Lately, I’ve been crawling out of my skin—feeling restless, withdrawn, and disquieted. The stark reality about living with an addiction is that even though I’ve been clean and sober for 17 years, I need to be vigilant about my mind’s ability to default to a desire to escape every uncomfortable feeling in my life by drowning it with a drink. If you’re not an addict, you just won’t “get this”, and that’s fine. After a long, frustrating day at work, you can come home and have a glass of wine or a beer to blow away the cobwebs of your day. The difference being, you can stop after a drink or two. I once heard an old-timer in an AA meeting say that “battling his addiction felt like coughing up a monkey.” That’s exactly what it feels like! You wrestle and wrestle to get that monkey out, and then when it finally gets out, you’re left staring at a crazy monkey.
A friend of mine recommended I read Byron Katie’s book Loving What Is because she recognized that I was fighting a losing battle against “acceptance” and “surrendering”. In her book, Byron Katie suggests you can find three kinds of business in this world: "mine, yours, and God’s … the word God means reality. Reality is God, because it rules. Anything that’s out of my control, your control, and everyone else’s control—I call that God’s business.” Katie's premise is that, “Much of our stress comes from mentally living out of our own business.” As a recovering addict, I acknowledge the importance of “surrendering” when it comes to not picking up a drink or a drug, but I struggle when it comes to applying this principle in other parts of my life.
Each of us walks around as a “mirror”, and everyone we interact with is confronted by the image in that mirror. The people I’m most drawn to reflect love, strength, and acceptance, yet I have a tendency not to recognize that those qualities are in me, and that’s why I’m seeing them in someone else—my mirror. Equally important for me to remember, and what I’ve been painfully reminded of recently, is that the repulsive qualities in those who frustrate and disturb me, are merely reflections of those parts of me I’m unwilling to acknowledge exist in me. It’s becoming apparent that the “disquiet” I’ve been feeling originates in what Byron Katie refers to as living in “someone else’s business” instead of in “mine”.
I like to overcomplicate things, and that’s why I’ve expressed the process of self-discovery as learning to “unpack my reality.” But in fact, getting to your truth is not so much a “journey” or a “quest” as it is making the conscious choice to simply take ownership of “your business”. No one, no matter how much they love you, can tell you what your truth is—It’s an inside job, a moving target. Stable relationships can be an anchor in rough seas or an albatross that haunt your personal growth. I need to accept that if I’m not willing to do the “hard work” myself, then I hand the reigns over to someone else. In my marriage, I’ve been on both ends of this discussion, and I can say it’s not an easy thing to say to your partner, especially when time and entropy can subtlety nudge even the healthiest of relationships towards co-dependency. I think this is where "space" comes into the equation. If we trust and let go of what our partner “should be”, we make room for what our partner "must be".
As is the case with most feelings of disquiet in my life, if I dig deep enough, hidden in the dark recess of the corner is “fear”—my fear that my choices aren’t right, my fear that I’m not good enough, my fear that what lies in my heart and fuels my passion is unworthy of being breathed to life. All of this reminds me of an excerpt from Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement address: “Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”