“If you have to control it, it is out of control already!” A great quote once said to me regarding alcohol. This was after a reasonably successful stint of monitoring my intake with extreme effort. Who was I trying to prove a point to? Myself? The world? The doubters and critics of my lifestyle? The very notion that I had to try and prove I didn’t have a drinking problem was evidence enough that I did. “I can go a week without drinking”, I would proudly exclaim like it was a giant achievement. But it was, to me. I was hooked. I was and am a drunk. I accept that. The effort of trying to prove a point to myself and an audience that really wasn’t watching became a waste of energy. I was fighting a fight against a shadow. The opponent was me. There was never going to be a winner.
Relinquishing control is hard. Control is what keeps me on the straight and narrow. It is the thing that keeps me in check. By controlling my focus I can achieve things that were once out of reach. Yet, control also strangles the soul out of life. It exacerbates my anxiety. If left unchecked my natural ego-driven pursuit of control wants me to have a hand in matters beyond my influence. Recently, I found myself trying to map out all the probable outcomes of my future. Endless avenues of possibility each one was looked at in intricate detail and the outcomes judged. It was a conscious decision to do this. But it was a conscious decision to stop doing the activities that limit this kind of thinking. I have spoken numerous times about the simple things in life that keep me in check; meditation, exercise, a balanced diet without too much control, interaction and self-reflection. Sounds simple? It takes practice. There isn’t a day where I no longer need to do those things. Even the Dalai Lama still meditates. But you know the weather has been bad so I haven’t been running and walking as much as I need to. It’s nearly Christmas so I can eat an obscene amount of chocolate. My mood begins to sink. Meditation is too much of a chore now I feel down. Oh, I feel depressed? Exercise less. Eat more chocolate. Mood sinks lower. The cycle of despair. So the option is there; continue down the path of trying to lift my mood by doing the things that are making me sad or slowly, nudge myself back towards the other path. The only control I have in life is my thinking. The actions I take in life are a result of that thinking. The thought becomes behaviour. Now as an addict I naturally choose the easy option. Scratch that, as a human. Sitting on my arse watching TV, eating handfuls of chocolate is brilliant. I love doing it. Especially when it is pissing it down with rain outside. The heating whacked up. Warm cosy. Great. I love it. But it isn’t sustainable. Not for me. Because the things I need to do, to keep me well are contrary to that.
I have to make a conscious decision to change. With me, the change starts with a thought. Deep in my mind I know I can’t sit on my arse forever. I know it isn’t healthy. But the part of my brain that knows that it isn’t good for me, isn’t the same part as the one that demands a quick fix of sugar, fat, salt or escapism. I started with a morning meditation. More of a reflection. A question “How are you today?” And you know what. The majority of the time I was alright. That single moment set me up better than falling out of bed and trudging through life. Next, I got back to walking. Just getting out. Looking at the world. I went for a good walk with a good friend of mine and the weather wasn’t great but it was much needed. Just being away from my phone and technology for a day was a good reminder that pressing refresh on my emails is not going to make a change. Amongst these slight nudges back towards the behaviours of contentment I realised that I had slipped. I had let my thoughts become wild. Anxiety. Chaotic rumination. Years ago I would have tried to escape or ignore it. But it is too tiring now. I sat with it. I looked at where it came from. I was trying to make certainty out of uncertainty. I was trying to map out my life. I had to accept that there are things out of my control. I had to relinquish that control to the future. I had to hope for a good outcome but accept that it may not be. All I can do is the simple things that keep me running at a good level of life. That’s all I can do. It sounds so easy yet it is so difficult. It takes practice. I will fall off the path again in the future because I am not perfect. But I know I have the tools to get back to where I need to be.