“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” ― Bruce Lee
The old me was nothing like water. I fought everything I came into contact with whether I was in active addiction or just a dry drunk. The drug I loved most -sober or not- was control. Self will run riot to the extreme. My anger and control wreaked so much havoc in my life that I ended up laying in a hospital bed dying in 2010. That was one of the many bottoms that would lead me to a way of life with tools to become more like water.
The last four and a half years have been a deconstruction of sorts. I shed every layer I could to rebuild and become a better, stable version of me. The first thing I did was therapy, specifically Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). This was different than any therapy I’d attempted in the previous 15 years of my life. I learned skills that I’d never had before. Growing up as a future alcoholic/addict and having untreated bipolar symptoms that began in my teens, I didn’t understand why I always had a feeling of loneliness no matter how many people surrounded me. I felt like a victim and always operated out of self-will. I spent many years in mania unable to think a single mindful thought. DBT taught me about slowing down and having healthier relationships, coping mechanisms that prevented impulsive behavior, letting go of shame and perfectionism, owning my side in unhealthy relationships, and in the end keeping me alive when the suicidal thoughts prevailed.
In conjunction with this therapy, being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and finally allowing myself to take the appropriate medication, I could use the tools to live a more balanced life than ever before. But doing so caused some deeper issues that had to be resolved. If you spend your life not being able to see anything clearly and suddenly you get the correct glasses, it can be a shock to your system. Now you want to see everything you’ve missed out on! Being treated and chemically balanced was like that for me. After a life of struggling to cover up my difficulty functioning, I could see the light. Which meant to me that I could take on the world. I went back to school, I started traveling for work, making up for all the lost years of not knowing how to succeed. Then I started self-medicating. It was all too much and overwhelming. I was still living on self-will. After years of mostly being dry, but in what would be a twelve year relapse, I started drinking regularly. It progressed the next two years, but I could always quit when I had to. My health would start to go so I’d do a sugar detox. I would get in trouble at home and the bottles would be poured out. I’d behave for a while then do it all over again.
I still didn’t have a clue how to “be like water”. I wanted to so badly but was going about it in all the wrong ways. I thought if I could just deal with my childhood conditioning, those pesky abandonment issues, I would figure it all out and suddenly be transformed into a Buddhist monk. That never happened. I just kept drinking my issues and self-induced stress away until I couldn’t anymore. My last drunk took me to a new level of shame. The next day I went to the beach and stared into the ocean. I still couldn’t bring myself to believe in anything greater than myself, but I knew it was time to return to the place I’d known 16 years before that had saved my life once. I started texting sober friends and asking them to hold me accountable for coming back in to recovery. With self-will still running the show, I didn’t start doing the things I should have which I don’t recommend ever! Once again the pain became too much to bear, this time in sobriety. I knew I would drink again if I didn’t become willing.
After a couple of months sober I started doing the work and I continue to do it because I like the way it feels and I like the simplicity in my life. Today pain is becoming less of a motivator to stay out of my selfish will. I pray, I go to meetings, I work the steps, and I do service work. I try not to live in my ego. It surprises me how some days I actually judge less, am less dishonest, less hypocritical, and less controlling! I used to think being like water meant I had to live like a Buddhist monk. Now I like to think it means being a wave crashing into the shore and back into the ocean at times. Maybe it’s a trickling, slow moving stream and at other times it’s a hurricane. Water is moldable to whatever form it presents itself in. This is, in a sense, living life on life’s terms. I can only find peace when I live in acceptance and that is being like water.