We were living in the old house when things started to fall apart.
At this point, it was mostly “just” business related. You know – finances and all those peripheral parts of my life that kept things well-oiled and sort of moving forward-ish. The type of things that ensured my daily booze allowance was accounted for. Customers were growing angry, bill collectors were ringing and my drinking was escalating (who knew it could get worse?) and all the while my depression was swelling to suffocating proportions and my indifference was all consuming. Both our bank accounts and my spirit were as empty as each and every mounting bottle of wine, waiting for the shame-filled recycling day when their deafening crash would wake the whole damned village.
It never really woke me up, though.
Not with the wake up call I needed, anyway.
Our house was ancient; a 165 year old dragon-stone beauty in a tiny, sleepy village of less than 300 people. I started wondering if it was haunted, desperately reaching for a way to explain the daisy-chain of bad luck that had latched onto me.
I smudged the house with bundles of sage, in hopes of banishing whatever ghosts might be lingering in the hallways of our home. I started googling cures and remedies, charms to attract wealth and elaborate bronze elephants to usher happiness through my door, strategically placing mirrors to reflect all the bad juju back out and as far the fuck away from me as possible. I bought just the right amount of goldfish and placed them in just the right spot, I painted walls and furniture in varying shades of greens and blues, and spent money I didn’t have on pillows of just the right shape and texture, because, well, the internet told me to.
The internet promised me that Feng Shui would remedy all that was wrong in my life.
And all that was wrong couldn’t have been because I was making poor fucking choices.
It wasn’t because I was a self-absorbed booze hound, whose priorities were whacked and direction was skewed. It wasn’t because I was busy self-imploding, building a little internal bomb just waiting to turn my whole life into shrapnel.
It couldn’t have been because of any of that. It had to be because my chairs were in the wrong place and my table corners were too sharp; my plants had wrong-shaped leaves and we were sleeping with our heads facing North instead of East.
I wasn’t just finally suffering the myriad of consequences from decades of drunken poor judgement; I was simply a bad decorator. I even hired a Feng Shui guru (twice) to come and cure our home of all it’s evil chi and welcome some goodness back through our doors at long last.
Nothing changed, of course.
Nothing changed because the bad energy was in me – not the house.
I needed to Feng Shui my freaking life, not my corridors.
Things continued to go south for several more years – and here we are today. Hindsight is helping me see how ridiculous my earlier efforts actually were, but don’t get me wrong, I do believe in Feng Shui and the energy of the universe and all that good stuff. But, back then, I hadn’t yet arrived at the point of owning up to my mistakes or embracing my struggles. I was still blaming. I was still self-destructing. I was still sinking lower into addiction, and waiting for that inevitable-and-impossible-to-ignore face-plant onto the rocky depth of my new lower low, my new rock bottom, before I would finally admit that the problem was in me, not my circumstances.
My circumstances were just a sloppy side effect of all my really, really bad, misguided drunken choices.
When I finally started rearranging my heart and soul and all of my priorities and fears, all the positive chi I was earlier trying to reflect into my life through the hanging of bagua mirrors and the perfect placement of lucky dragon figurines not surprisingly finally started to flow my way.
Because I needed to rearrange myself.
And so, I present to you my Addict’s 10 Step Guide to Feng Shui-ing Your Freaking Life.
An Addict’s 10 Step Guide to Feng Shui-ing Your Freaking Life
Step 1: Know Your Intention
The first step towards creating good Feng Shui is having an understanding of the goal you are aiming for. This is called “Knowing Your Intention.” Do you want better relationships, better health, a smoother career path, or just maybe freedom from feeling ‘stuck’ and like your life isn’t wildly spinning out of control?
Well…um…yes? Of course I do! Can I also add ‘stop drinking the entire liquor store every day’ to that list of intentions, too? No one starts reaching for voodoo or Feng Shui cures until all of those good things in your life have started to suffer. When your addiction outgrows your goals and control, it’s probably a good time to revisit not only what your intentions actually are, but if what you’re doing every day is in any way aligned with getting where you want to go. For possibly the first time in my life, I had to be crystal clear and brutally honest about what my life had become – and what I wanted my life to look like. I couldn’t do that without admitting – and owning – how shitty things had grown in all of those departments – because of choices I made. So, I set my intention to grow bigger than my addiction, to make better choices, and to make sure that those choices were inline with my goals. My intention was sobriety, and to feel alive and in control again.
Sounds simple, right? Ha.
