I do my best to maintain a positive voice throughout my blogs and podcasts. Occasionally, my tone drifts away from the positive timbre I generally wish to convey. My partner is quick to point out whenever this happens. I appreciate her honesty and willingness to help me stay on my chosen path of positivity and continued growth. Nevertheless, at times, I find myself drifting away from my predictable and overtly positive discourse and shifting more toward a tough love and stop fucking around kind of mindset. Does this mean I no longer desire to perpetuate positivity? Does this mean I no longer care? Does this mean I have become deaf to the call of service I have been so drawn to over the past year? Of course, not. It actually means quite the opposite. Have you ever cared for someone so much you wanted to grab ahold of them and shake them silly in an attempt to wake them up or help keep them from making a bad decision? If you are a parent, good friend, caring boss, or even a sibling you have probably felt some semblance of these feelings. It is the natural progression and sometimes the excruciatingly difficult act of loving someone.
Since I quit drinking and involuntarily embarked on this journey of self-discovery through personal healing and a growing desire to help others, I have grown increasingly protective of those in my newfound community. I have gained a large number of new friends I have never officially met. Interestingly, I know I would do pretty much anything for these new friends. You may ask yourself why? Why would you feel so strongly for people you do not really know? Well, it’s actually pretty easy to explain. I feel this way because I know what it feels like to feel worthless. I know what it feels like to feel unloved. I know what it feels like to be a failure. I know what it feels like to try your hardest and still feel undeserving of success. I know what it feels like to scratch and claw your way through a life in which you did not ask to participate. I know, and because of this, I care immensely for anyone caught in this malicious and self-imposed false reality. I am not saying it was wholly our own doing, but I am saying we did choose to believe the misinformed perception we adopted to define our reality. I did it too, but then I learned I was simply lying to myself and so are you.
The good news is if we can choose to believe we are worthless, we can also choose to believe we hold great worth. If we can choose to believe we are not deserving, we can also choose to believe we deserve everything. If we can choose to fail, we can also choose to succeed. Make no mistake, all of these feelings are choices. In the face of the gravest and most unfair odds, a person can choose to see and believe the best possible outcomes are still plausible. Does a positive mindset always end with positive results? No, but I am willing to bet a negative mindset will certainly yield more negative results than its positive counterpart. Why does all this matter? It matters because, on a daily basis, I hear negative statements and I see negative comments from people I have grown to love. I have not yet met some of you. I barely know most of you. Nevertheless, as long as I hear these negative and self-deprecating comments from people I have grown to love, I cannot help but want to grab a hold of you. I want to grab ahold of you and shake you silly and say, “You are a liar.” What are you lying about? Let me tell you.
I Miss It
One pessimistic statement I hear on a far too consistent basis is, "I miss drinking." Excuse me, what? You miss what? Alcohol? No, you don’t. You do not miss alcohol. You may miss something, but it is not alcohol. Can a physical addiction to alcohol occur and make us feel as though we miss it? Sure. Physically, over time, our bodies may believe they need it, but does that mean we do? No, it doesn’t. Every successful attempt at sobriety begins with a decision and a choice to work through the withdrawals associated with physical addiction. Once physical addiction is overcome, the rest is almost entirely mental and emotional. Both of which are choices as well. Do we really miss alcohol? No, but what we do miss is the golden ticket. Whether it is the perceived escape, courage, friendship, or ability to cope that keeps us tipping back the bottle, it is not the alcohol we are missing. What we are missing is the lie alcohol told us, and the lie we chose to believe.
Let’s be honest and realistic for a moment. What has more power? The brief period of relief or escape we receive from drowning ourselves in alcohol, or the ramifications which follow our night, week, month, year, or life of drinking alcohol? I am not going to even bother answering that question right now because I believe, if we honestly ponder the question, the answer is glaringly obvious. If we honestly believe we miss alcohol then we also have to admit we miss the excruciating hangovers, bad decisions, broken relationships, forgotten dreams, buried hopes, pain, regret, and loss of self too. Do we? Do we miss those things? I know I don’t. I don’t miss a single thing associated with alcohol, and you shouldn’t either, if we stop lying to ourselves.
It’s not our fault, you know, to believe the lie. We are human. We are fallible. It is our fault, however, to continue to believe the lie once it is exposed. Consider it exposed. Instead of lying to ourselves about missing alcohol, let's start telling ourselves the real truth. We miss ourselves. We miss our lives. We miss success. We miss dreaming. We miss positive connections. We miss everything pre-alcohol. It's time to stop missing our lives.
Another pessimistic statement I hear far too often is, "It's hard." Now, this is a horrifically subjective statement that desperately needs unpacking. This is also where I know I will generally lose some of you. I hope that is not the case, but I also understand if it is. I understand because this, my friends, is one of the biggest lies we have ever been told and chose to believe. It is a lie not even perpetuated by alcohol. It is a lie perpetuated by us. It is a hard truth to swallow because we do not want to believe our road to recovery is anything other than what we have experienced. I am not suggesting what anyone has experienced is wrong. What I am suggesting is what we have experienced or what we have been told to experience may not be the only road to successful sobriety. I am suggesting sobriety does not have to be hard.
