In the last chapter, I mentioned a condition that I call “an Emptiness Inside of Me”. Let me explain a little better what I mean by that.
When I was a teenager in high school, I got to listen to a presentation given by an alcoholic. She talked to us about her childhood and teenage years, how she felt that she didn’t belong to the world, could not connect to others, and how she felt this “emptiness” inside of her.
She then went on to tell that when she first tried alcohol, she felt confident and the feeling of emptiness disappeared. She shared how slowly, over time, her use of alcohol became excessive, and how she was finally able to stop.
In the end, she summarized by telling us to remember that alcohol was not the answer to our problems.
I remember that after her presentation, I was left wondering: you told us what the problem was, and you told us what not to do to solve it, but what should I do? How can I fill this emptiness inside of me?
I come from a family of alcoholics, so I knew that drugs and alcohol were not the answer. Unknowingly, I developed a sex addiction that provides me with a different way to escape my feelings.
When I was able to stop my sexual acting-out many years down the road, I found myself re-experiencing the same sense of emptiness inside of me. This time, I needed to find a healthy way to deal with those emotions.
But first I had to understand what was causing these feelings of emptiness. The book that helped me with that was The Practicing Mind by Thomas Sterner.
The ideas described in the book are not new. In actuality, the author simply took old principles from Eastern philosophy and applied them to the modern world. Same principles, worded a little differently, are seen through most of the major religions. Nevertheless, there was something about the author’s presentation that stood out for me.
Ever since, I’ve read books, watched movies and commercials, and listened to stories of others about how life was supposed to be. The result is that I have developed a certain set of expectations of the way I would be “when I grow up”.
The problem was not that I had expectations in and of itself, but rather the kind of expectations that I had. I wanted to be perfect. I wanted to do everything right the first time. Every time something went wrong, I assumed that I just was not talented at it, and quit.
By the time I became a teenager, I began to feel “worthless” since I was not able to live up to my own expectations.
I had pre-defined expectations towards how my life was supposed to be, but life was unfolding on its own terms, and I just did not know how to handle it.
So I felt pain, and I tried to self medicate myself through watching movies, pornography, and spending more time on the Internet – anything to get my mind off reality.
I did everything I could to give myself a chance to start over. I changed schools, countries, girlfriends, joined the military, hoping that every new endeavor would finally fix me. But no matter what I did, eventually I would find myself back in square one – disappointed and unhappy with myself.
What I didn’t realize was that I already was perfect this whole time. Perfect at being myself.
Let me ask you a question, at what time is a dog perfect at being a dog? Is it perfect when it is just a puppy? Or is it perfect when it is fully grown? Or is it perfect when it is old, calm, and wise?
It is a funny question. A dog is always perfect at being a dog. It might change its appearance based on the stage of life it is in, but it is not getting any better or worse. It is just being a dog.
It’s the same case with me. I am perfect at being myself. I am pretty bad at being Superman, Batman, Bruce Lee, or Bill Gates. But I am perfect at being Alex.
The reason that I “failed” at everything is because I never really took the time to practice it. Whenever I would try to learn a new skill, let’s say playing a guitar, I never had the patience to practice. I would try playing, having pre-defined expectations of where I wanted to be. After a while, I would compare the music that I was producing to the results that I was hearing and get discouraged and stop practicing altogether.
In other words, I was only interested in the result, knowing how to play a guitar, and viewed the required process of practice, as an unwanted sacrifice that I had to deal with in order to get the result that I wanted.
Therefore, the key to a successful practice is to have a proper set of expectations. Instead of expecting certain results, it is better to simply expect yourself to be fully immersed in the process of learning.
It is amazing how my experience with learning changed by simply changing my expectations. What used to be a painful, boring task transformed into something easy and fun. Since my only expectation was to be immersed in the process, I could constantly meet my expectations, by simply doing what I was doing. And it felt good too.
Life is a Journey, not a Destination. We all have heard it before, the trick is to apply it.
In 12 steps, they say progress and not perfection. I would add process and not perfection or process and not results. If you keep engaging in the process, the results will take care of themselves.
This is not an easy task. As with other techniques that we’ve discussed, I constantly have to bring them back into my awareness, and continue to practice them. My life seems to get quickly out of control as soon as I let it run on autopilot.
I will summarize all of the techniques that we talked about in the next chapter, and try to point you to a number of other resources that you can use to further enhance your recovery.