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Neurotic - suffering from, caused by, or relating to neurosis.

Abnormally sensitive, obsessive, or tense and anxious.

Wait a gosh darn minute! I bristle at that definition. I am not abnormally sensitive, obsessive OR tense and anxious. I am categorically abnormally sensitive, obsessive AND tense and anxious. That's why I drank and drugged, because of that. Was I born with it? Was it branded into my psyche during childhood? Did I catch it from someone else as a baby? All I know is that I have been neurotic since my earliest days. Who knows why I'm that way? I certainly have my ideas but the origin does not really matter. What matters is that I finally know what it is I'm suffering from. Because once I know what it is I can start working on it. Ask for help. Acquire the tools that make the neurosis less overwhelming. Less of a "condition" to be battled with. The first decades of my life I just tried to suffocate the neurosis with drugs and alcohol and chronic sprinting busy-ness. I still have a hard time sitting still but that just may be my inherent nature. But a neurotic mind is not necessarily a terminal condition. I once heard that the mind is like an untrained puppy. Left to its own devices it will pee and poop everywhere, destroy your house and make serenity impossible. But with just a little training and patience that puppy can grow up to be your greatest joy, your greatest friend and comfort. Granted, it's a chore training your naughty puppy or your disobedient mind, but it's worth the effort.

Recently I have had the pleasure of touring colleges with my daughter. Some parents hate this part of the college process but I quite enjoyed it. Sometimes these schools are 3 to 4 hours from home so if we don't stay overnight we do all the driving - up to 8 hours round trip - in one day. Or should I correctly say I do all the driving in one day, as my child would rather put on their headphones and listen to music, tuning me out completely. Which is fine. That's what teenagers do. And if a child of mine suddenly wanted to spend the whole time chatting with me about life and its meaning I would think something was wrong with them. So while the offspring listens to whatever new music they are "obsessed" with, I listen to lectures by my favorite spiritual teachers: Pema Chodron, Wayne Dyer, Michael Singer, Moojii, Thich Nhat Hanh, etc. etc. etc.

On one trip my daughter took off her headphones and started listening along with me. "Why do you listen to this stuff all the time?" she asked in the classic bored-teenager style of the day. "I like it" I said. "It calms me down.” "But why?" she queried again, as she rolled her eyes in disbelief. “Well I like it because it's interesting. I'm learning something about the way the mind works. But also, more importantly, I need it." "Why do you 'need' it?” my daughter asked me with the tiniest hint of derision in her voice. "Why do I need it? Don't you know already?" I countered "I need it because I'm totally neurotic. That's why. I'm the most neurotic person I know." "Umm, you may not want to be announcing that publicly" she chastised me but I was not fazed. "Look it up" I told her "Go on, look it up. You'll see!" And google it she did. "Oh my God!!!" she said. "You're right. You are the definition of neurotic. Very interesting....." and then she popped her headphones back on and left me to my spiritual lectures for the next several hours.

So what's the upside? This may sound bizarre to the normies out there but I'm glad I know what's wrong with me. I can work with it. I'm convinced my neurosis is what sent me flying headlong and desperate into addiction. But now that I'm aware of it, it's not running me around as much. I’ve got tools to work with. Tools that enable me to let my neurosis know that we can co-exist if need be, but that I AM THE BOSS! I am finally comprehending that the mind is a terrible master but a wonderful servant. So that's what I'm doing. Trading places. My mind has been my master for way too long. It's finally my turn to run the show in there. With my guru tapes I am actively retraining my mind to do MY bidding. I'm no longer running around like a chicken with its head cut off listening to my neurotic mind and trying fruitlessly to gain some control over life and the people in my life. Instead I am learning a new trick. I am learning how to just relax up there in the constantly churning space between my ears.

I've come to realize that neurosis is a lot like alcoholism . Am I happy to be an alcoholic? No, not necessarily. But I’m very happy, thrilled actually, to know what to do about my alcoholism. In A.A. I have a place to go and an inexhaustible supply of comrades who are just like me. I get help, freely given, to cope with life on life's terms. I get support and understanding. I enjoy a lot of laughter and sit with a lot of tears. But even those tears, when cried in A.A., are beautiful. I'm learning how to be a human. How to feel feelings and how to handle them. Two things that I was completely incapable of doing before joining the program of A.A.

I get the same thing in A.A. that I get from my spiritual teachers. Those spiritual lectures that I listen to for at least 30 minutes each day calm me down and teach me and even make me laugh at how absolutely crazy the mind can be if not properly trained. I am learning to sit still, to listen closely, to feel feelings. Even more importantly I'm gaining insight on how to process feelings without getting completely derailed and hysterical.

In recovery we say the first step is admitting that we have a problem. So here you have it. I admitted I was an alcoholic and eventually sought help, just in time. And now, years into recovery, I'm doing the same thing for my neurosis. Sitting in meetings, reading the literature, listening to my teachers. I'm on a spiritual path rather than my habitual self-destructive one. Does that mean I have to go live in a cave as a hermit on top of a lonely and blustery mountain somewhere in the Himalayas? Nope (even though that does sound extremely tempting). A spiritual life can be lived anywhere, by anyone. No matter what the outside circumstances may be.

So in signing off I bid “nutsmaste” to you all. The neurotic in me salutes and honors the neurotic in you.


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