Five years ago I felt alone, scared, and anxious. I was drinking and using drugs regularly. My friends were never able to get close to me because I would not let them in. There was no future that I could envision for myself that was different. Every week followed the same disappointing pattern. I would wait in anticipation all week for the weekend to come, drink and use excessively, and spend the next few days trying to recover. At the time I was in boarding school so this usually meant coming home for the weekends and then returning only to spend the first days of school school week in infirmary sick from withdraw. I remember waking up one Sunday at my mom’s at about four in the afternoon. I was supposed to take the train back to school but I was unable to even lift my head off of the pillow. My mom came into the room and told me I had to get packed and go to school but I told her I could not move. I made it to the bathroom and threw up. I dragged myself back to bed and my mom proceeded to dress me. It seemed impossible to even put my own clothing on.
At this time I wanted to want to get sober. However, the idea of facing my anxiety and loneliness without drugs or alcohol seemed too overwhelming. Every time I tried to take a weekend off of sometimes even just a few days off I was not able to. When I tried to drink only five drinks I would end up drinking ten. I was incapable of controlling my use. My parents came to me and told me something had to change, that I needed to get help. The idea of being unhappy without substance seemed so terrible that I tried to kill myself. After being in the hospital I realized I had to do things differently. A few days later, on my eighteenth birthday I checked myself into an inpatient treatment center.
My journey in recovery was not easy. Especially the first year sober I wanted to continue behaving how I did when I was still using. I wanted to go to parties, act out, and control my feelings by suppressing them. I still felt anxious, lonely, and disconnected. I tried to avert from my uncomfortable reality but noticed that it did not make me feel any better. Although I went to recovery meetings and found some relief through doing the work it was not enough for me. After about a year I met my now fiancee and he introduced me to meditation. When I began meditating I noticed a shift in my experience. Almost immediately I stopped having panic attacks. I also started to make some deeper and more meaningful friendships. In the past four years this has grown and blossomed into the beautiful life that I have today.
A couple weeks ago I graduated summa cum laude with departmental honors from Loyola Marymount University. I am engaged and getting married this summer. I am going to graduate school in the fall for a Master’s in family therapy. I help run One Mind Dharma. I speak at schools, sober livings, and homeless shelters about recovery. But these are just the outward transformations in my life. The external changes are the fruits of the internal shifts that I have worked for. So more importantly this is what my world looks like today: I still feel anxious and lonely sometimes but I know how to cope with these feelings without averting (most of the time). I practice sitting through my anxiety and focusing on how it feels in my body. Resting my awareness on these sensations allows me to see that they are changing. I can find moments of relief or moments of extreme pain but I can hold them both with compassion. Having compassion allows me to make space for discomfort without averting from it. I can say to myself, “May I care about this suffering”. Through meditation I have found a way to treat myself with friendliness.
Today, when I make a mistake or am in the midst of an argument I do not spend the whole time beating myself up. My mind is kinder now, it does not keep me disconnected or lonely. Instead this kinder mind has allowed me to build deep and meaningful bonds with the people in my life. Of course this has enabled me to find a connection with my fiancee. I have found a kind of love and intimacy that I never knew was possible. Without knowing how to be a friend and partner to myself, I was unable to be one for anyone else. Now, I have begun to build a life with someone who I truly care about. This friendliness I have for myself has also allowed me to rediscover a close relationship with my mom. Rather than seeing her as the person who was upset with me for staying out all night or the woman who would take care of me when I was hungover, I see her as a wonderful dimensional being.
My life has transformed into something that I am proud of and grateful for. These changes have been the direct result of the internal work that I have done with meditation and recovery programs. I have fun today because I am not dragged down by my own discomfort.