By: Marilyn L. Davis
Changing the Mind and Growing
“Our ability to retain a happy and untroubled outlook does not just come from negating bad outlooks collectively, but from correcting specific, particular ones individually.”―
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 accomplishments. 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.
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, our recovery improves by changing the mindset to a healthier outlook on our lives.
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 and take Xanax, 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 saw five General Practitioners for the same condition.
The Monkey Mind Thrives on Anxiety
When we are anxious, the Monkey Mind goes into overtime. Every criticism, mistake, and wrong-doing on our part flood our brains with only the negative image we have of ourselves.
As Benoist 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 judgments about how we need to act.”
Monkey Mind Loves Guilt, Too
In early recovery, we’re so uncertain about thinking, acting, interacting, and rebuilding a life. Consumed with guilt over our past, 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.
I have also read several books by Gail Godwin, also and this quote sums up another way to look at change. “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 keeps 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
Moving from Monkey to Observing
I think staying in the Monkey Mind is a form of congealing. But what is the alternative? Benoist introduces us to the Observing Mind. This mind is uninhibited by our judgmental 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!
I have never told someone to buy a book. Oh, I’ve suggested that they read one, or even loaned one, but not go buy this now. Yet, that is precisely what I’m telling you to do.
It’s already got several sections with sticky notes, 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. Benoist 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 with their addiction.
Marilyn L. Davis is the Editor-in-Chief at Two Drops of Ink and From Addict 2 Advocate. She is also the author of Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate and Memories into Memoir: The Mindsets and Mechanics Workbook, both available on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble, Indie Books, and Books A Million.