How to Overcome Chaos and Be Present

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Life can be chaotic and messy. Life in recovery is no tidier. You’ll have a daily schedule to keep up with. You have groups to attend and therapists to talk to. Things can get quite busy. Sometimes a day or a week flies by without you even realizing it. Learning how to rise above this busyness and stay fully present is a challenge, but it’s very important to holistic and lasting recovery.

Being present in the moment is also known as “mindfulness.” It refers to a mental state of being aware of the present moment while calmly accepting one’s emotions and physical sensations. This is the moment to stop and smell the roses. Practicing mindfulness can help you immensely during the recovery process.

The Benefits of Mindfulness in Recovery

Starting a new phase of life at a treatment facility is certainly a stressful thing. You often don’t know what to expect or how things work. Meeting new people and managing new recovery routines can add to that anxiety. You might even ask yourself: “Why did I ever consider this?” Besides, you still have cravings and perhaps even withdrawal symptoms. Your emotional world is probably in upheaval. With all this chaos, it can be very challenging to focus on the here and now.

This is exactly why you need to practice being fully present. Mindfulness helps you gain a clear distinction between false reality (usually regrets from the past and/or fear for the future) and the real “reality” of the here and now. Your current priority is to seek to regain sobriety, a clear mind, and a healthy body. Being fully present for this phase of recovery can also help you restore a healthy sense of self. In this sense, mindfulness is a crucial part of self-compassion and self-care.

Managing Emotional Chaos and Becoming Fully Present

Apart from the change in your daily routines, your sense of chaos might also come from emotional and trauma-related baggage from the past. You lost a sense of direction in your life as you fought addiction. You constantly battle with negative self-talk in your head. And then you bring this directionless, chaotic outlook on life to the recovery facility. The key to managing all this mental health chaos is to declutter your mind. It takes practice to achieve this goal. But the support system at your facility, including therapists and counselors, can guide you through this learning process.

Here are a few tips:

  • Practice mindfulness in nature – Immersing yourself in the outdoors can help you be fully present and experience the healing power of creation. Combine the experience of your senses with gentle breathing techniques. Maybe find a spot to enjoy the view and some solitude. Being present in nature humbles us — we are only a speckle in a vast universe, and this life is only a moment of time compared to that vastness. To re-anchor your life, you need something much bigger than yourself. This revelation can be highly motivating for change.
  • Distractions will always be there – Distractions in life do not retreat once you are seeking recovery. Try to list a few priorities each day and then identify what is distracting you from these tasks. When you are in a social situation, whether it’s a 12-Step group or talking with a counselor, remind yourself to be fully attentive and present for that period of time. If you feel nervous or anxious, use mindfulness breathing techniques or express your emotions with words. Maintaining focus is an effective way of being fully present.
  • Acknowledge your negative emotions – When you have negative emotions, acknowledge their presence in your mental stage, maybe even by calmly saying: “Welcome, stress. Welcome, anger.” These emotions are not to be avoided or stifled but channeled. The way to channel these negative emotions is to relax, meditate, and breathe. Notice your breathing patterns and how these emotions are affecting your body. Reckon with them, then release their grip.

Curiosity, Creativity, and a Positive Outlook on Life

Intentionally nurturing new habits of curiosity and creativity can also be very healing. If addiction stifles our sensibilities to the here and now, creativity and curiosity bring back an engaged aliveness into the present moment. The reason why young children are so good at being fully present is because their minds are piqued by so many curiosities, even in the smallest details of life.

They are deeply connected with themselves and experiencing joy from what most grown-ups see as mundane parts of life. Likewise, you can experience that simplicity and focus when trying new outdoor activities and other adventures. The feeling of “losing oneself” in the middle of fun or play is also a process of healing from the habitual restlessness you experienced in addiction.

 Our tendencies for addiction often have much to do with the kind of outlook we have on life. Addiction begins as a mental displacement before it becomes a physiological disorder. When we learn to practice being fully present, we are teaching our minds to rewire into a more positive outlook on life. This calm and peace-seeking perspective values the simple joys in life – and that’s an outlook we can all benefit from.

Not being present in life can make things feel chaotic. Time slips through your fingers like sand when you are constantly anxious and restless. You know that you should stay calm, but learning how to get there is the challenge. Even in a hopeful experience like recovery, a new environment, new people, and new activities can kick off a new set of seemingly chaotic realities. At Jaywalker Lodge, we offer programs that facilitate mindfulness, including 12-Step support groups, therapy, and outdoor expeditions. Each week, we offer numerous opportunities to explore nature, such as river fishing, yoga class, biking, rafting down the Arkansas river, or snowboarding at one of the four Aspen Mountains. Our counselors also work with you to build new habits that nurture relaxation and a positive outlook on life. Jaywalker Lodge specializes in helping men who have yet to find lasting recovery transition to life focusing on the here and now. Call us today at (866) 529-9255.

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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