If I had to narrow down all the things I regret from my drinking days to one single regret, it would have to be the loss of time. I have written about forgiveness, especially of ourselves, in my blogs quite often. While everyone is different in regard to what, specifically, we may need to forgive ourselves for, there is unquestionably no doubt the loss of time while drinking has been the hardest, for me. Even though I am now embracing and grateful for every minute of every day, I occasionally remember how much time I lost from myself, my partner, my son, my job, my passions, and my life. In those times of remembrance, I have to dig deep to remember, even after all the loss, I still deserve forgiveness; and so do you. There are a couple of things I enact in times when my personal crisis of guilt presents itself. One, I remember, while I chose to drink, the drink did alter my ability to act from a place of presence. Two, I am human, and I make mistakes. Three, in sobriety I am making up for as much lost time as I can. These three things enable me to act from a kinder and more understanding place toward myself when I struggle with the time I lost in addiction.
While we may have made the choice to drink, it is okay to forgive
ourselves for not understanding the full
consequences of our choices.
It is no secret alcohol is the culprit for innumerable negative consequences, not the least of which is the loss of time while drinking. When I look back on my life through a non-addicted lens, it is almost impossible for me to not want to beat the shit out of myself for everything I have lost. Thankfully, early in my sobriety, I was also going through therapy and one of the things I learned is it is okay to forgive ourselves for our past. While the statement, we choose to drink, does not always sit well with people, I still believe it to be true. What we did not choose, at first anyway, were the consequences of that choice. I am fairly certain nobody reading this blog took their first drink and said, "Nice, now I get to forget every memorable event of my life." No, we did not know the severity of our actions. Alcohol numbs us to people, events, circumstances, and the outside world. While we may have made the choice to drink, it is okay to forgive ourselves for not understanding the full consequences resulting from that choice. Now that we know, however, fool me twice...
Throughout our time on this planet, we are bound to make mistakes, some repeatedly. We are human and we are fallible. The sooner we accept this notion the sooner we can give ourselves a little bit of a break from the ridiculous circumstances in which we undoubtedly put ourselves. Most of us can look back on our lives and point out a couple of times where we can honestly say we were lucky to have survived. In hindsight, most of those times we can look back
and say, "I should have known better." Hindsight, as we know, is 20/20. With that said, without hindsight, we are left to our humanness to survive, and our humanness is susceptible to mistakes. We cannot beat ourselves up for the human condition under which we are governed. We can, however, be kind to ourselves and open to forgiveness. How many things have we had to forgive ourselves for over the years? I for one, have had far too many forgiveness conversations with myself. Why should our mistakes while in active addiction be any different? It shouldn't. Mistakes are mistakes and we are all worthy of forgiveness for those mistakes, as long as we are willing to learn from them.
For many people, in the early days of sobriety, excess time feels
overwhelming, uncomfortable, and unnerving.
Understanding the chemical effect of alcohol on our minds is one thing we can keep in mind when trying to forgive ourselves for the loss of time. Accepting we are human and fallible is another. Nevertheless, the most effective means I have found to cut myself some slack when the inevitable guilt of time lost rears its head is to focus on what I am doing about it now, in sobriety. There is no question in my mind how important time has been for my successful and easy sobriety. Of course, time can work against us in sobriety too, if we do not take advantage of it. In my experience, I found time to be the single greatest benefit of sobriety. If used correctly, time can be a blessing we never knew we needed. I immediately began taking advantage of the time afforded me in the very beginning days of sobriety. For many people, in the early days of sobriety, excess time feels overwhelming, uncomfortable, and unnerving. This happens because we are not used to having to deal with ourselves without the constant distraction of alcohol.
Given the extra time provided us by our letting go of alcohol, we have two options: we can wallow in the preconceived notions of misery people thrust upon us in sobriety, or we can use the extra time to get our shit together. This will look different for everyone. For me, it looked like this. I went into sobriety with the belief alcohol was the one thing I could remove from my life and benefit from the most. I believed this because there were several things I was not doing in my life that I attributed to the negative effects of alcohol. I wanted to write more. I wanted to exercise more. I wanted to be more involved in my society. I wanted to be better at my job. I wanted to be more present with my family. All of these things were directly and negatively affected by my addiction. The moment I removed alcohol from my life, I began to add the things I was missing back. This was an exponential shift in my day to day life. The more I began to add positive things back into my life, the more positive things I wanted in my life. Before the first month of sobriety was over, I was writing prolifically, exercising daily, taking my job more seriously, and actually participating in my life as a partner and father. I took advantage of my new found time.
My life has drastically changed in sobriety, and I attribute the change
to the amount of time, I gained from giving up alcohol.
Ironically, using all our extra time in sobriety wisely has other ramifications too. Today, I found myself a little overwhelmed with all of the things I have taken on. My partner actually laughed at me at one point and said, "Aw, look at you being such a productive member of society." I laughed because it was funny, but I also cringed a little because it was so true. I have never been so involved in the world as I am now. I am a present partner and father, teaching full time, coaching high school football, blogging, podcasting, doing videocast interviews, publishing a book, and trying to create an online course. When I was in active addiction, I was lucky if I did a decent job at work and spent any amount of quality time at home. That was about all I could manage. My life has drastically changed in sobriety, and I attribute the change to the amount of time, I gained from giving up alcohol.
People often worry about what they are going to do with their time when they are not actively engaged in addiction. If we approach sobriety with this concern, some form of difficulty is certain to arise. One of the reasons many people drink in the first place is to avoid downtime because it is in the downtime we have to actually deal with our feelings. One of the single best things we can do before we actively walk into sobriety is to plan for how we are going to take advantage of the amount of time we have forgotten existed. I worked on my writing career and mental and emotional health. My partner started her doctorate. I have friends who dove headfirst into their long lost creative desires. Whatever it is you have put off, it is time to pull it back out, dust it off, and get started living as the best, most productive version of yourself.
Sobriety equals an abundance of quality time. Do not squander it, embrace it.