Today, I would like to take a break from the series of blogs I have been writing around the Joy of Sobriety to reflect on something that happened over the weekend. I spent some time this morning pondering on whether or not it is appropriate to do so but ultimately decided it is relevant because of the underlying message I believe exists in the story I wish to tell. You see, no matter how far along we are on our journey into sobriety and recovery, things come up and whether we are prepared to deal with them or not, we have to make choices that can alter our direction and change the trajectory of our lives. Unfortunately, as I have witnessed lately with some of my new friends in sobriety, these choices come about quickly and the subsequent consequences can be detrimental to the success of our sobriety.
This weekend I was home with L and my son was in California with his mother, so we had a weekend with little obligation and an open-ended schedule. As always, we both engage daily in activities for personal growth as well as activities surrounding our work and family dynamics. We exercise at different times in the day to allow for a little autonomy. Needless to say, our days are generally filled but we always find time to spend together engaging in conversation over meals or snuggling on the couch with a favorite show.
On Sunday, we decided to explore our surrounding area a little and found that we have a wonderful little lake with walkways, trails, swimming areas, and playgrounds. I had no idea we had such a fun-filled area so close by. We took the dog for a walk and I played with photography in natural settings. It was truly a wonderful end to a productive and lovely weekend. Last night, while making dinner, I received a phone call from my ex that immediately negated the fulfilled and happy feelings I was enjoying. The conversation started with accusations and took a two-hour path down an emotionally charged road of disparaging comments and unfair arguments. What made matters worse was that, in this circumstance, I had made an error I was unaware of which ultimately further fueled the already volatile fire. The conversation ended with a hang-up and very negative and tumultuous feelings.
Sitting there contemplating what happened, I had some sincere feelings surface for me that led me to write this blog this morning. I was angry at the situation, but I was angrier at myself. Since I began my sober journey, one of the things I have been most proud of has been my dedication to living well. I am working hard every day to maintain a positive outlook on life and on people. I am concentrating on thinking positively about myself and my future. I am trying to be the best version of myself that I can be. Last night, I was not that person and I felt horrible about it. I felt that I let an external influence take over my positive light and turn off the switch. This is terrifying to an addict because this conjures up years of conflicting memories where we allowed external forces to drive our addictions.
I can honestly say that I did not crave alcohol or nicotine at that moment. However, I have been around the block enough times to know that what I was craving was that moment of freedom that temporarily comes with the initial use of whatever addictive substance for which we choose to succumb. I knew I could gain that freedom at any moment if I wanted to. I could tell myself it wasn't that big of a deal and that I could go back to my path the next day. I knew that I had the power to give in and feel that rush of adrenaline created by my body's fight or flight against the deadly and poisonous substance. I remembered what it felt like, how often I made that choice in the past, and the feelings associated with my addiction. I remembered it all, but I did not give in.
The Power of Sitting with Discomfort
Instead, I made another choice. I made a choice to do what I learned as a coping mechanism over the past year and a half with my therapist. She taught me that it is okay to sit with feelings of discomfort. She taught me that as human beings we are often faced with things that do not feel good, things that make us angry, things that make us sad, and things that make us want to seek external validation for our feelings. As addicts, our first thought in times like this is to self medicate our feelings by drowning them through substance abuse. What I have learned since becoming sober is that when you acknowledge those feelings by sitting with them instead of acting on them, you effectively eradicate their power. Once you recognize that you are, in fact, safe sitting with those feelings, you are then able to realize that you have the ability to make appropriate considerations, weigh options, and ultimately make better decisions.
Sitting with my feelings last night allowed me to see that while I was feeling bad about my actions and about the situation, I was okay and I did not need anything to justify or drown what I was feeling. I gently moved on and away from those negative feelings and enjoyed the rest of the evening with L. This morning I woke up, wrote an email in which I apologized for my actions and instantly felt better about my ability to own my behavior and do the right thing. Writing this blog this morning is a testament to the beauty of recovery and living a life free from alcohol and addiction.
Interestingly enough, while this blog started out as a departure from the joys of sobriety series, it ended up being a testimony to yet another joy of sobriety.
The Joy of responsibility.