Most of us don’t realize how much anxiety we have on a daily basis, and how much that anxiety is ruling our lives.When we stay stuck in this anxious cycle, we continue to struggle with substance abuse. The key is developing consciousness and developing the ability to deal with those anxious thoughts. Our anxiety can actually teach us how to escape the vicious cycle.
Unfortunately for most of us, we’ve been trained to repress and deny any uncomfortable feelings. We don’t yet know how to learn from what our anxious thoughts are trying to teach us.
Let me give you an example of a time I got trapped in the prison of anxiety. Many years ago, my family and I were at a pool party. My daughter, who was four-years-old at the time, was playing with some other kids in the pool. Since she didn’t know how to swim, she was on an inner tube.
Despite keeping an eye on her, my wife turned and noticed that she was no longer on the tube. Our son, who was sixteen, jumped into the pool and grabbed her out of the water. She was gasping for air when she reached the surface.
And in that moment, I had the realization of how quickly things can go from perfect to horrific. Another thirty seconds and my daughter could have died.
After this incident occurred, for the next two weeks I was ruled by anxiety without being aware of it. I’d have panic attacks as I’d lie in bed, trying to repress and deny the experience – if I could just tell myself this didn’t happen, everything would be okay. But the more I lived my life, the more I found myself becoming depressed, and having all kinds of symptoms from this anxiety I wasn’t looking at.
So, one night I was in bed and the picture of what happened just kept coming back. This time, I decided to sit and start regulating with my breath and breathing into the experience. Through this process, I realized where the real fear was coming from: that this would happen again.
That was the reason why I didn’t want to give these thoughts any attention, because I couldn’t deal with the possibility of this happening again. Then, as I went further and began to do Mindful Inquiry on myself, I realized the deeper reasoning behind the anxiety. If my daughter had died, it meant that I was a horrible father, and that there was fundamentally something wrong with me.
That construct is something that I don’t want to look at, because it’s a painful thought, but it’s there whether I like it or not. Subconsciously, I made up this story that I’m a bad father in order for me to prevent this from happening in the future. However, all it was doing was making me miserable.
So, the truth here is that the way we design, the way we think about a dramatic event and the way we think about ourselves is flawed because it’s rooted in believing that there’s a flaw in our character; that there’s a flaw in us. And life’s not like that. We’re actually doing the best we know how, in every moment. If we’re able to connect with that and recognize that, then we can move past our anxiety.
Ultimately, if you want to resolve your substance abuse and all the self-sabotaging behaviors that you have, you have to begin to be in a relationship with your anxiety. Once you are conscious of this, you’ve taken the first step on learning how to navigate the core beliefs that are driving this anxiety, which is where the real power to make long-lasting change lies.
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