It is painful to admit, but in the past, I have noted on several occasions when referring to someone struggling with life, that they attracted chaos. The fact that I said such a thing about a fellow person is not necessarily what is painful for me to admit, though it should be. No, what is painful for me to admit, even more than that, is that while I said such things about others I was doing the very thing for which I was judging them. I attracted chaos. No, I don't even know if that is accurate. I actively went out and searched for it. This was especially true in times of peace. When things calmed down and my life seemed to have a semblance of order, I was unable to coast and enjoy the ride. In times of peace, I would shift up and floor it because I did not know how to live a life of calm tranquility. It was not in my nature. It did not feel comfortable to me. It felt better to live in a constant state of struggle, anxiety, and panic. That was what I knew. That felt like home.
A Life of Chaos
When we are actively using our addictions, we are unknowingly creating a state of chaos around us every day. What is worse, is that we are not only creating a state of chaos in our own lives, we are creating chaos in the lives of others as well. The unknowing aspect of the above statement is where I believe the key to affecting real change lies. When we drink, use drugs, and enact negative behaviors we effectively "check out" from our normal consciousness and "into" a state of apathy and disconnection. While the initial act of engaging in our addictions is a choice, the repercussions are not. They simply occur, and we and others are the unfortunate victims of the destruction that ensues. Once the destruction begins, the chaos unfolds and we embark on a life of perpetual struggle, anxiety, and panic.
The reason I believe the unknowing aspect is so important is that we, as intelligent and sentient beings, would never choose to put ourselves and others in danger. We would never choose to act in a way detrimental to our selves and others. We would never choose to live emotionally or physically out of control. We would never choose to create and live in a state of chaos for ourselves or those whom we love and care about. So, why do we do it then? We do it because once we "check out" from the state of our true selves and "into" the state of apathy and disconnection created by artificial chemicals, we are no longer actively aware of our actions and the consequences of those actions. We eventually become aware, when the fog lifts and the guilt sets in. It never lasts long, though, and we soon find ourselves back in the same state of chaos caused by the chemicals and addictions we choose to surround ourselves with. As long as we continue to choose to engage in our addictions, we will live in a state of chaos, and the idea of living a peacefully content life will be as far from our understanding as life on Mars.
A Life of Peace
While the definition of peace can be subjective, there are several attributes of the word that I believe are relevant to all of us, especially those of us recovering from an addiction. What does the word peace mean anyway? Noun: a state of tranquility and calm; free from war or civil unrest. How perfectly does the antonym of the word peace fit into the life of the addict? War, civil (emotional) unrest, chaos, and struggle come to mind when thinking of the opposite of peace. When we use we are at war with our addiction and ourselves. It is a lonely and hopeless war if we choose to fight it without the tools and skills necessary to combat such a formidable adversary. There are several tools we need to be successful in this battle, and the first is to ascertain that we are not, in fact, at peace.
Until we understand that we are living a life of chaos, we cannot expect to understand and find the benefits associated with living a life of peace. I believe this is the most critical and fundamental step in successful sobriety, and it is arguably the most difficult. If we choose to go to battle half-assed, we can only expect half-assed results. What I mean by that is, if we are not ready for the battle, we cannot expect to win. We have to train and equip ourselves properly before we take the first steps onto the battlefield, otherwise known as our sobriety journey. Genuinely understanding the repercussions that stem from our chaotic choice of lives allows us to see there are other options available to us. But, this takes some courage. We have to be able to see and admit our roles in the undesirable outcomes of our lives, thus far. It is then that we can begin to see what life may look like on the other side. The peaceful and sober side.
Choose a Life of Peace
Unfortunately, it is not enough to simply acknowledge our role in the chaos of our lives. It is not even enough to want a change based on the acknowledgment of our role in the destruction we have amassed. No, what we must do to effectively make the changes necessary to successfully go into battle and defeat our addictions is to choose a life of peace. To some of you, that may sound like a corny or utopian ideal, but is it really? What does it mean to choose a life of peace? It means choosing yourself over your addiction. It means choosing to live a more healthy and intentional life. It means choosing a more positive and productive emotional state of being. It means choosing to live in our own skin and in our own minds because we like it there. We know that both our minds and our bodies deserve to feel good, to feel healthy, and to feel at peace. We know that our addictions are the one thing keeping us from living a peaceful life, and it is time to kick that shit to the curb.
What happens to our inner peace when we remove poison and chemicals from our body? It flourishes, almost immediately. If "checking out" from the use of addiction creates chaos, then the opposite is true when we choose to "engage" with our life and remain present through good times and bad. One of the most powerful realizations I have made in sobriety is that the bad times are just not as bad when I have a clear and functioning mind. I can more easily communicate and problem solve. I can remain calm in times when I used to feel panic. I can seek out and find positive solutions to negative issues. I can observe and analyze before reacting. All of this is a byproduct of kicking my addictions to the curb. Sure, it takes a little practice but like anything, practice makes perfect. Each time I effectively combat a potential problem without the use of a chemical or negative behavior I grow and I get stronger and smarter. Over the past six months of sobriety, I feel I have donned a massive suit of emotional and physical armor. My armor has given me strength, confidence, and most importantly peace.
While the actual definition of peace may be subjective to each individual, the consequences are not. Living well, peacefully, allows everyone to engage with the world better. It allows us to communicate at a higher level. It opens our hearts and minds to ourselves and each other. It gives us time to breathe, observe, and analyze. Peace is a quintessential byproduct of sobriety, and once you feel it, you will want nothing more than to continue living well, peacefully.