An incredibly important part of realizing a spiritual awakening is the journey towards that point while dealing with what is often referred to as “stinking thinking.” This refers to those thoughts and impulses that pop into our heads without forewarning or often any trigger that compel us to return to our bad old behaviors. Scientists say that average folk have approximately 40,000 thoughts pop into their heads daily. When I was using and in early recovery, I think the same three or four thoughts popped into my head 40,000 times a day: “Drink”; “Do a Line”; “Act Out Sexually”; or in early recovery, “Eat at the Problem.” Being bombarded 40,000 times a day with these unhealthy and unhelpful thoughts was a huge problem.
These thoughts or impulses had control for a very long time. By the time I realized the thought or impulse popped into my head, I was already off to the races to make it happen. There are numerous ways I have successfully dealt with this in recovery, among them, the use of mantras.
Mantras are an incredibly useful tool and have been utilized for thousands of years. The yoga sutras written 4,000 years ago recommend using mantras and state: “To repeat it with reflection on its meaning is an aid.”
AA has a number of mantras: “One Day at a Time”; “Progress Not Perfection”; and, “Feelings are Not Facts” among them. When stinking thinking sets in, I encourage you to use these powerful tools.
You can also come up with your own. When I get stinking thinking, I often repeat the first names of each member of my family. This helps me think about how much love I have for them and they have for me, the importance of maintaining my relationship with them and the beautiful life we all have together. That is too valuable for me to risk for the instantaneous but fleeting gratification from acting out.
Another mantra I use quite a bit is reflecting on my body. I used to feel awful all the time. My lungs hurt, I could feel my liver and kidneys and I had constant chest pain. When stinking thinking hits, I often breath deep and reflect on how healthy my body looks and feels. I go through each organ: lungs; heart; kidneys; liver, etc., and thank God that I did not damage them permanently. By staying in gratitude and reflecting on the import of my own body and health, the stinking thinking leave me quite quickly.
The key is to force the mind back to the positive and to gratitude. An alcoholic or addict that stays in gratitude will not use.
We look forward to your feedback on this and other blog posts or questions. If you have used exercise and/or nutrition as a tool in your recovery or know someone who has, shoot us an email or video at: firstname.lastname@example.org.