By: Marilyn L. Davis
“There are two kinds of people. One kind, you can just tell by looking at them at what point they congealed into their final selves. It might be a very nice self, but you know you can expect no more surprises from it. Whereas, the other kind keep moving, changing. They are fluid.
They keep moving forward and making new trysts with life, and the motion of it keeps them young. In my opinion, they are the only people who are still alive. You must constantly be on your guard against congealing.” ― Gail Godwin
What Just Happened?
Recovery is full of stumbling blocks. Associations from our use bombard us.
We’re walking down the street, enjoying the spring air, watching our favorite bush bud out, and a vehicle just like our dealers rides by, and our mind returns to the last time we saw them or got high. Then we feel anxious and guilty.
We’re cooking dinner, radio blaring, swaying to the music, enjoying ourselves, and wham – an old song comes on and reminds us of the concert when we got our first DUI. Then we feel anxious and guilty.
Sitting in a meeting, we’re excited to pick up a chip denoting our recovery time. We feel happy and proud of our accomplishment. Then we see that long-winded old-timer walk in, and we wonder if we’ll have to suffer through another “this is what you have to do to remain in recovery” lecture from that old-timer. Then we feel guilty and miss the message.
In each of these incidents, our minds alter the pleasant experiences or thoughts and take us to negative place – where too many of us stay.
Enter the Monkey Mind
J. F. Benoist’s book, Addicted to the Monkey Mind Change the Programming that Sabotages Your Life is absolutely a must read for anyone in recovery. Why? Because it outlines many of the causes, the reflexive nature of, and exercises to help us move from those knee-jerk reactions in our recovery to a healthier outlook on our lives, our recovery, and ourselves.
The Monkey Mind started for most of us long before our first toke, hit, or shot.
Bombarded by shame-based messages, either from family, friends, teachers, or the playground bully, we developed a sense of inadequacy even when we were doing the best we knew how to do in any situation.
When we couldn’t deal with these feelings, we spent time looking around for someone or something to blame, and for some of us, the excuses we gave ourselves for our use.
I remember telling the college administrator that if she had to manage three dorms, take classes and maintain Dean’s List status, and fulfill the obligations of a full-time job; she would drink, too.
When that ploy didn’t work, I brought in reports from five doctors who all stated that I had to take Xanax for my nerves. Yes, you read that right, five doctors were willing to facilitate my addiction, and I didn’t have sense enough to realize that the college might question why I was seeing five General Practitioners for the same condition.
The Monkey Mind Thrives on Anxiety
When we are anxious, the Monkey Mind goes into overtime. Ever slight, criticism, mistake, and wrong-doing on our part flood our brains with only the negative image we have of ourselves.
As Benoists says, “How many people grab a drink at an event, just to “take the edge off.” That edge is the Monkey Mind creating stories or judgements about how we need to act.”
Monkey Mind Loves Guilt, Too
In early recovery, we’re so uncertain about how to think, act, interact, and rebuild a life. Most of us are consumed with guilt over our past actions, and yet, we don’t take the time to realize that when we quit using drugs and alcohol to medicate our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions, we have an opportunity to change all of them.
Moving from Monkey to Observing
Benoist introduces us to the Observing Mind. This mind is uninhibited by our judgemental programming, regardless of the source. Knowing that the cause of our discomfort is within, it doesn’t look for external references for the problem, nor the solution.
Buy this Book!
Why? Because I’m not loaning mine.
It’s already got several highlighted sections, and what I may need to do to change my Monkey Mind may be slightly different from yours, the descriptions and exercises for change will help anyone.
Whatever your attractions and addictions to the Monkey Mind are, J. F. Bonist can and will help you find your Observing Mind.
Writing, and recovery heals the heart
If you know of a book that has changed your recovery, consider sending me a link. Or think about how what you’ve done since you’ve stopped using has changed the patterns of your life and improved your recovery. Either of these can help someone struggling in their addiction.