After finally deciding to write about the idea I have of a difference between easy and hard sobriety, I did a little research to see what I was going to be up against in the sober community. What I found was overwhelmingly against my beliefs about the potential for easy sobriety. I was fairly certain there would be some push back but I did not expect the negativity that came along with the feedback. Interestingly, that negativity is exactly why this idea began to percolate in my mind in the first place. In my limited sober experience, the vast majority of information I found about recovery and sobriety is not positive. In fact, when speaking of sobriety, I would go so far as to say it is synonymous with one word, struggle. If before I quit I knew my only option was to struggle, I would have never taken the first step. I have immense respect for those of you who went into recovery with that mindset and made it through. Good on you. Fortunately, I went into recovery and sobriety with an entirely different mindset and that is to what I attribute my easy sobriety.
My sobriety journey began when I finally allowed myself the ability to admit that I had several problems, all of which revolved around addiction. I consider myself fortunate to have been 'blessed' with functional alcoholism as it kept me just above the surface of complete self-destruction for most of my life. Don't get me wrong, I managed to do plenty of damage to myself and others along the way, but my bottom was not physically the same as others, however, it was the same to me, emotionally. I drank myself to sleep every night and spent most of my awake hours looking forward to the inevitable libations. I was hiding my vaping habit and I had developed other behaviors that negatively affected my life and the lives of people around me. I knew I needed to make a change. A change, of course, I knew was necessary for years but one I was never able to admit I needed to make.
My first steps into sobriety led me to a therapist's office. I had tried to walk away from my addictions for years and years with not even the semblance of any luck. I will say that I did quit nicotine for many years when my son was born. I didn't want to be a dad who used nicotine, so I did it for him; red flag anyone? Other than that, I was never able to find a reason to step away from my addictions with any form of certainty. I was on a merry-go-round of self-imposed failures. I say self-imposed because all of my problems, issues, addictions, insecurities, and negative core beliefs were a choice; they were my choice, and I was actively engaged in making them.
I tried therapy several times throughout my process of wanting to make a change. I liked talking to someone about things I was going through but I always ran up against the same wall that virtually insured I would never make it to the other side. Therapy can be amazing, but I believe it has to be a two-sided conversation. Most of the therapy I experienced was one-sided which was okay for a little while but then it would occur to me that if I could do it on my own I would not need therapy in the first place. The difference for me came when I found someone who engaged in the conversation, someone who actively challenged me and my beliefs, and someone who was strong enough to push against some of the predisposed norms of the client-therapist relationship. We cannot learn and grow without someone challenging us and our beliefs. In the realm of addiction, this could not be more accurate as well.
Step one - Choice
While it took me a long time to finally understand and enact what my therapist was desperately trying to convey to me, I finally did and the results have been staggering. If I had to sum up my successful journey into recovery and sobriety with one word it would be choice. Not the choice to be sober or not, but the choice of living well and living desperate. The choice of living with myself or living with a stranger. The choice of living confident and living scared. The choice of living and giving up. When living with addiction, we all think about giving it up, about living without the addiction, about not feeling sick, about not feeling controlled. We think about all these things but we don't truly think about ourselves. When I say ourselves, I mean the deepest level of self; who we are, what gets us out of bed in the morning, what is our purpose?
In my experience, most of the attempts I made to quit addictions were not self-initiated. I quit for my son, I quit for my wife, I quit for my health (not in a holistic way, but in an I am tired of feeling like shit way), I quit to save my job, I quit for guilt, or I quit for any number of reasons that did not involve my truest self. I don't know about you, but if I feel I HAVE to do something, my immediate and absolutely definitive reaction is to say fuck that. As my wife and I joke about often, "Don't tell me what to do." Even when we think we are doing it for ourselves because of health, job, family, etc... if we do not buy into the reason why it is not going to work.
Making the choice to live well, to live with intention, to live without addiction; I believe, is not about the absence of a substance; it is about the inclusion of self in our own life. So many of the things we do in our lives on a day-to-day basis or even throughout a lifelong path revolve around things outside ourselves. Yes, money, retirement, home, car, travel, college, and other things are incredibly important in our overall lives. But, I can have an abundance of all those things without having an abundance of self-worth. Without self-worth, where is the agency of true change? Choosing to change from within is the change necessary to make everlasting and lifelong changes that not only positively affect our emotional and physical health, but all of the before mentioned 'things' as well.
Choose to believe in yourself
Thanks to my dedicated and patient therapist, I finally understand what she was trying to tell me for over a year and a half of weekly visits. I was already the man I wanted to be. I just had to choose to trust and believe it.
Come back Thursday when I discuss how knowledge has played a key role in my easy sobriety.