All is Wrong so All is Right

The more I seek comfort in solutions outside of myself, the emptier I feel. There’s an ambulance outside the coffee shop I’m sitting in, some police cars nearby. I don’t know what’s happening but I hope I can use the moment to cultivate gratitude. At least I’m not in an ambulance. I don’t feel grateful right now, though. I’m angry, irritable, and discontented because damn, this sense of craving, this clenched and anxious feeling, it just won’t abate. I’ve exercised and eaten well, and also tried turning to caffeine and sugar. I’ve done everything I can, short of the methods from which I am recovering, to try and put out the fire. Everything except, I guess, nothing. Perhaps now I should do nothing. Perhaps it’s best to sit with the discomfort and try to grow curious about it. 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve let my present and prospective future satisfaction (I’m not a fan of the word ‘happiness’) hinge not on who I am but on who I will become, not on what I’m doing but what I will have done, and not on what is, but what will be. It’s no way to live. Can I confront those three interrelated, bankrupt ways of being?

  1. Who I Am vs. Who I Will Become: It’s as though I am not enough, am not okay, on my own. My validation as a person depends on becoming a certain way, a certain person who I am not right now. I have to be doing more to help the world, for example. I have to have reached a certain status and stature. I am a slave to the expectations of others, real and imagined. What can be done to untangle this?
  2. What I’m Doing vs. What I Will Have Done: I have a very hard time enjoying a process for the sake of the process itself. I have a hard time engaging in experiences without being preoccupied with the process’s product, whatever the endpoint of the experience is. This also ties to that preoccupation with others’ expectations, including my own. I derive value from processes only insofar as they offer me some form of reward at the end. A reward-focused mindset causes pain, backloads the joy of an experience, and makes it damn near impossible to stay present.
  3. What Is vs. What Will Be: Welcome to the sense that there is always something wrong with the present moment. A better future exists, for sure, but it’s just over the horizon, which makes appreciation for the present challenging. There is an ideal future to come, a colorful world that makes my current world comparatively gray. 

Dissatisfaction grows out of each of these elements of being and it leads, among other avenues, to a tremendous pressure to escape whatever it is I’m currently experiencing. It’s not surprising that psychoactive substances become so appealing when I start to feel a burning craving for something, anything, to take me away. 

What can be done? What’s the solution? Part of it is, I think, that there is no real solution. I have to learn to become comfortable with this discomfort, to settle in and sit with it. So, learn to appreciate the present moment. Learn to be with whatever is happening right now. Go with whatever you are experiencing and don’t resist. As best as you can, don’t resist. Let go. Stop seeking, stop expecting perfection- perfect outcomes, perfect moments, and a perfect life. 

These are just words, of course, and they ultimately can’t do much. They certainly won’t get you high, nor cure you from wanting to get high. They won’t fix anything, really- let alone everything. That’s part of the point, though. Recovery means you’re no longer seeking some sort of unilaterally positive state, an external solution to your internal quandary. It means you’re open to facing the discomfort, open to embracing each step in the process, accepting who you are now and letting go of the parasitic prayer for an ideal future, even if it means staring blankly out the window of a coffee shop at the flickering lights of an ambulance. If all is wrong, all is also right. All is right, all is okay, even- and especially- your pain.

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