“Something in the wind has learned my name
And it’s telling me that things are not the same
In the leaves on the trees and the touch of the breeze
There’s a pleasing sense of happiness for me.”
—“Top of the World” by The Carpenters
A pleasing sense of happiness. When I hear these words, I take a deep breath in and let out a sigh of profound joy. I am so very grateful to know what a sense of happiness feels like. I haven’t always felt this way. Thirty years ago I admitted to myself that I had a problem, that I could no longer live this way, that the happiness I had been seeking all the years leading up to that moment could not be found in all the outward “riches” I had acquired.
One October morning in 1984, I called in sick to work—something I never did, but I just couldn’t face another day “out there.” There was an article in the paper that morning discussing Karen Carpenter’s battle with an eating disorder, which she had lost more than a year earlier. I was so in love with the Carpenters and their music that Karen’s death had hit me really hard. As I read about her battle with anorexia and subsequent death, I felt the shock of it reverberating to my core. In my mind, Karen Carpenter had had everything—beauty, fame, and wealth—but she must have felt the same way I did inside: alone, scared, and unhappy. It was then that I finally admitted to myself that I, too, had an eating disorder—bulimia. The tears came like a flashflood, and a voice inside me clearly and firmly said, “You must get help.” The voice was strong and loud, and I felt moved to listen.
The voice I found that morning was “the love that I found” for myself, which gave me strength, courage, and a higher perspective—as if I were “on top of the world.” In that moment, I knew deep within that if I were to ever be happy, ever envision a future of self-love and fulfillment, I must get help. I was desperate, and I felt like I would rather die than go on living this way. I knew that if I continued down this path, I surely would! In that moment of feeling how close death was, I found inside myself a desire to do whatever was necessary to get better. So 30 years ago today, on October 31, 1984, I checked myself into a treatment center. Today I am still in awe of the courage that took.
Today, I am happy, strong, and loving my life so completely that I often look into my mirror and say, “Thank you.”
My six weeks at the treatment center changed my life. The experience was deeply enriching. I felt safe, loved, and accepted by a wide range of people, and I had a beautiful sense I was not alone. It was there that I was introduced to the Twelve Steps. Every day that passed fostered even greater strength and wisdom within me. I became immersed in reading for inspiration and spiritual instruction. I found comfort, hope, and strength in the words of great teachers and guides. When my time at the center concluded, I left there with an incredible desire to live a more meaningful and spiritual life.
I had a deep knowing that I must embrace the 11th Step of AA: “sought through prayer and meditation to deepen my conscious contact with God, as I understand him or her.” This is what has fueled my 30-year journey. I maintain my unwavering desire to live this way through dedicated daily practice, including meditation, mantra repetition, focused attention, and reflection. With each choice I make and challenge I face in life, I rely deeply on my inner strength, faith, and courage to remain on the path I have chosen for myself.
On my 30-year anniversary, I offer my personal experience of transformation, recovery, and love to anyone suffering from an addiction, whether it is to drugs, alcohol, an eating disorder, or any other debilitating activities that interfere with your living the magnificent life you are capable of living.
Barb Schmidt is the founder of Peaceful Mind Peaceful World, a community outreach program through Florida Atlantic University (FAU) designed to promote dialogue in the greater community on the topic of inner peace by incorporating workshops and weekly teachings with her and many of her esteemed mentors, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Dr. Jane Goodall, Dr. Andrew Weil, and many others. She is also the founder of Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life, a non-profit organization through which she teaches The Practice, a three-part guide to practical spirituality in the modern world and her tool for spreading her belief that “outer peace begins with inner peace.”