A kaleidoscope is a compilation of broken, bright-colored glass pieces and tiny mirrors, which, when combined in precisely the right sequence, create unparalleled beauty. I have always loved kaleidoscopes. I find them stunning in their beauty and fascinating in their endless possibilities of spectacular images. I must pick up and gaze through any kaleidoscope I see in a store or at a friend’s place. They are, perhaps, my favorite toy. What a metaphor for healing!
When we have an addiction, it is likely because parts of us are broken. We turn to our chosen addiction (gambling, work, pornography, shopping, cigarettes, drugs, sex, high -risk sports, speed racing fast cars, road rage, exercise, dysfunctional relationships) because we feel it will soothe some broken part of us, fill an empty space inside. Addictions happen when we turn to something, whether it is a substance or an action, and consequently find that we like how it makes us feel, and (perhaps unconsciously) over time, create a habit of doing “the thing”. The continuous and repeated engagement in performing said behavior forms an addiction to that very thing. These behaviors teach our brains to become dependent on the stimulus, altering our brain chemistry as we force it to produce unnatural levels of neurotransmitters and hormones/ brain chemicals in its attempt to bring back homeostasis to our systems, needed for our survival. The adrenaline rush we feel when risk-taking (in whatever form) ultimately depletes our nervous system over time. Our tolerance rises continually as our brains adjust to the level of stimulus (in whatever form it takes), causing us to need more and more of our “thing” to feel the relief. We fall deeply into the abyss of our addiction. We are sprinting on a hamster wheel non-stop. We are convinced we must partake in said addiction to ease our discomfort, to feel better. This, in turn, forces our brain (and ultimately our entire biology) to work overtime, exhausting itself as it must produce higher and higher levels of the natural chemicals it needs to detox, struggling to process the toxins we imbibe. We force our bodies to levels of depletion when we pour toxins in it on a continual basis, year after year. Our bodies are magnificent machines, but when we burden them with high levels of toxins, we exhaust their ability to return us to an optimal level of health. With time, our systems become completely depleted, causing disease, depression, malaise on many different levels, and certainly a whole boatload of emotional pain.
It takes a mountain of commitment and determination to overcome addiction. It takes wanting to feel amazing more than wanting that cigarette, drug of choice, rush of adrenaline in whichever form it takes. We have to believe in ourselves and trust. Trust is key- to trust in ourselves we must believe we are capable of doing the hard things. We ARE capable of doing hard things, sometimes it just takes time to prove it to ourselves. We have to start small and find our tribe of kindred spirits, a vast pool of support, humans who have been through the war and came out winners. That’s what worked for me.
Perhaps my greatest allies in my alcohol-free journey these past 367 days has been all the magnificent authors of the books on sobriety, lovingly referred to in the ‘sobersphere’ as “Quit Lit”. Reading a lot of various Quit Lit was incredibly validating. The fact that so many others had been through Hell and found their way to Nirvana with all the difficulties, challenges, obstacles, temptations, was incredibly inspiring and reassuring. It takes truly becoming a REBEL in our alcohol-crazed culture to succeed in landing on the island of freedom from alcohol. All the brave, vulnerable, honest, loving, ecstatically happy souls who shared their journeys buoyed me up on my own journey and showed me it could be done. Now I want to be that for others.
As I reflect (often!) on my last year of discovery, I feel incredibly blessed. Although there were many times when the pain of isolation and depression felt unbearable, the repeated listening (through books on tape during my commute and last thing at night as I fell into slumber) to the scope of brilliant authors (at least a dozen or more!) touched my heart very deeply. They are raw, real, humble, authentic, funny, enlightening, so incredibly honest, and overall wonderful. I have yet to meet any long-time “sober” person on the other side of the nearly impossible boot camp called “recovery”, who is capable of telling a lie. Addiction can cause so much covering up, so much guilt, shame, unhappiness, and self loathing (and dishonesty!!), this population of humans has put false behaviors in their past. It is refreshing and delightful to be in the company of groups of recovered “addicts” because they have a spring in their step, a brightness that shines through their eyes, a heart filled with pride and self love, and it shows. They have won the battle. I, and they, have all slayed the bitch, whether it be The Booze Bitch (my demon of choice), or pornography, codependent/abusive relations, workaholism-or any of a vast number of other crutches. We did it!! I am so very proud, and happy, and bursting with gratitude. My most sincere hope is that by sharing my very personal journey, I, too, can make a difference in someone’s life, give the leg-up they desperately need. I am available to anyone questioning whether their life might be better without alcohol. If you find yourself struggling with the Booze Bitch and her negative consequences, please take it from me, that’s a great big, deafening roar of a YES to an alcohol-free life! The kaleidoscope of the soul created on the journey of healing (truly healing, not just spiritual bypassing!) an addiction is the most beautiful you can imagine. Truly breathtaking!
Thank you all for being with me on this truly amazing journey. The book is in the works and I thank you, every single one of you, for your phenomenal support and encouragement. If you have been inspired by my writing, please stay tuned for the “Fiercely Sober” book to come. “Thank you” feels inadequate, but please know you are immensely appreciated. Be well.