So many of the advantages to being sober are the free things. The things you don’t have to work for or struggle to achieve.
For example, while reading Bye Bye Beer’s marvelous post about Robins, i realized that less and less of my life feels like a routine. Not that my day-to-day is dramatically different (excepting, of course, the absence of hangovers and the time spent in AA meetings), but the longer i’m sober, the more each day is different, which means unique.
Which means special.
Part of the bonus plan of long-run sobriety and one more thing to add to my Gratitude List.
Every night i add to my Gratitude List, which i keep on a diary app on my phone. Tonight i wrote i’m grateful that “i no longer hide from my problems.”
The funny thing was, my phone autocorrected “hide” as “use”.
Sometimes my smartphone really is.
To begin, here’s a new entry to my GlossAAry. (Yes, it’s pertinent…there’s a madness to my method!)
Where the pink elephants used to live, and what you have left now they’ve gone.
Right next to Cloud Nine, the Pink Cloud is the feeling of relief you feel when you stop pounding your head against the stone wall of inebriation, convinced you will somehow break through.
Not everyone experiences this high in the first year of sobriety, and usually those that do get it say that it lasts only a few months.
In my previous post, where i discussed how the second year of recovery presents some unique challenges, fellow Recovery Artist Mrs D left a comment saying,
Oh, I want to know more about this .. heading as I am into my second year…
i think in my case, one of the reasons i’m finding it harder to trudge the road of Happy Destiny in Year 2 A.D. (After Drinking) is that i did experience the Pink Cloud. If i remember correctly, it began in my 2nd month of sobriety and lasted about 2 months total. After that, the feelings faded.
Why? Since i was feeling good every day, feeling good became the new norm. If you win the lottery daily, there comes a point when you stop throwing a party over it.
How can we fight this complacency? One of the tools i use is the Gratitude List. Reminding myself of how far i’ve come and the misery i came from is powerful encouragement.
The only other way to really get a taste of the hell i escaped from is to have a taste of the hell i escaped from, and that’s just crazy talk. i’ll take a boring day in Heaven over a rough day in Hell any time.
First off, there’s this addition to the GlosAAry…
Gratitude = Great + Attitude.
Taking a break from living to appreciate life. Gratitude for an addict means recognizing and appreciating the gifts recovery has brought–things the disease had promised but never delivered.
A common suggestion for alcoholics in recovery is to keep and regularly update a Gratitude List of all the things that sobriety has given them which drinking took away.
When i first started my recovery, my sponsor told me to keep a Gratitude List. Simply put, it was supposed to be a list of all the things i was grateful for, so i put things down like, “My Family”, “My Apartment”, My Job”…
It took a little while, but then i clued into the fact that the idea isn’t to write a “Rainbow Pony” list of all the things i appreciate and like, but rather a concrete enumeration of all the things i have because of Recovery and wouldn’t have without it.
My list changed to:
- i’m less angry
- i’m less depressed
- i now have the courage to continue trying
- i’m better at extracting myself from unpleasant situations
- i enjoy good times more completely
- i appreciate music more
- i need fewer breaks from my day
- i panic less
- i see my defaults more clearly and in their proper perspective
- i’m a better example for my children
- i’m better at prioritizing
- i’m more honest about admitting my mistakes
- i get more done
The list goes on and on…
Now, if i ever face a situation where i’m tempted to drink, i’ll be able to look back on this list and see all of the things i’ll be giving up. Or, even more likely, if i get too confident and start thinking i’ve got my addiction under control, i can reread these items and see all the things recovery gave me that i could never get for myself.
Powerful tool, that.
i’m wrapping up Step 6 of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-Step Program…
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
My super Sponsor who is older than dirt and wise beyond his years is not too keen on the whole self-flagellation thing and i must say i think anyone in AA who focuses on the negative doesn’t really get the program. It says in the literature that we are all about spiritual progress, not spiritual perfection. Hell, my perfectionism is what got me into trouble in the first place. i placed such high (no pun intended!) demands on myself that i needed alcohol to console me when i inevitably failed to live up to my own unrealistic expectations.
In order to demonstrate how entirely ready i am to remove my defects of character, my sponsor told me to write a list of what i was like when i drank and what i’m like sober so that i can have black & white evidence of how i’ve already started removing my defects of character and to encourage me to keep heading down this path.
i also decided to look at my Step 1 list again. In Step 1 (“We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable”), i wrote down all of the ways in which my life had become unmanageable and i thought now would be a good time to see how far i’d grown.
