Anxiety comes in many shapes and sizes. I have never really thought of myself as an anxious person, and yet, there is one area of life that traditionally has caused me great anxiety. That area is with regard to plans.
Specifically, once I have formulated a plan, any deviation from it would cause me great angst. Sticking to my plans, my routines, my norms brings me great comfort in life. I’m not just a creature of habit, I’m a “Creature from The Black Lagoon” of habit! I can take routines and habits to a whole new level.
Take Mexican food as an example. My all time favorite Mexican dish is chili relleno. For more than two decades, if I was enjoying dinner at a Mexican restaurant, and it was on the menu, I was ordering my favorite dish.
On the other hand, if by chance it was not a menu item, I would quickly decide that the meal was going to be sub-par. I would muddle through the meal, knowing full well that I would not be returning, no matter how good the meal. By the end, I’d have decided the service was bad, the decor was awful, and the music too loud. Everything about the meal, by the time I was finished running it through the filter of my anxiety, would be wrong.
So it was that for over twenty years, my tastebuds were held hostage by chili relleno. After all, that tasty dish was a part of my plan, my routine, my habit. It brought me comfort and made me feel as though I was somehow in control.
The rigid thinking reflected in my longstanding affair with chili relleno could be found in just about every area of my life. If I’m not careful, I can be one very uptight individual. The slightest deviation from the plans can cause me panic.
Frankly, this anxiety was one of the things that attracted me to drugs. They offered me an escape from the strict routines I had built into my life. The pressure I normally felt to abide by my strict set of rules and regulations lifted whenever I was using. Plans could change without causing the angst to which I had become accustomed.
Yes, I found relief in my addiction. Relief from self-imposed rules for life that were unhealthy and even harmful. Rules that kept me knotted up inside with angst.
Unfortunately, the drugs also resulted in a total disregard for heathy rules and boundaries. The core values I had once held so dear became meaningless. They were no longer the principles that guided my life. Instead, my life became a matter of self-will, and an overpowering desire for more drugs.
Early in my recovery, Amanda often commented on the level of willingness I demonstrated. These comments would shock me, because I was well aware of how stuck in my routines and habits I was. So, her compliments regarding my willingness were hard to accept.
Over time, I have come to see that practicing willingness became my only option once I had given up drugs. The relief from anxiety that drugs had brought could only be found by practicing willingness.
One of the tools I found to help counter anxiety is meditation. For most of my life, I had avoided meditation like the plague. In my mind it represented some kind of new age mumbo-jumbo. Then, at an NA convention, I attended a workshop on meditation. The convention overall had been a bad experience to that point, causing me anxiety. In that workshop, I found relief from the anxiety I had been experiencing all weekend. Relief resulted in willingness.
Before long, I was meditating regularly. I learned to tackle my anxiety with focused breathing and clearing my head of random thoughts. As I did, the strangest thing began to happen. My anxiety dropped. My routine and plans became less essential. I became open to change. Worry and angst could be replaced by serenity.
My battle against anxiety continues. I still can quickly turn mountains into molehills if plans change. However, today I am willing to do something healthy about such feelings. Rather than finding relief in drugs, relief comes from meditation. I find relief in the realization that changes don’t have to all be bad.
Not only am I able to find relief from angst through healthy behaviors, but I have also found my way back to the core values that help me be the person I was intended to be. Escaping life’s challenges, changes, and pains is no longer necessary. Anxiety no longer governs my actions or determines my destiny.
I’ve even begun to branch out in my food choices at Mexican restaurants. Last week I enjoyed an amazing meal at a restaurant in Oklahoma City. Instead of just ordering my usual, I asked my server what he recommended. He pointed me to a stew on the back page. Something with pork and cactus? Sure, I’ll try it. It was amazing.
I’m thankful for my recovery. I’m thankful for the program of Narcotics Anonymous. I’m thankful for the fact that I have found relief from the anxiety that once had me stuck in life’s routines. I’m thankful that today I can embrace change, willing to see what God has in store.
Have a remarkable day!