As many of you know, my experience in sobriety has been incredibly positive. It has been so positive, I have dedicated a large portion of my life to helping others experience something similar. The one criticism I have about the sober community is the overabundance of negativity regarding recovery. I have stated this many times in the past, but I do not believe it can be stated too much or too often. We project the outcome of our sobriety. Whether it is a positive or negative projection begins in our thoughts, beliefs, and words. If we say it sucks, it sucks. If we say it's easy, it's easy. We can experience one or the other or any myriad of experiences in between. It's a choice, we choose our experiences every single moment of every single day. We choose via our thoughts, actions, words, beliefs, and even friendships and relationships. Every single one of the before mentioned provisions comes with options and therefore choices. How we choose those options determines the outcome of our moments, days, weeks, years, and lifetimes. It can be difficult to hear how much of a role we play in the outcome of our lives but make no mistake, we play a starring role.
It shouldn't be so difficult to be positive, but when you think of where we came from, it makes sense as to why we tend to lean toward the negative. Our ancestors lived in a world of survival. Nothing came easy and nothing was taken for granted. Every single day was a new day to fight for survival. Focusing on the negative possibilities of everyday life literally kept our ancestors alive. In the modern world, even without the inherent dangers present, we still have a tendency to lean toward the negative. While a positive outlook is a choice for everyone, it is a more difficult choice for those of us suffering from addiction. We have enveloped ourselves in negativity for so long we no longer know the difference. In order for us to see the more positive side of things, we have to first open ourselves up to the possibility that positivity is more prevalent than we are used to experiencing.
Positivity, after all, is a catalyst for change.
The definition of the word positive is the practice of being optimistic toward the future. For the addict, this feels next to impossible. But why? One reason is due to the perception we hold of consistent failure in our lives. Another reason may stem from what we have heard others say about us. Yet another reason may come from what we say about ourselves. Ultimately, the reason we struggle with optimism is we have not seen any evidence to support its presence in our lives in a long time. Whether or not this is true is irrelevant. What matters is our perception of the truth. In order for us to start seeing more positivity, we have to start actively looking for it. As addicts, we have a tendency to seek out negativity because it gives us a reason to engage in our addictions, guilt-free. We use negativity as an excuse, a crutch.
In order to seek out positivity in our lives, we have to spend some time defining what positivity looks like. Like everything else in sobriety, what positivity looks like is different for everyone. A positive occurrence to you may not necessarily equate to a positive experience for me and vise versa. This means we have to do a little work to discern what positivity means to us. Once we understand its meaning for us individually, we have a better chance of seeing it when it occurs. In the beginning, this task may seem a little overwhelming. I mean, we have been living off negativity for a long time. How can we expect to start seeing the opposite? It may feel improbable at first, but it will get easier. You will find you have more of an ability to see positivity than you think, and you just may enjoy the results.
Since I cannot tell you what positivity looks like to you, I will tell you what I have found and continue to find in my life that helps me maintain a more positive perception of life. The first negative outlook I needed to shift to the positive was the way in which I felt about myself. As I have said before, I felt unworthy of pretty much anything. I simply tried to survive what life threw at me. This negative outlook kept me from pursuing anything I wanted because I felt I did not deserve it. When I finally gave myself permission to see my true worth, I began to see the potential for positivity all around me. When faced with a challenge, I was able to feel more positive about my ability to handle it. When given a choice, I began to choose a more positive option. The more positive I felt about my self-worth, the easier it became to see positivity in general.
Once you begin to see it, you start to question why you were unable to see it for so long. I now see positivity in the new connections I make every day. I see positivity in many of the posts, blogs, podcasts, and other forms of media all around the world. I see people doing positive things. I see myself doing positive things. I hear positive comments from strangers. I see the beauty in the sky, in the trees, in the water, and in the world. I see positivity in my relationships and in the relationships of others. I feel love and acceptance even in times of turmoil and uncertainty. I see the positivity in art, and I hear it in music. Some of our movies and television shows exude positivity. The point is, positivity is virtually everywhere if we are open to seeing it.
What does this have to do with my sobriety?
It has everything to do with sobriety. As I stated at the beginning of this blog, my main criticism about the sober community is the overabundance of negativity surrounding the recovery experience. I am certainly not suggesting it's all negative, it is not. There are some amazingly positive people and experiences in the community. However, reflecting on the idea of our natural proclivity toward negativity, when it's present, it carries a lot of weight, especially for the addict. What I am suggesting is we all need to be aware of the way we communicate regarding sobriety. We all have the power to perpetuate both positivity and negativity in our discourse about recovery. Every time we state how difficult our journey is, someone else hears it and potentially internalizes it. We need to change the rhetoric surrounding sobriety.
Now, the first question will undoubtedly be, why should I lie about my struggle? I am not suggesting we lie about our struggle. I am suggesting we change the way we perceive our struggle. I am suggesting we can change how we feel by changing how we act, by changing what we say, by changing what we perpetuate throughout our journey. If I feel I am struggling I have two options. I can continue to ruminate on my struggle or I can attempt to change how I feel about my struggle. If I ruminate on it, there is virtually no chance for a shift in perception. If I tell myself I am okay, I am strong, I am not struggling, is there a potential for a shift in perception? Yes, there absolutely is. We have the ability to change the way we see things, feel things, and perpetuate things. Not only does my change in perception help me, but it also helps the person who hears me proclaim my experience as well. If we say how easy our sobriety is, someone has the potential to hear it and potentially internalize it. This is how we should perpetuate sobriety, with positivity and hope.
We have a responsibility outside ourselves in sobriety. We have a responsibility to those who come after us, who hear our stories, and who may internalize our experiences as their own. We not only have the power to affect our own experience but also the experience of others. It is a powerful notion, and it is a notion in line with acting out of service to others. This has been the motivation behind everything I have done since finding my own sobriety. While I may not have found the voice I am looking for yet, I am searching every day to find ways to articulate my experience for others so they too can experience easy sobriety. I believe I get closer every day because every day I hear from those of you who understand and agree with my sentiments. Together, we will grow, and together we will continue to perpetuate positive sobriety.