Who remembers the 80’s? A time for spandex fashion, mobile phones like bricks and outrageously voluminous hairstyles? You may think, why are you asking me this? Well, who remembers a chirpy song from that era by a guy called Bobby McFerrin titled ‘Don’t worry, be happy’?
Like most one-hit wonders, it came and went. But this song had something else, it had a hook. A message alongside the catchiness of the melody. Message: Don’t worry, be happy.
Now there is a thought, imagine if it was so easy: Don’t worry. Instead, just simply be happy. Is that even possible?
Is it normal to worry?
I grew up in a long line of professional worriers. My mother would be continually cautioning “don’t run you’ll fall”, “watch out for cars” and “don’t touch that, it’s dangerous”. It seemed as a child, I was naturally curious, and this would evoke constant words of caution from my worried mother.
It continued into school. There was always an extreme disaster story that accompanied every scenario that a teacher didn’t approve of. “Stop chewing your pen, there was a student who choked on a pen lid”. “Stop running in the corridor, a student broke his leg like that”. “Stop swinging on your chair” and “stop using that” were daily messages accompanied by a tale of historical tragedy to enforce the directive and induce worry.
I often wondered if my school was the unluckiest school ever, being witness to so many accidents!
It was no wonder by the time I was an adolescent, I sometimes couldn’t turn for worry of some sorts. But by then, it was worries of my own. What job would I do? Would I ever own a home? What is normal? “Am I even NORMAL”? were some of the questions that worried me.
But just how many of these queries were actually mine or worries created by society? A response, from myself, as I over thought and subsequently obsessed and worried about what others told me was the norm?
What is the impact of worrying?
If you’re like me, you will be accustomed to ‘overthinking’. I can ‘overthink’ about every interaction or event on any given day. In fact, I’m such an expert at this that I can delve back years to pick a scenario or event and ponder over it incessantly.
At such times, retaining any level of focus is difficult. Whatever task I have that day could quickly be pushed to one side as I worry and overthink, about events long past and how it may impact my future. Like at school, there is always a disaster scenario I chose to focus on, some catastrophic event waiting to happen, making me worry.
It can be paralysing and can prevent me from making any decision in the moment? My therapist calls it ‘Analysis Paralysis’. Like most addicts, I have a unique ability to overthink and over-scrutinise even the smallest of points, inducing worry that will freeze me into inaction.
Worry stops me dead in my tracks. It brings on fear and ultimately robs me of the moment, and often the pleasure of life.
I often reflect on the opportunities I have missed out on, the adventures I could have had if only I hadn’t given in to worries so much.
Addiction and worry
Another strange thing about me is I seem to defocus from the main issue at hand. During my active addiction, I never worried about the substances and their impact on me and those around me.
I literally didn’t care. When It came to drugs, my main concern was when would it run out. Nothing else.
If only I could apply this carefree approach to life in recovery, but the truth is I often feel like I tend to worry about most things. Such as – how people view me. And how do I now see myself?
Maybe there lies the key to a more serene life: work on how I see myself. And in that process, I may begin worry less about how I appear to others.
Shifting the focus on to me just might be the beginning of a rewarding and inward journey of self-discovery.
Some things I can control, some I can’t
I am learning to worry more on what I can control and try and not waste time worrying on what I can’t.
We have a prayer in AA and NA that we say after every meeting. The Serenity Prayer. Most of us hurry who through it. But it does carry a message for worriers.
“Accept the things you cannot change,”
What can I not change? My age, my race, my country of origin or place of origin for that fact and finally, my past? I cannot change the past, despite how much I may wish to. It’s happened, it can’t be erased, and no amount of worry will change that.
Basically, this tells me that if I can accept my past, then I can lessen the worry I feel today. Acceptance is the key to less anxiety. There are ways to find this acceptance of reality, with the help of a therapist and joining recovery communities while working on personal recovery.
“Courage to change the things I can”
What can I change? My behaviour, views, attitude and my response to situations. These are far more productive things to put my time into pursuing. Instead of focusing on elements of my past, I can choose to focus on today. If in my past, resentment is unresolved, it may trigger a relapse. I need to focus on how to resolve negative emotions and let go of them.
Ultimately the more I work on yourself, the less I shall worry. The more I become aware of life and develop trust and faith in recovery, the less I will fear.
Maybe there is a life wherein we don’ t need to worry and are always happy. Don’t worry about it! Just Be Here Now!
If you feel you need to talk to someone about any of the areas covered here, please don’t hesitate to send us a message online, or give us a call if you’d like to chat: 0800 140 4044. We also provide detox at home, for those looking for a more personalised service.