It has become glaringly evident to me. When I focus on any negativity I see, it is the dominating energy I experience, it is what I always notice first. When I focus on characteristics in others I find unpleasant, unlikable, appalling, disgusting, they show me more of those traits. As I criticize, dislike, judge, avoid, emphasize, or place my attention on things I do not like, those qualities all grow like an imagined monster in the closet, ready to escape from the shadows of their prison to engulf me with their darkness. My life feels less joyful, my mood less bright, my world smaller. It doesn’t feel good.
It is easy to blame all that is the wrong in the world on “others”, to point our finger at unfairness. How quick we are to blame, shame, protest, rally against. And how is that working out for us? Not so effective. As the “war on drugs” took hold, the addiction to drugs grew, the problems intensified. This happens each time we expend energy “against” a thing, as we focus on what is wrong. My all time favorite quote from Mother Teresa is “I will never attend an anti-war rally; if you have a peace rally, invite me.” Mother Teresa knew the secret of focusing on what we want to bring into the world, as did Maya Angelou who said ““Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it.” There is great truth in these words. I see it manifest in my world, in our world, all the time. When we push against something, giving it all our attention in an effort to annihilate it, it only grows bigger. If we focus on not having enough money, money eludes us. If we focus on not receiving enough love, we never feel there is an abundance of love. If we concentrate our energies on all that appears out of balance, lacking, hurting, wrong, not the way we want it to be, it grows in magnitude, overwhelming us. I know this from personal experience, but it is a lesson that takes a long time to learn.
Posts shared by members of the sober groups I engage in contain a multitude of experiences lamenting the admissions of failure to stop drinking due to a vast variety of triggers: a difficult circumstance, a loss, a tragedy, an unexpected twist in life, a gathering of friends or colleagues who drink, social functions or engagements that include drinking alcohol, stress that is too much to bear without the familiar crutch of that reliable old sidekick and buddy, booze. I read the words these members are expressing with compassion, sadness, understanding, pain, empathy, and hope. They lament weak moments when they turned back to The Booze Bitch, gave into old familiar drinking habits, were unable to maintain sobriety yet again.
I know how hard it is to get on the sober path and stick with it. I tried to moderate my drinking for decades. It was impossible for me to maintain a low level of drinking for any extended time period. I believe the high rate of falling off the wagon occurs because these delicate humans are focusing on the parts of themselves they feel are not yet strong enough to choose a different, new path. They are not yet able to believe they can do it, they are focusing on the old ways of being that made them who they were, not yet knowing who they will be as sober people. As we repeatedly find ourselves drinking when we promised we would stop, we pave a deeper groove in the broken record of failed attempts, increase our self loathing, depression, and the resulting anxiety that accompanies depression. We intensify mistrust of ourselves, proving we can’t do this, that we failed to make it to the promised land one more time.
My heart truly hurts for these folks. They haven’t yet realized they are repeating the hardest part of the sober journey over and over and over again. They are getting through the difficult first few days, breaking through to the very first glimpse of the bright light shining at the end of the dark drinking tunnel, then kaboooom, off they go back into the abyss of addiction, free falling just a little bit farther down. They manage to stop drinking for perhaps the first week or two, then they give up and start wondering if they will ever be able to succeed. This is like training for a triathlon, only to quit the race before making it to the finish line. It’s akin to losing those last eight out of ten pounds, only to binge wildly for days and sabotage every effort, regaining the weight and then some. The focus needs to be on moving forward. We need to embrace a vision of how bright life will become without the crutch of drinking which puts an immensely dark cloud over everything. I want to gently shake each of these sweet souls and say “You CAN do this, you almost DID this, it is so absolutely worth staying strong and getting through the beginning tough period”. Those first weeks are miserable but necessary as the body and brain go through withdrawal and regain health, ultimately landing on the golden platform of sober success. For me, the first forty days were excruciating. My body was constantly aching and I felt incredibly lethargic, heavy, bloated, blah, my energy absolutely depleted, my brain in a deep fog, my spirit depressed. But I was determined to get to the other side, to experience the return of my joy, my vitality, my inspired life. I knew if I drank again to appease my agonizing symptoms of alcohol addiction, I would only be making the next attempt that much more difficult. It’s true. Every single time we go back to drinking when we promise ourselves we are done, those darn grooves in our addicted brains deepen, making it near impossible to get past the prior amount of days alcohol free. For me, Day 4 was the breaking point. It wasn’t hard for me to take a break from alcohol for three days, but Day 4 was when my entire body, brain, heart, and soul screamed for what I had trained it to want, that dependence on booze. Making it to Day 5 without giving in was my proof to myself that I was going to do this thing. I had to white knuckle my way to Day 5, with help from Quit Lit (stories of personal sober journeys complete with all the details of the struggles), the support groups online, and my own dogged determination. Anger propelled me forward. I was disgusted with feeling sick and tired all the time. I detested all the procrastinating I had been practicing, avoiding so many important details that kept trying to get my attention. I was ready to try something new. I was determined. Every day felt overwhelming. We were experiencing a pandemic, there was no certainty about what the future might bring, my anxiety had completely interrupted my peace and my sleep. I didn’t know how I was going to pay my bills.
What I did know was that what I was feeling, this mediocre existence I was experiencing, was not the one I had dreamed about, not how I knew I wanted to live. Hope had flown the coop, brightness and eagerness, enthusiasm and desire, had all taken a hike. I missed them, and I knew sobriety would return all those precious qualities to my life. I was right. If you find yourself struggling, find a powerful reason, your most potent “WHY”, to reach for a better life. Find within yourself a determination substantial enough to take you on the wild ride to the magic island of sobriety. May your courage navigate you through the rough early waters with a resilience so powerful, a desire so solid, a conviction so unwavering, you take down that dreaded Booze Bitch, make her shake in her boots, send her scampering away at warp speed never to return. Life absent of The Booze Bitch is a life worth living. I look forward to celebrating with you. I am expanding my repertoire of mocktails (alcohol-free artisan cocktails) all the time and I am happy to share. Cheers to YOU.