I wasted the first 50 years of my life.
As I laid in bed next to my wife on Sunday night September 7, 2014, this thought pounded at my head like a kick drum, getting louder and louder.
It wasn’t like it crept up and blindsided me though. The past year left plenty of red flags as I wandered around in a state of lethargy. Everything I had done to that point just seemed hollow and meaningless and I had run out of mulligans. I was beginning to understand why so many men my age decided to just say “screw it” and blow their brains out.
Ironically, it was the same point when I had achieved all the things I was taught would make me happy. I was at my fighting weight of 200 lbs, I had a beautiful home life, and my business was thriving.
I bounced back and forth between anger and fear like a wimpy kid being tossed by two bullies. Anger at a world that failed to live up to our implied contract that if I did XYZ, I’d live happily ever after; fear from thinking my best days were behind me and the reaper was just around the corner.
It wasn’t like I’d never heard of mid-life crisis. I’d seen it before in many men. I knew it was a normal segue to old age and I still hadn’t really lived. Mid-life crisis may be a normal part of every man’s growth but the pain each man feels is very personal.
I also wasn’t a stranger to this level of pain. After spending over 25 years as an addict this felt very familiar to me. During my journey of recovery I came to understand addiction very intimately and it occurred to me that this too was addiction rearing its ugly head in my life once again.
The Mid-Life Crisis is created from addiction. Without addiction, it cannot exist.
This time it was wearing a different mask. It didn’t show up as a bottle, needle, or a bet. It was one that first introduced itself to me long before those things. One that I shared with all human beings, not just the ones stigmatized by society.
Dr. Joe Dispenza, a neuroscientist and author of several books including Breaking The Habit Of Being Yourself and You Are The Placebo gives convincing evidence of the three addictions we all develop early in life long before we’re introduced to any harmful substances. They are as follows:
1) Addiction to our bodies
2) Addiction to our environment
3) Addiction to the concept of time
These are the three faces of addiction that cause many of us to hit that proverbial rock bottom at mid-life.
As our bodies begin to let us down and our environment no longer views us as that sexual stallion we once were we become confused and afraid. Then our addiction to time kicks in as we see ourselves moving closer to our funerals than our birthdates.
As a Recovery Life Coach who spends a great deal of time around addiction and mature men, I can say with certainty one of the most devastating and deadly side effects of addiction can be the mid-life crisis.
Coming face to face with your own mortality can be scary as hell.
Many men will add a few more addictions to their diets as a way to self medicate. Others may grow a ponytail, buy a corvette and start banging women their daughter’s age; all which only provide temporary relief from a deep pain that comes from not knowing who you are any more.
When we attach our identities to temporary things, our identities, too are temporary and we find ourselves in a constant chase to reinvent ourselves. That chase is no different than the alcoholic pursuing that long lost high, oblivious to the fact that it’s gone forever. Sadly, many men continue this hopeless chase throughout their lives and go to their graves, never harvesting the fruits from their years of labor.
Like all addictions, the road to recovery begins with awareness and surrender. Those who become willing to do this can begin their personal journey inward and find that permanent joy and serenity that all the success, riches and good sex in the outer world didn’t provide.
When we finally begin our inner work, the outer physical world becomes more beautiful too, because we see it for what it really is…a mirror reflecting our true Self back to us. The illusions disappear and the opportunity to finally live the life you were meant to live, presents itself.
In Robert A. Johnson’s book, “Living Your Unlived Life”, he goes into great detail about this very topic. I strongly recommend it for anyone dealing with a mid-life crisis.
Entering your inner world comes with some challenges you didn’t have when you were first introduced to the physical world. There’s excess baggage that you’ll need to dispose of first. Judgments and beliefs will impede your ability to think with the child’s mind that’s needed to open yourself up to all the new wonders.
Imagine if you came into the physical world with all the preconditioning you have today. Many of us would probably still be crawling around and shitting our pants after a few failed attempts to walk to the potty. Letting go and retraining your subconscious mind will require the same kind of determination you used when you first learned to walk. You’ll fall and get back up many times but once you’re finally up you’re in for the time of your life.
Here are some tips to help you along the way.
1. Develop a meditation practice This is the first step for a reason. As I said earlier, it’s imperative that you let go of the beliefs and judgments you learned from your outer world. In order to do this you’ll need to sit quietly and learn how to be the observer rather than a first-responder. You’ll then begin to differentiate the values that are true to you from the ones that were conditioned in you from some outside influence. You’ll begin to see yourself as two entities. One which is pure potential and one which responds to past conditioning that used to keep you safe but now inhibits you.
2. Talk to yourself Once you’ve connected with your true Self in meditation, you can create dialogues between Self (your true essence) and self (your conditioned ego). Expect some resistance early on because you’ve been conditioned to believe this is what crazy people do. Robert A. Johnson describes this in great detail in Living Your Unlived Life. Developing your active imagination will allow you to resolve conflict between the Self and the ego the same way you would do it with another person in your outer world. You may find these dialogues to be the most profound and enlightening conversations you’ve ever had. This is because you’re tapping into a source of wisdom that can’t be found in the physical world. If this is starting to sound really woo woo wacky to you, know that it’s your ego talking right now. Try asking it what it wants just for the hell of it. You might be surprised by a response.
3. Confront the Grim Reaper. Do visualization exercises around your own death. Learn to embrace the reality that you will one day say good-bye to everyone you’ve ever met and loved. This may be scary as hell at first but, consistent practice will move you from a place of fear to a place of gratitude, appreciation, and higher consciousness.
4. Trust Your Gut. There is scientific evidence that our guts are lined with intelligence neurons which correspond with our brain. The gut is the first judgment we make on an intuitive level which means it hasn’t been manipulated by conditioned rationalizations. Often we hear of people changing their original gut decision only to find out it was right all along. This is why we’re taught to stick with our first answer on a multiple choice question that we’re unsure of. A good way to begin practicing this is with Mel Robbins’ 5 second rule where you respond to your gut within 5 seconds before your head has a chance to talk you out of it. Try it out on some “safe” things first and gradually work your way up.
5. Get support from a trusted group. As I said earlier, you’re recovering from an addiction. The most effective thing I’ve found is a community of peers. If you can’t find one, start one. Meetup.com is a great place to find or start any kind of group.
6. Practice Gratitude. This is a tip which I include in everything I write about because it works…plain and simple. Gratitude is my secret sauce for everything. If you’re like me, you’ve lost loved ones along the way. The fact that you’ve been hand-picked to fog up a mirror for another day is a miracle. Practice daily gratitude until it becomes an automatic response for you. That alone will be a game changer.
Finally, give yourself permission to feel the fear. As they say, “Everything you ever wanted exists on the other side of fear.”
At 58 years old I see very clearly that everything in my life has been preparing me for this time of awakening. The time when I get to see reality rather than relativity. The time when judgments and perceptions get replaced by a real knowing.
Greg Boudle is a men’s recovery coach, writer, and speaker. His mission is to support men along their recovery journeys so they may become the conscious, whole men of purpose they were created to be. His articles have been featured in publications like YourTango, Good Men Project, and Psyche Central. He’s also the author of “Addict to Awesome, Using Your Struggles To Fulfill Your Dreams” and “90 Days To Unf**king Yourself.” Find out more about the man and his mission at lifebeyondclean.com