The casual statement over dinner was not tossed into the centre of the table as a controversial conversation starter. To the one saying the words, it was a matter of fact and as practical as leftovers.
“There’s no way we are meant to make it through this life without self-medicating.”
Resistance bubbled up from somewhere deep inside of me.
Wait! That can’t be right. Can it?
And what does she mean by ‘self-medicating”? Does she think, like me, that self-medicating refers to anything that significantly distracts or numbs us to the way things really are? To take the edge off? To help us avoid dealing with the hard emotions and thoughts?
But should we not be able to make it through a day without having to numb ourselves to reality? I pondered this question as I filled my wine glass yet again. Yup.
How do I personally avoid feeling the discomfort of stressful challenges?
I over-plan. It borders on an addiction. Stress can’t get to me if I map out each day with detours around all the potential potholes. Seems reasonable to me except for the hangover-type reactions I have to predicting a smooth route during construction season.
But then, another day and another conversation with someone else resulted in my companion responding to the knowledge that I regularly facilitate “Meditation for Resilient Living” sessions with his own unique take on things.
“So you teach people how to sleep, then!”
Meditation as self-medication?
While sleeping is a common form of self-medication, what an interesting suggestion that a regular practice of sitting meditation could actually be a way to avoid feeling the discomfort of the bumps in the road.
Meditating in a seated position where the bones can be stacked on top of each other and your spine can be long helps with the desire to doze off during a sit but the real work is with sitting with whatever comes up.
Anything and Everything
Instead of avoiding the not-so-fun stuff, sitting is a chance to notice it, feel it, even get royally ticked off that you have to feel something uncomfortable but not have to do anything about it or to fix it.
So done with intention, clear instructions and lots and lots of practice, meditation is the opposite of self-medicating. There is no need for numbing, distracting or avoiding. It is all acceptable.
Now what about my attachment to over-planning? Self-medication? Probably a proactive kind. A preemptive attack on stress!
I think that some people are born planners. We are the same people who have not-so-hidden addictions to office supplies especially the ones that assist in keeping us organized. I’m thinking of starting a support group.
As a work in progress, I’ve decided to continue planning because, it reduces my overall stress levels and supports me tremendously in my life’s work.
But, the real work will be in letting go of my aversion to potholes and bumps in the road. I’m going to attempt to be aware of when I reach for my favourite self-medicating organizational tools and ask myself:
What am I avoiding feeling?
If I allowed myself to feel it, what would happen?