11 – The Covidian Reflection Rabbit Hole

You think too much.

Don’t over-think it.

We say things like this to each other and it’s ironic. I’ll argue any old day that most people don’t think enough, and that lack of thought is why we’re all in the situation(s) we’re in. Yet it’s hard to argue that with all the disruptions from the pandemic and world events over these last couple years it’s left most of us with an awful lot of time to think. There is probably too much time for reflection, whether one is inclined to engage in such a thing or not. Those of us who are inclined have far too much time on our hands. There has been a lot of time to consider and re-consider life from every angle, including angles we had dismissed before, and often with very good reason.

I’ll still take the examined life over the unexamined though, despite the headaches examination can trigger.

A sober anniversary is as good an excuse as any for reflection, not that excuses are needed. It did occur to me, upon reflection leading into this 11th anniversary, that had anyone told me that the world would come into such clarity and focus in sobriety, my decision to move forward with it might have changed. The extreme close-up can turn the familiar into the grotesque and misshapen. Seeing people extremely close-up without the filters of bias or the illusions they cast to hide themselves, can be terrifying. Or saddening. Or alternately wonderful. The balance is there but addicts are inclined to reach for the wonderful and block the rest out. That’s how addiction happens, in chasing a world of controlled vision and emotion, desperate to see and feel a certain way, or realistically speaking, to not feel and see at all. We are the people constantly fiddling with the heat or air conditioning because the climate never seems to be just right. Nobody told me that I would see and feel everything, or if they did I wasn’t listening. It’s not something I aspired to in sobriety either. It just happened.

This of course makes it all seem so bleak. That’s not my intent. It’s just the detritus of over-thinking the world around us this year. It’s not a lovely vision out here in the world, for sure, but my sobriety hasn’t made it any worse or better for anyone but me. The balance is overwhelming towards the better for me also. That conclusion is also the result of deep reflection. Gratitude isn’t so hard to come by once you’ve let go of the idea that you were born to a grand purpose and somehow circumstance cheated you out of the glory. Don’t laugh or even raise your eyebrows. Everybody in some secret or not so secret way wants to be the hero of their own adventure. That’s not how life is though and even for those whose stories we have elevated to grandeur, the majority of their lives was on most days, at best, banal. Wake, shit, shower, eat, work, sleep.

The clarity of sobriety is a strange beast and it seemed to me the words on this would come more easily, considering the clarity and all, but the detail is so abundant that words stack up on themselves. Then I get to thinking, who am I really trying to explain the phenomenon to? It’s not something anyone is going to experience vicariously. You will live it or you won’t. It comes down to choice. I chose this, hence I experience this, and there is no sales pitch to make anyway. It’s about happiness with reality, and happiness was so elusive to me before.

I am happy. It wasn’t a goal. Escaping misery was the goal, and then there was a period where the removal of pain felt like happiness. That didn’t last long as the consequences of my previously unexamined life began to catch up. That hurt. Now that all that is mostly dealt with and in the past, or as bygone as it will ever be bygone… well, there was a vacuum at first. There was that period of an unfamiliar absence of chaos. There was even an inclination to find some new way of provoking chaos, and then that passed. Then there were increasingly prolonged periods of weightlessness. There was a sense of freedom that I didn’t even recognize for a long time. It didn’t exactly invoke a sense of joy but that’s not what freedom is about, I learned. Freedom and joy are not the same thing. Freedom is an absence of constraint and boundaries. It’s not that I thought everything was possible, but simply that what held me in place before was no longer there.

Does this make sense? Or am I overthinking it?

I’ve spoken before of the joy of living without buffers. You have to have no buffers to allow joy to come into your life full-strength…

Fuck it. More at another time. Today is the 11th anniversary of beginning this sober journey. It’s been a hell of a ride. It’s not an adventure so don’t get it twisted. It’s just life. There are no heroes and villains. There isn’t even a desire to be a hero, because that would require villains to vanquish. That seems an awful lot of work.

More at another time. Sobriety has been good to me. I watch people who are probably not addicts but they still speed through their days looking for some kind of relief or release. There is nothing in my life that I need relief or release from, except maybe the inclination to think too much. Getting high never really helped me with that.


Appendix: There was a time when I was disappointed with sobriety. Having never experienced joy, I imagined it would be to experience soaring, swooping, overwhelming happiness. The reality was, at first, really underwhelming. There is always the possibility that I’ve yet to experience real joy but I don’t believe that’s the case. It seems to me that it’s really a lot more low key than our mythology would have us believe. This will remain only a suspicion until proven otherwise, but it’s good enough to go for now.

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