I sat on the sofa with my coffee in hand this morning thinking about what direction I wanted to take my blog after the last series of Easy Sobriety. While the idea of easy sobriety was not the most popular of blogs I have posted, I believe it was one of the most relevant which is why I am going to take that idea and, with a friend, try and develop it into something more. For now, I feel like the time has come to start talking about what it means, for me, to live well as a newly sober person in a world where alcohol is not only a focal point but a world where it is expected and even encouraged. We like to point the finger at so many things as to why we, as addicts, struggle to stay away from alcohol. The truth, however, is not necessarily in the alcohol alone; it is in the lies and advertising told to us since we have had the capacity to be aware of what was going on around us. In order to truly live well in this world clouded by alcohol, we have to create our own realities of our own world clear of the absurdities we now know are seen only through the lens of alcohol. We have to remove those lenses and have the confidence and courage to walk with or away from those still affected and know that we are finally living well and living free.
What does it mean to live? A dictionary states the following as one of the definitions of the word live; to remain alive, which also means to not die. That is not an inspiring goal for which to trust the fate of not only our future but the future of those close to us. It just means to survive by whatever means available to us. In any given city, town, or community there are people "living" vastly different levels of life and existence. How well those individuals are living rests solely on their own definition of the word, well. For one person, based on their background and history, living well may simply be remaining alive. They may be happy to wake up and have one more day on this earth. To another, living well may be financial. To this person, living well may be defined by the amount of money they have in their checking accounts and tied up in homes and the stock market. Yet, another person may view living well as the quality of the relationships they have around them. They may see a solid partner and lasting friendships as the basis for living well. No matter what our personal definitions of living well are, it is up to us, individually, to decide if we are, in fact, living well based on our own definitions. Keep in mind, I did say our definitions, not someone else's. If we try to live well based on someone else's definition of living well, we don't have much of a chance, anyway.
To Live Well
What does the word well mean, anyway? The dictionary defines the word as something we use as an intensifier. As in, to add an agency to a phrase for example, "I damn well hope I quit drinking this time." If to live simply means to remain alive, then living well must mean to do so with fervor, not out of obligation to those who created us. Another definition of the word well is; to a great extent or degree (often used for emphasis). Adding well to the end of the 'living' phrase adds an endless amount of possibilities to how we can define living when we do so with intention. It opens a door to pathways and routes we never knew existed. Those paths may lead us to people with whom we build lasting relationships or to places in which we sprout roots. They may show us new passions and desires or redefine old ones. They may lead us into challenges we once thought unbeatable and show us that we are stronger than we ever thought. They may introduce us to knowledge and ideas once foreign to us and that new knowledge may change our lives. The pathways that roll out before us the moment we decide to do more than remain alive are truly endless, but we first have to decide and believe we can do more than exist.
In the past, I have talked about the idea of settling as the first step into the eternal declination of our lives. Whether it is with a city in which you live, a partner, a friendship, a career, a belief system, a political view, or an ideal; once we settle we have, for all intents and purposes, given up on the potential for more. We have all done this at some point in our lives. If you are an addict, you have done so on many occasions in your lives. Giving our lives up to an external motivator like alcohol virtually ensures we lose focus and drive for anything more in our lives. We don't have the energy to fight through difficult times. We are not motivated to work harder to achieve our goals. We lose the confidence to believe in ourselves and our ability to succeed. We give up and begin telling ourselves that we are doing the best that we can and that we should be happy with what we have. Granted, we should always be happy with what we have, but that does not mean we have to settle for what we have. We can always achieve more, we can always make a relationship better, we can always work harder, we can always pursue old and new dreams, we can always be a better version of our current selves. But, we have to unsettle first.
What if I'm happy with my life?
If you believe you are happy right where you are, then that is great, I am proud of you, congratulations. I suspect, however, if that were true you would not be reading this blog or trying to immerse yourself in a world of sobriety. I suspect that since giving yourself up to your addiction, you have found that settling right where you are is comfortable and safe. Believe me when I tell you that I understand that place you are in better than you think. I was there for a very long time. Nevertheless, I have not yet met a single person, who has become aware of their addiction, that feels their life before sobriety was better or more fulfilling. I have met people who have said their path was hard, or that their journey will never be over, but they always finish with an enormous amount of gratitude for letting go of their addiction(s). That is because living with an addiction kills our spirit and our drive to live well. The simple definition of the word addiction essentially makes a fulfilling life impossible. Dictionary.com defines addiction as, the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice. We cannot live well in that state, ever.
While some people may miss their addictions, due to the chemical dependency their bodies formed over periods of prolonged use, which makes it feel difficult to quit; even they will not say their lives were better in the state of using. They may still be trying to find the path that works for them, the path toward easier sobriety, but they are still trying. Others, on the contrary, may see an immediate benefit to the idea of letting go of their addiction(s) and begin to visualize a new way of life, a new set of beliefs, and a new thirst for living than they have ever before felt. This thirst is the beginning stage of unsettling. We begin to want more, to see more, to hear more, to learn more. We begin to believe the world is bigger than the world we have created for ourselves and we begin to venture outside our comfort zones and take chances and even risks that have the potential to catapult us into the next level of living; living well.
It is not enough to simply live, anymore. Every single person out there deserves and has the right to live well. If you are held back because of an addiction, it is time to cut yourself free. It is time to step outside your comfortable life and experience an exciting one. It is time to see that you have the ability and potential for all those dreams you have covered up and stuffed down into the back of the bottom drawer. It is time to open back up that drawer and find and meet the real you. Don't be scared, the real you is going to surprise you, but you are going to like the person standing before you. Over time, you will even begin to remember that there was a time that you and this 'new' person were tight, you were strong together, and you were fearless. Take that person by the hand and go out and define what it means to live well.
Then, go out and do it. Live well...