What is hard sobriety? It is a path filled with difficulty, strife, pain, struggle, and endless one day at a times. It is uncertainty, powerlessness, and hope someone or something else will help us succeed. It is not all bad, of course, but it is labeled hard because the majority of the time our experience is identified by these less than positive feelings and intentions. Hard sobriety is a choice, but it is a choice we do not consciously make. We choose this path because it is what we have seen. We choose this path because it is what we have been told. We choose this path because we know others have experienced it and we want the company in our misery. We choose this path because we do not know there are other options.
One way to look at this is to ask ourselves what makes sobriety hard. Is sobriety hard, or do we make sobriety hard? Is it possible we bring to the sobriety table our own disheveled perceptions, beliefs, and history? Is it possible our perceptions, beliefs, and history are not the most beneficial means to successful sobriety? If we are honest, we know the perceptions, beliefs, and history we bring to the table as addicts may not be the most reliable. If we are even more honest, we will admit our perceptions, beliefs, and history are why we drank in the first place. We cannot heal something by continuing the status quo. It just cannot happen. With this in mind, sobriety is definitely hard if we approach it from this mindset.
Can sobriety be easy?
If you know me or have followed my blogs for any amount of time, you know my answer to this question. I have been touting, for a while now, how my and my partner's sobriety has been easy. I have met many others who believe this to be true as well. But, how? How can this be true if so many have experienced the complete opposite of easy sobriety? Well, it starts with labels, and it ends with our beliefs. We play a fundamental role in our own sobriety. The role we play determines the outcome of our experiences. The role we play is a choice too, but we have to know choices are present in order to choose the right ones. How do we know what choices we have from which to choose? We have to be open to new ideas. We have to seek out other experiences. We have to look for rhetoric supporting a more positive experience. We have to open our minds to the possibility that we are far more powerful than we give ourselves credit. We have to believe hard sobriety is not the only path from which to choose.
The labels we choose to identify ourselves with are paramount to either a successful or difficult journey. I wrote an entire series of blogs about Label-Free Sobriety The idea was to break down some of the negative labels we choose to identify with such as alcoholic, addict, recovery, sober, and powerless. I showed how we can retrain our minds to see ourselves as more positive labels such as strong, successful, worthy, deserving, and recovered. With these more positive labels, we offer ourselves the ability to grow and move forward rather than stay stuck in a pattern of negative thinking. Hard is a label too. If we decide our sobriety is going to be hard, I absolutely guarantee you it will be. The power of positive thinking and visualization are proven to be successful methods for problem-solving. If this is true, then we can surmise the use of positive thinking and positive labels can have the same effect. If we decide our sobriety is going to be easy, I absolutely guarantee you we will at least have a chance at easier sobriety.
Of course, it takes more than positive thinking to make sobriety easy, but not much more. I say this because positive thinking produces positive actions. Positive actions encourage positive results. Positive results promote continued positive thinking. It is a cycle most of us addicts have never had the pleasure of experiencing. Once we begin to experience this cycle of positivity it can become the first positive addiction we have ever held. With our newfound positive mindset, we can venture into unknown territory. Territory such as goal setting, pursuing dreams, positive lifestyle changes, quality friendships, repaired relationships, and many other characteristics associated with positive and successful recovery.
Even with all this positive change, we have to be realistic as well. We are going to have bad days. Bad things are going to happen. We will experience loss and breakups. We will fail in some of our attempts at growth. We will experience the same trials and tribulations associated with living, but there will be one massive difference. We will be able to better deal with all these things because we have a clear mind, heart, and body. We learn to Sit with Discomfort. We learn to tackle challenges instead of running away from them. We understand discomfort is temporary. we believe in our ability to triumph over adversity. We believe in ourselves. This is all possible because we made a choice. We made a choice to live well. We made a choice to put ourselves above alcohol. We made a choice to be the best version of ourselves.
Did I Lose You?
I hope not. What am I actually trying to say? Simply stated, I am saying there is more than one way to approach and experience anything and sobriety is no different. I am saying we can choose to walk down our newly chosen path without the same constraints we have heard and seen so much of from others. I am saying we have a say in the way we perceive our strength and our relationship with alcohol. I am saying we are powerful, we are successful, we are deserving, and we are worthy. I am saying we can choose to experience easy sobriety.
If you find yourself with even the slightest interest in what I am writing about here, don't be afraid to reach out. Reach out to me, or reach out to others you see and hear talking and acting in ways that resonate with you and what you want your sobriety to look and feel like. Ask questions. Seek answers. Don't give up and never settle. You are as deserving of happiness and success as anyone else out there. All you have to do is make the choice to do so. Choose to stop the lying. Choose to identify yourself with more positive labels. Choose to live with a positive mindset. Choose to live well. Choose to be the best possible version of yourself. Choose a better and more fulfilling life.
Most importantly, remember you have the right to choose, and your choices are only limited by your ability to conceive the number and quality of those choices available to you.