Episode 30: Sometimes Life Sucks (and that’s okay) – Dealing with Challenges in Recovery

Episode 30:
Sometimes Life Sucks
(and that’s okay)
Embracing Challenges in Recovery

I have a confession: I was always bothered by the word “surrender”. Every time I heard it in a twelve-step meeting, I winced. Doesn’t struggle mean that we care enough to keep fighting? Doesn’t releasing our control mean we’ve given up?

Not at all. Understanding the power of surrender and release may be the key to recovery, personal development, peak performance, and life satisfaction.

Despite our efforts to control it, life throws us curve balls. Situations and circumstances arise that waylay our plans and stir our painful emotions. From the traffic jam that makes us late for a date to the passing of loved ones, from feelings of hunger to the specter of trauma, we’re constantly bombarded by experiences we’d rather avoid.

And in our addictions, we did. We went to great lengths to avoid facing uncomfortable situations. And despite the illusory relief, our problems remained. And even if the circumstances abated on the surface, we certainly pushed a great deal of pain into our shadows to reemerge at the most inconvenient times.

The desire to control our lives, our circumstances, and our feelings is natural; even healthy. Beginning and committing to an Integral Recovery practice requires us to exercise a great deal of control. But the refusal to accept what’s outside of our control gets us into plenty of trouble. It creates a great deal of suffering for ourselves and others.

Learning to recognize that line and surrendering to the reality of our circumstances empowers us. By accepting the reality of a difficult situation, we can change our relationship with, interpretation of, and reaction to it. When we let go of the struggle, we can act more resourcefully.

The research on flow states shows that peak performance, whether in creative endeavors, sports, relationships with others, or any other area of life (or line of development) occurs as part of a cycle:


The flow state, where we’re performing our best, is enabled by releasing our attachment to the outcomes and being fully present in the moment. We let go of our expectations and surrender to the moment. The neurochemical release and physiological shift that follows this release allows us to tap into a surprisingly deep well of inner resources and access the most skillful parts of ourselves.

And while we discovered this cycle through research on flow states, the lesson, the pattern, and the results are the same for dealing with life’s challenges and setbacks. Even the drawn-out, painful, and difficult ones.

I propose that the first four stages of grief in the Kübler-Ross model — denial, anger, bargaining, and depression – are all sub-components of the “struggle phase”, and the fifth stage of grief, acceptance, is the “release phase” of the flow cycle. What comes after acceptance? Integration. Flow. Healing and skillfully moving forward.

One way or another, release will come. It’s inevitable. We are physically incapable of remaining in the struggle phase forever. The danger, for those in recovery, is the temptation to release through indulging our addictions and slipping back into unconsciousness.

Challenges, difficulties and suffering are part of life. It’s the Buddha’s first noble truth. Rather than clinging to struggles or trying to numb them out, we can learn to let go in a healthy and life-affirming way.

That’s what surrender means in recovery. Releasing our control doesn’t mean we’ve given up. It means we care enough to allow.

Join John Dupuy at the online Radical Recovery Summit:

Episode Resources:

Integral Recovery: A Revolutionary Approach to the Treatment of Alcoholism and Addiction (SUNY series in Integral Theory)
The Religion of Tomorrow: A Vision for the Future of the Great Traditions-More Inclusive, More Comprehensive, More Complete
Profound Meditation Program
Profound Releasing
Stealing Flow: Complete Brainwave Suite for Flow State Mastery (iAwake Technologies and Doug Prater)
Deep Recovery – a guided meditation from iAwake Technologies

In this episode:

