Overcoming the Fear of Now: A Journey from Addiction to Meditation
Regardless of where we come from or who we are, we all have our own path to live. I was born into a family of meditators. I had a wonderful upbringing and caring, loving parents and yet I still found the need to rebel. This choice led me down a path of fear, darkness and addiction that would last over a decade. I really couldn’t comprehend what was going on; I was simply crashing and burning. I tried everything I could to stop, but ultimately it was my strong connection to meditation that led me to realize that the power to quit and to regain my life and its potential was inside me the whole time.
My Battle with Addiction
I started my path to recovery with Alcoholics Anonymous. I found a lot of help and support in that. But the thing that truly helped me make it out—not just stop the addiction, but actually move on to the next stage—was to understand my own intense fear of now. For me, what was happening “right now” was terrifying. Being me was terrifying. I couldn’t see how I could overcome that fear.
I think this is true for a lot of people who suffer from addiction or even all of us at some level. We wake up and feel angry or hurt and the first thing we do is try to avoid it. When we are sad or a situation seems difficult or someone is bothering us, the first thing we do is run in the other direction. We need to find a way to remove ourselves in order not to feel that way anymore. This need builds and builds and eventually we forget how to do anything else. For me, I couldn’t handle who I was – it was so shameful; it was so intense. It was so difficult to be me, I did everything I could to avoid it. This meant hiding from my own potential, hiding from my family, hiding from my friends and turning my life into this small, scary existence where there was no light, no hope. It felt insurmountable. It felt so intense that I was sure I would never make it out.
Meditation and Fear
Meditation practice was the medicine that helped me overcome that fear and hopelessness. In meditation, by relating simply and honestly with your mind, you slowly make friends with yourself and learn to accept who you are. While it might be painful, it is a hugely powerful step. In that painful moment, if you don’t run away, if you let yourself just be you regardless of how you feel, then you have conquered your fear. If you stop to notice, there are all kinds of gaps in your mind. What I’ve realized through meditation practice is the best gift we have is now. What I was so afraid of—this present moment—is all we really have anyway. Meditation practice taught me how to live in the present moment, how to live life to the fullest. Being in the moment has taught me more than I could ever imagine.
So when you wake up with the feeling that you can’t do anything with your life, instead of trying to cover it up, deal with it head on. Say, okay, I feel terrible right now. I feel like I will never, ever be happy again. So what? It will change—everything always does. It’s the ebb and flow of life.
When we become clean and sober, we experience a period where everything is glowing and joyful. It may feel that way for two weeks or even a month, but the change is only skin deep. Then what happens is you become more aware of your life. Life becomes more difficult, but at the same time, it’s more beautiful. Every moment has a preciousness to it. And then the inevitable unease returns: right now things are great but soon I may start to feel bad again. Great is no longer great because I’ve attached myself to the feeling of “great,” and then I want even more. Or perhaps it’s not quite good enough, or I think that tomorrow something even greater is bound to happen. When we recognize this habitual pattern through mindfulness, the fear, longing and attachment, we can let go of it.
How to Live in the Now
People say things like carpe diem—seize the day. How about seize the moment? How about always remember that now is all you have? Thinking about tomorrow happens, but now is all we have and we will never get another now. Even if now is tired, confused, hungry, angry or whatever, it can always be used to help us understand who we really are and how we think. Let now just be now.
We can appreciate that the biggest gift is simply to cherish the moment, cherish the fact that each moment is right here, right now. And we have this amazing ability as human beings to live and breathe and appreciate who we are. This is the great gift of being alive.
Check out Tokpa Korlo’s Mind Talks about his journey from addiction through meditation, including full talk on Overcoming the Fear of Now. These talks are featured in our online meditation course Addiction, Recovery & Forgiveness. All Mindworks Meditation Courses contain rich daily Guided Meditations and many other Mind Talks given by qualified meditation teachers to get you started and keep you going.
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