The word ‘structure’ can be just such a word and as you read further along in this posting I will try to describe exactly what I mean. There is no question that having a daily structure in someone’s life is vital when in recovery. Just checking the word ‘structure’ itself in a thesaurus opens up a number of other words that may be more useful. Here are some of those thesaurus words: construction, design, organization, framework, architecture. Immediately the word itself moves from a somewhat dull concept to one that is much more inviting and creative.
Another word I would like to bring up now in relation to forming a viable structure in one’s recovery life, is the word ‘chore.’ How many times have we heard ‘we need to do our chores,’ or ‘washing the dishes or doing our laundry is such a chore,’ or ‘you cannot go out until you finish your chores.’ Okay, I think we get the idea. Chores are part of that list of items in life that have to be completed and I have found when talking to many individuals in recovery that the word ‘structure’ is immediately interpreted synonymously with the word ‘chore.’ Therein lies a problem. Remember, words can be tricky and how we think and feel about something will often end up being how we will live with that interpretation.
We need structure in our daily life and part of that structure is doing our daily chores. Okay, we accept this. The people who are in recovery that develop a structure in their daily lives are inherently more successful at remaining sober and clean than those individuals that choose to lie in bed until noon, watch TV, occasionally attend a meeting, etc. Each of us needs activity, needs movement, and variety, but daily seemingly mundane tasks (structure, chores) are equally vital. Our minds daily need to be brought to a state of full awareness – what are we thinking, what would we like to accomplish this day. At the same time, we should get in touch with our feelings and emotions and relate to our inner being with care. Our bodies must have exercise and sound nourishment. All of us need to breath in fresh air and try to experience some time each day in the outdoors, regardless of the weather conditions. This is all practical, good common sense and we have all heard variations on this theme.
What I have learned in my journey in recovery is to fully embrace structure and the chores associated with that structure. What works for me, is to allow myself to have awareness of the moment and not rush through anything in order to dutifully mark it off as completed on my daily list of things to do. People are sometimes in too big a rush, constantly marking off their lists of things they must do and getting through the day mindlessly. The words structure and chore have been given a bad reputation. Getting in touch with the moment, allowing oneself to be aware of both body and mind when doing anything is key to fully integrated living – that’s what living in unconditional recovery is all about – living mindfully and integrated.
If we are constantly negating awareness of the moment, hoping to get to the end of the day at work and looking to that upcoming weekend, for instance, then we are missing out on each day. Life is meant to be lived in the present and our awareness needs to become unified with this moment. When our minds are racing with thoughts, and, often an inner dialogue filled with anxiety or negativity, we cannot be in the moment. Training our awareness to be in unity with our actions is probably one of the healthiest practices we can introduce to our daily structure. We have only this moment and I know one of the real challenges anyone faces is not being able to still the mind and be in the moment.
Life is not just something to get through. I know that I drank alcohol to try to numb and still my mind and we all know where that leads. Alcohol and drugs are not the answer to this dilemma of our racing thoughts. In fact, it is easy to say, without the proof of some major study or report, that human beings are seldom allowing themselves to be present in the now. I sometimes look at life and witness so many of us just pounding through the days with little peace in the moment. I know this, because it is what I did before my recovery began and what I hear from others countless times in many meetings. A person can be wealthy and on a three week vacation in Switzerland, and still not have peace of mind. They can suffer from the perplexing dis-easement of not being able to slow down, harness those perpetually running thoughts, and bring their minds into an awareness of one thought – this moment. Again, any person in this world can be suffering from a state of dis-easement and dis-connectedness.
Each of us has the choice to begin to enhance the meaning behind structure and chores. Make them a happy part of your life, not something that you ‘must’ do. Having structure in one’s life is vital to recovery but it should be a positive endeavor, not a negative task. I now embrace all the small chores I do every day – washing the dishes, taking a shower and shaving, taking out the trash, vacuuming my home, driving to work. It has taken much practice over the years but it all begins right now. Start with the simplest chore and try to focus on just what you are doing. If you have a thought in the moment, make it a positive thought. Tell yourself while you work that you are finding love for life, love for yourself and others and an appreciation of your body and the movements you are utilizing to accomplish your task-at-hand.
Practice slowing down your thinking while building the positive, daily structure in your life. Find the blessing of life itself and of your life – your important life of recovery. Allow recovery to be the most positive moment and period you have ever embraced in your entire existence. Know that happiness and peace can be found within this moment – the deep wisdom of One Day at a Time – let’s add One Moment at a Time. It is only during this state of awareness and harmony that a person can find and feel God and experience that wonderful unity of God’s universe within their own heart. This mindful state is worth more than gold and certainly is not to be found through alcohol or drugs. It is an attainable state of consciousness and can be practiced and developed during recovery and for a lifetime. Why? Because in recovery we are open to change and redefining our lives while creating a new structure of awareness. We have been granted a wonderful opportunity to enhance our lives through unconditional recovery and to embrace the richness and beauty that life can be.
The next blog will expound on these ideas and introduce the concept of ritual in our lives. Until next time . . . stay strong.