I could not be more thrilled with the response my last post on lying, and Buddhism, and how the two don’t jibe even if you mix them with vodka. A real great discussion of the role of spirituality in recovery broke out in the comments. And one of my sober heroes, Sober Mummy at Mummy was a Secret Drinker (a wonderful, relevant, helpful blog, if you haven’t read it), did her own clever post on Buddhism (read it here).
This is a conversation I hope all of us keep having. Because being able to nourish the spirit is one of the wonderful benefits we reap when we stop trying to nourish ourselves with the spirits(see what I did there?). In AA meetings and on sober blogs, I heard lots of people’s stories about what they did to get through early sobriety. Some of their experiences resonated with me, some didn’t, but I always appreciated hearing from those who had trudged that path before me. I think the same goes for building a sober soul to go with one’s new sober life. Everyone’s experience is valuable, even if I don’t find it relevant to me in its particulars.
So keep it up, y’all.
I want to add a little to the Buddhism talk, because the practice has come to mean so much to me, but I think, had I dove in too quickly, I could have missed this particular spiritual boat.
When I first stopped drinking, I loaded an app from Meditation Oasis called “Learn to Meditate.” It is a multi-week course which includes some very basic instructions on meditating, which I needed (stuff like “what to do if you keep falling asleep — answer, go ahead and nap. You probably need it), and 25 minute guided meditations. The voice is so calming and the guidance was just what I needed to bring me gently into the present moment. I made myself do them everyday and was hooked by the end.
I did this initially because I was desperate for something to shut down my nattering brain — so full of anxiety and self-loathing, and regrets. I had used alcohol to do this for so many years, I don’t think I ever learned how to sit quietly with my feelings (Why should I, when there is a nice crisp Sauvignon Blanc in the fridge??). Though sometimes I struggled mightily to stay with the meditation, I always ended up feeling more grounded and rested after. I even would meditate at the time I used to pour my first glass of wine, a substitute cocktail hour.
I got a couple more of Meditation Oasis’s apps (the rest and sleep ones are awesome!) and then picked up another app called Insight Timer. This app has a section that allows you to search for guided meditations (which are rated and sorted by teacher or subject or time). Through it, I discovered Tara Brach, a buddhist teacher, who helped me take my meditation practice to the next level. I also started listening to her talks (she has a podcast) and learning some of the basics of Buddhism, in a very user-friendly, this-is-how-this-applies-to-real-life sort of way.
Her teachings brought me to many others (I’m skipping a bunch of steps here), and I did all sorts of reading and continued to meditate without fail every single day. Today. I practice Zen Buddhism, which involves silent meditation and a mix of more challenging and Tara Brach-like texts. It is just what I need right now…BUT, had I started with Zen, I think I would have never continued, with Buddhism or meditation, and what a loss that would have been.
Silent meditation would have been impossible for me in those early days. My addicted brain was wailing way to loudly for me to know how to be able to hear through it to the real sober world. And some of the Buddhist texts can sound quite abstract (they are really quite the opposite) if you come to them with no experience in mindfulness and no guidance (and I am talking about online here — you don’t need to climb a mountain top and look for a monk) from teachers who can make Buddhist principles relatable.
This is a very long way of saying, I hope that all of you who have expressed interest in Buddhism do pursue it. And if you do, I would (did) start with gentle mindfulness meditation and see where that takes you.
Oh, and one more recommendation: James Salazar’s book (also and audio tape, also an online class) called Awakening Joy. I have the book, which I have read through and done the exercises, I’ve listened to it on Audible in the car two times, the last just recently. And I’m taking the online class right now. Really great stuff, based on Buddhist mindfulness principles. This is one you can start right away, even if you never meditated a moment in your life.