Twelve-Step Rebellion

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This week’s guest blogger is Jay from @OneMindDharma who writes about finding serenity through meditation after years of trying to find it through traditional 12-step programs. It’s important for young people in recovery to find an approach that works for them rather than what works for people quite a bit older. Thank you, Jay, for sharing your experience with the #OYACommunity. MWM

I can give the story of my life quite simply. I was 12 years old when I started to drink. I would show up to punk shows drunk because I felt self conscious about being so young around older kids and hoped that the smell of booze and the forced stumble would make me appear as cooler than I felt. I grew up to be addicted to opiates quite young and found heroin at 22. At 26 I decided to stop using drugs, was hospitalized and stayed in sober living for many months.

One of the things I can relate to with young people is the resistance to a 12 step program, and I congratulate you on this discovery. The fact that anybody has gone to something enough to realize that they like it is extraordinary if you think of the different tasks that acquiring drugs or alcohol entails. We become mindless when we’re going through the motions of getting high, that even a small fire wouldn’t have inconvenienced me much while I was loaded. But sober, the initial resistance is to be expected and deeply encouraged to push through.

The problem however is once you’ve gone to your first few meetings and you see the word, “God,” or you look around the room and there isn’t anybody similar to you. I was 19 at my first meeting and spent many nights in diners with folks who talked about their mortgage or even put on music in the car that made me want to jump out. I understand feeling misplaced, and so I commend you for this observation. This means one is aware, not simply “going through the motions.”

I would estimate that I went to 2,000 twelve step meetings before I turned 25. I tried to force myself to believe that “this would work for me.”

I tried to see drugs as this vacuum that could steal my soul by simply thinking about it– reciting, “brick wall,” for fear of being possessed. I would call my sponsor to ask permission to go on a date or to leave work early to catch a concert I wanted to see. He would ask, “is this Jay’s will or is it God’s will?” The idea was that any decision I was making was most likely harmful and going to lead to me getting loaded or with a needle in my arm. I appreciated this — this was the father figure I longed for for so many years.

Eventually though my life resembled somebody else’s life and I found little joy in my daily activities. The lack of luster I could live without, however I began feeling more and more alone. I started thinking in two different thought patterns– the 19 year old who wanted to be 19 and skip class to skateboard like any other 19 year old versus the 19 year old young man who was focusing on interest rates, responsibility and work ethic.

Neither is worse than the other, but I felt the focus was slipping from not wanting to get high into being a clone of my sponsor and his 40 plus years of life experience. So I began to rebel against his suggestions, and a satisfaction would come when I broke these rules. The same feeling, in fact, as getting high, which eventually led to me getting high.

And so for years this cycle would continue. I would push my drug runs to the brink of death so that I could feel this “bottom,” that they would all tell me I wasn’t finished using until I felt and experienced. The reality is that I was done and I didn’t need to feel ostracized or shamed for being a kid. Instead, I began to search for different methods of getting clean without the help of AA. One of these for me was NA for a short while. I liked the fellowship– it seemed to be a younger crowd. I didn’t like the steps, and I started to realize that that was okay. I believed for myself if I were to tell my deep dark secrets to anybody it should be a therapist, as that was who I felt comfortable telling these to. I didn’t mind paying for it, since my life was on the line.

My therapist eventually would say things like, “You have so much going on up there Jay, have you looked into meditating?” I had not.

And so my journey of meditation began. In the beginning I had candles and incense and would focus on the fronts of my eyelids and my breathing. In time, I found guided meditations and Buddhist principles.

I knew that quieting my mind and observing my thought patterns were both important, but I also wanted to grow as a person. I didn’t want to change who I was, I wanted to become a better version.

I finally met my teacher at a meditation meeting in Hollywood. He seemed to like the same music as me, could identify with my anger and my rebellion, and began to help me implement different principles and practices into my personal life.

One of the big ones was what the Eightfold Path refers to as “Right speech.” This, to me, means not to speak ill of anybody, and unless it’s absolutely necessary not to speak about anyone who isn’t around. Of course people have to be mentioned, but the way I mentioned them became a focal point. Even the way I said things seemed to have an undertone I wasn’t normal aware of. I began thinking before I spoke, and being mindful of the intentions behind my words.

Slowly, I meditated more and more frequently, and I noticed that the urges I had to use and to act out weren’t as prevalent. I also noticed that I started doing things in my free time that I enjoyed again, and surrounding myself with other people my age who didn’t care how I got clean, they just enjoyed the fact that I was myself.

