A week ago, right now, I was waking up with a debilitating hangover. I remember thinking, thinking, thinking about how I WASN’T going to drink. Nope. Not doing it. Not this time. Not today. I’ve got too much to do.
Fast forward to the end of the night. Coming out of a blackout as a locksmith is breaking into my car after I drunkenly locked my keys in the back seat. I’m crying as the gravity of what I’ve done starts to set in—I drove all day, all over Reno, while hammered.
I should have gone to jail, or wrapped my car around a traffic light.
But by some miracle of the universe I am totally fine, and nobody else has fallen victim to my debauchery.
That night I got on my knees and BEGGED the universe for a miracle. I knew I was mentally ill, and needed to get to the root of my shit. I was willing to try ANYTHING. ANYTHING!!!!!
And that, my friends, is when I was given the gift of desperation.
TODAY I hardly recognize the girl I was that morning. How the hell could I have changed (internally) so dramatically in such a (seemingly) short period of time.
Here are a few profound ‘AH-HAH!’s I’ve had since last week.
- It was always my thoughts that led me to drink. So why the hell did I think (hah) I could THINK my way out of drinking. Looking back, it’s just so ABSURD. How did I ever believe I could rely on the very thing that got me into this shit.
- I am not my thoughts!!! I obviously identified with my thoughts, because I let them direct my every action. When I learned that I am NOT my alcoholic thoughts, it was so LIBERATING!!! They didn’t have to have power over me. Awesome.
- Surrender and acceptance are my most useful tools. I can’t even begin to describe how much peace just accepting my reality has brought me. Yes. I drank and drove last week. That happened. Moving on. Ok. Cravings are going to happen at this early stage of my sobriety. Fine. I get it. It makes sense. It’s part of the process. It seems when I resist stuff is when I give it power over me. I resist, resist, resist until I’m so exhausted from resisting that I cave into whatever it is I’m resisting. When I resist is when I suffer.
- Observe without judgement. I used to get so judgmental of my thoughts, feelings, and actions. Back in the day when I had cravings I would get so angry/frustrated/scared, trying to push against the cravings and telling myself “get it together you fuck-up, you DON’T NEED TO DRINK!!! Why are you craving booze?!???” Now I try and just observe without putting a label on it. “Hmmm, ah yes, it appears I crave a glass of wine. Hmmm, interesting, I wonder what triggered it this time.” This is something I practice all day long with all kinds of things. Just observing my knee-jerk reactions and reflexes has really helped me understand the way my mind operates.
- I am not the past or the future. I am now. In the throes of my alcoholism, I was so tied to the story of my past (tons of relapses, etc) that I believed they defined my future(therefore it will happen again). I would literally get anxiety about my next (imaginary) relapse, because I would dwell on past ones. But is the past happening right now? NO. Is the future happening right now? NO. The only thing that is happening right now is RIGHT NOW. It’s been a lot of work having to rope my mind back to the present moment, but I’m getting better with time and practice. When I’m not dwelling on my past or having anxiety over the future, then I can be peaceful in the present moment.
- Addiction is a disease of aversion and grasping. The following quote blew my brains out when I read it. “When we experience something pleasant or unpleasant, we often tend to struggle with it in some way. With unpleasant events we become tense and brace ourselves for the bad, struggling to deny or change it. With pleasant experiences we struggle to hold onto it or enhance it. Our suffering is caused by our aversion to or grasping to that which is already present.” Um, dude. This explains SO MUCH for me. Some of my strongest cravings show up when I’m happy or excited, something I never really quite understood. When I have anxiety or want to escape, sure, it makes sense to numb with a drink. But when things are going great and I feel on top of the world, I want to drink! I realize now it’s because I try to hold onto or improve a moment that is already perfect as it is. I do this with a lot of things in my life. So I have made a point to observe when I’m trying to escape or hold onto the moment, and instead lean into what is already happening. Another lesson in presence.
Of course, I don’t think I would have come to these realizations had I not done the WORK!! It’s been a lot of work, yes, but strangely enough, the more work I do the easier it becomes. I know it seems paradoxical but at this point I’m done trying to make sense of stuff. I just go with the flow of what seems to work.
Here is the work that I’ve been doing to maintain my recovery:
- Journaling. I used to kind of/sort of journal (past attempts at recovery) but would drop off because I thought it made me less productive (as in I didn’t have time, etc). That night, a week ago, when I was on my knees praying for a miracle, I also promised I would do the work. Whatever it took. No matter how hard or how foofy (I was a bit adverse to the abstract spiritual shit) I would be open to it. So yeah. I carve out time in my mornings to write in Sobriety Notes. And literally, I have huge AH-HAH moments as I write stuff out. At one point, my blog actually turned into a therapist in my mind. I imagined my blog, a lady sitting in a cushy chair, pushing the glasses up from the end of her nose, leaning out to me, saying “So, tell me, how did that make you feel? Why do you think you responded in that way?” Let me just say I have actually considered hiring a therapist but have abstained because of my piddly bank account. I truly believe that I am gaining the benefits of hundreds of therapy dollars from this blog that has costed me a whole free dollars. (Or maybe like 25 bucks, since I decided to purchase the domain).
- Podcasts. The first domino to fall in the chain reaction of my recovery process was a podcast. Podcasts make me feel less alone in my struggle, and seem to always teach me something new about recovery. I also consider them a part of my sobriety workout (like hitting the gym, but for my spirit). For some reason, I, personally, feel so much more connected when I listen to podcasts than when I go to AA (which I’ve tried many many times and just never felt like I could connect). Just like a crop-top shirt doesn’t suit my body the way it does the girl down the block (at least right now, till I get some more workouts in), AA doesn’t feel like the right fit for me at this point in my journey. So podcasts it is!!
- Researching and reading. Every day I scour the internet for resources to help me better understand my experience. This is how I came upon concepts such as mindfulness and surrender, which have helped me better articulate and understand what I’ve been experiencing. I’ve also come up on cool stuff like techniques to prevent against relapse and setting boundaries.
- Talking about it. My roommate is going through a similar spiritual awakening/recovery with her addiction to sugar. It’s been so helpful to have someone who understands and shares in my profound, spiritual realizations. I’ve come to realize that, fundamentally, it’s all the same. I’ve also just joined an online Facebook group that I hope will help with the group sharing aspect. I’ve realized that sitting in a room and talking about it doesn’t do it for me (yet) in the way articulating and sharing online does. Probably because I am a writer by nature.
So that’s my week in a long-winded nutshell. Looking forward to the future and what many more profound realizations come my way! Blessed!!!