A fellow person in sobriety recently told me the reason my sobriety was easy is that I am an educated, straight, white, man. I'm going to let that sink in for a moment. Now, my intention in writing about this is not to call out the individual who made this statement. It is not to take a political stance. It is not to stand up for a subcategory of sex, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or religious affiliation. No, my intention in writing about this is to beg everyone in the recovery and non-recovery community to please, please, please, stop telling people how they should overcome their addictions, and more importantly, to stop criticizing anyone's personal journey, recovery, sobriety, or alcohol-free lifestyle. Our journey is our own and if it is working for us, it is working for us and that is all that matters. Our individual path may not work for the person standing next to us or the person living across the globe. Gender, sexual orientation, religion, political views, socioeconomic status, spirituality, what we do for a living, what we ate for breakfast, the app we use for navigating traffic, or any other detail about us have very little bearing on our potential for successful sobriety. Our perception of these things, on the other hand, does.
It is important to remember that perception and reality are vastly different things. How we perceive the world, our experiences, the people around us, the choices we make, the wrongs we suffer, and any other action, choice, decision, or view we have or hold affects how we experience our lives, the world, and our sobriety. If we believe sobriety is hard because we are poor, we are correct. If we believe sobriety is easy because we are wealthy, we are correct. What we believe has the single greatest bearing on the outcome of our actions. Take the victim mentality for example. A victim mentality is a belief that the world is against us, personally. It is the belief that all bad things are happening to us because people, society, god, and the universe are all out to get us. If we believe this to be true, we subconsciously act in a manner that propagates experiences to support our beliefs. The more evidence we gather to support our victim mentality the stronger our conviction grows. The only way to stop this self-perpetuating cycle is to change our perceptions of why things are happening the way they are happening. The more evidence we gather to support the fact we are not victims, the stronger our conviction grows to support this belief too.
If we believe a specific item brings bad luck, then we are focusing all our energy
on the outcome, we do not want and guess what
Let's look at superstitions. Science is now saying superstitions can actually work (livescience.com). It really isn't all that surprising, to me, anyway. Why? It's pretty simple. If we believe a specific item brings us good luck, then it does, and here is why. Beliefs are strong and they cause us to focus on them with conviction. When we do this, we are focusing a large percentage of our energy on a positive outcome. Whether the outcome is to perform well or make the right choice, our energy is more focused on the outcome we want because we are focusing on the fact the item brings us good fortune. Can it work in the opposite way? Of course. If we believe a specific item brings bad luck, then we are focusing all our energy on the outcome we do not want, and guess what? In the book, "The Secret," one of the writers says, "What we think about we bring about." This basically means, what we focus on has a higher probability of occurring than what we do not focus on. This makes a lot of sense to me. Have you ever had a bad day and it didn't seem to get better? Well, what were we focusing on throughout the day? We were focusing on all the bad things occurring so bad things kept happening. In my family, we call it, changing the channel. Change the way we are perceiving the day and chances are, our day will change as well.
This is why I believe so strongly in the idea of easy sobriety. The ease with which I experienced sobriety had nothing to do with race, sex, sexuality, religion, or politics. It did, however, have everything to do with my perception of the experience. I have talked about this before but for the sake of this blog, I will revisit it briefly. When my partner and I began our sobriety, we were not involved in sober communities of any kind. The only thing we did to begin our journey was to read Annie Grace's book, "This Naked Mind." We did not have any preconceived notion about how hard sobriety "should" be. We did, on the other hand, have a notion, thanks to Annie, that sobriety was based more on our personal beliefs and relationships with alcohol. Our sobriety began with the understanding and belief that alcohol had no place in our lives any longer and so it didn't. It was really that easy. Looking back now, if I heard the myriad of stories about difficult, impossible, horrific, and lifelong sobriety, I wholeheartedly believe my and my partner's experiences may have been different. Thankfully, that was not the case. The disparity in our experience and the experience of others is why I wrote my book on sobriety, continue to write my blog, do podcasts, and work in the sober community. I want people to struggle less in sobriety.
This is difficult because admitting we have this control also means we have to
hold ourselves more accountable
The problem is this; because the power of our mind and our perceptions are so strong, we will struggle as much as we think we should. The more we listen to stories of struggle, the more we will struggle. The more we hear we can only make it one day at a time, the more we believe we are lucky to make it through a day, when in fact, we actually earned and deserve it. The more we hear we are powerless, the more we give credit to things outside ourselves and perpetuate our self-deprecation. The longer we tell ourselves we are an addict, the longer we will remain addicts. The words, thoughts, and beliefs we use to define our perceived reality are incredibly powerful and they either aid in our self-destruction or our rebuilding. The most difficult aspect of this entire idea is giving ourselves permission to believe we actually have an enormous amount of control over the words we use, the actions we take, and the beliefs we hold. This is difficult because admitting we have this control also means we have to hold ourselves more accountable for where we are and where we are going.
This brings me back to the idea of judgmental sobriety. If what we say to ourselves, how we act, and the beliefs we hold have such great power over the outcome of our own personal sobriety, that also means what we say, how we act, and the beliefs we hold can also affect the outcome of other people's sobriety too; if they listen to us. We have a responsibility, as people in the sober community, to be aware of the power our words and actions hold to affect others. We have an obligation to be mindful that our experiences are not the right or only way, no matter how proud we are of them. It is our duty to perpetuate the greatest amount of positivity, strength, and encouragement we can muster for those who may be listening. Regardless of our experience and beliefs, we have to acknowledge there may be better, more effective, and even easier ways to recover from addiction. We have to be aware of the opposite too. There are more difficult paths than ours as well. Our job, as a sober community, is not to judge each other's journies and paths, it is to support and encourage them, wholly.
Our greatest achievements begin with one very simple yet incredibly powerful notion,
belief in the unknown
Remember, humankind's greatest leaps forward began with someone believing the unbelievable. When someone allowed themselves to see what nobody else could see. Through someone's foresight and courage to challenge the status quo. By not settling with what is comfortable. Our greatest achievements begin with one very simple yet incredibly powerful notion, belief in the unknown. We must not invalidate each other's successes, no matter how difficult they may be to understand, we must celebrate them and each other, always.
I dare you to reach out to someone in sobriety you may not know or agree with and say congratulations on your journey, you are an inspiration to others. What if, the day you did this, that person was questioning their sobriety? What if the day you did this, you supported someone's sobriety by simply being non-judgmental? What if...?