Okay, that title might be a little misleading because my courage doesn’t always rise at every attempt of somebody trying to intimidate me — HOWEVER, my courage always comes to the surface at some point after the fact — meaning I can confirm that despite delayed courage, I always learn from intimidating people, places and things, therefore becoming more equipped next time a similar intimidating *thing* happens. Key word is learning, because if you look at any “missed opportunity” as a failure, you’re missing the point entirely. It’s easy to give into self-pity, believe you me, but it’s when we accept and face the hard realities that we can then learn from and succeed (by whatever your definition of succeed is — life’s a choose your own adventure type thing, ya dig?) the next time we face something equally as difficult or intimidating.
Regardless — perspective is key. That’s literally half of any battle: perspective.
This post is dedicated to and inspired by recent conversations I’ve had, or by simply observing and absorbing the truths of others, that they’ve chosen to share.
Was it hard getting sober?
Is it hard staying sober?
Do you feel secure in your sobriety?
How do you deal with stress?
What do you do when you just want to run, scream, hide — or just flat out drink?
These are the most commonly asked, hardest yet easiest (remember — perspective) questions that circulate throughout the sobriety + recovery community on a daily basis.
Was it hard getting sober? For me, personally? Yes and no. It was hard getting sober until I finally saw the light (or was it the sign?) just kidding, once I saw my own reflection in the dingy piece of aluminum that was supposed to be mirror, inside a concrete room, while donning an orange jumpsuit, I realized and accepted plain and simple: I don’t want to do this anymore. I hit my proverbial rock bottom, and it was either go back to cyclically romancing the bottle, boys online, and my own refusal to get to know who the fuck I was which meant choosing the repetitiveness that had become my life, and lose everyone and everything around me or I put my big girl panties on, wise up, walk the fuck away from my self-destructive lifestyle as I knew it, and get my shit together. I went with the latter, and the rest is (more or less) history.
Before my “wake-the-fuck-up call” I followed all the textbook ways of curbing my high-functioning, substance abusing way of life. I tried moderation, I tried drinking beers that had lower ABV than my beloved IPA’s, I tried seeing how many days I could go without drinking — like a game! — only to bounce back full-force and drink like I was 21 all over again. It was never going to work, but I just kept myself too “sick” to care or bother to see it. I thought I could beat my addictive behaviors and substance abuse… if you can’t tell by now, or just didn’t read the paragraph above this one… spoiler alert: that it not how shit went down.
Is it hard staying sober? That’s gonna be a “nah” from me, dawg. It is not hard for me to stay sober. My motto since day one has been, “The only way to make a shitty day even more shitty, is by getting shitfaced.” Super family-friendly, very subtle, I know. But it works. Those 18-20 hours I got to sit in that lovely cement room defined the way I knew I’d look at the hard things life threw at me going forward. With the help of my intensive outpatient counselor, I learned coping skills that I’ll carry with me every day until I die. I’ve been to hell, I don’t want to go back, thanks.
Do you feel secure in your sobriety? Abso-fucking-lutely. The idea of willingly altering the chemicals in my body terrifies the living shit out of me. All those years I wanted to be in control but not really in control (you know… the Jedi mind tricks of the liquid liver killer), and the very idea of not being even remotely mentally inept or incapacitated absolutely terrifies me. I can’t remember who said it (Laura McKowen, maybe) but something along the lines of: putting alcohol in your body does not simply take the edge off, it lessens your power right along with it. The longer I’m sober + in recovery, the more powerful I can feel myself growing, and no amount of booze, no matter how shitty a day might be, is worth rendering myself less powerful than what I’ve worked so hard towards.
How do you deal with stress? It depends. No scenario involving stress is really ever the same, so I just have to get creative and find a way to listen to my body and what it needs in that moment. Another skill my IOP counselor taught me was to practice the “Three B’s”:
– Back up
– Be quiet
Sounds easy, right? Think again. Think of times you’ve been hella stressed, angry, frustrated, outraged, whatever — and how many of these times did you say or do something (out of impulsive passion, I’m sure) that you immediately regretted? Let’s focus in on the word impulsive. To act on impulse is to momentarily act or be swayed by an involuntary/influence of a particular feeling, mental state, etc. Now, let’s focus on the word momentarily. For something to momentarily occur, it means a brief happening. Brief = temporary. Transient. Like most feelings. Do you see where I’m going with this? Damn near all feelings, both good and bad, DO NOT LAST. Having a shitty day? Maybe a shitty week? Shitty month? Fuck. Guess what, babes? THAT. IS. ALL. TEMPORARY. It may not feel like it at all, but unless it’s something legitimately terminal, it’s gonna pass. If you were to act on impulse because of your temporary feelings, and do something like say or do something in that/those moment(s)… like, drink, or use, or self-harm, or whatever… the lasting result or impact from those choices will most certainly last MUCH longer than your feelings did. Oh look, another spoiler alert: IT’S NOT FUCKING WORTH IT.
What do you do when you just want to run, scream, hide — or just flat out drink? See the ten million words that preceded this last question? I basically run them all through my head, a gazillion times. I’m not going to lie and tell you I’ve never thought about or wanted to drink, because I definitely have, I’ve just never gave into those temporary feelings, because I know that if I give in — I’m only going to make things worse. I’ve come too far to only come this far, and I won’t let Satan’s juice back in my life. I don’t have time for it, I just don’t. If I want to run, I run inwards, not outwards. The only person who’s going to be able to deal with or solve any of my problems, is me. Sobriety and recovery has taught me accountability and responsibility. Neat, huh? If I want to scream, sometimes I do just that. I’ll go sit in my car and turn up an angry song, and yell at the top of my lungs right along with it. If I want to hide — well, with two kids, a job, a house, and all that other stuff — hiding is something I can’t do. I just have to deal. I may be hanging on by a thread, but my kids, my job, my house — they are all my privileges and my responsibilities. If I want to “escape” or “disappear” I have to make do with what I have, and find a way to healthily, therapeutically, and/or cathartically seek a release. Sometimes it’s going to bed right after the kids go to bed, sometimes it’s playing a mindless game on the iPad, sometimes it’s reading a book or a blog — some sort of activity that allows me to decompress and get out of my own head.
And there you have it! A “Back to Basics” style guide of what works for me, and has worked for me, since September 6, 2016.
If ever you feel like your inner demons or the depletion that comes from the daily grind are trying to intimidate your dedication to your sobriety, I hope you’ll rise to the occasion and meet them with courage.