NOT TRUE! Haha. Gotchaaa….. 😉 I haven’t nailed sobriety, it’s not really something that you just do. I haven’t clicked some switch. I didn’t ‘figure it out’ and just stop. It was hard work. But that’s not true really. It isn’t was it is. It IS hard work. But hard in a different kind of way than before.
I don’t have to keep myself away from pubs anymore and live in an alcohol-free home, locked in alone at night teaching myself to sew from youtube to distract myself from the fact that 1000’s of people are out-on-the-town having ‘fun’ and getting wasted and I’m missing out on all of it.
I don’t have bi- weekly meltdowns anymore about my ‘lost life’ and a deep shuddering fear of the unknown abyss, of sober life. Fear is largely about the unknown and because I know exactly what the sober life is like now, I’m no longer afraid (I’m scared of different things).
Sober living is nearly as shit-filled as the drunk life – but with a lot less lost credit cards to replace, people to apologise to and bruises to heal. Pain doesn’t cease when you sober up and stop active drug use; I’m sorry to spoil the dream – the verdict is in – when active addiction is over, suffering isn’t – that remains.
You move past one kind of suffering and dive into a whole new kind. One where you have to confront your demons, your memories, your mind, other people and a world of badly conditioned internal narratives and behaviour patterns. It’s a fucking minefield. In the beginning I really did think maybe I should go crawl back into my K-hole and snort myself into a delirium to forget about all this ‘dealing with shit’ shit.
I did feel like that for the first 12-18 months, like seriously guys – WTF am I doing and why is this so hard. Why the hell am I trying to do this – I had to battle hard, long and hard, to keep in the front of my mind the reasons I wanted this, to keep reminding myself with stories of hope that gave me the impetus to change, in the beginning, along with countless hours spent crying, sitting in NA and AA meetings and hiding in my bed, I had a very simple and beloved list that helped me stay strong. And I called it the Sanity List.
I haven’t really evolved past the sanity list after nearly 4 years being clean. I still have it – the difference is that these days it is a lot longer because after some serious introspection and self-observation it became impossible not to admit and somehow accept that I have more shortcomings than I previously thought….shock shock horror… and so, the list of things I need to remember to think, do, learn and experience is longer now.
In the past it said, remember to take – wallet, keys, phone, packed lunch. Now it says – eat, sleep, be grateful, go for a walk, rest, be kind, dance, draw, enjoy, meditate, be generous, etc etc and it grows and evolves as I learn what I need to do to keep myself afloat.. And then, slowly as the days go by I forget I have a list and my world begins to fall apart and then at some point I realise I’m about to come on my period and that is probably why I feel tornado emotional, then I, at some other point, also remember the list, find it, read it, start doing the things that it tells me to do and slowly start feeling better and finding those pockets of bliss that we seek and also just feel a lot less miserable.
Because most of the things on the list are ‘new’ and things that I accepted only recently as being the key to staying grounded, centred, in some sort of balance and that help create an enjoyable experience of life. I still need reminding – daily. I’m trying to slowly recondition half a lifetime of living like a dick-head with little to no self-respect or ability to look after myself, although I would never have admitted it at the time, and to become a better person and live a life I love or at least respect and want to have.
It has taken a long time to just ‘know’ instinctively what to do and what I need. In the beginning of my ‘clean time’ I felt like a first-time mother alone with a baby that I wasn’t totally sure I wanted or could love. I had no idea what to do and how to survive and I was terrified. Absolutely terrified. How would I live without my vices and without my old patterns. I knew I needed new ones, but I had not idea what they should be. You can ask the internet what to do but it’s a shitpit of bad information and can be trusted almost as much as an addicts internal-narrative-manipulation-mind. People say trust your instinct, but when that’s been shot to shit by years of snorting shit and shooting the shit and your internal compass is completely bent out of shape – what do you do? It’s scary. You have to get brave. You have to try new things, meet new people, explore new places, learn new skills and be honest with yourself about how you feel.
It turns out you have to experiment a lot to find out what works for you – no one can give you the answer – what works for her doesn’t work for him or me or my mother and so, taking people’s advice or copying what they do isn’t really the way to go. You have to become an adventurer and a scientist. Out in the wild, experimenting. But a small-stepping cautious adventurer that takes lots of breaks and rest and sleeps a lot and hopefully has a strong community of people to support you in the process.
