I have been thinking a lot about my sobriety.
The other day I was driving and having a conversation with my dad. (Don’t worry, I have Bluetooth)
We were speaking about the last 7 years of my life. How it seemed like just yesterday that he was dropping me off at rehab. How at the time it felt like my life was over, like I was a loser and I would never amount to my true potential.
During our conversation, he asked me what he thought my secret was. Why was it that I have been able to stay clean and sober while countless people around me and in my hometown are dying from heroin overdoses and drunken car accidents.
I went through my tool kit. I listed off what I do on a daily basis.
- I exercise regularly
- I stay connected with the few close friends that I lean on
- I did the steps, twice
- I help other people
- Work on Sober Nation and keep in contact with those who are asking for help
All of these are important tools, no doubt. But after I finished listing these off to my pop, I realized what my true secret was.
I don’t drink. I don’t get high.
It’s Not That Simple, But It Kind Of Is
Before everyone starts yelling at me, let me just say that I understand that is a simple solution to an extremely complicated issue.
Addiction and obsession may just be the least understood of all the human personality traits. We all struggle with them, even those without drug problems.
It seems as though obsession fills some kind of requirement in the human mind. It is something that we probably will never truly understand. Telling someone to solve their drinking problem by not drinking is like putting out a fire with bubble gum.
But at the end of the day, what else is required to be sober?
You have to not drink? Right? If I am missing something please tell me.
Years ago I was at a meeting and a man named Ben said something that I’ll never forget.
Recovery is about more than not drinking. But really, it’s about not drinking.
I’m always confused when people relapse, and they ask themselves and everyone around them why they got drunk.
They got drunk because they drank. They consumed alcohol. When you drink alcohol, you get drunk.
Here’s my point.
I’m simply suggesting that at times, we may over complicate what recovery means. When push comes to shove, we all have moments of weakness. Just this morning I was getting ready and I was thinking about friends of mine that can smoke a joint and hang out. I was being romantic of a life I could never have.
When those moments of weakness come, there will be times when all of our tools and suggestions don’t work. There will be days when your sponsor doesn’t pick up the phone and when running 5 miles doesn’t seem to scratch the itch.
Sometimes the only thing keeping you sober is just not drinking.
Is this a good solution for long term recovery? No. Of course not. But if you don’t drink you won’t get drunk.
But How Do I Deal With These Emotions?
I’m not the most sympathetic person.
I come from a blue-collar family. We work. We work a lot and we work very hard. It was taught to me at an extremely young age that emotions are secondary to actions.
What you do will always be more important than how you feel.
It is a delicate subject for me. In this world of triggers and safe spaces, I tend to just keep my mouth shut when I am secretly biting my tongue and refraining from telling someone to stop bitching about their problems.
With that being said, I do understand that when we drink or get high, we do so because we don’t know how to deal with being uncomfortable. We do so because of a spiritual malady that came from who knows where.
Will just not drinking ease these feelings of discomfort? Will hiding from the bottle ease the pain and tension that many drug addicts feel?
It certainly will not. So what is the solution?
Well, there are different solutions for different people. If you want to stay sober, the resources and help are all around you. But here is the kicker.
It is infinitely harder to get sober while you are drinking. One would even claim that it is impossible.
Emotions are important. Building defenses and coping mechanisms to deal with your pain is paramount. But again, the world is not a soft and fluffy blanket and sometimes shit is just hard. It may not be fair or just, but it will always be reality.
Like my father taught me, you deal with reality by taking action.
Again, doing what is required of you to earn your recovery is much more difficult while you are drinking or shooting heroin.
This is reality guys. I didn’t make these rules.
It Can’t be That Easy
You are correct.
It is not that easy.
What do we do at Christmas parties or at weddings? How does it feel to be the guy standing in the corner while everyone else is playing beer pong or drinking before a concert?
At times, it can be difficult.
If you are looking for answers, they are right in front of your face. You don’t drink. You don’t get high. If you need to leave the concert or leave the wedding or lock yourself in your room for a night then you do that. It may not be fun and it may be a fucking drag but if you pick up that drink you will open a can worms that you worked so hard to seal shut.
Then you are really fucked.
Here’s What It Comes Down To
If you are an alcoholic and an addict like me, then you are faced with challenges that most people will never understand.
In order to live a long and healthy life, you will absolutely need to do some work to fix your problem. Some people go to meetings. Some people go to therapy. Some people run marathons or get into yoga or move to Myanmar and become a monk.
I don’t care how you do it. But you will need to do something.
But, in order to have the opportunity to get there, you can’t drink.
In all the moments in between you doing the work, there are countless moments for you to pick up that first one. There is always a way to get that hit or get that bottle. We can not nerf the world for you.
If you want to stay sober, you can’t drink.
Yes, it really is that simple.