Long term sobriety is a marathon, not a sprint. That’s as close to a running metaphor as you’ll ever hear me spout. I’ve got a few 24 hours going here, but at times it can feel as though I’m just starting out. Fumbling, clawing, grasping for calm, cool and collected. Groping for the wisdom to know the difference.
Easy does it.
When you are first sober, you go through a period of time where things change rapidly. When you come from the gutter into a world where you are clean and dry, you can quickly think that all is well. And it is in a lot of ways. Sure your life takes a long time to come together but wounds from relationships can take years – lifetimes even – to heal, but there is that time where you are just so relieved to not be in the chase any longer. Where you don’t have to obsess about where your next fix will come from. You can just slow down for a second and breathe and be thankful you were plucked out. You are out. So you are happy and think it will feel like that forever.
If you are anything like me, you plow through relationships and friendships and just when you think you’ve got something solid going, it all changes again. Because you aren’t solid. Even though you are sober you are still a man without a county. A floater. A seeker.
It doesn’t feel like that forever. After a period of time, if you do the work, you are still an alcoholic even though the obsession is removed. You have a temporary reprieve. But you are still you and have to deal with that shit. So, what to do? What happens when you don’t want a drink but you don’t want to be so damn sober and responsible? You have to find other ways to manage your stress and your expectations and your grief. Your highs and lows will still be there, you just choose not to erase them anymore, so WHAT. WHAT DO YOU DO?
I freak out. I misspeak and blame and run away and yell and scream and falsely accuse and throw tantrums. I do. Even if it’s only in my head, I do it all the time. I wonder if I’ll ever be completely zen enough to not have gut reactions. But then I go back to really loving my emotions and how strongly I feel them.
The key for me is getting outside myself. Helping others. When you are helping others, even just by listening or doing a small task to help, you cannot focus on yourself. At least I can’t. It’s the greatest gift to get to the place of knowing fundamentally that it isn’t all about me. I’m not talking about kids here either. I’m talking about other people who are your peers, your colleagues, your friends and family. Sure kids need your focus and dedication, but you need other relationships in your life that require time and commitment from you.
There is a lot going on. A move, two toddlers, a full time job, family and friends. With that comes aging family and dwindling friendships and pets and grieving and loss and love and laughter blossoming friendships and firsts and beginnings. There are people we love dying around us. Fighting for their lives and we are going to sweat the small stuff?
Easy does it.
We worry about money constantly. We worry about the future for our kids and for us and what the hell would happen if something happened to my husband or I? I worry about that shit because I am by nature, a worrier. That is a big reason why I drank. To turn the voices down. Now, even though the drink is gone, the voices are still there. It’s my choice what I do with them.
If I give any kind of indication that I know what I’m doing, it’s a ruse. I stumble and fall on my face daily. But what I have learned is that no matter what, we can go through it. Terrible awful things happen and yet we can be ok. I can pause and regroup and face the challenge of the everyday with grace and humility. I can say I don’t know what I’m doing and cry and scream and throw my arms up in the air and say “HELP ME. I NEED HELP PLEASE. I NEED GUIDANCE.”
I have learned that useless 2am worry serves no purpose, and yet I do it anyway some nights. Right now, buying a house and providing for a family has me worried. But I also know in my deepest darkest parts that it’s all going to be ok. The universe provides some how some way if I do my part.
I tend to ask myself if there is something, anything I can do about what I’m stressing about right now. Right in that moment is there anything I can do? If not, LET IT GO. Easy does it.
Easy does it. Take the path of least resistance that comes so unnaturally to us. We want to make things difficult. We want to make the choices harder. We want to choose to drink because we think, in the moment, it will help. When you stop for 5 seconds and remember to play that tape out, you realize it won’t help anything. Maybe it will make you feel less. Maybe it will help for a while. But you and I both know it won’t help in the long run. SO WHAT DO YOU DO?
One day at a time. One hour at a time. One minute at a time. It’s all going to be OK.
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