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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