August 16, 2016

Addiction and Living in the Present

Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have.

-Eckhart Tolle-

Awareness, one of the Five Strategies to Reclaim Hope, means being grounded in the present moment. So what does that mean to a trauma survivor with an addiction?

There are two types of pain in recovery work – the pain of self-mastery or the pain of regret. You have to choose, moment by moment and day by day, which pain you want to experience. It’s as simple and as hard as that. The pain of regret, like when you’ve relapsed into your addictive behaviors, is uncomfortable and debilitating. It’s reactionary. The pain of self-mastery, in contrast, is a refining and advancing type of pain. It’s proactive. It’s the type of pain, like sore muscles, that leads to greater strength.

Awareness can help you choose the right type of pain. If you are grounded in the present moment, not depressed about the past or anxious about the future, you can make the choice more easily to choose self-mastery.

Slowing down is an important part of Awareness. If you get too caught up in rushing around from one thing to the next, how can you enjoy the present? Life will be exhausting if you’re always moving with no destination in sight. With Awareness, you can focus on one step in front of the other to reach the goal that you’re seeking – freedom from addiction.

How can you use Awareness in your everyday life?

When you feel yourself wanting the thing that you’re addicted to, be it food, drugs, alcohol, etc., stop and recognize the emotions behind it. Take a few centering breaths to fully ground yourself in the now. Realize that you have a choice to make. You may not always make the right choice, but after becoming centered firmly in the moment it will become easier and easier.

Many trauma survivors turn to their particular addiction to dull the suffering they feel. They use it to resist or try to change their reality. Suffering can’t be dismissed or ignored. It’s real and it’s difficult. But, generally speaking, they’re treating their symptoms and not the root cause – the trauma they experienced as a child. Running from the past or hiding from the future will not help.

Instead, become fully grounded in the present moment, seek a therapist that you trust, and give yourself the choice, moment by moment and day by day, which pain you want to experience. The pain of growth or the pain of regret?