Retiring The Monkey

With a pending DWI and a nudge from the judge, I rushed into my 1st 12 step meeting – late. I had intended to get there on time, but my mind had other plans, as usual. Being responsible, considerate of others or punctual wasn’t my forte. Over the years, since my introduction to the program, I tried every way under the sun to stay sober – my way – only to meet with total failure by returning to drinking, isolation and, in the end, shaking my head and asking myself, “What happened?” Today, I’ve not only arrived at a place where I’m sober from alcohol, for 1 year now but I’m sober mentally and emotionally, as well, because I continue to grow along spiritual lines.

man meditating

photo courtesy of

Putting the plug in the jug, going to meetings, working the steps with a sponsor, reading recovery related material and thanking God throughout the day was a great start. I soon started eating, sleeping and socializing in a healthy way – the promises were and are coming true in my life. I did encounter difficulties in my emotional sobriety though. I’d be running in three directions at once and suddenly, as was usually the case, something would go wrong.

I’d become angry that I couldn’t keep all the balls in the air at once – and too often angry at others as a result of my bad performance. I’d forget to pause when agitated and things would go further south as my frustration built and would end in the typical – “I’m sorry, I know that I should pause when irritated, but (insert any lame excuse for my unmanageability).” My listening skills were poor as people would share in the meetings. I’d be thinking of the past, future or what I wanted to say. My inability to quiet my mind made me unavailable when someone would be crying out, sometimes silently. How could I reach out to the still suffering when I couldn’t even focus on what they were saying?

Something had to change. I knew that it had to be me. During my 11th step nightly review, I’d come to the inevitable questions – was I truly trying to give of myself? What could I have done better? Would I ask God to show me what corrective measures to take?. The intuitive thought suddenly dawned on me – I was praying a lot, but meditated very little, if at all. The excuses were endless. I couldn’t still my mind. It was late. I’ll do it later, and how does one really meditate anyway?  The half measures were creeping back in. I’d had enough of The Cleve program.

I had to do the God stuff. My life depends on it. My rekindled, sincere desire to finally do God’s will and stop my sober insanity led to methods, in addition to asking God to remove the anger from me, that help me to stay grounded and more focused on my program and life in general.

Looking into others experience, strength and hope I ran across a term that fit my condition – Monkey Mind.

Mind monkey or monkey mind, from Chinese xinyuan and Sino-Japanese shin’en 心猿 [lit. “heart-/mind-monkey”], is a Buddhist term meaning “unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable”. Wikipedia

I realized I had to retire the monkey. One of the tools in battling Monkey mind is Mindfulness in all my activities. Mindfulness consists of bringing my present moment awareness and acceptance to a situation. If I can change a situation, I do that, too. With a little knowledge and practice in Vipassana meditation, I take that present moment focus into my activities, doing one thing at a time, to the best of my ability.

Today, I make an effort to keep my attention in the present moment. I’m aware of who, and what’s around me. During meetings I can now focus on people’s shares, learning from them and helping where I can. When I share I’m able to focus more on topic and solutions that have worked for me. When I’m being mindful I connect on a deeper level with the people whose life matters to me. I share greater in their smiles and sorrows. I experience more gratitude because I’m aware of what I have. Sobriety truly is a gift when I’m living in the present.

Here’s a great site to look into various meditation techniques!


About Cleve S.

Cleve is a composer and does a little writing on the side. He is in recovery from addiction, PTSD and major depressive disorder. He practices various meditation methods and mindfulness and is passionate about sharing how these have enriched his life and recovery.
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  1. Thanks for sharing that. I discovered meditation fairly recently and it has made a huge difference in my life and helped me a great deal with my recovery.

  2. Such a simple concept and such a challenge each and every day to “take that present moment focus into my activities, doing one thing at a time, to the best of my ability.”

    it is a practice (with compassion for times when I miss the mark plunging into the future or wallowing in the past) It is a practice that deepens my recovery each and every day. Thank you for sharing what enriches your recovery.

  3. I love you Cleve. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story and the link. My monkey mind is in desperate need of meditation and mindfulness. I am reading your story with the Tibetan Chimes in the background. I have been awake since 3 a.m. and am so damned blessed to have ITR and this new extension. I used to wake up — take a couple valium and return to my passed out state. It is so wonderful to now have the support of people like you, Cleve. Please keep on writing. It makes me stronger.

  4. Hey My Friend!
    I sincerely enjoyed your article…you described me as well. I have a very similar story. I have been in and out of the rooms about 11 years. I finally have discovered and fostered a wonderful, fulfilling and trusting relationship with God and have been sober 13 months. I live about 10 mile s from the nearest transit stop and do not have a car but I try by riding my bike to meetings and for exercise.
    Your story caught my attention because my mind does wonder at times and I do feel restless. I think that’s the reason I was recently let go from a lab job I had. My supervisor simply stated “I was not focused on task”. I felt I had been doing a great job but apparently not.
    Then I read your story and I feel I have a Mind Monkey. I catch myself trying to spread myself too much. I have meditated in he past and find it very useful. I looked at the website u gave and find it very useful. Thank You!
    Hope to see more of your writing. You write well.

    Please feel free to e-mail me any other things…tools in recovery that you think are helpful.

  5. ((((((JennDiggity))))) :-))

  6. who is the bomb diggity? you clever cleve!

  7. I’m glad that you enjoyed the article – it’s my 1st! 🙂 I hope to continue contributing to the Cafe – A round of applause for our editor, Nicky!!

    Thank you for being a part of my journey, as well. WE did it! 1 year! 🙂

  8. Great expressions Cleve! It is funny all the “sayings” when you first get here in AA make ZERO sense…but down the road they make a TON! Everyone has meaning, and you are living proof!
    So many come along and want to tweak this program to what THEY want, what makes THEM comfortable…and well, we know where that leads.
    Good for you for staying strong and working the program the way it is meant to be, not the way we want to. I am happy that I can share this journey with you my friend…GREAT job on 1 year!

    • Great post Tammy / Pixie65 !! A lot of people to try change this Wonderful program, to there liken’s today, and i find that it actually, Chases the New Comer away, some of them have Literally told me that, So i tell them do not Quit, and take them to other meeting’s where i know the Old fashioned A.A. is taught & shared, === Sobriety, Victory, and A Wonderful New Way of Life!! 🙂 God Bless you always xoxo Ps. to our friend Cleve >>> R.I.P. Amen…..

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