Addiction and Relationships: Why Mindfulness is One of the Best Things You Can Do
We’ve heard it before, said by everyone from the average person to the obvious New Age guru to Oprah. “Be in the present moment”, and every variation of that.
So if we’ve all pretty much heard it, why is it a topic on here, too?
Well, I don’t know about you, but it took years for that to finally sink in, so I feel it’s worth noting here again.
Now, I have spent the last few years turning everything I practiced and knew before in life upside down, and gaining new insights and ways of thinking because whatever I was doing before clearly wasn’t working, even before I met my partner.
And when you start doing that, it’s normal to come into contact with many personal development books and other forms of media and content up that same alley.
One thing that I notice is the same on most fronts is the different variations of the phrases and definitions and practices revolving around mindfulness.
If you search up “mindfulness” on Google, you will get two definitions first:
the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something
a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique
That sounds nice, right?
Basically you are clear (or working on getting clear) about what’s going on in your life both inside and out, while appreciating your life right now.
Now, while that sounds nice, what exactly do we do with that information? I mean, yeah I know that I’m angry right now, but now what?
Well, for me, I’ve found that there’s two parts to this, too.
Part one is the being, and part 2 is the doing, or lack thereof.
Let me explain.
So we all know that my partner has addiction issues. That’s why you’re here right now with me.
During those years of cyclic active use and recovery, I managed to keep my head above water and not drown, but I wasn’t really living, ya know? I was still stressed, mostly upset or negative, and pretty much without the basic feeling of being truly happy save for those few slivers of time when I would see the sun before doubt and insecurities seeped back in.
And while I knew there must be some kind of relief somewhere, I also doubted how good that could actually be. Were all those authors feeling ok but lying about how complete they could feel? Maybe there’s no magic answer but just the ability to feel less negative and just put on a front.
And I would read this self-help book or listen to that TED Talk on addiction or codependency or do that yoga class for stress relief or watch that YouTube video on happiness that I hoped would be the final click that would switch my mind to get me to where I wanted to be. And while I would for sure gain some insight, it never gave me what I wanted.
I was stuck, under the clouds of everything that addiction can bring.
Until, one day, I wasn’t.
And that’s the weird thing. Like ok, I didn’t just wake up one day magically cured. That’s not the answer either.
But it basically felt random, because I didn’t read anything or do any kind of actions that brought on the change so suddenly. Instead, I finally made up my mind to, well, change it.
Because you see, I had tried everything to fix my partner and to fix myself. Everything.
Or what I thought was everything.
I had finally reached the one option I had left, and that was to change my mind.
You can read every single book and watch every video on the planet, but nothing ever actually changes until you start to change your mindset. You have to put everything you know into practice.
And that’s exactly what I did.
I knew that I had tried everything but actually putting in the work to change my ways of thinking, and once I did that everything changed.
So that’s where those 2 things come in that I mentioned earlier. Part one is the being, part two is the “doing”.
For me, part one was the being, meaning, the concept of mindfulness.
I have always been one whose mind is always racing:
who is doing what
how do I think that’s going to work out
what do I have to do
how does this person feel about me
am I doing anything wrong
what else do I need to do
why can’t I be better
I find it hard to stop thinking, and spent a lot of my time focusing on what had already happened or what was coming that I wasn’t really focused on where I was at any given time. I could never really enjoy or experience my life as it was happening, and part of this was because my life at the time wasn’t really all that fun or enjoyable. I was worrying and stressing about everything associated with it that I couldn't actually live. Which was sometimes the sad point.
When I finally got to that moment where I couldn’t live like I was anymore, I fully came to realize this. I was trying so hard to fix my partner and his addiction, and everything else outside of myself, that I never gave any thought to the inside. Why was I spending so much time on all that, while nothing I did made things any better? What would happen if I decided to turn inward instead?
So that’s what I did.
And yes, it was hard and took some time to get comfortable with. But slowly, and eventually more sure-footedly, I did it, and put it into practice more and more.
I spent time on myself, finding out who I really was and all the things that made me, me. What my goals were, how I felt about different things, how resilient I actually was, how smart and capable I was, and how much fun I could actually have in life.
I realized that I had so many options, so many choices, and so much influence on how I felt and how my life went. And I wasn’t actually afraid of being alone or any of the other things I thought I feared.
And when it came to my partner, I realized I could do the things I needed to do, and he was just fine. Boundaries were made, changes were made, and work was done on my end. And it’s a practice I continue to this day.
Now, the second part is called “doing”, and the quotes are there for a reason. Because, it’s not all about actual action. Sometimes, it’s the complete opposite.
For me, I was actually doing too much in my life, and so the doing part was putting focus on non-doing. I was doing the focus on doing less, or doing nothing at all. I stopped trying to control my partner and my outside life, and let go of actions that supported the idea of control.
Instead, I let life happen as it was meant to, and only adjusted my actions in accordance to my own personal feelings and what was best for me. For example, I didn’t call my partner everyday while he was in rehab to get updates from every staff member I could. Instead, I let him have his time for recovery while I had mine, and made the decision to visit him if it worked out with what I was doing at the time.
And for a lot of us, this can be difficult. We think that we are the only ones holding things together and preventing chaos and destruction.
But really, that’s all in our heads. We are driving ourselves to chaos and destruction and causing the exact things we are trying to prevent.
The only way we can actually help both ourselves and our partners is taking care of our mindsets first, making sure we are happy and healthy and thriving, and then making choices and decisions on actions from a place of clear-headedness and ease.
And being aware of our emotions, feelings, thoughts, and beliefs can take awareness in other ways, too.
Of course, we have the ways we can work through feelings as we have them and become aware of them, but what about the more sneaky things we can do, sometimes without even noticing them?
For example, do you keep track of how many days of sobriety your partner has? Or how many meetings they go to? Or if they are a member of NA at all?
Of course I don’t want to say that any of these things are bad, at all. But, these are the kinds of things that can catch us off-guard, or not come up in our attention at all.
I know that before, I would be so hyper-focused on how many clean days my partner had or how many meetings he went to or if he even associated with NA that I got obsessed with it. But that just kept me distracted from the amazing fact that he was in recovery at all, and caused me to try to control how he worked his sobriety. And, surprise! That just created more problems individually and in our relationship.
Now, I can honestly say I have no idea how many days he’s been in recovery. The only thing I remember is that it was around Halloween because I had to take our daughter trick-or-treating alone that year. And while obviously I've remembered on his anniversaries to celebrate his milestones after I work out the math, I don’t mull over it and use it as a metric of success or of how happy I should be. Or if it means he'll stay sober or as a measure of how dangerous or common relapse is at this point. You know how it goes.
Like the quote says, sometimes we just do too much, so much that we miss the life we are living. The past has already happened, and we can’t change it, no matter how much we mourn it. The future hasn’t happened yet, and we can’t control it, no matter how many scenarios we anticipate or guess will happen.
The only thing we can do is focus on what is happening right here, right now, right in front of us.
Nothing is ever promised, and there’s no telling how things will go, so why spend the only time you have that you can actually experience fretting and stressing over things that don’t matter or that might not even happen the way we fear it will?
And honestly, you'd be surprised how well things start going and how easily things work out when you stop fighting life and start flowing with it.
So take some time today to really open up and experience life as it is, with the knowledge that you can succeed no matter how it looks, and you can start that work to change your mind for the better right this second. Hope is always an option, and no person is too far gone, especially you.
Life is happening one way or another, so why not have fun and know that not only can things work out for you, but that good things are coming?