This article was published in Renew Magazine in 2012. It seems fitting that I post it today as I head out for my final day of working at the O.
Practice makes easier
By Jan Parker
I am a Qigong instructor and begin each workday with other alcoholics and drug addicts in recovery at the Orchard Recovery Center on Bowen Island in British Columbia. Encouraging a daily practice with others in the early stages of their recovery is a gift.
As a sober alcoholic, I understand the importance of being persistent with a program of recovery. Daily ritual and practice helps addicts on the road to recovery and developing the qigong program at the Orchard helped me gain insights into my own ritual.
Qigong (pronounced chee – gong) has ancient roots in China and translates to energy or vitality work. It can be as easy as gentle stretching and as deep as meditation. The practice of Qigong soothes and smoothes lifeâ€™s bumps and bruises.Â Qigong not only eases the symptoms of withdrawal, but also serves to strengthen and calm us as we begin the treatment process. We can then carry these tools with us to help with the everyday challenges we all face in life. Qigong may not be for everyone, but by taking an active role in acquiring better health, and with a consistent input of time and energy in some regular and meaningful practice, we strengthen the foundation that supports recovery for the long haul.
I began a daily practice in 1986, my second year of recovery. Stepping outside first thing in the morning and taking a deep breath was how it started. Slowly over the years, I added stretching and gentle movement.
Some people pray when they wake up, others work out at the gym or go for a run. I donâ€™t think one practice is better than any other; whatâ€™s important is that you participate on a regular basis in an activity that supports, inspires you, â€” something that provides comfort when times get tough.
Addicts are strong people with strong ideas. It is all or nothing with us. â€œEasy does itâ€ is elusive. We confuse inner peace with boredom.
Recovery is all about time and work. Addicts get intoxicated specifically to avoid feeling what is going on inside of them and we fall back into habits that allow us to quit, give up, and move on. We tend to chase a feeling of what may be or what was, rather than accept the reality of now. When things get really rough, it is easy to give up on the work we are doing, and hope the next new thing will be the thing that helps.
Over the years Iâ€™ve met people who dabble at a practice. They try a class â€”dance, meditation, or martial arts, and enjoy the benefit of starting to feel better; but soon it becomes inconvenient, or more likely, hard. Emotional or physical stuff comes up that can be messy and hard to look at when we get quiet. It seems easier to give up, try something else or worse, relapse. It takes effort to stay and do the work again and again, no matter how we happen to be feeling on any given day.
How do we learn new things when our life routine seems settled? Where is the switch we need to flip to change? How do we become passionate, dedicated and enthused enough to shake up the day, again and again â€” adding new information, working with that knowledge â€” making it our own?
Giving yourself the gift of a regular daily practice that serves your well-being is one way to find comfort, support and inspiration.
Still, there is a huge difference between wanting to be sober and being sober; wanting a regular practice and practicing.
There are a lot of ways to begin.
Look at the rituals you already have in your life. Perhaps you check your email first thing in the morning â€” subscribe to a daily email like Todayâ€™s Step Daily Newsletter, and take the time to read and think about the meditation before getting on with your day. When you go outside, take a moment and a deep breath â€” stretch your arms in the sky. Do it again â€” write or sit in silence as your morning coffee brews. Sign up for a class or join a choir that meets every week. It may not seem like much, but itâ€™s a start of a practice that can be built on if you continue. Create new triggers that serve your health and serenity.
Whether it is qigong or meditation, a mindful practice is a tool that can make recovery easier. I can think of a million reasons to do this, but none is more important than to just feel better. When we feel better, we do better. And itâ€™s personal. I practice sobriety in the same way I practice qigong. I do it one day at a time â€” no matter what.
Bio: Editorial Director for Todayâ€™s Step and sober since 1984, Jan is passionate, supportive and encouraging about the changes that happen in one’s life when we begin to move in a conscious way. As a Taiji and Qigong expert, she specializes in teaching private lessons and seminars throughout North America, as well as daily qigong classes at a drug and alcohol treatment centre on Bowen Island, BC. As the creator of the Android and iPhone app called Todayâ€™s Step: Recovery, she shares her experience, strength and hope with others in recovery.