Back in my early sobriety and recovery, it was suggested that I read M. Scott Peck’s book, The Road Less Traveled. The first chapter, titled Problems and Pain, began with the sentence, “Life is difficult.” I put the book down and cried for about a week. That was not what I wanted to hear. Somehow, I had missed that important fact about living, that it was difficult. Why would anyone recommend a book that started in such an abrupt, sobering manner? Forgive the pun there.
Eventually, I picked the book back up, worked through the first sentence again and read the entire work. Even now, I can say it is one of the most important, honest, books I’ve read in my life journey, and would recommend it to anybody who is ready to accept responsibility for their life, their choices, their actions and the resulting consequences.
Living life is difficult, bad things happen. Erroneous choices are made that cause us great pain. There are situations and circumstances that occur beyond our control which are painful and hard. Living a successful life is not about what happens in your life, it’s more about what you choose to do with those dark places, those moments that drop you to the floor in grief or pain. These are the moments when it feels like it would be easier to die than get back up and start walking. I truly believe we all have those moments; it is part of the human condition.
Whether we are aware of it or not, everyone is in or needs to be in recovery from something. Whether it’s childhood of origin issues, events of death, loss and trauma, relationship difficulties or random events one has no control over, we aren’t going to make it through life without tragedy and difficulty. There are those that already know this truth and there are others who haven’t figured it out yet. We take what is given and make a decision on how we choose to let it affect not only who we are, but what we do and where we’re headed. When I encountered that darkest place in my life, I chose recovery.
What my time in rooms of recovery and years of therapy gave me was a road map and a tool kit, lessons about life and how to live. I went from blindly living in the moment, wondering why bad things kept happening to me to living mindfully, making thought filled choices about my life and accepting the consequences of my actions. I learned about consciously acting instead of reacting to those situations and things that were out of my control.
Below are the SAMHSA’s 10 Principles of Recovery, altered changing the word recovery to living mindfully. These can be adopted by anyone, they are guides to a positive, constructive, purposeful life. Please read and see if they might work for you.
1. Living mindfully is self-directed. You find your way to awareness through personal control, good decision-making, and independence. The choices you make are yours and yours alone.
2. Your path is based on your personal needs, likes, and experiences. If you see living mindfully as an ongoing journey, you’ll be able to find the best physical and mental health.
3. Living mindfully empowers you. You’re the only person who can turn your decisions into actions.
4. Living mindfully includes your mental, physical, and spiritual needs. It includes your family, friends, job, and community.
5. Living mindfully will have ups and downs. It’s not a step-by-step process. It’s a long-term process where you grow and build on your successes and setbacks.
6. Living mindfully is based on your ability to bounce back, cope, and make use of other talents. Value yourself and build on these strengths.
7. Living mindfully includes support from others. Make friends and build relationships. Join groups where you can help others and find purpose for yourself.
8. Living mindfully lets you respect yourself. Believe in yourself and meet your goals. Accept and take pride in what you can do.
9. Living mindfully shows that you take responsibility for yourself. Find the courage to work toward your goals.
10. Living mindfully gives you hope. You can overcome your problems.
*Adapted from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2006). National Consensus Statement on Mental Health Recovery.
Practicing these principles in your life is what recovery is all about. What are you in recovery from? Are you living mindfully? I hope you are.
If you or someone you know needs help from substance use disorder or mental illness, call or text MHMR Tarrant’s 24/7 ICARE at 800-866-2045.