RIP – Robin Williams

I was not going to write about Robin Williams passing, but when I woke up this morning it was still heavy on my mind….not because he was famous, funny, or a film star, but because he was one of us and we lost him.

Robin Williams suffered from alcoholism: a three-fold disease that is described as an allergy of the body, an obsession of the mind and a spiritual malady.

Yes I understand that Robin Williams’ cause of death is apparent suicide via asphyxia. His publicist said that he had been battling severe depression and insisted that his recent stay at Hazelden earlier this summer was nothing more than relapse prevention. I doubt we will ever know the full story, nor do we need to know. What I do know is, relapse or not, anyone suffering from alcoholism is in real danger if any of the three facets of the disease are not treated.

Abstinence (or putting the plug in the jug) is only one part of  recovery. For a person to live happy, joyous and free in recovery the mental and spiritual aspects must also be addressed. Addiction brings about high anxiety,  deep depression and overwhelming despair that are impossible to describe to people who don’t suffer with alcoholism/addiction. The impending doom, self-hatred and fear that tend to be byproducts of untreated alcoholism often don’t make sense to non-alcoholics especially when the alcoholic is not drinking and appears to have everything together. However taking of one’s own life is not an unfamiliar ending to those of us who battle alcoholism/addiction.

As this new day begins my heart breaks for Robin’s loved ones. There is absolutely nothing I can do to help him, his friends or family, but what I can do is get up and go to HM1 and HM2. I can sit with the two new women who came to the house yesterday broken and very sick: physically, mentally and spiritually. And one more time I can have the privilege of carrying the message to the next suffering alcoholic.

IPads and Mindfulness

Recently I purchased a tiny IPad to use for business and being a newbie to the world of IPads I asked the super duper smart computer geek dude (hereafter simply know as dude) to give me a quick rundown on the basics of operation.  One little feature caught my attention and I have been pondering it ever since.

The dude explained that once programs were open, even if you are not using them and even if you can’t see them, they remain running in the background.  He informed me that having multiple programs running in the background can cause the IPad to run slower, use power and not operate at full capability. To solve this problem the dude touched something on the screen, found one of the programs and with his finger flicked it up to the top of screen where it disappeared. In its place another program was revealed that I had no idea was running, secretly draining my power, and again he flicked it up to the top and it disappeared. The dude repeated this several times until all hidden, unused programs were exposed, flicked and closed out.

Why am I still pondering the whole silly IPad thing? Mainly because it struck me how awesome it would be if I practiced this in recovery with my thinking. Today, one day at a time I will expose, flick and shut down unhealthy, dangerous thinking.

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Additional Reading:

Significant lifestyle change in recovery can be very difficult to initiate and even more difficult to maintain over the long haul. A major key to success in this effort is mental discipline or “mindfulness.”  Our internal experience flows from where the attention is directed and old habits of behavior are unwittingly encouraged and supported. Mindfulness can break the hold of these destructive patterns, and the freed energy can then be used to firmly establish any recently learned and still fragile recovery habits/tools. Mindfulness is a skill that is easily learned and strengthened over time.  So, what is mindfulness? Well John S. Shealy, Ph.D., describes mindfulness is being 100% present with whatever is occurring to us or within us at any given moment. It is being present with what is in the now, not our perceptions, our judgments or our comments about what is happening; just what is happening with no elaborations, no overlay of judgment or commentary. It is being present with the endless flow of change in our life without becoming lost in reactivity.

However, after only a few minutes of silent, motionless sitting I clearly see that mindfulness is not an easy task nor is it my ordinary state of mind. When I try it my mind races chasing from this thought to the next and, at the risk of sounding nuts, my mind chatters to me endlessly.  It’s as if the mind has a mind of its own!

Why does this matter? Because a relapse begins in the mind and not with the first drink. The danger is that we react endlessly to the pleasant or unpleasant feelings associated with what is occurring in the moment and our mind grows more unmanageable and controlling of our attention.  And along with our attention, we lose control of our inner experience (the only experience we have). With this loss of control comes more anxiety and fear, which only fuels the mind’s need for relief that often is sought through alcohol or drugs. The good news is we don’t have to live like that and we can move into a life of recovery; of quiet, mindful observation, of peace.  In recovery goal is to make mindfulness my natural, habitual way of “Being” in the world. The development of this powerful skill requires determination and a balance of strict discipline and gentle kindness toward myself.

So how do I develop this way of thinking, mindfulness? For me the practice of meditation is a powerful tool for the development of mindfulness and if practiced brings me into a more mindful way of “Being.” As the mind continues to settle down, we begin to gain control over where we are placing our attention. With this focused attention, we can apply the tremendous power of the mind to the task of establishing and maintaining healthy and wise choices. As we become less trapped by old habits of thought and behavior, we allow new possibilities to open up.

For the life of me I don’t remember how the dude said to find, flick and close out the programs on the IPad, but I do know that through mindfulness I can find, flick and close out those unhealthy thoughts in my mind.