Routine is not Restriction!

I am inclined towards obsessive compulsiveness. Order and rules gives me a sense of security and control.

But I realize, too, that this is all a facade and that my rules and routines are not required to keep order in the universe! It took me a long time to realize this, and a lot of mental anguish. I remember once needing to eat breakfast while travelling. It had to be protein and vegetables. Nothing else. I went to 5 different places looking for a plain omelette and in the end did not eat because I could not find what I wanted. My day was ruined. I feel ill just writing this. It was so hard to live like that.

So in sobriety I have tried to let go of my controlling tendencies. They may have helped me at one time- I finished 2 degrees at the same time, have a good job, house, etc, but then my anxiety began to get worse and I attempted to control it with excessive exercise, rigid eating rules and scheduling. But any small change to my plans throw me into a tailspin and slowly my eating, exercise and drinking spiralled out of control until I finally crashed and burned. You can only keep the balls in the air for so long.

So, for the past 22 months I have tried to avoid rules and routine. Go with the flow. Just the though of restriction could make me raid I would slide back into that scary place where routine held me hostage.

About 2 months ago I started a morning meditation. I hate to call it a routine, but it sort of is.  Tongue Cleaning, Neti pot, breathing. Followed by sitting meditation.

It has evolved. I now do about a 20 minute yoga practice and oil massage as well. It all takes about an hour. And I get up early to do it. 

What’s best is that I love it, and I feel good at the end, BUT, I’m ok if it doesn’t get done. One morning I forgot to set my alarm. A few days I have been rushed for other reasons and just did the short parts (I would brush my teeth regardless, obviously). Kids interrupt me often. And it didn’t matter! Life went on!! I still felt grounded and ready for the day. Either way. 

This feels like a big thing for me. I’ve added a bit of routine to my day, but not to protect me from anything, but because I feel good doing it. It’s not good when I follow things to a tee and do it all in silence and peace. It’s not bad when I pause to find socks or hairbrushes. It’s just something I do because it is a nice start to the day and it makes my body and mind feel good.

Life moves on. With a big sigh of relief.

Stillness and peace.
Anne

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22 thoughts on “Routine is not Restriction!

  1. HI Anne,
    I have a “inviolable but shit might happen routine” too. Just this morning I had yoga class – but I had no cash, so here’s me at 5.33AM withdrawing $20 and then going to the coffee shop to pre-pay for my after yoga coffee so I would have the $7 change to go to class. But I had picked up my wife’s card and I couldn’t remember the PIN – so I ended up back at home just as the yoga class was hitting the mat.
    Frustrated, but determined – I quickly adjusted and did my beach run.
    Heavy drinking me would have found an excuse at any other these obstacles – new, reinvented me sees it as part of the process. I work through my toxic limiting beliefs and unhelpful self-rules nearly everyday.
    Morning routines are especially important in setting your day up with positive momentum.
    Thanks,
    bren

  2. I noticed that acupuncture forces me to relax more and adjust and learn how to let go. Maybe it is an almost meditative state that I find myself in during my appointments. Your post sounded almost like drinking me: I imposed a lot of rules and routines in areas that did not involve drinking. No ruled when it came to drinking.

    1. Yes. Exactly. It frustrated me to no end that I could be so strict with my eating, exercise, etc yet I couldn’t control my drinking the same way.
      I was always so disappointed in myself.
      But that compulsive behaviour is what addiction is all about. Desperately wanting to act different,y, and not doing so.

  3. Your before life sounds horrible, then I pause and remember I have done that too! It’s easier to see my own stuff reflected in stories. And recognize that we are more than just non-drinkers. We have new calm brains.

  4. I’ve struggled with this kind of thing as well, and I have a hard time knowing how to balance being overly restrictive with not setting up enough routine. I have done exactly the thing you are talking about regarding breakfast while travelling! These days I’d just eat what was on offer, but I am a little fatter than I was at my most restrictive, and I have not made peace with that yet. It’s very good to see you sorting it out. I always need a model of how things might work. Gives me hope! Big thanks to you for that. xo

    1. I was very, very worried about gaining weight when I let go of my diet rules.
      I have, clearly I wasn’t going to maintain my starvation, very low body fat body, but not that much.
      But more, I like my body now. Enough that I don’t actually think about it much. I don’t worry how my sweater looks, etc. I used to be do self conscious. Even when I was super fit.
      Plus, I got rid of any and all clothes that don’t fit. Trying on clothes that are tight still throws me.
      I am a good size. Normal. Healthy. And I feel good from yoga every day. At almost 43 I have finally found my body.

