Paul J. Wolanin, author of Chopping Wood and Carrying Water: One Day at a Time, is a man who walks the talk. In addition to addressing addiction recovery and spiritual awakening, Paul has provided us with practical tips on how to stop using drugs by yourself. Here, he addresses how to tackle stinking thinking and frame your recovery in a positive light. Your questions, feedback, and comments are welcomed at the end.
Getting over anxiety by right thinking
The cause of most anxiety is wrong thinking about something: what will happen in the future, what didn’t happen in the past, how we have been wronged, mistreated, how we might lose something we cherish or fail to gain something we desire. The list is never ending. While there is a time and a place for the pharmaceutical treatment of anxiety disorder, I have found that most recovering folks suffer from the kind of anxiety that can be traced back to wrong thinking.
Pay attention to your thinking
We already know how to think wrong; what if for a change we learned to think right?
Learning to pay attention to my thinking was a lesson I learned early in my own recovery. I hope this short analogy helps you to understand how powerful our thoughts can be – and how learning how to think can drastically reduce the anxiety most of us feel throughout early, mid or late recovery.
How to reduce anxiety in recovery
Imagine you have planted a beautiful garden. You have spent weeks of your free time preparing the soil and selecting which flowers you will plant. You return home from work each evening to water your garden, carefully spreading fertilizer and removing all the little weeds that sprout up.
You love this garden and it is really beginning to grow. You find little nibble marks from squirrels and rabbits, so you erect a small wire fence around the garden to protect all of your hard work – until the flowers have grown big and strong. You have done a very nice job maintaining your garden. Again, watering and fertilizing your beautiful flowers so that they can grow and reproduce.
Now imagine this: A garden full of weeds. What if you were to water and fertilize all the weeds in your beautiful garden? All of the time and effort you put forth to plant a garden of flowers, all the watering, fertilizing and pruning you have done – and you water the weeds. As soon as a flower begins to grow, you immediately pull it from the soil you have prepared. Instead, you tend to the weeds, ensuring that they will grow and flourish.
Whatever you water grows. The choice is yours.
The human mind is like a garden
The human mind is no different. Whatever you think about the most grows. If you entertain Godly, pure and positive thoughts, these thoughts will grow and reproduce. If you entertain thoughts of fear, lack, resentment and worry, these thoughts will grow and reproduce. Anxiety feeds off of fearful and hopeless thoughts. These types of thoughts are what keep the furnace of worry and fear burning inside us all.
It is simply a matter of what kind of garden you wish to cultivate within your mind. The choice is yours.
While I am powerless to control what thoughts pop into my mind (these are called automatic thoughts) I am not powerless over which thoughts I fertilize (give my attention to) and which thoughts I pull immediately from the garden of my mind.
How does your garden grow?
What type of gardener are you? Are you tending a garden full of the weeds of anger, fear and worry? Or are you instead tending a garden of hope, peace and success through change? Again, the choice is yours.
Please remember that Step One asks us to admit powerlessness. Not just over our dependencies, but over the past and much of our future. Powerlessness over what other people think, say and how they behave. Powerlessness over the outcomes of our hard work in recovery. Once you begin to understand the vastness of powerlessness, you can begin to be free of anxiety, worry and fear. It is a process; a process that begins with Step One.
Remember that you are not powerless over how you think. Once again, YOU ARE NOT POWERLESS OVER HOW YOU THINK. Furthermore, you are not powerless over how you behave. While you cannot always choose which thoughts pop into your mind, you can choose which thoughts you water and fertilize.
Tend to your garden wisely.