Now I had to start walking the talk if I wanted this voodoo to work.
Step 2: Eliminate The Clutter
Wouldn’t it be great if it was as easy as putting all your excess emotional baggage into totes and cardboard boxes, neatly labelled Yard Sale because they no longer serve you? Well, that’s essentially what I needed to do. I had to collect all the things that were no longer adding to my life, that were tripping me up, and that I no longer had use for – and start getting rid of them. It’s easy to gather lamps and tchotchkes and all that collects dust from the shelves and closets of our home, but it’s another story to do the same with all the skeletons we’ve been drinking to forget.
Clutter isn’t just the crap in your closets. It’s the noise in our head, it’s the horrible food we put into our bodies, it’s the negative self-talk and the shame-spirals that suck us down to the bottom of a bottle. Clearing it out is not for the faint of heart, but you can’t move forward when you’re trying to carry things that are too heavy to hold. Journal. Say mantras every day. Meditate. Read books on self-worth and self-improvement. Say “I love you” to yourself in every mirror you see.
Addiction is full of self loathing, so start learning how to self-love instead. I had to dig deep to unearth my old limiting patterns and beliefs that were keeping me stuck. I had to challenge myself to find out what it was I wanted in life, and then gather the courage and strength to know that I was worth all of it and more. There were tears. There was a shitload of digging. But I had to identify all the emotional clutter that was causing my pain (and in turn making me turn to drinking to make that pain and discomfort go away) before I could venture onward to truly living my intentions.
Step 3: Keep The Lid Down
In Feng Shui, open toilet lids are more than just another reason to yell at your husband. They’re akin to sewers, that suck everything down the drain – good or bad, they don’t care. The idea is that good energy and money is sucked away from you when you leave the lid up. So, keep ’em closed, kids.
So how do you keep the figurative toilet seat of your life in the down position? Identifying patterns, people and things that drain you emotionally, physically and mentally. For me, that was obviously the booze, but it also involved figuring out what was toxic in my life – the energy suckers. As they say, water seeks it’s own level – so my life was vibrating at the same frequency of what (and who) I was surrounding myself with (and that was a damned low vibration, let me tell you). It’s amazing how we can waste away our days by doing practically nothing, and feeling over-busy and over-stressed while doing it.
I had to start closing the lid on everything that was just taking from, and not adding to, my life. I had to start creating boundaries: for others, and especially myself. I had to start taking charge of the time suckers (social media, television, getting shit-faced every night) and ensure the lid stayed down to keep all my energy suckers at bay, too, which are the things that are mentally draining and would always drive me to drink. Too many commitments, negative people and unfinished projects all had to go down the drain, and stay there.
Step 4: Balance, Balance, Balance!
It’s good Feng Shuetiquette (I just made that up) to always have two night tables, or pieces of furniture, on either side of your bed. You know, to encourage couplehood, healthy relationships, and general feelings of being grounded and balanced. It creates deeper and more restful sleeps, and deeper and more honest relationships.
If there is one thing my life was missing, it was balance. My life felt as balanced as a hungover, half-in-the-bag-by-noon hot mess trying to walk a tightrope in a windstorm. Wobbly and about to plummet like a lead balloon would be a generous understatement. It’s not only that I was trying to carry too much, but every choice I was making was working against me. Add to that an unhealthy allergy to moderation and I was way too much this and not enough that with quite literally everything in my life. Everything was all or nothing, and it usually ended up as all, with just a little bit more for good measure. I was all drinking and no activity, all junk food and no real food, all noise and no silence, all in or all out. There was no mindfulness, no presence, no peace and definitely no calm. I was a spastic squirrel on speed in the middle of a freeway, always anywhere and everywhere – but here.
In literal Feng Shui, I was that lopsided bed with only one lonely night table. Yoga, meditation, a healthy vegan diet, buddhist books and quiet introspection; I first had a taste, then I ate them all up. That whole classic “peace out” hippy-zen-vibe that all of the above conjures up is for good reason: because it works. Identify the areas of your life that are either extreme or completely absent, and start with those. Cut some things back while you add new things in. Find a recipe for your day that helps you bring your life back into balance emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically.
Whatever it is, find the matching ‘night tables’ that work for you, and help to keep you grounded.
Step 5: Don’t Work With Your Back To The Door
The rules of Feng Shui suggest that working with your back to a door puts you in a compromising position, even if you don’t realize it in the moment. If you reposition your desk and work facing a door, you may be surprised to feel how much more powerful that position actually is. Essentially, put yourself in a position where no one can sneak up on you.
