Updated: Nov 9, 2020
In a recent conversation with my partner, I stated how I have always had an attraction to doing things harmful, dangerous, unhealthy, and even unethical to myself. My partner, who is the antithesis of me, has no way of understanding that statement. She did not start drinking to harm herself, to rebel, to reject normalcy, to go against the grain, to emotionally and physically self destruct. No, she drank as a way to fit in. To partake in what appeared to be a social and even haughty past time. To be "normal." It is interesting how two people can come from entirely different backgrounds and end up in the same place. We both struggled with similar demons. We both fought to live a life of peace, gratitude, and love; but, our struggle originated from very different places. My partner's origin of struggle was socially and societally motivated. My origin of struggle was internally motivated. I did not like myself.
I am going to be extremely honest with you at this time and tell you how painful it is to write those and the coming words to this blog. Some people might ask why I would insist on writing them, then. I decided to write about this today because I know I am fallible. I write these words today because it is easy to forget from where I came. I write these words today as a reminder to myself how much I have achieved on this journey. If you are newly sober, read this blog with an open heart and tuck it into your subconscious for a later time. To be clear, I am not writing this blog because I need it to stay sober. I am writing this blog because I need to remember how much I have accomplished and how my accomplishments are only the building blocks of where I am going.
Occasionally, I find myself slipping down the rabbit hole of self-destruction. I do not mean to suggest I am slipping in my resolve to remain alcohol-free or nicotine-free. I cannot imagine a scenario where my resolve for living free from addiction could be challenged. I am suggesting, at times, I sometimes struggle in my resolve to remain on my chosen path of successful living. I lose sight of my lofty goals, for a moment, and this scares the hell out of me. Why? It scares me because, for so much of my life, I did everything I could to ensure success was not an option. I intentionally and unintentionally went out of my way to keep myself down, unmotivated, and unable to succeed. I didn't know it at the time, but I used self-destructive behavior because I knew I did not deserve happiness. Success was not in my cards. I was not one of those "lucky" people.
In the past, whenever I thought about not drinking or using nicotine, I always conjured up a particular vision in my mind. I don't know why it was this vision, but it immediately caused me to question my desire to quit. Picture an empty bar with a lone gentleman sitting on a stool leaning on the bar with both elbows. The light is low and there is an absence of color. He has a martini in front of him and an ashtray off to the side. He takes a long drag from his cigarette and slowly exhales a long stream of smoke from his lips. The smoke has direction and shape at first, but it then spreads out and blankets the bar with slowly moving swirls of haze. The man picks up his martini and takes a large drink from the crystal clear and icy glass. He sets the glass down and turns to walk away. As he moves away from the bar, the smokey atmosphere parts to make way but then envelopes the empty space that is left behind.
That image was so attractive to me, I could not imagine letting go of my role in using alcohol and nicotine. Why was it so attractive? What about that scene evoked positive memories of joy or happiness? Why did I find it so appealing? Well, let's look at it a little deeper. What is occurring in the scene? A man is drinking and smoking alone. He is actively and willingly participating in two of the most known and dangerous activities known to humankind. Why is he there and why is he alone. Those are two questions I subconsciously pondered throughout the entirety of my life. There were no answers, so I dismissed them when they tried to take over my emotions. How did I dismiss them? I dismissed them by drowning them. I drowned them with alcohol, and I clouded them over with a fog of smoke and nicotine-based euphoria. I tried to self destruct, and I would be lying to you and myself If I tried to say I was unaware of my behavior. I knew what I was doing, and what makes it even worse, I liked it.
I didn't just feel alone, I felt as though I had no place in the world. I felt as though I was an accident and everyone else belonged. I truly believed everyone else's life was on track, they were happy, and they were thriving. I was not supposed to here, I was lost in a world where nothing made sense. I never thought of dying. I never wanted to physically harm myself. I just felt like an outsider and all I knew how to do was try and survive. You know, as an addict, how we drink equally when we are happy or sad? When I was happy, I drank because I knew I was an imposter in my own happiness. I did not deserve it, and it was not going to last anyway. I drank because it was the only way to feel comfortable in my own skin.
Now, I know this blog is a little darker than usual, but please bear with me.
