Tools, and learning to use them

Sobriety is scary as hell. No, seriously – it really is.

When I was drinking, I could hide. It was a tool that I subconsciously used to keep from realizing my full potential, happiness, or any semblance of success. It made me numb, and for a few hours at a time, completely unconcerned about anything. I didn’t have to think about the person I’d become, the person I had been in the past, or the person I wanted to be. I didn’t have to think at all.

Why would anyone choose to completely check out from life, and all it has to offer? I suspect the reasons vary. For me, it was guilt and shame. I didn’t believe I deserved happiness or success, and so I set off on a mission of self-sabotage, and I took that mission seriously. In fact, it was the most important mission of my existence. It’s what kept me so committed to vodka for so many years.

If I wasn’t in an alcohol-induced stupor, the demons from my past would creep in- all the regrets, the bad decisions, the lies I’d told – and I couldn’t handle it.

Some people cut themselves. Some take pills, snort or inject their drugs of choice. I just happened to drink mine.

Being sober is liberating and confidence-building. It’s like waking up from a years-long coma and realizing all the important ingredients that make for a good life are still there. I just have to put them together in the right quantities and combinations to make something pleasing. It’s like baking a cake!

It’s also a lot easier said than done.

Or is it?

The other side to sobriety is that it’s very demanding. I can’t hide anymore. Everything I do – or don’t do – is the result of conscious effort, since the means to escape to la-la-land no longer exist for me.

I live with my past now. My failures, successes and triumphs. I try to focus on my present, and on the future, but realize there’s not a lot of room for that as long as I allow myself to remain weighed down by yesterday.

If I’m to continue punishing myself for who I used to be, I still can, but being sober means I’d have to do it on purpose. I’d have to knowingly take action against my own best interests (and by extension, against what’s best for those I love the most).

Now that it’s no longer mindless, it’s not so easy to do.

After coming out the other side of a battle like the one I’ve just fought, continuing to punish myself is not the easy way to go anymore. In contrast, putting myself out there in the universe, moving forward, trying to do everything in my power to contribute and to be present is no longer the difficult path to take.

In fact, it’s the only path left.

The trick is in learning how to do it, and how to do it right. I’ve spent so many years running, escaping and punishing myself, that doing the opposite – standing tall, facing the world, loving who I am, and yes, even accepting my past – takes some skills I have yet to fully learn.

What I do have are the tools to make it happen. I just need to figure out how to use them.

 

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