You need to take a little bite of something, then sit and try and really really listen to the body and what it’s telling you – not listen to the brain that’s polluted with your past – listen to your gut, your insides and ask – how does this feel?! Is this conducive to the life I want to live – does this support me? Does this respect me and my choices? And if it doesn’t you have to be strong enough to leave it and walk away.
And so, when you do find something you like or that you know works or feels good, or doesn’t feel completely awful – write it DOWN – write it on a fucking post-it and put it on your mirror babes! Or hide the post-it notes if you live with ‘normal’ people who you don’t want to know that you need a post-it note reminder to get you to empty your mooncup – you found that out the hard way doing handstands in the gym didn’t you…mmm hmmm, we know.
Keep a journal – make lists, write this stuff down in a spreadsheet, whatever works for you. I write it down and then hope to god I don’t lose the paper. I take a photo and make copies and write things in books that I also hope I won’t lose. In reality I’ve got reminders everywhere now and that makes life a lot easier. I have buddha pictures here and there to remind me to be kind and compassionate, cook books all around to inspire my food, yoga mats craftily left out on the floor the night before so that when you wake up you know what you must do. I have inspiration quotes written on study cards scattered around the house and funny postcards of cats and weird cartoons that make me laugh in places I can see them – and then before you know it you were about to cry on the kitchen floor with the peanut butter in your lap because you think the rest of the world is having fun on a Friday night and you’re the only one home alone without a cat – and then you see that postcard of a cat in a wig with the brilliant caption and you cannot help but start laughing and then snorting whilst intermittently spooning peanut butter into your happy mouth. And then things are a little better. You might even put the peanut butter away (or take it with you through the house because it’s FriYAY) and find that on your bedside table is a little stack of cards, with quotes from your favourite Buddhist teacher, that pull your head back out of the delusional cloud just long enough for you to remember that things aren’t that bad, you do some gratitude meditation and feel better, phone a friend because the list told you to, you listen to their worries and feel super useful, they listen to how you’re feeling and then a load is lifted from your mind. The world isn’t ending – I have a post-it somewhere that tells me that as well although I need it less regularly these days.
There is no shame in admitting we need help. And we can help ourselves. I finally, some years back, surrendered and admitted I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, I was completely miserable, I didn’t like the way I lived my life and I had no idea what I wanted. I stopped pretending I had it sorted and that life was great. I cut the crap and fell apart and then slowly slowly started shuffling through the pieces and asking for help and putting myself back together in a way that felt good and that I respected and liked.
It’s easier said than done – but it’s possible. It’s totally possible. CHANGE IS POSSIBLE. You can change your thoughts, your actions and the way you experience life. Transformation is possible. For years I didn’t think it was and had relinquished my life to the bits of doom and gloom, but when I finally opened my eyes to the living examples of people who had done it in around me – a friend and a loved one – and really listened to their stories, I was filled with hope that I could do the same. And that hope started to warm me on the inside and lift my eyes up and out and lift me to a place where I could finally start on my journey, because I believed there was a journey, where before I didn’t. With hope rekindled I started to crack and fall apart only to be able to put myself back together again – that is often how the cycle goes. Not always, but often.
And so, this is a little message to anyone that thinks there’s no hope, or that they can’t change, that it’s too late blah blah. It is not too late – it is totally possible- but it’s totally scary and you might turn out to be a peanut butter eating, post-it note splattering, moon-cup jiggling, freaky booty shaker, Buddhist obsessive that ends up quitting the circus and learning German – who ever wanted to learn German?! – and you might realise that you don’t actuallylike pubs, grimey clubs, smoking, binge eating until your sick, being hungover and in debt all the time and pissing people off or whatever it is you do now….
You might have to come to terms with a completely different life – and that is amazingly exciting – I have created a life I love, slowly, patiently and somewhat painfully, and it is the best thing that I’ve ever done. And it’s fucking hard. As I say I haven’t nailed it, not nearly, but I’ve got some golden tips and books to recommend and practices to share. You are not alone! We are not alone. We are all in this together. You can do it!x