In sobriety, removing alcohol lays bare all of the emotions that have been so long covered up by intoxication. The lifting of this fog brings up many opportunities for revelations leading to personal growth.
Near the end of my time drinking, I started to feel this immense yearning for something more. It was a feeling that I was squandering my existence. It was a fear that I had stagnated in life in my early 30s. A foreboding sense that I had nothing else to look forward to, except for the small amount of joy that drinking still brought me.
The idea of letting go of the ONE thing that I felt still brought joy to my life was a scary thing indeed. In getting sober, I see now, it was scary that I ever thought that alcohol ever brought me any joy, let alone that I felt like it was the ONLY thing that brought me joy.
My drinking days put me on auto-pilot, but that was exactly what I wanted. Back then I thought, life is hard, I work hard, so I deserve to drink to escape all of the difficulties of life. This thought pattern was innocent enough at the beginning, I could get drunk on the weekends and pull it back together in time for the work week. It didn’t take long before I was craving a trip to my place of solace during the week. It started with little forays- a few drinks a few nights a week, then a few drinks every night, then getting drunk a few nights during the week, then getting drunk every night.
My life had become something I just wanted to escape from all of the time. My life was getting in the way of my drinking. By then auto-pilot wasn’t just a place I got to escape to every now and again- auto-pilot had become my life.
The thought of giving up alcohol was scary, but equally as terrifying was the thought that I had plateaued out at 32. I realized that the price for being on auto-pilot meant that you not only got to coast through all the hard stuff, you also missed the good stuff too.
In sobriety, I have learned that life is still hard and overwhelming. Sobriety doesn’t instantly fix everything, it makes a lot of things better and it makes it a heck of a lot easier to fix things, but it doesn’t happen on its own after you put the bottle down.
Today, life feels hard. There is a lot going on right now and I feel like I am floundering a bit, like I am just barely staying a float. On days like today, I still feel like drinking, because it gives me a vacation from negative thought spirals- even if it is just for a little while.
What sobriety has given me, is an opportunity to recognize this thought pattern and for tools to deal with these feelings in a healthy and productive way.
I started to feel these feelings creep in early this morning. Its Monday. Its cold and its dark. The house is a mess. My wife and I are both so busy we hardly see eachother. I have two big meetings at work this week that are giving me stress and I feel under-prepared for. Life feels like a big ball of chaos.
After I dropped 7 off at school, with these thoughts swelling in my head- I took a deep breath and I looked at my surroundings (not my messy car) and I saw the trees. Over night, mist had crystalized on all of the branches, giving each individual branch a frosty coating. Its one of my favorite natural phenomena, its beautiful.
In this moment, I realized that the world, our lives are equally huge and small. Our lives have so much of an impact on those closest to us, but in the grand scheme of the world (the universe) our lives are just a tiny speck in a stream of un-controllable events. No one branch can decide when to grow leaves, when to have them turn colors, or when to drop them. They just are. Sometimes ugly and bare, and sometimes glorious.
Life is good and bad. But its life and its mine and I am going to live the hell out of this life. Every emotion is a gift, because I am here and I get to feel it all.