Eventually I started working for my teacher, and am now the outreach director for his meditation company. At 27 years old I have over a year clean from everything, I bought my first car, I have two jobs, and

I’m becoming the version of myself I secretly knew I could be. For the most part I don’t do anything I don’t want to do or am required to do.

I live a life that I choose to live and it no longer feels forced.

We can choose to be who we wish to be in this world and anything truly is possible if the effort is there. So long as you’re trying you have a chance to make the change at anytime that you wish. Rebellion is the catalyst of change and true rebellion begins when you make the effort to change yourself. Meditation helps me, and if you’re struggling with finding your place in AA or any program utilize the wonders of the internet and find different means of recovery. There are meditation websites, there are online recovery communities, and there is meaning if you search for it. You’re too important to give up hope, and your place in this world is out there somewhere. I wish you well and hope you find it on your journey.

About Jay:

Jay is the community outreach director for Www.oneminddharma.com He works on an animal rescue ranch and enjoys playing music in his free time.

How Can Meditation Help Parents To Cope With Their Child’s Addiction?

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Today’s guest blogger is Marco Sterling, who has provided a comprehensive guide to meditation. When we are caught up in the turmoil of a loved one’s addiction, it’s often hard to embrace the simplicity and empowerment that meditation can bring; yet, meditation is the cornerstone of our own self care, serenity and recovery. Thank you, Marco, for sharing this invaluable information including a variety of links.

A seemingly endless cycle of internal ranting, worrying, and despair often accompanies the parents of addicts in their daily lives, compounding their difficulties, and jeopardizing both health and peace of mind. Restoring balance and peace of mind can be achieved by stepping back from the daily internal struggle of “what if…,” “how come she won’t…,” “why didn’t I…”. The cycle seems uncontrollable, the troubles seem to have no answers, and the questions seem to never cease.

However, the endless cycle of uncontrollable worrying, anxiety, and stress is, in fact, the only thing we have some control over. We can choose to stop the cycle, with the understanding that it is unhealthy – we may have no control over the troubles we are worrying about, but we can take control of our worrying. If hitting the ‘off’ button seems too tough, you can learn to hit the ‘mute’ button for 20 minutes of healthy silence.

In this article, several top scientific studies confirming meditation as a successful strategy for restoring peace of mind are explored. Mindfulness and visualization in meditation are also explored, inspirational tips are provided, and some great video resources are offered to give you a loving and relaxing break from worry, stress, and anxiety.

Article Overview:

  • Part 1: What is Meditation?
    • What are the Benefits of Practicing Meditation?
    • What are the Different Types of Meditation?
      • Breath Meditation
      • Concentrative/Visualization Meditation
      • Receptive/Mindful Meditation
      • Reflective Meditation
      • Generative Meditation
    • Part 2: Where/How do I Meditate?
      • Beginner’s Breath Meditation
      • Learning Mindful Breathing With Visualization Meditation
      • Easy Walking Meditation

 

Part 1: What is Meditation?

Both an ancient and popular modern practice, meditation is a means of increasing mental concentration and physical relaxation. Although often associated with Eastern and New Age religions, in fact, almost all religions share a strong respect and appreciation for meditating on holy Scriptures as a means of increasing peace and enlightenment. While religion is not a necessary component of meditation, your personal system of beliefs may easily be incorporated into your meditations.

What are the Benefits of Practicing Meditation?

Practicing meditation brings relief from worry and stress, promoting a calmer outlook on life. Stanford University neuroscientists report that eight weeks of mindfulness meditation reduces brain activity related to fear and anxiety. Harvard’s Sara Lazar further confirms that mindfulness meditation physically reduces the number of neurons in this same worry-triggering area of the brain.

According to the University of New Hampshire’s Office of Health Education, the benefits of meditation are many, including:

  • Decreased stress
  • Decreased depression
  • Decreased anxiety
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fewer cravings for alcohol and tobacco
  • Increased creativity
  • Increased spontaneity
  • Higher levels of energy
  • Increased exercise tolerance
  • Increased job satisfaction
  • Better concentration
  • Better relationships with others

What are The Different Types of Meditation?

The following meditations were written and produced by the University of New Hampshire for the Health Services project “Reflections: Meditative Practice for College Students“:

Breath Meditation — Focusing your mind on the rhythm of your breathing becomes a simple and natural meditation. Notice your breathing becoming deeper and slower as you settle into the peacefulness, your mind becoming calm and self-aware.

