Often times, the chains that are holding us back from moving forward are not fears or worries about the future, but fears of letting go of the past. We may not like the person we are and where we’ve been, but we’re comfortable with that person – we recognize their face in the mirror. Sobriety actually means that you will have to die to yourself and leave that person behind – that’s what frightens us. But I think a lot of the difficulty in getting sober is our outlook on the situation. More times than not, we are only focused on what we’re losing by entering into sobriety, instead of embracing what we’re gaining.
This is a huge one for most people. If I ever have the urge to drink, it is almost always because I miss the comfort. I think as alcoholics and addicts, we are naturally more emotional and soft-hearted than the rest of society. We feel things on a deeper level, and pain doesn’t just affect us for a moment, but for days, months, or even years down the line. For whatever reason, we don’t know how to handle those feelings like the rest of society and at some point we need relief. And as David Allan Coe so poetically put it, “How do you spell relief, I get D-R-U-N-K.” Leaving behind the comfort of alcohol or drugs is a hard pill to shallow when you first get sober. But the blessing is that by remaining sober, you will learn how to deal with those feelings in a positive way, instead of destroying yourself – things like fellowship, prayer, and acceptance. And coming from someone who hates to suffer as much as anyone else, I am grateful for all the suffering I’ve gone through since I’ve been sober. Granted, I didn’t like it, but suffering produces character. One of the blessings of staying sober is being able to respect yourself in your suffering. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror with respect after I chugged a bottle of whiskey. The pain may have been gone, but it came at the price of my respect. Some days suck – that’s the reality of life. But at least I can be alone with myself at the end of the day, knowing I did the best I could and not hate the person inside.
We all have drinking buddies and getting sober makes for awkward conversation. In my opinion it is almost always, best to cut off all ties with these “friends”. I know that sounds harsh and hard to accept, but hanging around the same people will get you drunk quicker than about anything else. People think they can handle it, and they can’t imagine leaving behind the people they’ve known for years or even decades. The same people will come back crying a few months later, wondering how they ever started up again (I know I did). Old friends were at the top of the list of reasons I relapsed in the beginning. If you’re trying to become a more positive person, you don’t hang around with a bunch of negative people. If you want to be successful, you hang out with successful people. If you want to be sober, you don’t hang out with drinkers and users. Period. What you will most likely find is that once you get sober these “friends” will most likely want nothing to do with you or only want to hang out in bars or your usual spots because they’re cool with you changing, but they sure as hell aren’t going to. The other common theme I’ve noticed with old friends that actually don’t have a drinking problem and are supportive is that they just don’t understand. It’s not their fault, but they can be deadly. I’ve had friends that I haven’t seen for awhile that know I’m an alcoholic say things like, “You want to meet up and get a drink sometime..it’s been a few years..you’re cured now right?” The common misconception is that they believe this is just a temporary thing that will go away, and some will even try to convince you of this. I don’t know about you, but I have enough excuses to drink inside my own head without someone else trying to convince me of other ones. If you hold on to your old friends, you will never see the beauty of the real friends you meet in recovery, who actually do care about you and want you to stay sober. I’m not trying to say you can’t have any contact with anyone who drinks. Just understand that “normal” people are not like you. They will never understand you, and even when they mean well, they can be potentially dangerous if you’re not in the right frame of mind.
Wisdom is the fruit of growth. The more we grow, the more wisdom we gain. You learn more wisdom in sobriety than you could have possibly imagined. The people you meet and the lessons they share are priceless. Often times, I see people 10+ years older than me struggling with issues that I dealt with in my early twenties. This has nothing to do with my intelligence; it has everything to do with going through suffering and hardships. By continuing in our cycle of using, we delay confronting issues that we will be forced to at some point. Isn’t it much more practical to work through them, learning from them, instead of pretending they don’t exist?
Money & Mistakes
I feel so blessed to have quit drinking before I was even legally able to be in a bar. I would have racked up more debt and more mistakes with women than I would have known what to do with. The few times I was illegally drinking in bars, I woke up the next morning thinking that someone must have robbed me. And he did, his name was Jim Beam. Until you actually quit, you don’t realize just how much money goes towards your addiction. Sobriety is like getting a huge raise just by signing up. I think we can all agree we make a lot of mistakes when we’re drunk or high. What seemed like a good idea at the time, haunts you the next morning, leaving you wondering why trouble seems to follow you wherever you go. Being sober doesn’t mean that you’ll never make mistakes, but it was drastically reduce them.
A Spiritual Connection
Ever since I was a little boy, I always felt a strong connection to God. I desired to please him and loved being close to him. But at some point, I decided that I couldn’t do “life” anymore and would use drinking as my way to deal with all my troubles. For many years, I still felt him, but I pushed him away. You cannot be an addict, engaging in the things the lifestyle entails, and have a close relationship with God. It is impossible. It is not that God is giving up on us, but that we are giving up on him. When you are surrounded with darkness, it makes it very difficult to see, let alone live with, the light. That doesn’t mean that you are completely cut off. I still believed in God during my active drinking, but it was not an intimate relationship. Just as you can’t have an intimate relationship with a spouse when either partner is actively engaging in adultery, you can’t have an intimate relationship with God while actively addicted. As soon as you run to him, those doors are reopened again, and he can begin to heal the wounds inside you. I am so grateful and feel so blessed that I have the relationship back that I ran away from all those years ago. I have only sobriety to thank for it. Sobriety gives us a spiritual connection and gives us the tools to receive the drug that we have been seeking all our lives – God’s love.
A New Hope
I can’t imagine there’s an alcoholic or addict that really loves being a slave to a substance. We may like the feelings it gives us, but we don’t like the cost. I think the overwhelming majority of people who are addicts would actually like to be sober, but they feel like it’s too late for them. They feel as if numbing themselves is the only way to deal with life and that their hearts are so filled with darkness, there’s no chance at delighting in the light. But sobriety gives us a chance to wipe the slate clean and start over. We don’t have to be the person that we hate and disrespect. As long as you’re still breathing, there’s always the ability to change. No one said it was going to be easy or without pain, but there is a way out. Sobriety gives us the ability to redefine ourselves and what we want out of life. If we live, clutching onto the life that we know is not working and not bringing us happiness, we’ll never see the light at the end of the tunnel that has more in store for us than we could have ever dreamed. Are you looking back at your addiction with envy and regret or looking forward at a new hope and a new life? Sobriety’s invitation is waiting. But you must accept its gifts.