We stay away from chemical substance for a year or two, and we begin to really feel like ourselves – maybe in a way we haven’t since we were very, very young. As soon as we start drinking and drugging, we diminish our ability to naturally develop and evolve. Our lives quickly become centered around getting enough and taking enough and staying screwed up, and all of the other cool little things that make us us fall to the wayside. We forget how much we used to love photography, or dancing, or playing with animals. We forget our favorite film genre, our favorite food, the ways in which we like to spend our free time. We trade it all in for addiction. We trade it all in for a life of self-imposed misery, ceaseless despair, and the fruitless pursuit of simulated relief.
We trade it all in for a truly meaningless existence.
Living in Active Addiction
The awesome part is, when we choose to commit to recovery, we give ourselves the opportunity to gain it all back. We remember what makes us laugh, and we discover how much we love going to comedy shows. We remember how much we enjoy eating, and we discover a newfound love of cooking. Maybe we join a sketch comedy troupe or decide to go to culinary school. We become who we are, and we slowly learn to love that person. Our lives become rich and full, and soon – without even realizing that such a drastic shift has been occurring – we find that we can’t imagine returning to our old ways; spending all of our time sick in bed, half-watching old Adam Sandler movies and vomiting into a cooking pot. There is no longer any room for chemical substance in our full and rich and meaningful lives.
Of course, long-term recovery does not ensure immunity – no length of sobriety ensures immunity against the first drink or drug. Nothing truly ensures total immunity, but it is promised that if we do everything we know keeps us sane and sober on a daily basis, we have a pretty good shot of leading fulfilled and joyous lives. The formula will vary slightly on a person-to-person case, but always incorporates some variation of the following:
- Meeting attendance
- Belief in and reliance upon a higher power (prayer and meditation, ongoing seeking)
- Working through the steps and continuous contact with a sponsor
- Helping others
- Regular inventory (remedy wrongs as quickly as possible, strive for continuous self-betterment)
- And, of course… avoid drinking and drugging
A Life of Sobriety
The life that I lead now is one that drinking does not logically fit into. The obsession has been removed, which is awesome – but the desire has also been removed, for the most part. Drinking is a major part of American culture, and the vast majority of American citizens partake regularly. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If I could go out to a bar on Friday night and slowly drink one beer over the course of like 2 hours, maybe I would do that. But I can’t. I’ve tried. Unlike most other people, I never drank to socialize or unwind. I drank to escape. And now, I’ve got nothing to escape from. Yeah, emotions crop up from time-to-time, and sometimes they really suck. Loneliness is a new one for me, and it has proven to be a bit uncomfortable. But when I feel lonely now, I go to meeting (in whatever state I happen to be passing through) and I am immediately surrounded by 20 close friends.
I no longer want to escape from my feelings, I want to experience them. I want to learn how to work through them in a healthy and productive way. And that, my friends, is a miracle in and of itself. Because listen – certain things really wound us. The end of a meaningful relationship, the loss of a loved one, blatant rejection… these things have the innate ability to hurt us deeply; to the very core. And when we get hurt, we may be tempted to reach for the bottle – instinctually. Getting drunk numbs the pain, however temporarily. Unfortunately, numbing an issue without looking at it honestly or attempting to resolve it will typically lead to its festering. Drinking until we can’t feel heartbreak does not cause our heart to become unbroken – it soaks our broken heart in alcohol, preserving the wreckage. Maybe even compounding the fracture. When we acknowledge the heartbreak, and feel it, and accept it, we are giving the heart an adequate opportunity to heal. The pain may be acute, but it is never unmanageable. And it will always, always get better with time.
God is either everything or else he is nothing.
And if he is everything, then he can handle your money.
There are some things that I find relatively easy to turn over to my higher power. Problems within my interpersonal relationships, for example – enough practice has lead to an instinctual turning over of my will when it comes to dealing with certain people. When I’m stuck in stand-still traffic, it has become second nature to say a quick prayer and accept my current circumstance. But when it comes to finances… having faith is not always the easiest thing to do. I struggle to trust that my tax debt will be resolved by God. To me, that seems like an almost irresponsible stance. But when I think about it, just as is the case with literally everything else, I can only control the situation up to a point. I can file my taxes, and then… what? And then I have to give it up, because there is literally nothing else for me to do. Fretting will not help move the process along. Finances, health concerns, insanely obnoxious coworkers… God’s got it all.
Little Rock, AR
Being sober really isn’t that big of a deal.
For some reason, I believed (for kind of a long time) that people would react a certain way to my sobriety. I don’t know how I expected they’d react, or what I really feared – judgment maybe, or some kind of passive aggressive discrimination. As it so turns out, pretty much everyone in America is familiar with addiction. What used to be a very taboo and widely misunderstood disease has now become totally mainstream, thanks to excessive media coverage (and, sadly, the current nationwide heroin epidemic). Most people either have a close friend or family member that has struggled with addiction, or they boast some experience in the world of recovery themselves. Even if that is not the case, no one really cares. I used to stockpile a massive amount of ‘cop outs’ to employ whenever someone would mention booze. “I’m not going to drink; I have to be up early.” “I have a gluten allergy, I’m sorry, beer makes my stomach hurt.” “I’m a lightweight.” Now, I just say, “I don’t drink, but I don’t mind if you do.” If someone asks why, I simply say, “I’m a recovering alcoholic.” No shame in my game – and it’s way more important for me to save my own ass than it is to impress that mediocre stranger at that random punk show.
Spending time in nature is very good for the soul.
This might seem like kind of an obvious one, but listen – can you remember the last time you took a 2-hour nature hike all by your lonesome? There is something very enriching and magical about strolling through the forest by yourself, paying full attention to the small flowers, chattering birds, and confident flow of the nearby brook. Go do it! Google ‘hiking spots near me’, and dedicate three hours of your next weekend to exploring nature. If the beach is more accessible, go spend some time there – watch the sunset (or rise, if you can manage to get up that early). Spending time alone in God’s kingdom recharges a vital part of the soul.
Stay tuned for Part 3!