If I were a desk, this step would be so much simpler. But, alas, a desk I am not – so I had to start identifying all the situations that were putting me into compromising positions. And the most compromising position in recovery is one where you are tempted, where your back is to the figurative door and out of nowhere the cravings and triggers pop up and over your shoulder and scare the shit out of you with a big “Surprise! I’m here!”
This takes planning and keeping your eyes looking forward and your back to the wall. If we are going out – I plan in advance what non-alcoholic drinks I’m going to have. If friends are coming over – I disclose ahead of time that I’m not drinking and that it’s a done deal. Make your decisions in advance when you can, so you don’t waver and give in on the spot – because old comfortable patterns will make you say yes when you want to say no. By failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.
Keep your eye on the door and treat it like a game of Whack-A-Mole. You know the cravings and temptations are going to pop up, so be ready for them when they do and clobber the heck out of them every single time.
Step 6: Go With The Flow (and drink lots of water)
Most of us are drawn to things like water, plants and animals naturally – because they awaken all that juicy good energy in us. They’re nurturing and nourishing, and help energy to keep flowing, where otherwise bad energy can grow stagnant and settle in. Plants are a wood element, helping you to open up and expand, and encouraging flexibility and strengthening your intuition. The term Feng Shui literally means “Wind & Water”, with the water element bringing renewal, purity, freshness and a sense of flow and abundance to your life, often introduced through the colour blue, mirrors and properly placed water features.
First of all, I’m going to start with the obvious: DRINK. ALL. THE. WATER. This cannot be overstated. I still struggle with this every day, but speaking of plants and water – you know how your house plants start to wilt and dry up and slowly die and look offensive? Ya, that. Well, you are basically just a house plant with more complicated emotions. You NEED water to thrive. Pouring wine on a plant doesn’t work (trust me, I’ve tried). I’ve been so used to having a wine glass glued to my hand (hello, dehydrating diuretic) so it’s been a transition having a water bottle full of Liquid Life there, instead. But it’s helped more than I can say, from flushing out my backlog of poisons and toxins to giving me the life-giving energy that water is bursting with.
Next, get out into nature. There is truly nothing that sunshine, sand and surf can’t fix; it’s a natural healer and throughout recovery there is a tonne of healing required both inside and out. Addiction makes us isolate, whether we intend to or not, so stepping back into the natural flow of the world around us is one of the best ways to start flowing again. Personally, I spent way to long “stuck” in addiction, like water building pressure behind a dam, refusing to just let things be as they are, and trying to control everything (and failing miserably). In trying to control things less, I’m finally learning to just go with the flow, more.
And holy hell, literally everything is so very much easier.
Step 7: Fix What’s Broken
Broken things have no place in your home – and your home is a mirror of you. Broken items are the epitome of negative energy, and ideally you want to replace, repair or get rid of broken items as soon as possible. If you can’t fix things, let them go. Don’t allow things that need repair to linger or pile up, since that only amplifies negative energy and prevents good new things from coming into your life. This cure allows you to release your frustrations and anxieties and smoothes your life path.
I wish they made a superglue for life and relationships; something that pieces things back together and replaces all the broken parts. But there isn’t, so we have to go about it the hard (and surprisingly empowering) way, which is through demonstrating our changed behaviour. Apologies are lovely and absolutely necessary, but words can catch the wind and spread themselves thin, whereas our actions are what can seal the deal. It shows that we’re committed to our recovery, that we’re making amends with our past and wrong-doings, and doing our absolute best now that we know better.
There’s no use beating yourself up here. Leave the shame where it belongs: in the past. It’s amazing how quickly things begin to improve when everyone around you begins to see you walking the talk (and there’s no room for zealots here, so just do your thing). What can’t be fixed, release it, and commend yourself for having tried. Nothing goes back together exactly how it was before. Sometimes things get stronger, and sometimes the pieces never fit back together the same way. And that’s okay.
Let go of what can’t be fixed, and make room for better things to take it’s place.
Step 8: Wind Chimes For The Win
According to the rules of Feng Shui, you can encourage helpful people into your life by hanging a pleasant-sounding wind chime. The sound of a metal wind chime hung in the right-front area of your home, office, or bedroom activates more people to help you and gets you more help from the people who are already at your side.