When I finally quit drinking and using nicotine for real, things began to change in ways for which I was truly not ready. Opportunities presented themselves. The number of choices available to me grew. I began to understand what freedom really meant. I finally understood what self-love is about. I looked at the world differently, and the world began to look at me differently. I realized everything I thought I knew about my life was actually a diluted version of the truth. I began to feel deserving of love and success. I realized I too was one of those lucky people. I found my passions. I began to set and achieve goals. I, for the first time, was living life with intention, gratitude, and love. I felt a love for others as well as for myself. I began to feel gratitude for my blessings, and my blessings grew exponentially with my gratitude for them. So many positive things happened from such a simple and intentional choice.
What choice did I make? I chose to stop acting from a place of self-destruction. Why did I do this? I did it because I had two choices, much like the choices we have to drink. I could either stay on the path I was on and feel miserable, or I could make a change and give myself a chance to live a better life. Thankfully, I chose the latter. I began by finding an amazing therapist to help me along my journey. After that, I made the choice to learn more about how my mind works. Then, I chose to learn who I am. Finally, because of the above, I chose to remove the one thing I could identify preventing me from doing all of those things. I chose to quit my addictions. This choice afforded me the opportunity to begin living the life I never knew I wanted or deserved. This choice gave me the opportunity, but it only gave me the opportunity. I still had to take advantage of it and not squander it.
How does drinking or addictive behaviors prevent our growth? They prevent growth by keeping us under the thumb of self-destructive behavior. The behaviors associated with addiction are nothing short of self-destructive. We are making the choice to engage. Sure, once we engage with an addictive substance, by nature, it can be incredibly difficult to disengage. We still make the choice every single day. Some people say addiction is a disease, it is not the individual's fault. That's fine if you want to place your potential for living a better life in the hands of a notion based on the assumption you cannot be cured. If you are okay with that and it works for you, more power to you. I for one, choose to believe I am not diseased, and I do not need to be cured; I only need to believe I am worthy and deserving of living a better life. I need to know I am as strong, capable, and willing to be as successful as those other "lucky" people. It is my choice.
How does letting go of addiction help to construct our being? It's simple really. While using our addictions, we simply kept ourselves at an arm's length. We never allowed ourselves to get to know who we are. We never allowed ourselves to get to know our passions. We never allowed ourselves to learn about our deepest hopes, desires, and dreams. We never allowed ourselves to grow. Making the choice to live free from addiction makes a positive statement to our inner-self. It says, "Hey! I am here. I am important. I am worthy. I am ready to live!" Our inner-self has been starving to hear those words since the inception of our addictions. We just kept pushing the voice further and further down until we couldn't hear it any longer. Quitting an addiction amplifies the volume of our inner voice. It begins to blare so loudly we cannot help but acknowledge its presence. The only thing left to do at this point is to listen. But, we still have to listen. We still have to take the appropriate steps. We still have to change.
Listening to our inner-self means allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. It means understanding we are fallible. It means recognizing that even those "lucky" people have bad days. Listening to our inner-self means we have to learn how to feel our emotions. It means we have to accept the ups and downs. It means we are human. Learning how to accept all of this is where the work truly lays. In our pasts, we wanted nothing to do with these human characteristics, so we squelched them. Now, we not only learn to experience them, we learn to embrace them. It is in these human characteristics we find our true inner-self. Here is where we learn our strength and determination to do more than survive. Here is where we learn how to thrive.
Why did I need to write about this today? I heard the other voice. You know the one. The one trying to tell us we are an imposter. I heard the voice. It was faint, but it was there. I heard it, and I decided to confront it. I decided to confront it by remembering my journey. I remember how alone and isolated I felt. I remember feeling undeserving and unworthy. I remember thinking I could never truly be happy. I remember the idea of success was only for the "lucky" ones. I remember.
I remember and therefore, I will never forget how far I have come. I will never forget how deserving and worthy I am. I will never forget how happy I am. I will never forget success is not an idea but an inevitable byproduct of my choices. I will never forget I am one of the "lucky" ones. We are all lucky. We are all deserving and worthy of happiness. We are all able to succeed to whatever level we desire to succeed. We are all able to live the life of our dreams.
We are all self-constructing, powerful beings. What life are you choosing to construct today?