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Every year I have flashbacks in my mind about what it used to be like.
I’m pretty sure by now I have been sober for longer than I was active in addiction. You would think that means I am safe or that I have figured things out. In reality, I feel just as afraid as I ever have. The only difference is that now I have more tools and armor to defend myself against the little monster that tells me I am not good enough or that tells me “it will be different this time.”
Getting sober isn’t that hard. It’s staying sober that is hard.
I have come to find the beauty in the struggle.
So how did I do it? How have I gone 8 years without drinking? How have I gone 8 years without a hit of a joint or a painkiller or just a tiny bump of cocaine?
I will tell you.
1. Make It Till Midnight
I have a tattoo on my arm that says make it till midnight. This concept has saved my life. It has brought me relief in times of crippling anxiety and it has kept me away from the drink or the drug for 8 straight years.
It’s simple, all you have to do is get through the day without drinking. No matter what you have going on in your life, you just have to make it till midnight. Eventually, no matter how hard or how painful the day, midnight will come. Once it does, you have done your days work. You have fulfilled your promise to yourself and your higher power. In that moment, all you do is start over again.
No matter what happens. All you have to do is make it till midnight. Once midnight comes, you do it again.
2. Doing a Daily Inventory on Myself
I have always been a writer. Writing is so ingrained in my life that sometimes I feel like I write about writing.
My fiance said something to me a few months ago that I have mentioned before, but it was so profound to me that I repeat it over and over again. She said that
it is impossible to lie to a notebook
A blank page is a mirror. It is an honest reflection of myself. It keeps secrets, it doesn’t talk back and it paints a picture of reality that is hard to see in your own mind.
I write every day and because of that I can see the truth about who I am, about how I am doing, about what I am doing well and about what I am doing wrong. In order to stay sober I have to be completely honest with myself.
Lying to yourself is easy. Lying to yourself is how people pick up a drink because they think they can handle themselves this time.
I have remained sober because I have written about my day over and over again and it has helped me understand who I am.
3 – Working Out
Just because I stopped doing drugs does not mean I have scratched the itch for exhilaration. In fact, taking drugs out of situation has only intensified my need for excitement and pain and obsession.
If I had to explain addiction in one word it would be obsession.
Obsession is a thought that overpowers all other thoughts. For some reason, I need that. I need something to obsess over and something to consume me. I need something that sharpens the blade and intensifies my focus.
I have always been an athlete, but fitness became my new drug of choice. Fitness became the high I crave and without it I lose my mind.
To me, it has never been about getting bigger or getting a six pack or having a movie star body. Of course I like looking good, but that’s not why I do it.
Fitness has been about feeding that little monster inside of me. I feed her snacks so that she doesn’t yell at me when things get quiet. With fitness, my little monster stays satisfied because she has felt the pain that she needs to fuel herself another day.
I’m not sure that this will make sense to everyone. But for me, having this “obsession” or addiction has been very healthy. Having that little bit of insecurity has kept me going when I want to be complaisant. My obsession has turned into a great asset. I only needed to learn how to harness it for good.
4 – I Want It Worse Than Most People
In a lot of recovery communities, the concept of will power is a dirty thought.
We are taught not to believe that self will has anything to do with staying sober. For us, turning our will over to a higher power is the ultimate starting ground for long term recovery.
Yes, a higher power has played a huge role in my sobriety. But it would be a lie to say that my own self will hasn’t also played a role.
When I see other people relapse, part of me has always thought of them as weak. I admit, I have developed an arrogance and a level of personal pride in knowing that “I can do this thing” and most people cant.
You can walk down the street and ask anyone if they can go a month without having a beer. This person doesn’t have to be an alcoholic. They can be a regular guy or gal. If you ask them if they can go a month without having a drink, most of them will say yes.
But most of them can’t do it.
There is something about “having a drink” that feels like a birthright to us. People come home from work and feel entitled to their drink and their moment of relaxation.
Well I don’t feel that way.
I feel proud of the fact that I don’t need something to lean on to get me through the day. I have strength and power over my mind. To me, my options are limitless because I have complete freedom over my time. I have discipline over my actions and discipline equals freedom.
Call me arrogant. Call me pretentious or whatever. But that’s how I feel.
If you don’t believe me, go a month without drinking. Just do it. Don’t tell anyone about it and don’t sit on your high horse. Don’t shout out to the world about your new found lifestyle. Just go 30 days without drinking.
I bet you can’t. But I can…
5 – Finding a Higher Power
Here it is. Here is that awful conversation that I know you have been dreading.
All I will say is that human beings are spiritual in nature. Every single one of us is longing for connection. We all want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves and share pieces of ourselves that we can’t necessarily touch or see but we can feel without our hearts.
That feeling is what we call a “spirit.”
When you find something to believe in, your spirit will be at peace and it will no longer look outside of itself for existential pleasure. “Being a part of” will be good enough. Your spirit will be healed and you will have all you need.
I don’t believe in “God.” I don’t think there is some all mighty being watching over me. That’s ridiculous and frankly I think it’s delusional. But for any human being to deny the existence of a higher power is more arrogant than thinking you can fly.
We all come from a source. We are all connected and therefore we should never feel alone.
In Reflecting Upon My Journey
I never thought I deserved this. I never thought I was going to live past my 20’s. I’m 31. I have a home that I love. I bought my dream car and I paid for it in full. I have a family who is strong and caring and kind. I have the business that I always wanted and I have the freedom to do whatever I want whenever I want.
I have a fiance who I love so much that sometimes I look at her and I get this overwhelming feeling of happiness and it makes my insides feel like jello.
I do not preach. I try not to tell anyone else how to live their lives. I do not think I am better than anyone else. But at the end of the day, there is one reason why I have been given these gifts. It’s all because of the decision I made 8 years ago, that I would never get high again.
My sobriety has graced me with abundance and serenity. Without my sobriety I would have nothing. I would probably be dead.
Yet, I am alive and well and I feel great. I wish everyone could feel this way, because the world would be a better place.