This, I believe, is one THE most important steps in Feng Shui-ing Your Freaking Life. Because especially in the early days of recovery, we’re still dragging our secrecy and shame along with us like a ball and chain. It follows us everywhere, and we don’t want anyone to know about it. So we pick it up and carry it beneath our coats, we tuck it into the corners of our purses and bags, and we fling it over our shoulder like the shame-filled weight of the world. And eventually (thankfully) we realize that it isn’t something we can do alone. As isolating and individual as addiction becomes, recovery needs to be the inside out version of it – meaning find your tribe.
My early days of recovery, I was certain there was no one whose life was as messed up as mine. There was no one who needed to drink 3 or 4 bottles of wine a day, like I did, every day. There was no one who was struggling like I was, because there was obviously something wrong with me, because I simply couldn’t just stop.
And I could NOT have been more wrong.
Taking myself down from my isolated pedestal of addiction I found what I was going through was incredibly common and normal, that there were so many other people in far worse positions who are now thriving sober, and that my addiction caused far more near-sightedness and self-absorption that I had ever imagined.
I wasn’t alone.
And now, I was inspired. There is priceless value in supporting others through your journey, and it always, always returns ten-fold. Source out online groups or in-person meetings that click with your vibe – whatever works for you, work it. I favour online closed communities like This Naked Mind and Club Soda, where it’s like a round-the-clock room I can pop into whenever I need support or accountability, or have the time to offer that to others. It’s as addictive as the drugs we used to need like oxygen, and stronger medicine than anything a doctor could prescribe.
Next – surround yourself with people who support your recovery, are genuinely thrilled for you, and want nothing but your wild and crazy sober success. There is absolutely no room for any type of other kind of “friend” or company in the early days of recovery. Never forget that crushing this sober thing is more important than anything right now, because without it – you’ll lose everything, including a lot of your relationships. So, focus on the ones that are nurturing and nourishing, and run like hell when you sense that someone isn’t respecting your life-and-death NEED to get sober.
Step 9: Do What Feels Right
The magical part of all the many Feng Shui rules are that there is only truly one real rule. And it’s the best cure of them all. Do what feels right. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. It’s as simple as that. Go with your gut, follow your intuition, call it what you may – but what it comes down to is ensuring what you are doing is the next right thing.
This applies in the real physical world too, when you just feel like the couch is in the right place, or that a room feels good to be in and is easy to walk through. It’s ensuring there is flow and few obstructions, that the over feeling is calming and peaceful, and that the energy of the room vibrates with what you want to experience in it. In the world of recovery, it’s all about listening to your body and your needs. It’s about pausing, and sometimes stopping. It’s about learning how to love your new, healthy body and all that it needs to continue serving you (and can we give a huge thank you to our ever-forgiving bodies? After all we’ve put it through…and still rooting for us).
When I was in active addiction, I just did whatever made me feel better (and eventually, much worse) whenever I wanted. I would always take the shortest, fastest route to those cozy feelings of comfort (and eventually, blackout and the inevitable death-defying hangover). Addiction causes spontaneity, poor judgement, lack of forethought and the convenient oversight of consequences. Recovery and sobriety? It requires the opposite. It requires a constant commitment to Step 1 of Feng Shui-ing Your Freaking Life: Know Your Intention. If what you’re about to do, or what you’re thinking or feeling doesn’t align with that intention – don’t do it. If ten thousand bufferflies light up in your gut when you think (and you will) that you can moderate or just have one, it means that your body disagrees. And it’s not agreeing with you because it knows better. It knows your track record and it knows the consequences. Listen to your body, and listen to your heart.
They’ll never lie to you the way that alcohol always did.
Step 10: Rinse & Repeat
There’s no off switch. There’s no do-it-and-done when Feng Shui-ing your life. It isn’t a 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner you can toss in and wash all the dirt away, leaving everything shiny and bouncy and clean. It takes work, it takes repetition, and it takes commitment to exorcising your life of negativity and welcoming nothing but goodness back in (and there’s so very much goodness).
Be gentle with yourself, and introduce these changes and cures slowly but deliberately, with every ounce and then some of your entire being. Give yourself the same chance at renewal you’d want for your best friend – and be your own best friend, for what will most likely be the first time ever.
And just wait.
Just wait until you can sit back and feel the changes as everything starts to flow through your halls again. Just wait until everything feels lighter, no longer weighed down between all the clutter and dust, when everything stops flowing down your drains, and the good stuff decides to stay and hang out for awhile.
Arranging a home to hold happiness in place is the primary goal of Feng Shui.
– Terah Kathryn Collins