“Muddy Water, Let Stand,
Becomes Clear.”
– Lao Tzu


Throughout the great philosophers and leaders from Buddha to Lao Tzu and The Beatles lies a timeless, beautiful truth: Let it be.

Yesterday, I was feeling out of sorts.

I felt absolutely outside of my skin and as though my mind was amplifying everything.

A clown car of thoughts where more and more just kept spilling out in an endless line of absurdity.

Half of my thoughts didn’t even make sense. All of my irrational fears and dormant regrets were stirred up into a gloriously muddy, messy pool of anxiety.

I don’t even know why.

I can’t put my finger on what triggered it, other than our highs need lows and that hormones are just freakin’ awesome. Maybe it’s because I’m starting to feel all the feels via this newfound sobriety, no longer numbing myself into one long, drawn out emotion of “everything is blah”.

Whether what triggered it was a chemical, mental or spiritual imbalance, I somehow found myself smack dab in the middle of the Addicts Trifecta: Bad Chemistry, Bad Thoughts, Bad Self-Image.

Just overall…bad.

Old (drunk) Shawn would have readily waded knee deep into the waters, losing myself more and more below the murky surface the further out I’d go.

And, the more I’d muck around in the waters, the more dirt I’d stir up.

Addiction encouraged me to lose myself in the mud.

And when the waters get muddy, it all starts to look the same: dark and cloudy, with all the heavy things unsettled and adrift. The more I’d poke around, the farther out I’d go, the more I tried to push down the dirt, the muddier and messier things became.

It’s fair to say that when you’re “in it” –  you can’t control it.

And now, it’s storytime:

Buddha was once travelling with a few of his followers.

While they were passing a lake, Buddha told one of his disciples, “I am thirsty. Do get me some water from the lake.”

The disciple walked up to the lake.

At that moment, a bullock cart started crossing through the lake. As a result, the water became very muddy and turbid. The disciple thought, “How can I give this muddy water to Buddha to drink?”

So he came back and told Buddha, “The water in there is very muddy. I don’t think it is fit to drink.”

After about half an hour, again Buddha asked the same disciple to go back to the lake.

The disciple went back, and found that the water was still muddy. He returned and informed Buddha about the same.

After sometime, again Buddha asked the same disciple to go back.

This time, the disciple found the mud had settled down, and the water was clean and clear. So he collected some water in a pot and brought it to Buddha.

Buddha looked at the water, and then he looked up at the disciple and said, “See what you did to make the water clean. You let it be, and the mud settled down on its own, and you have clear water.”

Your mind is like that too.

When it is disturbed, just let it be. Give it a little time. It will settle down on its own. You don’t have to put in any effort to calm it down. It will happen. It is effortless.”

Yesterday, I had to get myself out of the water (what is it with alcoholics being drawn to liquids?)

I had to keep myself busy, turn off my thinker, and let the mud settle.

Just a few weeks ago with muddy water up to my neck, I would have just drowned myself in it and a few bottles of wine, grateful for the blindness that comes with trying to see through the dirt.

New and improved Sober Shawn had a rare (and increasingly more common) moment of clarity.

Walk away.

Stop trying to control it.

Stop trying to understand it.

Stop trying to push the dirt down.

Just let it settle and let it be.

I threw myself into my work, spent some time on self-care and reading, spent some time in the kitchen (my happy place) – and, what I didn’t spend time on was trying to decipher, explain or otherwise justify my feelings.

Acknowledging them was enough. 

Knowing they were there and just letting them be was enough. You know – all that fun “feel the feels” stuff.

Emotions are essentially toddlers – unstable and wobbly, full of repetition and difficult questions, growth-spurts and tumbles – constantly vying for attention.

But, with a little love and nurturing, they can grow into themselves, strong and whole-hearted and full of potential. Often, they learn best when left to their own devices; comforted in knowing you are nearby, but able to explore and discover on their own.

Emotions, like toddlers, need room to grow. 

When you’re hovering over them and trying to control them you just end up standing in the figurative muddy waters, stirring up more muck.

The Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

I often turn to the cliché Serenity Prayer when I feel uncomfortable, because it’s basically a magical decoder ring for your feelings that holds the power to instantly snap yourself back to reality.

Are you anxious? Get out of the future (and just let it be)
Are you sad? Get out of the past (and just let it be)

Both are having the grace and serenity to accept things you cannot change, and to simply let them be. As alcoholics, we’re blessed cursed with the frustrating condition of being absolutely out of control, while trying (and forever failing) to control quite literally everything around us.

The wisdom happens when you know to get out of the water and just allow everything to settle into undisturbed, crystal clear clarity. 

That right there is having the courage to change the things you can.

There will be an answer,
Let it be.
Speaking words of wisdom,
Let it be.
– The Beatles

And lastly, because I’m sure the song is stuck in your head now, here’s Let It Be, by The Beatles. You’re welcome.
xo S.


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