[1:22] Meditating “like a rock” when life brings us challenges, which it always does. Rocks can be rained on, snowed on, baked by the sun, but they’re always solid and still.
[2:37] Meditating like a submarine as we dive deep into our stuff, reaching far below the surface. There can be waves on the surface, but as we sink deeper, the water calms.
[3:47] No matter our metaphor, we develop a rootedness in the depths of conscious that allows us to both hold and resolve the pain, the hardship.
[5:05] When the challenges of life, and what we have to do seems overwhelming. What to do when it feels like we can’t win.
[6:37] Allowing ourselves to “let go” and surrender when we’re up against our limitations, and the release of fear of attachment that happens when we embrace the circumstances
[8:10] Moving into effortlessness when we release into the moment and embrace being fully present regardless of what’s happening around us and how we feel about it
[10:55] When we allow, we can succeed in spite of ourselves. This may not always please everyone, in fact it will anger some. And no one else may recognize our accomplishments, either. We learn to be content with ourselves and giving our best performance regardless of the external circumstances.
[11:30] Allowing our experience of those moment to become a touchtone that we can return to over and over again, both in our meditation and in our daily lives
[11:55] The cycle of flow, and allowing ourselves to recognize the struggle phase, and then release, so we can drop into the magic of the flow state. Without the release, we remain in the struggle. Without letting go, we never reach the effortlessness and presence of the flow state, and how this applies to every domain of life.
[13:21] A different definition of the “fuck-its”. In his book, Integral Recovery, John Dupuy says that every relapse begins with a case of the “fuck-its”, but when we dig deeper into that term, we discover that we can use that same surrender in a way that lifts us up instead of sabotaging us.
[14:35] What happens when we neglect our Integral Practice and fail to take care of our essential lines of development? How does this effect the other areas of our lives, and how can we learn from the examples of athletes and others in our own lives?
[16:45] Using sports as a prayer and a practice to teach ourselves to let go and push ourselves to the edge of our capabilities.
[17:45] The yoga of winning and losing and learning how to deal with both get access the deeper meaning and the deeper heart of sports
[19:00] How many hundreds or thousands of hours do we need to commit to our work or our game become we can play at our highest level?
[19:20] When we know we’re in over our heads, we can lower our standards and change the definition of what a success or a victory in any situation means
[20:45] Allowing “showing up” to be a victory in and of itself as a gateway to doing bigger things
[22:00] Competing only against yesterday’s self, and how comparing ourselves only to our former selves frees us to grow and change and make progress without the comparisons to others and all that associated baggage.
[22:30] The necessity of the release phase: It’s not negotiable. The release will happen, one way or another, and for the recovering addict, learning how to release in a positive way is the key to our ongoing sobriety. We release into an acceptance of our difficult emotions instead of a release into escape and oblivion
[23:35] Accepting that we’re not in control of the outcomes, only our efforts
[24:15] Getting passionate and finding something we care about more than drugs and alcohol so that we’re willing to do whatever it takes on a day to day basis to keep ourselves at our best – and this can be our families, our physical endeavors, our art, or anything else that moves us out of apathy and nihilism
[25:22] The emerging of non-duality and beauty as we deepen into our chosen practices and spend more time in the yoga of flow, competition, and growth
[26:14] Who does this “fuck it” serve? Why need to enquire more deeply within ourselves to see if we’re indulging our small selves or serving our higher selves
[27:37] Experiences of anticipatory nostalgia that occur when we’re on the right track and know we’re doing important and meaningful work – even if the physical evidence of that work and that process are abandoned or destroyed. When we know we’re going to look back at an experience, we can deepen its power to be transformative
[29:35] The freedom that comes through an annihilation of the old, and the absolute liberation that occurs when we reach the place where we’re willing to let it all go. The complete and total release of the rock-bottom “fuck it” and the emptying of ego attachment that accompanies it
[30:50] Continuing the work of our larger releases through an ongoing daily practice and giving ourselves the opportunity to maintain, continue, and deepen the initial work
[32:15] The classical mystical experience that occurs when we can, at our lowest point, embrace the willingness to wipe the slate clean and start over. It’s a preview of the stable deepening that occurs through ongoing practice and continued Integral development
[33:30] Why having guidance and support can are a necessary piece of the puzzle as we continue our journey and deal with the challenges that come up along the way
[34:57] An example of why theory alone is not sufficient we have to dive deeply into doing the work if want our recovery and our transformations to continue
[37:22] Recovery is cumulative, and everything that we learn along the way sticks with us, even in those moments when we’re backsliding and not our best.
[38:23] How the Integral model provides a powerful antidote to bypassing and why it’s important to work with our shadows and acknowledge what’s going on in the unconscious
[40:28] Embracing the suck – the power of acknowledging that things aren’t perfect and that’s okay. Learning to accept the pain, the regret, the uncomfortable feelings, and allow them so that we can transcend and move past them instead of relegating them to the shadow and triggering a relapse
[42:15] Why suffering can be a more important tool for growth and transformation than the positive, powerful, non-dual states
[43:12] When we embrace our suffering at a deeper level, we can move into the release
[44:12] Creativity theory and the homospatial process – learning to embrace the unknown and trust what emerges when we “show up” with others. Sometimes we need a push into our own abyss, and that’s what good coaches and good therapists can do.


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09/15/2017, 48:24, 33.2 mb (Audio)

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