Concentrative/Visualization Meditation — Many people find it helpful to focus the mind by visualizing images or ideas. Focus on breathing to relax and then engage your imagination, for example, to promote healing energy flowing through your body. A specific image or sound (mantra) may be the focus during this meditation, further helping to quiet your mind. Mantras can be spiritual or other comforting sounds, words, or phrases, which you repeat softly and rhythmically, while you meditate.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDLuip5Bb3o

Receptive/Mindful Meditation — During this form of meditation, your mind becomes attentive, or receptive, to sensations, smells, feelings, thoughts, images, and experiences without judging, reacting, or processing the experience. This helps train the mind to become calm and clear while learning to achieve a non-reactive state of mind.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IaEeXsDEwEo

Reflective Meditation — This method of meditation is used for gaining deeper enlightenment by reflecting deeply upon an interesting question, compelling idea, fascinating characteristic, sacred scripture, classic quote, or another inspiring concept.

Generative Meditation — Focusing on a specific quality, such as love, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, patience, etc., this form of meditation is used to consciously cultivate, or generate, that quality within you. Continuing into your daily walk of life, generative meditation encourages you to further nurture this quality while thinking, speaking, and acting, as though this quality is already fully alive in you.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sz7cpV7ERsM

Part 2: Where/How do I Meditate?

In the beginning, meditation may be more easily learned while lying down or sitting somewhere peaceful, quiet, and comfortable. There are no right or wrong ways to meditate, so be compassionate and patient with yourself while you discover your own way. Give yourself time to practice clearing your mind, learning how to relax, and discovering how to just “be”.

Beginner’s Breath Meditation

Learning to focus on your breathing will teach you the oldest and easiest form of meditation.

  1. Sit down somewhere peaceful and comfortable.
  2. Gently close your eyes, close your mouth, and breathe in through your nose.
  3. Breathe in deeply, filling your abdomen with air.
  4. Open your mouth slightly and breathe out peacefully, exhaling until you’ve emptied your lungs.
  5. Continue inhaling and exhaling this way, focusing on your breath. If counting your breaths helps you focus on them, this is fine. The idea is to use this focus to clear the clutter from your head, becoming mindful of only your breathing. Continue for two or three minutes in the beginning and work up to longer periods.

Learning Mindful Breathing With Visualization Meditation

A common mindful breathing meditation technique involves reciting a relaxing “script,” for example, “Breathing in, I relax. Breathing out, I smile.” Using visualization, or focusing on an object, can also be helpful during mindful breathing meditation. For example, look at the blue sky after sitting down comfortably, and breathe in, saying, “Breathing in, I see the blue sky.” Then, while breathing out, recite, “Breathing out, I smile at the blue sky.” Now your breathing becomes one with the blue sky, the source of your air as well as your mindfulness.

Continue mindful breathing meditation, visualizing yourself relaxing into the experience. Become mindful of your physical state of peace and inner calm.

Easy Walking Meditation

Walking meditation takes the concept of mindfulness with you while you walk. While being aware of every breath you are taking, add to that an awareness of every step. Now you are becoming one with the air you are breathing as well as the contact between you and the earth. Focus on the sensation of each foot as it connects with the ground. Keep your gaze forward and try not to let your attention wander, but return your focus always to your inhaling, exhaling, left foot, right foot, as you experience this peaceful, calming relationship with earth and sky.
(“Meditation” by Moyan Brenn, Flickr)

Learning to Appreciate Your Center

One of the greater benefits of meditation is learning to detach yourself from external forces over which you never had any control. Learning to focus your mind on what actually “is” will allow you to release your mind’s focus on what “is not.” The negative habit of focusing on, or worrying about, troubles you have no control over will become replaced with a new, positive habit of clearing the worries from your mind.

Your new and ever-deepening awareness of yourself and your surroundings can promote a sense of balance, a centeredness which becomes a new foundation from which you will develop new relationships. With regular practice, meditation will help you maintain your center when life’s situations try to throw you off-balance.

And, in those times when you find yourself pulled off-balance by overpowering events and situations, meditation will help return you home, to your quiet, calming peace of mind.

Author Bio Marco Sterling - guest blogger - meditation 2-17-16

I am a former mid-level advertising executive who had the unfortunate experience with drug and alcohol abuse. My experience is similar to others and in going through it I realized how precious life really is. My aim is to help as many people as possible who are going through the same struggle. I currently serve as the Chief Editor for www.PaloRecovery.com and I hope that you will visit and find value in the topics I write about.