One of the very best addictions counselors I’ve ever worked with used to give a homework assignment that would unnerve folks in early recovery. The assignment was incredibly simple, yet hard to do. She would instruct her clients, “Go home, spend five minutes just sitting. Trying not to focus your thoughts on anything in particular. Just be.”

Awareness of Self

This would most often result in heightened anxiety and a desire to crawl out of one’s skin. When you’ve spent years hiding from yourself, it’s really hard to be present with self. Awareness of self is vital to healing, and growth. Simply noticing the things we do to block awareness afford us opportunities for positive change.

This remains a work in progress for me as well. For much of my life I fought against a constant urge to be productive. I found it intolerable to be still. Slowing down meant experiencing pain and fear. I coped by constantly doing for others. In retrospect, that approach is perhaps the most honorable way to be nuts.

I’ve come a long way with this. I can enjoy brief periods of solitude. After a few hours I become squirrely. I crave connection and shared experience. I get lonely pretty fast.

Mindfulness the Easy Way

I can be introspective, take stock, and ask myself some very simple but important questions:

  • How am I doing?
  • What am I feeling?
  • What do I need?
  • Who can help me with this?

I can use very simple tools like H.A.L.T. (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired). I can use those tools proactively to ensure that I don’t develop too much of any of them. I can use them diagnostically when I find I am ill at ease.

I can seek serenity through spiritual practices and by allowing myself to relax more. I remind myself that my worth is not determined by what I create or how much I do. My HP believes that my worth is precious and I have concluded countless times that S/he knows far better than I.

I have long practiced being in the moment without plans or expectations. I’m quite good at doing this in service to others. Doing it for my own benefit has been a much slower development. I am reminded of the contrast in the love and attention I give to others vs what I give to myself.

I have found great clarity through journaling and creative expression. I have increasingly allowed myself to simply enjoy a beautiful day, great music, a good book, or a movie. While I find most of those experiences preferable when shared, I am mindful that I want to more fully enjoy my own company as well.

What’s this like for you? Email me: jim@sobernow.com


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