I always wanted to learn how to surf. Since I was extremely young I have been a water baby, enjoying a sacred love affair with lakes, rivers, brooks (next to which my family would camp in my growing up years), water fountains in and outside my home, to the great big, vast ocean. My mother told me I was a total fish in the water as a wee one, taking to it as naturally as a Labrador takes to fetching a ball. Swimming has been one of the greatest joys of my life, and had I grown up next to the ocean (I grew up landlocked), I am sure I would have become a surfer early on.
In my 86 days of sobriety, I am learning to become a skilled surfer of the Sober Wave. Sometimes the waves plummet with incredible force and take me deep under the surface where I can barely breathe. I come up gasping for air, trying to figure out just what happened. How did I end up here? Some of the non-sober surfers in my world seem to be out to knock me off my wave, competing with me on some unknown level for reasons I do not understand. I am not a threat, I am only here to enjoy the sport, to learn the skill, to navigate to the best of my ability. Surfing is a learned skill. Sure, talent for the sport helps, being a natural certainly is an advantage, but for the most part, surfing the sober wave is something anyone can learn to do, and do well.
I read and listen to a lot of “Quit Lit”, books written by courageous and pioneering sober authors sharing incredible sober journeys. In fact, I am writing my own version of my journey in part by writing this blog. The Quit Lit helps by validating the sense of unity, that “we are not alone” feeling of belonging to a tribe. Those of us who become addicted to a substance have a lot of common situations to encounter and conquer throughout our sober quest. The stories of the individual journeys are fascinating and sometimes painful to hear/read as the lives of these brave souls are shared on the pages. They put it all out there, raw and real, baring their hearts for the whole world to witness. The vulnerability and honesty is incredibly refreshing and assuring. So many things they share make them relatable and bring compassion and understanding, empathy and affection to the stories. Sober folks have learned the art of honesty. They have nothing to hide because they have already experienced the hell of addiction. Many have already had the worst happen. Addiction has caused alienation of friends, loss of money, broken families, lost children in custody battles, time in jail or worse, job losses, loss of dignity and self trust, total loss of cherished dreams and relationships. Through their sobriety, these wonderful humans grow up. I think that’s the most fascinating part of sobriety that enamors me – the fact that I am finally, at this advanced stage of my life (I’m not THAT old!), growing into the person I have wanted to be for most of my life. I never knew how disempowering it was to run away from discomfort, to escape my feelings with substances such as booze so I could become numb and not feel the pain that wanted to surface, putting off any healing I might experience, hiding from my real self, avoiding reality and all the responsibilities it requires. Now that I have this amazing boundless energy, it isn’t such a challenge to get things done. I have never been more productive. Without meaning to boast, I must say I am an ideal employee. I work harder than people half my age, I run circles around them. I treat my job with a sense of ownership and pride that is rare anymore. I am exceptionally positive and upbeat even when scrubbing messy toilets and taking out overflowing trash bags. I respect others because I respect myself. Most of all, I respect myself even when others show me they haven’t a clue how to be respectful, kind, encouraging, empowering, supportive, or positive. It has been an amazing experience to be sober these past months and see the world through eyes with a vision clearer than I ever had before – others’ true selves are right there for me to see, no disguising, no fake friendliness. The lack of authenticity is like a bright flashing warning light! I am not fooled by the pretense of artificial maturity, knowledge, wisdom. Those invaluable qualities come from time on the planet, life experiences, growth, a true desire to improve, wanting to be better, and with an intention to be a kind human. Won’t you come surfing with me? It really is a blast, and I am learning how to ride the really big, thrilling waves where the negativity is all washed ashore and transformed into light, love, and joy.