I remember, back when I was still actively engaged in addiction, seeing people living their lives well and thinking to myself, how do they do that? At the time, it was as foreign to me as watching a foreign language movie without subtitles. I could not fathom feeling as though I could live a life of fulfillment and joy. There were always too many obstacles in the way. I never had enough time to concentrate on living life on my terms. People kept getting in the way of my happiness and success. Or, was it all just me? Was I the problem? There is a saying, "if everyone around you seems like an asshole, then maybe you are the asshole." If our lives keep going in directions that are not conducive to our happiness, maybe we are the reason. It is hard to see this when we are deep in the oppression of alcohol and other addictions because it feels as though everything is happening to us. In reality, we are making all of those negative things happen. Until we change our perspective on the fault of those occurrences, they will continue to happen and we will continue to live a life of confusion and victimization.
There are so many wonderful aspects of living well to experience once we make the decision to own our lives and accept outcomes as our doing. I have already written about the idea of forgiveness and allowing ourselves to live guilt-free. I have also written about how gratitude plays a critical role in our recovery and the propagation of a positive, present, and future life. But, if I had to pick one aspect of living well that has benefitted me the most since I began my sober journey it would have to be the idea of living with intention. That one idea has made the most differences in my life when I compare how I approached living before and after quitting my addictions. Living with intention is the catalyst to living well.
Living with Resistance
Now, don't get me wrong, I have always considered myself the type of person who likes to push against the norm, go against the grain, and not follow trends. In that regard, I rather appreciate the idea of resistance. But, that is not what I am talking about here. I am referring to the idea of living with resistance to life. While engaged in my addictions, that is what I did. I resisted any and all semblance of life. I did not try to learn and grow. I did not take chances for a better life. I did not step outside of my comfort zone. I did not surround myself with people who lived the way I wanted to live. I did not allow myself the opportunity to be the man I wanted or knew I could be. I resisted everything.
Awhile back, I wrote about the idea of settling in our adult lives. For many of us, we start out thinking we can rule the world but with enough blows from reality to our confidence we slowly, or quickly, begin to lose that confidence and start leaning towards comfortability over conquer-ability. We do this because the pain and disappointment that comes with rejection and failure adds up and begins to break us down. We give up. When we give up we begin to make choices to settle in our lives rather than continuing to pursue our wants, desires, and dreams. We say things like, "I've done the best I can do." Or, "My job pays the bills." Or worst of all, "I don't deserve to be happy." All of these statements lay the foundation for a life of settling. Once we begin to settle, it becomes easier and easier to settle with everything: jobs, relationships, homes, cars, friends, happiness, love, and self-worth. Eventually, we are living a life of misery and we can't see any way out of it.
The most interesting part of settling for me is from where it originates. I believe those blows delivered to us from reality begin the process, but they don't have to. We learn from an early age by watching our parents, relatives, friends, actors, athletes, and pretty much all of our adult acquaintances that the way to deal with disappointment is to tie one on and begin anew. In the beginning, this actually seemed to work. We blew off some steam, regrouped, and got back on the saddle, so to speak. The problem is that by doing this we are slowly building a need in our bodies and, more importantly, in our minds for alcohol when we encounter a struggle. While it may feel like checking out is a good idea during times of struggle, there are other things happening that are not a good idea, in fact, they are downright destructive. As we check out from reality, our bodies are breaking down from the chemicals and poison we are injecting into them. The reason we need to recover from a night of tieing one on is that, on some level, we are suffering from alcohol poisoning. Each hangover knocks down our drive and confidence which makes us believe we need to drink more to feel "good" again. This cycle goes on and on until any semblance of our former drive all but leaves us for the dependency we have developed for the chemical that we once thought was the cure for our disappointments.
There are other ways to deal with disappointments, but we quickly forget that there once was a time when we did not use alcohol to suppress our feelings of disappointment. There once was a time when we used to get back up and back on the horse quicker and with more confidence. There once was a time when we were not dependent on chemicals to "live well." It's time to regain that confidence and live well by living with intention, again.
Living with Intention
I don't know what possessed me to take on the tasks I took on when I began my sober journey, but I am glad I did for many reasons. I knew that part of what drove my desire to drink and use was boredom. I had settled, begun to live a stagnant life and because of that, I had little energy to take on new adventures but plenty of desire to indulge in libations. I knew that I needed to seek out ways to entertain my self and my time, but what I didn't know was that by doing so I was setting my self up for a life full of intention. This intention would propel every aspect of my being and virtually ensure not only the success of my sobriety but the success of my life as well. Since beginning my sober journey, I have embarked on a life of intention that I look forward to every day. I seek out and find challenges. I am living the life I always thought I deserved but never knew I could have. Here is how I began living with intention.
The first thing I did was choose to begin educating myself. By doing so I unintentionally began donning the armor I unknowingly needed to easily combat the struggles associated with the cessation of addiction. I made a point to read every day about the chemicals that had plagued me for the better part of my entire life. I learned why they did what they did to my mind and body. I learned how they negatively affected me and everyone around me. I learned how I unintentionally developed a dependency on those chemicals but also that I could remove that dependency. I learned that the reason I felt miserable in my "comfortable life" was due to the breakdown of my emotional and physical self at the hands of different forms of poison. I learned that I had the power to change and I took that power and began making changes.
The second thing I did was choose to be present in my life. For anyone suffering from addiction, you know what it means to be absent from life. We choose our addictions over things that really matter: our jobs, families, friends, hobbies, and passions. We disconnect from what essentially makes life worth living. Since I became sober, I have been more present for my family and friends. I laugh more, probably because I pay better attention. I play with my son more. I communicate with L better. I am better at my job. I am enjoying my time with even mundane things more. I am better at living life because I am present and aware which affords me the ability to offer more than I take from this life. That unbeknownst to me is one of the best parts of living, but I was just too busy checking out to see it.
The third and arguably most important thing I did was to engage in one of my past loves, writing. I vowed to write every day about my experiences with sobriety. At first, I vowed to write every day for thirty days. Then, when the first thirty days were over, I vowed to write for one hundred and one days, and when those days were over I vowed to keep writing and here I am. Writing about my sober journey has been the single greatest gift I have ever given myself. Since vowing to write about my journey, I have decided to turn my first 101 Days of Sobriety into a book, I have written a full-length novel, I have begun a sobriety podcast, I am doing videocasts with other like-minded people, and I have made the decision to take my greatest passion and turn it into my career. Every day, I wake up clear-headed and ready to engage in my life of intention.
My intentions are to be an amazing partner, to be an amazing dad, to write professionally, to be kind, to be productive, and to live a life of intention while spreading kindness and love out into the world.
My intention is to live well.