These thoughts should probably stay dormant until the rest of my brain reconnects to the day, but this is the time there is today to start getting them together. The above image is how it seemed to me that sobriety would be. Conversely, it is is also a portrait of my emotional state much of the time not only prior to sobriety but prior to my rather long career with my belly up to the bar.
Let’s put it this way. Drinking and consuming other combustibles didn’t make me miserable. They perpetuated my misery. It allowed me to perpetuate my own misery by masking the pain. I’m going to need you to pause for a moment to consider that.
That’s the tricky part about alcohol. The Crocodiles of the 12 Steps put it this way: “Remember that we deal with alcohol, cunning, baffling, powerful!
They also say, “Alcohol became the rapacious creditor.”
Do you know what a rapacious creditor is in plain terms? It’s a loan shark. You’ve seen enough mob movies to know. A loan shark extends credit at very high interest. Then if you can’t pay it back, which happens quite often, he comes for you and gives you a beating. Remember that scene from The Pope of Greenwich Village?
“They took my thumb, Charlie!”
Go back to the image above though, because I’m not up this early to talk about the horrors of addiction to alcohol or any substance. I’m up to talk about misperception. That image is how I imagined sobriety would be. The party was over. I had failed. I was now condemned to be that guy who was never invited to the parties. And so on… That’s how it seemed. Oddly enough it seems to me that this is exactly what drinkers who are not afflicted with addiction see it as well. They see it as bleak and sad and I don’t blame them. This is how it looks for people who’ve never considered it in any other light. For everybody.
It’s not. It’s just not.
It’s ironic that people in recovery are often but not always the best ambassadors for recovery when it comes to helping other alcoholics, and the anonymity while protecting us from those who don’t understand the issue can also make us the worst ambassadors outside the context of recovery. I mentioned in an earlier missive on alcohol culture that much of it is in the language of recovery itself. There is the fear and dread factor in our own messages and of course relapse is a concern. The problem is we don’t talk about the gifts of sober living. Maybe we don’t think about them enough? Maybe we take them for granted ourselves? We definitely don’t talk enough about them. Like this article:
SOBRIETY IS A LIFESTYLE CHOICE AND IT’S NOT SAD
This is the stuff that we need to talk about more. It’s not that people outside of recovery even want to hear about it, but if we’re going to be judged, some of them owe it to us to listen… well no, they don’t owe us a thing. It would be nice if they’d listen but they seem to feel threatened and judged too. Far be it from me to be in the position to judge anyone for their own lifestyle choice.
(This is funny in a way because I remain a very judgmental person, though much less so. I am just not judgmental about lifestyle choices as meaningless as getting intoxicated. Have at it and have fun.)
We need to talk more about what this lifestyle choice has afforded us. I can start by throwing in an hand grenade to open up the door. It’s just a question, but not a simple question. Have you ever felt, even for a moment, that you were emotionally and spiritually weightless? Or rephrasing it, have you ever felt soaring joy? Not just fun but joy, and there is a difference.
These moments started to come to me several years into sobriety (sobriety as a lifestyle choice) when I’d had enough time to address many of the things in my life that weighed me down. Intoxication or self-medication had assisted me in coping with never having directly confronted the sources of anything that ever made me unhappy. Some of you can do both. I couldn’t. I experience, on a regular if not daily basis, spells of utterly weightless, unburdened, unfettered joy.
If you have known this experience and it happens on a regular basis, carry on. If you haven’t, and you have to be honest about this, change something. It’s not necessarily your intake of intoxicants, but change something. You deserve to feel this. That’s the best place to start with this. I have something and I wish this thing for you too. It’s just something to consider and again, I’m not suggesting you consider sobriety, though if you’ve thought about it for any period of time in your life, maybe you should. If you think something might be a problem, it might be a problem. But change something if you’re not getting this thing you deserve. I’m not going to get evangelical about not doing something that I actually enjoyed for years and that, at least for a while, helped me get by. That’s not what this is.
That’s where I’m going to leave this for now. I have this thing. We can get into what my life, inner and outer, looks like at another time. We’ll talk about the many ways that joy manifests.
Wow. Candid and well communicated. Agreed, sobriety is a lifestyle choice. Not a popular one, but it does present real opportunities to peel back the onion layers. Love your mention of the joy you’ve found yourself experiencing, years out. That’s very neat and encouraging.