…as seen in Elephant Journal, April 16, 2016

I am a woman in recovery from decades of chronic pain and addiction to prescription pain and anti-anxiety medications. I spent years feeling at the mercy of physical pain and random, seemingly unprovoked panic attacks. There were times when I felt so overwhelmed and lost as to what to do about such suffering, that I actually considered even for a flicker of a moment that I might be better off checking out of this world altogether; but my connection to my Higher Power was always my saving grace – literally. I finally entered a pain management program at a chemical dependency hospital and ultimately learned how to live a life clean, healthy, and free from suffering.

I have met in fellowship with scores of people who are traveling the road to recovery from addiction and are in search of living a balanced, pain-free life. We work our recovery as if our lives depend upon it, because they do. Addictive tendencies live in all of us; some struggle with this more than others. Those of us who are in a program of recovery remind each other frequently that we must be diligent in working our program as best we can to stay one step ahead of the addictive behaviors that ran in our lives for so long. Our addictions can run deep and be persistent. Some might say addiction is relentless in its pursuit of its own agenda – filling a hole that has only the illusion of being filled. Some of us fall into relapse. Some of us fall even deeper into depression. Some fall so deeply and are so grabbed by their addictive tendencies that they feel they cannot find their way out of the ensuing darkness that envelops them. I hear such stories way too often. One hit very close to home the other day when a friend of mine got so lost in her own darkness that she found she just could no longer cope anymore.

We lost a sister in recovery yesterday. She was such a bright light and so wanted to do her part in helping to heal our world. Her struggle was epic and probably beyond what most of us will perhaps ever experience or even understand. And the dreaded disease of addiction had its hooks in her but good. I was pretty much in shock yesterday when I heard this news. I connected with a few friends she and I had in common and we held space for and supported one another. I was so grateful for being able to communicate with them. I sent up prayers to the Infinite for my fallen sister and her family and friends that they all may find solace and peace eventually.

Today I woke with such a heavy heart. For the first time in well over two years, I actually physically hurt all over. I really had a hard time just getting out of bed. I pulled myself together and got into a hot bath of Epsom salts for a soak and cleansing and then went to my breakfast. I felt quite tired after that little bit of exertion. My usual habit would be to dive into the day and pretty much ignore and push through the heaviness and tiredness I was feeling. But this morning I made a new choice in the moment. I recognized how tired I really was and I honored my body: I went back to bed – a first for sure in my recovery. Here’s the thing: I gave myself permission to be right where I was – exhausted in body, heart, and soul, and it was okay that this was where I was. I piled into bed and presenced myself into just what I was physically feeling. I put my attention on the sensations coursing throughout my body and let the breath carry me through it all. I was in a kind of custom-made meditation. I dropped all thought and just allowed myself to “be” – a sacred gift to myself, and maybe even a sacred gift to my friend’s spirit and her memory.

I reflected on how I was coping with such a torrent of emotion and physical sensation. And I felt so grateful to have tools, and the presence of strength and mind to use them, for just allowing myself to be in this space of recognizing the moment and experiencing it fully.

I turned into my sadhana – a practice I usually do in the early morning hours, but just had not been able to pull it together enough to do first thing this morning. It is a great practice to start the day because it clears the chakras and resets us with clarity for the new day. We are on a 24 hour biological clock after all, so it makes sense to have a practice to help begin anew each day. And though I was quite late to my sadhana this morning, I did it anyway. Better late than never, right? A part of it is a five-minute gratitude chant where I set the intention and ask for help from the Divine in being grateful for everything that comes my way in the next 24 hours – that is 1/244 of the 24 hours asking for help with gratitude, and my hope is always that I will spend the rest of the 243/244 in the state of actually being grateful. (This is why I say, “Gratitude is a verb”, because I see it as a state of ‘being’.) And here in this part of the sadhana, I got a glimpse of my friend’s spirit stopping by for a visitation. She is free from these earthly bonds, yes. I saw her spirit that tried so hard to fit into this world and do what she could to pass her gifts along to others. Alas it became too much for her. I asked myself and her spirit, “How can I be grateful for losing you from this realm and in such a sudden, unnatural way?” The answer: “Hold fast, deeply, and strong to your own recovery. Use the tools you have been so generously blessed with and pass them forward if and when you can and are asked to do so.” I rose from my sadhana a little lighter in spirits and with an even greater determination to get my own recovery right and do my level best to keep it on track.

I step into the rest of my day now, stopping first to journal these few notes. I make a promise to myself, and to my sisters and brothers in recovery and all the rest of my friends and family that I will bring courage to the moment, feel unrestricted all that comes up as my life unfolds and hold space for myself in allowing myself to be just exactly where and when I am in every moment without reservation.

#Recovery #ReleaseTheGripOfChronicPain #ToolsForBetterLiving #kippinitreal

As published in Elephant Journal, April 16, 2016

Gratitude is a verb



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