We discussed in outpatient group today what it’s like putting the pieces back together in early recovery. Everyone agreed that the process requires a lot of re-learning, and in some cases even the initial learning, of how to appropriately respond to the many different stimuli of life. Towards the end of my drinking, alcohol had pretty much always been a prerequisite whenever anticipating a situation that involved any degree of emotional work (save for family interactions).
Before biking through downtown Rochester to hang promo posters at various businesses (re: doing my job). Before hiking around campus at the local university to promote concert tickets to coeds (whether at 11am or 11pm). Before responding to a full email inbox. Before grocery shopping at Wegmans. Before going out to meet new people. Before hanging in the apartment with old friends. Before catching up on my favorite TV series. Before sex. Before heading out for a jog (only once, just to see what the experience would be like – mostly painful and uncoordinated).
I wasn’t tossing back a few light beers at 10pm on a Friday night before going down the block with my buddies to catch a band play a set and throw some darts; I was pulling vodka from the bottle weekday sunlight hours just to function. I wasn’t pregaming on “weekend warrior” status for the good times; I was pregaming life, just to get by. That shit is hard to come back from.
And this is what I am learning from it. There are no shortcuts to a sober life, to a successful recovery. Drinking was often a way to head off a lot of elements of humanity that are confusing, painful, and anxiety-inducing. Those are called feelings. Everyone has them, and everyone has to deal with them.
One thing I’ve always felt is the funk.
How do you process, when all you know is the using life? If this is what sobriety is like, why not go back out? Because using again will never be “better,” and you will fall harder and faster. I can’t afford it. I have things I want to accomplish in my life, things that require full accountability & responsibility: move to New York. Travel the globe. Get published. Own a home. Start a family. What, am I gonna be wasted throughout watching my kids grow up? Not remember my son’s 4th birthday? Fail to pay my bills and get evicted? I refuse to risk that life, for the life of taking a drink.
This new life comes moment by moment, experience after experience. One day at a time, one foot in front of the other. Each time I face & successfully overcome a situation that presents hardship, I don’t just move on. I take that victory and hold on to it, reflect upon it. The next time I encounter a similar obstacle in my path, I can look back with pride on my previous victory, and wield that to my advantage in dealing with what lies in the present. Early recovery is building a base, a foundation, of these small victories and successes, so that when it comes time for the next phase of life, we are confident & properly prepared to live it.
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“I thought you wanted to be successful?”
“When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful.
Have you ever had an asthma attack before? You short of breath? You wheezin’?
The only thing you tryna do, is get some air. You don’t care about no basketball game, you don’t care what’s on TV, you don’t care about nobody callin’ you, you don’t care about a party.
The only thing you care about, when you tryna breathe, is to get some fresh air.
And when you get to the point, where all you wanna do is be successful as bad as you wanna breathe – then you’ll be successful.
And I’m here to tell you that Number One, most of you say you wanna be successful, but you don’t want it bad. You just kinda want it. You don’t want it badder than you wanna party. You don’t want it as much as you wanna be cool. Most of you don’t want success as much as you wanna sleep! Some of you love sleep more than you love success!
And I’m here to tell you today, if you’re going to be successful…you gotta be willin’ to give up sleep.”