As an alcoholic and addict in recovery, I have achieved a little sober time. The term “little” is highly subjective, of course. I’ve run into people with decades of sobriety who say they have a little sober time, and I have met those who have been sober for a month or week or day who say the same thing. From my perspective, the length of time they have been sober is huge in either person’s case, but I like when a person uses the term “little” because it implies humility on the part of the speaker. And a healthy dose of humility is a vital part of any solid program of sobriety.
As I said, I have achieved a little sober time. Currently, I don’t attend as many 12 step meetings as I would like. This is mainly due to the fact that I don’t currently have a license to drive. (It pains me when I think of how slow the law moves when dealing with DUI and other substance-abuse/traffic violations. People who commit these types of offenses continue to drive for months or sometimes years after they are arrested and before punishment begins. I know this from experience. I only wish I had started to serve my sentence sooner, so as to have been done with this phase of the sentence sooner. But I digress) Many people in the rooms would say that my lack of regular attendance at meetings is a recipe for disaster. Meetings are one of the basic needs for many in recovery, and people who skip them tend to have a much higher tendency to go back to their addictive behaviors.
There is, however, a basic need that many people in recovery overlook but which I address regularly and with as much energy as I can muster; the need to search the inner self for the light that resides therein. There is inherent beauty in every human being that lives now or in the past. Discovering this beauty, admiring it, sharing it, and celebrating it are key elements to an individual’s most productive and happiest existence while here on earth. This applies to everyone, not just addicts in recovery. And in many ways, it is the absolute basis from which any successful recovery must grow.
The advantage I have over those who have access to as many 12-step meetings as they desire, is that I don’t get sucked into the naturally-occurring group-think that tells those in recovery to focus on all the bad crap they’ve done and all the unhealthy ways they think. This is seen as the surest way to stay resist the all-too-common urge to backslide into old habits. But I contend that the most common result is to encourage the addict to berate himself for his mistakes to the point that he feels he is worthless and possibly beyond help. Alone at night, he may see the only way to escape the pain is to go back to the behaviors that always helped him escape in the past. It is an unfortunate fact that the percentage of people who get sober, then stay sober for the rest of their lives, is less than 15%. And the suicide rate of those who stay sober for years is much higher than the average.
The focus on the positive, in myself and in what I experience as my reality, is vital to my recovery, and in the happiness I feel in my sober life. It is what keeps me out of the darkness when life gets challenging, and it is what gets me through those times that the darkness comes, despite my efforts to keep it at bay. It makes the good times better, and it helps create more of those good times. Certainly, an improved attitude has not made life simple or trouble-free. But it is far more satisfying and infinitely sweeter than it was when I fixated on things I shouldn’t have done, things I shouldn’t be, and things I shouldn’t think.
The vast majority of addicts, if not every single one, has used, or still uses, addictive behaviors to avoid life, and themselves. That’s a lot of avoidance. Life goes on 24/7, and a person lives with himself the same amount of time, so the behaviors that are developed to get away from all that have to be pretty extensive and very thorough. Recovery demands that an addict stop all those behaviors completely. So what happens to the massive chasm that opens up in a life that was so centered around avoidance of itself? An addict is told to walk away from that gap and meet life head on, on life’s terms, which are difficult to the most well-adjusted person, under the best of circumstances. How can the addict, when encountering a moment that life pushes hard against him, manage to NOT get thrown right back over the edge, into the hole that is now wide open at his feet? Will he push back, armed with the lessons he learned that he is vulnerable, powerless, weak, manipulative, untrustworthy, dishonest, sneaky, self-centered, etc? Is this really his best defence? Are these really the tools that are the most effective?
Anyone in recovery needs to fill that hole with meaning, with purpose, with desire - and not desire for self-gratification, but desire to create something good, to share something important, to spread some joy. When the hole begins to fill with something of substance, a person begins to feel whole. There becomes less of a need to avoid everything that he is NOT, because he begins to see all that he IS, and all that he CAN BE.
This all starts with self-love.
Finding, maintaining, and actively appreciating a person’s self-love is a journey that lasts a lifetime. Fortunately, this leaves little time for self-deprecation.
Which is not to say that a person who follows these suggestions will never find time to be afraid of what’s coming, or to doubt himself, his path, and his choices. On any given day I may find myself mired in fear and doubt. I may not want to get out of bed or I may just be counting the hours until I get to get back into it. I may spend time going over my gratitude list or saying affirmations to myself in the mirror and wonder “Why am I wasting my time?” And there are many times that I ask myself “Isn’t there something - anything - that I can use to take the edge off?” This is a very dicey road to go down, obviously. As a former substance abuser, I know that, deep down, there will always be a part of me that yearns to ingest something that will get me out of the present moment and into a place of peace and quiet.
Is there something that I can take that won’t give me a buzz, and therefore create a false desire within myself to seek it out at times that are neither appropriate nor opportune?
When I was introduced to the world of essential oils, I had no idea how big a part they would play in my recovery. There are a variety of oils that have been used for centuries to encourage a way of living that is free from addiction. Additionally, there are oils that help create feelings of peace, serenity, grounding, and calm. I have often taken comfort in the knowledge that I have this blend of oils and others in my home, at my disposal. When things start to unravel, the blend helps induce a sense of calm so I can think straight. It helps me get a good night’s sleep, which is imperative for me to have the energy to face a new day. As with many addicts, I have issues with anger - that are tied in with depression and a host of other self-esteem issues - and the blend helps maintain an even-keel, without as many outbursts.
I suppose I still rely on substances to maintain my every-day existence, but the oils don’t lead to me losing all the things I hold dear - my family, my health, my self-respect, and my sobriety. They don’t get me high. They don’t create a false reality where all is euphoric and fantastic. Rather, they help me appreciate that which is good in my reality when I’m having a hard time staying level-headed, peaceful, and grateful.
And I don’t need a dealer, or even a prescription, to get them.