir things up. Feeling less at stake but not always all that less. Still quick to draw my sword. The natural state is there/happening/evident at more and more times but I think in some ways it is too much void too soon or perhaps the reptilian brain isn't convinced at all time. Especially when something is considered threatening. But I am standing my ground/stating my point without getting anywhere as angry. I am looking for sanity. This is a good thing. I am looking and this is great. Started looking in front of myself as well. If that makes sense. It's not really all that distinct and like John says, there is no boundary to your mind. And he says not to fetishize the looking. Patience. Things are making more sense while at the same time the mind is becoming ok with knowing it cannot know. At least it can't know using the terms it is used to manipulating. The looking presents the mind with a convincing argument, a testimony to what it has always been witnessing so the jury slowly rests. But like most courts, it takes a long time. And the seating sucks. And you have to show respect to certain people or else.
Ok, now I'm just having fun as my coffee has started to kick in.
As the anxiety drops out I get this periodic sense of time stopping. Well, it's not like time actually stops but without the ongoing mental churning and posturing the effect is like the world slows down and some areas seems to just stop. I had been living in such a ramped-up make-believe world.
This recovery is quite something. The fact that commentary about it is challenging and lacking in depth is testament to the mind's limits, the same mind we previously put all our chips on to save us.
I must report that I'm noticing (how can you not) that some of the changes seem to come rather abruptly. This here recovery is not entirely a linear rollout of events or adjustments. Regardless of the bumpy path, I continue to do or rather become someone that I've only read about before and that is to be comfortable in my own skin. I've never really felt like this before, that I can remember. Things really changed over the last week or so. I'm at 3.5 months into this now, give or take. Seems like a few things had to come to a nasty peak before they passed. Old personality habits. Or perhaps I'm riding out the cause and effect of pre-looking activities. But now I'm no longer feeding them so the cycle ends. This really is some profound stuff.
I'm loving your posts, Bradley, keep it up. It helps me remember my own process and to recognize the changes I have experienced. I'm coming up on four years and I tend to get more reflective at these big markers. The changes continue to come in fits and starts, but mostly things just go away quietly. I'm experiencing the influx of phenomena that come to fill the vacuum left by maladaptive defenses and content.
I seem to have a lot of time on my hands! A lot of empty cognitive real estate.
This is a genuine anxiety killer. If there was one thing to put front stage to help people get started doing the looking that would be my vote. (Prior to this I had found that "At Last A Life" was the best resource available.) But that's just the begining. Without the all encompassing need to protect myself from the world I've been able to see how I've been messing up my marriage (and the 2 prior failures). I now see such beauty in my wife in so many ways. I had lost view of so much due to fear.
Having time on your hands is what we've always wished for, Jack. I hope that you can enjoy it at least some of the time. I find myself smiling more for seemingly ordinary experiences, like walking my dogs in the fall weather and feeling the breeze. Blissful stuff.
I can no longer get engaged with any 'spiritual' books that stress 'getting there' via the mind. It just doesn't hold a candle to who I really am so I can't read more than a few lines before I stop. So many things are now OK. It's OK. It's OK. My wife says I sound like Juan Pablo from the Bachelor. (I forgive you if you don't know the reference)
I would be so confused without the fellowship of people on here and the body of work that John has put forth. I cannot over emphasize that. Hey, an idea for a book, "A Guide to Recovery". Perhaps it can include posts from here. Maybe a book about the recovery will interest people in the act of looking. I know when I started telling my friend about the recovery it sparked his interest. Maybe a searchable FAQ might be helpful. It's nice to be able to ask questions here but some of the inquiries feel odd at best. "How come I feel funny about not caring if I feel funny?"
I find myself smiling more for seemingly ordinary experiences, like walking my dogs in the fall weather and feeling the breeze.
We're starting to sound like awakened sages, lol. Yes, the subway can test you. Reminds me of a quote out there (Adya I think) stating that if you think you're enlightened, go spend 2 weeks with your in-laws.
John talks about the ordinary becoming much more interesting. Your description of the whole subway experience reminds me of Eckhart Tolle talking about sitting on a park bench and finding joy in watching the world around him. (From reading the Power of Now I think Tolle looked at himself when he had his awakening. I don't think he really knows it.)
It's strange how reality can feel like you're on drugs sometimes. John has stated that we take drugs to escape. I just never understood that the thing I wanted to escape was my own conditioned mental landscape. I always though I was escaping something 'out there'.
Here's something interesting: I shared the looking with one of my team members here at work (my senior-most guy) and we're both beginning to enjoy running a busy IT department under the influence of the loss of fear. I'm months ahead of him (on the recovery) but he's already letting go of some of his prior concerns.
It's amazing what happens to your life perspective when you no longer feel the desperate need to be somewhere else. When I was in grade 5 there was a teacher that asked the question about what I wanted to be when I "grew up" (whatever that means) and I said that I wanted to be my self. That was not the answer that she was looking for and almost caused her to snap out of her waking coma. It seems that the indoctrination starts early and causes the present moment to be viewed as not as good as your future possibilities. One of the connections to enjoying ordinary is the work with breath. When some wacky diversion comes up in the mind to cause anxiety or fear of some possible future situation I can now go to my breath and say really? and then let the nonsense dissipate. Thanks for your posts Bradley P. The conditioned mental landscape is based on indoctrinated limitations.
Recovery is a bitch some days. Again and again for me, some of my hold-outs have to really make a mess of things before they burn out. They don't go peacefully.
