For some reason I found myself surrounded by a lot of negative thinking people when I was first out on my own as a sober person. I kept running into skeptics and cynics, and it was difficult for me to understand how people could live with the attitude that life was pretty shitty. I was the Yang of that Yin. No matter where I went, however, I couldn’t get away from people who made me feel like I was in La La Land. I was in Berkeley too, which I thought was more of a hippy-happy place, but no – people were pissed off and convinced that if you think positive, you’re being delusional.
I took this as a challenge and began looking at how I viewed things. In treatment I learned to notice my emotions arising when other people were in my presence. I learned to stop and feel my emotions rather than reacting from them. I had been out of treatment for about four months by this time, and hadn’t even considered my emotions in situations yet. I was walking around in a bubble of positivity, constantly being grateful for everything from top ramen to minimum wage paychecks, and trying to find the silver lining in everything. The thing was, I felt really good most of the time, but I was also ignoring when I didn’t feel good. So I began getting real with myself and I stopped painting things pink when they were actually olive green.
Yes I was grateful for both of my two jobs, but there were several things about work that I was unhappy about. I began noticing those things. I began feeling how annoyed I was half of the time, and also there were people I came into contact with who made me feel inferior. I began feeling that insecurity out in myself. When I was bored, I admitted to myself that I was bored. When I wanted to throw chicken at an entitled customer’s ugly face, I felt the anger come up and allowed it to hang out with me. No I didn’t react in my emotions, but I stopped lying about them. After about a month I realized how negative I felt inside regardless of my positive attitude. Sometimes life was just shitty, and I was finally willing to take that in and allow it to consume me once in a while. But I will tell you what – that wasn’t going to work for me forever. I had to find a way to balance the Yin and Yang out. I wasn’t going to live on the opposite side of the spectrum now that I was getting honest with myself. So I got quiet and began reading books on the subject. What I discovered was that our whole entire experience of life is projected by how we think. Our experience of life is induced by our emotions, and our emotions derive from what we think about. Ah-ha! The bottom line was that I needed to change my thinking in order to enhance my emotions so that the experience of positivity could be genuine.
This took me about a year, but I made the decision to do an experiment. I was about to move into a new place where I rented a bedroom inside of an older house with a woman who I knew nothing about. At first I was terrified of it being a wrong decision because I was leaving my recovery peers in order to learn to balance on my own two feet. I had outgrown the need for “support” which wasn’t feeling like support anymore. The only thing I went on was my gut, and my gut was telling me to make the move, although my brain was incredibly insecure about the whole thing. Instead of buy into what my brain was telling me (that the carpet was not clean enough for me, that it was too small of a space, that I would lose touch with my peeps, etc…) I decided to change my thinking. I had about nine months before my daughter would be moving back in with me. I had nine months on my own. This would be a perfect time to complete the manuscript that I was writing and spend some quality time getting to know my sober self in relation to the real world. I had a simple life and I could either buy into my fears, or I could tap into the place of myself that I had been ignoring for years. I could really dive into my writing and move forward with an attitude that life keeps getting better. I decided that I would write that damn book and trust that when I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing in life, it just keeps getting better. It did.
Instead of living on the surface of myself and of life, I began feeling everything. I didn’t deny when I was afraid, which was often, but I also didn’t buy into the fear either. I somehow developed the courage to walk through it, and life began feeling legitimately magical. Great things began happening. I was more motivated. I felt more joy. Positive people entered into my experience. Within those nine months my life accelerated beyond anything I would have ever imagined. Two years later, I am living a completely different lifestyle – the one I was dreaming about while living in that bedroom with the dirty carpet.
It really boils down to two things – fear and freedom. You either buy into your fears about life, or you trust the deeper part of yourself that longs to be free from that overbearing fear. If you buy into the fear, you’re going to be riding on unpredictable waves your whole life. If you dive past the fear, you’re going to find freedom.
No, things are not perfect and yes, I do have bad days, but I continue forward marching with the attitude that life keeps getting better, and it does. I am not lying to myself when I say this. I am certain of it. I know it to be true because my little experiment worked. Instead of pretending that I don’t feel “negative” emotions, I acknowledge them and allow them to be with me, but then I change my thinking around situations by saying things like, “It’s going to be ok. I’m always being guided. I’m exactly where I need to be right now. I’m loved beyond measure. I’m going to move through this with ease. Some days are better than others, and that’s ok. Emotions are temporary. They are not eternal. Whatever I need is given to me at the exact right time, and right now I may need this challenge in order to grow.” The inner dialogue has changed, and so has my life. It’s getting better and better all the time. My relationships with my family is so much healthier. I have several friends now instead of acquaintances. My job completely accommodates my needs and wants in life. Both of my children live with me because they actually want to be around me. That in itself is nothing short of a miracle.
It’s not about being positive and ignoring the negative, or searching for a silver lining in the grand scheme of life. It’s about going deeper. It’s about getting real with yourself. If you are unhappy – admit that shit. Feel that negativity so that it can move through your body. Be aware of it, but then change your thinking around it so that things will transform for the better. Accept things for what they are, positive or negative, but learn to smile with life. It’s always changing – it’s constantly on the move. The question is, can you move with it in ease, or are you going to resist it by ignoring what’s really going on with you? Once you began acknowledging what’s really going on with you, the negative emotions begin clearing much quicker. They simply want your attention. They draw you in so that you remember yourself – so that you can rebalance and re-center yourself, instead of getting lost out there in the chaos of the world.