In conclusion, i’m far from perfect but i’m better off than i was and everyday sees me stronger than the day before. i’m definitely looking up!
The other night i was doing my Gratitude List in bed. At the top of the list, i always put “Sobriety” to remind myself that it’s thanks to my sobriety that i have other things to be grateful for.
Looking back on my day, it didn’t take me long to find that i was grateful for a chat i had with my 17-year-old. It wasn’t so much the talk about his life and friends that i appreciated—it was the way, in passing (he’s 17, everything he does is in passing!), he thanked me for listening.
When i put on my Gratitude List that i was grateful for “the desire to listen to loved ones more closely”, i asked myself why it was that i didn’t do that more in the past.
The answer came to me immediately: It was because i didn’t think i deserved my kids.
Hell, back then i didn’t think i deserved music. i remember moments in the evening when i thought i should put on some tunes before deciding, “Nah, i’m not good enough for music.” If my self-esteem was that low, you can see why i hated myself as a father.
Sobriety hasn’t convinced me that i’m a good father but, along with letting me appreciate music again, it has showed me that my kids deserve a better father and sobriety has set me on the path to that place.
i always forget all the magic that hides inside the program.
For the past couple of weeks, i’ve been feeling a little on edge and those dreaded symptoms of poor poor me have been washing over me. Fortunately, i’ve been with the program long enough to know that these are symptoms and the cure is to turn up the frequency on my meetings.
So last week i went to a meeting i haven’t hit for months. They read from Living Sober and the chapter the speaker “happened” to chose from that night was about self-pity. Because, you see, there are no accidents in my program. Coincidence just means my Higher Power has been busy working in my life.
The lesson i needed to learn, the reason i attended that meeting, was to understand that when i begin to feel sorry for myself, i have to remember all that is right in my life. All that i’m taking for granted.
i will add to my Gratitude List every day, being sure to include things i am grateful for that i would not have had if i was still drinking.
Suddenly i realize i’m more blessed than i have ever been.
Be it Recovery or just Plain Life, we are none of us alone in this journey.
There are the people who have blazed the trail before us, now showing us the way. There are those who march beside us, cheering us along. There are those, too, who walk behind us, pushing us forward on our paths.
This post is a Thank You to you, my readers, the Enlighteners. You are brightening my way, and i wouldn’t want to try this without you.
[This post was inspired by a reply i started to Melis, who was visiting from her blog, iamnotshe.]
The most irritating thing about me? Hmm, there are so many…
i guess i’d have to say my good mood.
One thing i’m starting to recall in my sobriety is that i’m naturally happy. It was easy to forget because during the last few months of my drinking, i woke up sad and got progressively worse as the day wore on. i had no energy and each early afternoon saw me crash and burn. i was plagued by paralyzing fear.
Now, mornings start off well and get better. i wake up with faith in the day and it usually doesn’t disappoint. Sure, some days are harder than others but even during the roughest ones, i have an optimism that it will get better. And then it does.
BTW, you know how annoying young love is when you’re not the one in it? My new found love of life really bugs the crap out of others!
i used to joke about how i had to drink because i was a writer. “i don’t like to drink,” i’d laugh, “but it’s part of the job description.”
More seriously, i was scared to death that when i stopped drinking, i’d stop writing. That somehow my ideas came from a dream machine fueled by alcohol, that my creativity was a flame fanned by the fumes of booze, that my talent was a spirit watered by spirits and that when i went dry so would the well that held the ink that spelled my destiny.
Like with everything else, i could not have been more wrong. (That’s what i get for trying to think and why i’m definitely giving thinking up indefinitely.)
Apparently alcohol was a wet blanket that smothered my thoughts, ideas, feelings, ideas and inspiration. When i was in college, i used to stay up until 4AM caressing the keys of an Apple IIe with all the lights out except the green glow of the words spilling across the screen.
In the last few years, i wondered what happened to that all consuming passion to write, that need to write that kept me up all night and now i know it didn’t go anywhere. It’s been here below the surface the entire time but the problem is that “below the surface” is the first place to go under when the flood waters flow. i was literally drowning my happiness with alcohol.
It is now 1:42AM and i’m going to bed because i have a wife i want to share my life with but i’m buzzing write now with the sheer joy of playing with these words.