I quit coffee 1 week ago. Whew. Just wanted to add that.
I feel you brother, it's like I quit something new every day. Not ready to give up coffee, tho.
Well, my wife is not a morning person but I am and when you add coffee, well, I'm glad we don't keep firearms because she would have shot me by now. So I initially quit so I wouldn't send her running on weekends but I really needed to quit. I wanted more balance and removing a periodic shot of speed is seeming to go a long way. Take a week off from work if you can when you do the detox. That's what I did. It will take a long time to get my wife to like me again, if ever (you can be really crabby during the withdrawal) but it was a good move. Google it, there's a lot of positive stories out there posted by people who have quit. Caffeine is not good for you. The coffee industry (and others) have a lot of money to throw at research outcomes that support their profit making goals and longevity. They're just groups of fear-based bipeds after all.
I'm well acquainted with quitting coffee, I've quit many times.
Speaking of how things are changing gradually and addictions... One development is that I stopped smoking cannabis almost three weeks ago and haven't had a drink in two. The life is becoming clearer every day.
Here's the story: A sudden moment of insight revealed to me that my use of these drugs, especially cannabis, was not in my best interest, not to my aid. At first I had terrible anxiety over how blind I had been to my own abuse and all I had lost due to it. I had known it for a long time, but bargained with myself, and every time it had ended in denial resulting in me using more. Following this insight I was hating on myself for a little while... until it suddenly shifted to a deep and humbling gratitude over having been presented with this problem in a new light. I felt incredibly lucky to, for the first time, see so clearly how this actually had been hanging over me for a long time, holding me back, and how simple the solution was! I started laughing all by myself and felt a huge relief. I had been using these drugs for years and years for all kinds of intents and purposes but in this moment my relationship to them shifted completely. I still have urges to use, my room mates are all smokers, but these urges just aren't realized because I simply have no interest in realizing them. It is very freeing.
People say cannabis isn't addictive. My ass. First week I numbed down with alcohol, yet I was twitchy & itchy, had terrible insomnia, sweats, dramatic mood shifts (depressed, euphoric, depressed like a roller coaster), more sweats, skin crawling, couldn't sit still, absolutely zero appetite etc. One week later I stopped drinking too because I didn't want to go on drinking away my abstinence, instead I wanted to experience it fully. And I got it. Turns out my old friend drinking problem showed its face - made itself known - once again. So now the alcohol abstinence slowly took over day by day. Horror nightmares (seriously hellish, waking three four times per night not daring going back to sleep), aches in the body, more mood swings (a little different shape), social anxiety, self-hatred - just kept on worsening during the whole week. Then last week it finally started to turn around and now I sleep well, eat OK (although too much sugar for my teeth) and my so-to-speak baseline mood is getting brighter and lighter.
So now, what do I want to say with this? Well. Although things have been on the rough side for a while, I have not realized my urges, simply because I don't see why I should. Previously when I have quit drugs I have needed to remind myself of why I'm quitting. This time it's been the other way around if that make sense? This would never happened this way if it wasn't for the looking. I feel free from the desire to flee or escape. It's still there as a habit but it's totally mechanical and.. well.. dead. Life is so.. nah.. I won't even attempt it. I get much more done now and I'm getting better at life. I'm seeing a new closeness to my emotions (to myself really) and it makes it easier making meaningful connections with others. And there's more. This new skillfulness and attentiveness is also making it easier to make others do the looking, seeing when there's an opportunity, seeing effective ways of suggesting it, seeing what is stopping me.
People congratulate me on my "success" with quitting, but I feel no recognition with that. Success relative to what? Why would I go back to my addictions? It's probably one of those things people just say when they don't know how to relate but want to support and encourage. I'm still loving my coffee though. Black, strong and two cups per day. With biscuit or bun. It's in my blood, us Swedes basically get fed coffee by the mother's milk. Rather silly but in the end we are quite productive aren't we. LOL :D
Thanks everyone for writing here, I love reading it all!
Congrats on dropping the smoke and booze. I hear the personal joy and peace in your words and I'm so very happy for you and those who are noticing and looking.
Good stuff, Roed. I'm very happy for you. I've had a similar, if much more minor renaissance. I have taken to thinking of the looking and recovery as coming out of sedation. (The opposite of the Ramones song, 'I wanna be sedated'). My addictions are food and alcohol, but mainly food. Recently I've gotten back to a vegan, whole foods diet and feel so much clearer and awake. I've known this clarity before, but not synergistically with the natural life, post looking. I'm not as compulsive about the diet and can 'break the rules' with no trouble or guilt. It's interesting to play with attention and try new things with this old body and mind. Tweaking for optimal intensity and naturalness.
This act obviously has huge implications for addictions. It's been a struggle dealing with mine through the recovery, years of struggle really, and I'm not naive enough to know they won't rear up again, but each time is diminished in energy and intensity. After awhile I imagine they simply lose all potency and we just walk away, like you did.
For me it's a matter of turning my attention away from sedation to wakefulness and clarity.
Wow I congratulate you on telling the truth. So refreshing. Yes, this looking at me is so simple and no big spiritual deal but I felt to put words on it today, it feels like unlimited space inside and out that is expanding all the time as the fear goes. Grounded and open and a sense I know for sure is me. I have more and more energy and I can welcome it now whereas before I felt some fear around this feeling (I always felt I was too much). So it's just really awesome and interesting to participate in life in a whole new way.
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