A drowning person will frantically grasp at any item that floats to use it as a life preserver. They’ll even grasp at other people with life preservers or at those who can swim. But in their panicked struggle a drowning person will often endanger both themselves and other people. Substance overuse can be just like drowning. And in sticking with the drowning comparison, we have two situations here.
#1) Grasping for ANY life preserver.
#2) Endangering yourself or another person by desperately grasping on to them to keep yourself afloat.
In a panic to do something, newbies will often grasp onto anything in hopes that it will save them. They may not have a clear mind at the time so they will grasp at systems, medications, religions, other people or replacement substances. Any of those things might be fine at first, just to keep you afloat, but eventually you need to get to a place where you’re safe and comfortable. That may mean changing life preservers occasionally and eventually swimming on your own to safety.
When I first stopped drinking I grabbed on to all sorts of life preservers. (Actually I was in such physical and mental shock at first that it wasn’t until after about 30 days did I start grabbing for life preservers.) I grabbed at the AA life preserver, I grabbed at the religion life preserver and began going to church. I went to those places by myself because my wife continued drinking. I was alone, drowning and desperate so I also grasped on to all of my family and friends and bored them to death with my tales of woe.
As it turned out I didn’t care for the AA life preserver, but it served a purpose at the time. I wasn’t comfortable with the religion life preserver—I couldn’t say with total honesty that I believed in God or that I believed in a higher power. I would have been lying if I were to profess my belief, say that I’m powerless and pledge my allegiance to a group or any religion. All I wanted to do was live a relatively normal life as a non-drinker.
As time passed (about 6 to 9 months), I realized that all of these things that I was using as life preservers were simply floatation devices and I wasn’t going anywhere, I wasn’t making any progress, I wasn’t getting to a safe place. In fact, some of these life preservers were actually weighing me down, and I was endangering myself and some of the people I was hanging on to. I didn’t want to keep holding on to people who weren’t good for me and I didn’t want to be an annoying downer to my friends that I still hung out with. I know how to swim (both literally and figuratively), so I had to let go of these life preservers and some of these people. I had to swim on my own to a safe place.
That’s why I wrote my book, Okay, I quit. Now what? I wrote that book as a sobriety plan for myself. I had made a commitment to myself to stay clean and sober and I wanted to figure out how to make the best out of my life as a non-drinker—no matter how things would develop and turn out. Writing that book has helped me design an entire footlocker filled with life preservers—all custom designed to fit me. I believe that book will help you personally design your own unique life preservers. In the book I give examples and suggestions—but your choices of what to do are left up to you—because it’s YOUR life, not mine, I don’t tell you what to do.
So in the case of “re-invention” you often do have the choice of what life preserver you can grasp for. Find the one that fits you best and is the most comfortable on you. Eventually, you may be able to do just fine and not have to keep holding on to a life preserver. And sticking with my nautical theme here, you always want to have a life preserver when you’re on any boat. You don’t have to be wearing it at all times, but you want to have one handy and you want to know where it is. I’m a good swimmer and I won’t get on a boat until I know where the life preservers are. More than likely nothing’s going to happen, but I still want to know that I have one and where it is.
Living clean and sober is just like that. If you’re heading out with friends, going to an event or a party, you want to have your life preserver handy just in case you need it. Your life preserver is your sobriety plan. If the situation becomes dangerous, what’s your escape plan? How will you get yourself to safety? How will you make sure that you don’t find yourself drowning in a drink?
Look, if you want AA, NA, some group or a religion to be your life preserver, I’m certainly not going to try and talk you out of it. But remember what a life preserver is: it is an item to keep you afloat until you can get to safety. Once you’re safe you don’t keep wearing your life preserver—you take it off and go about rebuilding and living your life.
I’m almost 10 years clean and sober now, and you know what? I find myself still grasping at life preservers now and then. I still get depressed. I still feel lonely and life still throws its’ random handful of shit at me. Once in a while I do feel like drinking. Once in a while I do feel like getting loaded out of my skull so that I can forget all of my problems. But I remain calm, breath deep and fill my lungs with air so I can continue to float. I don’t want to grab at just any life preserver that’s handy—be it a drink, some junk, a religion, a system or a person. I just want to live a relatively normal life as a non-drinker. I use my own personal sobriety plan as my life preserver.
I sincerely hope that you get yourself to a safe place in life where you don’t have to constantly wear a life preserver. And if you do occasionally find yourself in the midst of a bad storm, make sure you have a life preserver handy and don’t be afraid to use it. Just make sure that it’s the right life preserver for YOU.
These are my own opinions and observations. Think for yourself and come to your own conclusions. If you enjoy this stuff or get something out of it please tell your friends about my blog, podcasts and website. It’s LivingSoberSucks.com. You can find my books in paperback, eBook and if you prefer, you can get my Audiobooks. They’re all available through Amazon, Apple, all sorts of places. I put my blog, podcasts and website out for people to access FREE of charge. If you like what I do and what I write about, you can support me by making a donation to my site, it’s done securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site I show a truthful report on my website of how much is donated and you can clearly see that I’m not making money doing this. Thank you for spending some of your very valuable time with me. Mark Tuschel.