White knuckle sobriety doesn’t interest me at all. Why would I ever want to just not drink or use mood altering substances? I was always searching for a solution to my fear. Alcohol and drugs were my solution to that pesky problem for a long time and to my mind—worked very well thank you. I definitely liked the effect because they took away the fear for a while. No matter to me that it didn’t last—that feeling of ease and comfort that came at once with that first drink or hit. The world was changed; fear did not exist for at least a couple of hours. I remember saying to friends over and over that I was willing to pay the price for this; I thought the price was merely a hangover; I had no clue of the real price of my indulgence.
When I first discovered drugs and alcohol, it was a way to push the envelope of ordinary existence, to walk on the edge of the razor, to fly above the boobs I saw around me who were living (so I thought) unfulfilled lives by doing what society asked of them. They said: “But we don’t like the taste”. My thought at the time was: So what if you don’t like the taste—you’ve got to drink your way past that, I don’t like the taste of gin but two martinis later—it tasted great! It was the effect I was after and I was willing to pay the price, whatever that might be.
I have come a long way since then, when alcohol and drugs were the solution to every problem. Today I’m sitting in an inside waiting room in Swedish hospital waiting while my husband, Bill, has an MRI of his brain to see if there is any sign of the tumors discovered last year. The larger, egg-sized, one was removed immediately but there were some smaller ones that were treated with radiation with success during the months following the surgery. Scary stuff—brain tumors, lung cancer, whole brain radiation, and chemotherapy with all its attendant malaise and fatigue. Yet I was able to deal with it all with no alcohol or drugs as a solution. How could this be? I am amazed myself at my change of attitude and outlook on life.
What could possibly be a sufficient substitute? 12-Step recovery has proved to be the answer to that question. Addiction creeps in and takes over. It has my unconscious approval and the habit of negativity fuels my gathering of evidence to prove the inevitability of the outcome. The language of addiction is negative; it is the habit of a lifetime, learned from those around me and internalized as the truth. It comes in the form of the lie. The lie is that I am not good enough, that I am worse than other people and that I am not loveable because of it. The basic human motive is to love and be loved but how can we get that if we are un-loveable. This is a question that cannot be answered with external substances, other people/relationships, or material stuff. The alcohol and drugs had ceased to remove my fear, in fact they created it. I was caught in an unsolvable dilemma.
When my personal, self-imposed crisis reached its nadir I was faced with a choice that seemed almost like magic. I could have a drink or I could have the world; what was my choice to be? The answer might seem to be obvious but to me it was not. How could I possibly give up the solution I had depended on for so long? I would be disloyal and besides the lie told me that I didn’t deserve the world.
Still, I was invited into the fellowship of recovery, asked to stay and at least be open-minded enough to try something different.
The language of recovery is positive. It asks only for positive, affirmative action, not morbid reflection on self and fear. It asks me to set aside my old ideas including the lie and focus on the solution. How many times have I heard — “Put the problem on the back burner; leave it alone for a while and allow intuition to work.” It works for lost keys; how could it possibly work for this?
For me, these were radical new concepts. Sure I had heard stuff like this before but it all seemed like “pie in the sky” wishful thinking. I had never examined if what I was doing was actually working or not in my life. I reacted to people and situations; they told me who I was going to be in any given circumstance. Needless to say, I was resentful and angry most of the time. A little open-mindedness can start an avalanche of new thoughts and behaviors.
I made a sincere effort to practice the program of recovery for 12-Step groups with the help and guidance of a sponsor who knew what she was talking about. My attitude and outlook began to change. I began to see that I am the author of my life; I am responsible. I have a choice today; a spiritual life means to me a life of awareness, of continuing to pay attention to what and who I really am and making a sincere effort to become what I could be. Am I practicing the principles of acceptance, open-mindedness, willingness, honesty, love, forgiveness, harmony, truth, faith, hope, light, and joy? It means that rather than merely indulging in my laziness in reacting to life; I must now think and respond.
So awesome sobriety is the knowledge that everything is OK; not going to be OK but OK in the here and now. It is the knowledge I have or know where to find the resources to meet any emergency—real or imagined. The tapestry of my life is woven with experiences in recovery that prove to me that the practice of the spiritual principles will work under any circumstances. I now gather evidence of the positive in my life. I am a fully empowered agent of these principles. The only real source of suffering in my life today is in the resistance to do what I know to be loving and right. Do it or don’t but please don’t whine about it!
The universe will give me anything I ask for so I am now asking for happy, joyous, freedom; nothing short of awesome sobriety.
Remember, this is the great adventure!