• Andrew Bevan - Voluntary Mentor

Be Still - Mindfulness in Lockdown Recovery

Updated: Jul 16


Being still is difficult. Being in isolation is even more difficult - for everybody, but especially for alcoholics in recovery. Lockdown still presents a severe challenge, although we are slowly re-emerging.

People are responding to the lockdown in different ways. Some are using it to tackle things that have been postponed for months if not years, like clearing out the house or the garage. Long queues formed at the public recycling centres when they re-opened. Others are painting the house from top to bottom or designing a new garden.

No doubt, it is an opportunity to do some of those things. Forming a plan of activity helps to bring order to our lives. Getting things done provides us with a sense of achievement. This is all positive. But is it not also a sign that some people feel the need to be always doing something? Are we not already often overly busy in our lives? What is wrong with using the opportunity of lockdown to be still?

I used to be a very driven person, and no doubt sometimes I still am. For years, I was completely exhausted. My job took me all over the world. I was either permanently jet-lagged or hung over from alcoholic binges. It all came crashing to an end, of course. After I'd been dry for some considerable time, and stopped running around, somebody told me how much better I looked. Alcohol treatment therapy helped me to take care of both my physical and spiritual health.

Why are we uncomfortable being still? We strive hard to make a success of our lives and provide for our families and loved ones. This provides a sense of purpose. But some people keep pushing themselves well beyond this basic need and never achieve happiness. Is it because we lack a sense of self-worth and deeper meaning to our lives?

Some people are overly busy because they are not really comfortable in their own skin. This is not good for our well-being. We need occasionally to take a deep breath and take stock of what really matters in our lives.

Mindfulness is what we are doing when we sit and be still. We need to focus on the present moment. Don't keep looking back full of regret. The past has gone. Yes, it is part of who we are as persons. Our genes, family, education, friends and work have all contributed to who we are today. But we can’t change any of that. It already happened.

Similarly, our futures are not mapped out in front of us in some predetermined fashion. So don’t be anxious about what the future holds. We will make choices, of course, and we will do our best. But some things will happen that are beyond our control. Some things will be good and, unfortunately, yes, some things will be bad. That’s life.

Remorse and fear feed anxiety. This is bad for our emotional and spiritual well-being. Some then turn to alcohol as a way to cope. Unfortunately, what starts as a pleasurable way of coping with stress sometimes turns into habit, which then becomes necessity. Loss of control leads to a downward spiral and despair.

Mindfulness is part of a strategy to restore spiritual health. Buddhists use mindfulness or meditation as a practise to let go of craving and false impressions of the self. Others think of mindfulness like prayer, but it’s not about asking, it’s about listening. It’s about letting go of who said what to whom in the workplace or plotting about how to climb above others. It’s about finding your true place in the world.

Some of us are fortunate enough to have peace and quiet during lockdown. When I close my eyes and breathe deeply, I can hear birdsong with real clarity. I can hear the trees moving in the wind. It makes you realise that you are part of something much bigger, the flow of life. Mindfulness is a tough spiritual discipline to follow, especially for the restless alcoholic in recovery, but it helps provide a pathway to peace.

Just to be clear, we do need to get back to meeting other people and carrying on with our lives. We are social beings and we need community. We all need a return to something like normality. But we also need space and time to have clear heads. Ask yourself - who am I? What really matters in life? How am I going to use my recovery?

Lockdown is an opportunity to Be Still.

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