How ‘The Power of Now’ Helps Me Stay Sober
Sobriety is a life-long process that starts when you begin giving up alcohol or mind- or mood-altering drugs for good and it starts with the detox period, maintaining recovery, and for the rest of your life. Recovering from addiction was a challenging road for me (although one I’m thankful I’m still walking, along with many other similar souls). My journey is accompanied by deep, personal work from within, never giving up — in fact, thank God I am still growing every day.
In my early days of sobriety, after I put a few years together, one book fundamentally shifted how I looked at myself, my happiness, and my addictions — ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle. I related to Tolle and his insight and was eager to see if his philosophy of mindfulness could work for me. I’m a living testimonial for how mindful living can help recovery from addiction and the application of such principles can just simply alter your life.
My ‘The Power of Now’ Book review can be summed up in two words: life changing.
The book is beloved by millions of others worldwide experiencing addiction, major depression, anxiety, and spiritual upheaval. “The Power of Now” was first written in 1997, and 25 years later, has been translated into 33 languages and has sold three million copies.
This book came from powerful and unexplainable beginnings and became a New York Times Best Seller — and it all started with a young boy from Germany.
Eckhart Tolle: Depression to Enlightenment
“All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future, and
not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.”
― Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
Tolle was born in Germany and experienced a tumultuous childhood filled with fear, anxiety, and depressive episodes. After some time in Spain, Tolle moved to London to teach. Still overcome by depression, Tolle began to study philosophy and psychology.
‘The Power of Now’ philosophy began when Tolle was 29 and at the deepest point of his depression. At a moment that could have easily been his last, Tolle experienced an indescribable and sudden transformation of his soul with a simple question: Am I one or two?
That’s a profound thought for a 20-something who had spent his life plagued with depression, but it changed him — and the rest of us who have experienced ‘The Power of Now’. Instead of feeling despair, he felt peace. Tolle began to recognize there is no “self,” just a sense of being.
For 10 years after his epiphany, Tolle studied Buddhism, Christianity, relaxation techniques, and mindfulness until he worked out the philosophy that I know and embrace today, along with many, many others. ‘The Power of Now’ outlines why humans feel emotional pain, and how a focus on the now can give us the tools to move past the pain.
Pain, Suffering, and the Human Condition
In ‘The Power of Now’ Tolle describes humans as “creators of their own pain”. The stress we feel that drives us to addiction is our own judgment about the situation. When you are physically in one place but emotionally or mentally stuck in the past or future, stress kicks in. It splits your mind.
In the search for personal happiness, we focus on what will happen in the future instead of what’s happening right here in the moment. Too much focus on the future or past robs the present of its peace. Tolle stated it much more eloquently, “Pain cannot feed on joy. It finds it quite indigestible.”
Tolle invited me to ask myself, “What problem do you have right now? At this second?” I began to find that the answer was that I had no problem at all. At this exact moment, I could handle life without alcohol. When we can cope with the now, the future doesn’t matter quite as much.
‘The Power of Now’ on Living in the Now
Mindfulness in each moment is where Tolle’s philosophy really hit home for me. I decided to dedicate myself to living in the now. When you live in the now, there’s no addiction, no anxiety, no fear — just existence and joy. In the now, where life is happening, you can feel stress, but you cope, I try to reconnect to the moment.
It’s a simple but powerful philosophy that has saved and enhanced thousands of lives, including my own, because it can so easily be translated through the lens of recovery.
Eckhart Tolle on Recovery
“Don’t look for peace. Don’t look for any other state than the one you are in now; otherwise, you will set up inner conflict and unconscious resistance. Forgive yourself for not being at peace. The moment you completely accept your non-peace, your non-peace becomes transmuted into peace. Anything you accept fully will get you there, will take you into peace. This is the miracle of surrender”
― Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
Anxiety is categorized as repetitive negative thoughts over which you believe you have no control. Those of us in recovery may find that to be a familiar feeling. When you’re focusing on anything other than the now — the only thing to worry about, according to Tolle — you may feel the pull to drown out your worry. An addiction or using to escape may soothe the fear for a brief amount of time, but you’ll soon be thinking about what’s next.
‘The Power of Now’ is also a lesson in surrender. When you surrender to the now, you know you can manage your addictions at that moment. Recovery is living in one manageable moment after the next, focusing your energy on the joy of the present. Is it always easy? No, it’s not — but if Eckhart Tolle taught me anything, it’s that each new moment is the chance to cope once again. My first sponsor always said to me, practice, practice practice….we need to keep working, keep being aware.
How Mindful Living Helped Me Recover and enhance my Recovery From Addiction
When I started my recovery, it was challenging to see a life without addiction, but mindfulness — existing at the moment without a worry of how difficult the road to sobriety would be — helped bring it into perspective. It slowed things down for me, it was a purposeful act to slow my mind down.
Addiction robs us of our focus. When you begin the journey of sobriety, using techniques from ‘The Power of Now’ will not be easy, but nothing worth doing is ever easy. Sometimes stepping away — both physically and mentally — from a negative situation (for instance, an addiction trigger) is the best thing you can do for yourself.
For anyone out there who feels lost in the past and is struggling with the future of their addiction, try this exercise:
- Sit in a quiet room with no distractions
- Breathe in. Feel the breath in your lungs.
- If anxiety slips in, let it pass — like you’re watching a movie.
- Look around and find one thing you’re grateful for.
Mindfulness is a mental workout, and like any other type of exercise, getting started is the hardest part. If you do it once, however, you can do it again. You were safe at that moment, and you can be safe in the next.
For those of us in recovery, mindfulness provides tools to cope with the now without resorting to the demons of addiction that controlled us before. Mindfulness helped me recognize the importance of being safe at the moment. It allowed me to slowly build up my focus and better fight my addictions. It still helps me fight, to be aware.
People, places, and things can’t make you happy — and people, places, and things also don’t define you. Addiction didn’t make you happy, and it certainly doesn’t define you either.
The Decision Is Yours
‘The Power of Now’ is a powerful take by Eckhart Tolle on recovery and sobriety. Just as he stood toe-to-toe with depression and asked the philosophical question that changed his life, there comes a time when we say, “enough is enough,” and we’re ready to change. After I reached that moment, this incredible book helped me manage my recovery journey by completely redefining what it means to be present.
When that time comes for you or a loved one, I can’t recommend ‘The Power of Now’ enough to help them navigate the challenges of addiction recovery. Although mindfulness may not come easily at first, it can change their life for the better and usher in a life free from addiction.
Have you read ‘The Power of Now’ or any of Eckhart Tolle’s other books? If not, you’re missing out! I highly recommend giving it a try.
As always, stay strong!