  5. Hi Anne!
    Your post reminds me of several things.
    One is that I used to get so angry at myself when I ate too much, or didn’t get my exercise, or at something I wasn’t supposed to eat, or, or or..

    It also reminds me to try to build in my healthy routines again.
    I tried, but kind of gave up, and now I am reminded that mediation and morning yoga by myself could indeed help me.
    My hard yoga classes I like are really hard, and I can only do it 3 days a week.

    My morning routine needs changing, for sure. Now I get up, eat breakfast, play computer games, read the paper, check FB, check email.
    It takes me almost 2 hours to get going.
    But I am finding it very hard to make the positive changes.

    Thank you!
    xo
    Wendy

    1. I love hard yoga too. Especially ashtanga. But I can see that a more subdued morning practice could be something I do for the rest of my life….
      Why not add one thing and see how it goes?
      A little progress is still progress!

  6. When I was having my counselling, the counsellor said I needed to be less hard on myself. I was ‘good enough’, he said. My strict routines continue to stand in the way of my sobriety: if my sober plan isn’t going ‘perfectly’, then I give up. I am trying to be calmer, not to mind so much about perfection/routines etc. and to let an imperfect sobriety be the most important thing in my day. Annie x

  7. What a great evolution, and so cool that you’ve found a way to add some useful routine back into your life that’s gentle and productive. This post is also a great example of how personal “recovery” is, especially around this control issue, which so many of us seem to grapple with. From the outside, if a hidden camera were following each of us around, the same action of searching for the veggie omelet (I am that person too 🙂 ) and then not eating at all if it’s not found can mean dramatically different things. I totally get the excessive control that it meant for you. And for me, it would represent a more matter-of-fact decision pretty rooted in self-love. Eating almost any other breakfast food would blow my day (and the next day) to hell and I’m happy to trade those consequences for a hungry morning. The line between holding a line out of a excessive need to control vs. out of experience/love/self-awareness is a tricky one (obviously), and one that’s difficult (yea, impossible) to judge from the outside. And is ever evolving within each of us. Thanks so much for this post, and thanks to the sober blogosphere for shining a light into each of our personal experiences (at a moment in time) with these big, common struggles.

    1. Yes. So true. In fact, the woman I was with told the story one day an remarked at him impressed she was that I was so conscious of my health.

      But inside it was tearing me apart and I just felt more and more irrational and anxious and self destructive.

      These were my signs that I was really not well.

      It is always hard to know what is driving a person if they don’t tell you!!!

      I like that thought of the hidden camera. Nice perspective shift.

  8. I really like that Anne…”routine is not restriction”…I too sometimes tend toward the rigid part of a routine…that kind of thinking has at times kept me trapped. I believe that routines should be nourishing and building (like taking a morning jog for me clears my head and keeps me centered)…but if I am overtired, I don’t need to force myself out of bed at 5 am just because I will freak out at deviating from a routine..that’s when it becomes rigid and punishing.
    I love the thoughts that you share here, as always they help me so much!

    1. It helps me so much to know there are others out there who have that fine line between routine and rule and that we are all beginning to see that holding ourselves to artificial rules and then punishing ourselves doesn’t work!!

      Yes. Nourishing and building.

  9. One hard shift for me was that the world so rewarded my anxiety-driven compulsive perfectionism and overachieving. No one gives me an award for getting to yoga or writes a news feature because I meditated. The changes I’ve made through the process of recovery moved me away from that need for constant external validation and I’m learning to actually value how I (!!!) feel instead of what others think. So I get to yoga and take time to meditate and do other self care because it satisfies my soul in ways that restless validation pursuits never could. Thank God! And ps – you are one of the earth Angels that has taught me this! So thankful to have you in my world, Anne.

  10. Oh man, this resonated so much with me! I even kept my rules going after I quit drinking, and my routine would take up the better part of my morning. My therapist encouraged me to let it go and do what I wanted. It took a long time (more than a year now) but I do feel happier about just going with the flow. And I have added just a little routine. I’m trying to keep it simple tho. This is the difficult part — not piling on thing after thing…

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