Am I expecting too much out of life and sobriety? Am I demanding too much? Or do I just want too much? Maybe I should expect less and accept less and “live life on life’s terms.” But that sounds a bit defeatist to me. Accepting how things are seems like I’m giving up. “Oh well, life sucks, I might as well just accept it.” Fuck no! I won’t accept it. I will think and work my way out of this.
I feel I need to do more of what’s right and stop worrying about what I might be doing wrong. There is value in reviewing what I’m doing wrong, but ruminating and belaboring it sounds counterproductive. So what is it that I do right that makes me feel happier? Staying busy makes me happy. Working and challenging my mind makes me feel happy—but those 2 things are mentally taxing HARD WORK and I don’t always feel like doing hard work.
Sober living has its ebb and flow, ups and downs, but so does life, whether you’re drunk, high or sober. During the “blue” periods I can find myself blaming sobriety for a boring or uneventful life. There is rarely any logic backing up this kind of thinking. How can I be sad, depressed or feel unenthusiastic about life? If I met me and told me my story and described all the fantastic experiences I’ve had as a non-drinker, I would tell myself to fuck off.
Is booze the magic elixir that makes life worth living? No, it’s the magic elixir that gets me drunk and makes me believe that life is better than it is, that I’m better than I actually am, that I’m stronger, better looking and richer than I am. It works for about 15 minutes, sometimes up to a couple of hours. But then the reality that I’m just a regular, average person reappears and I must pay the price of my drinking, that’s if I drank.
But I don’t drink and haven’t in over 9 years, so my reality of being a regular, average person is glaringly apparent to me. That in itself isn’t the depressing part, what seems to be depressing is the search for something natural in life that gives me the same sensation as drinking. But there is NO replacement for booze. If there was I would buy it. It can, at times, feel like I want to say, “Is this it? Is this all there is? Well fucking kill me now then.”
There is absolutely nothing that can justify me going back to drinking or getting high. It may temporarily mask any perceived disappointments I have now and it would only manifest into self-disgust. I cannot become the orchestrator of my own miserable life.
These are the weird struggles of living as a non-drinker. For a time things in life improve and my mind wants them to keep improving. I want things to exponentially keep getting better. Then, when a flat, low or blue period comes along I don’t give up but I might stop trying. I become lazy and begin feeling sorry for myself and want to blame somebody or something. “I quit drinking so many years ago and shit still goes wrong. How is this possible?” Booze isn’t taunting me, I’m taunting myself with my own mind. In reality a lot of things have been going right and I forget that, in fact, I’ve been avoiding a lot of shit going wrong. Had I given in to drinking, under the false impression that my life would improve or at least be less miserable, who knows how many worse things would have spiraled out of control. A bad event avoided or averted isn’t consciously seen as a good event. What is avoided isn’t seen.
At these moments I have choices to make. I can sit and wait for something good to happen or I can force myself to do what I know I must do—which is get busy being productive, even when I don’t have the enthusiasm to do so. I’ve come to learn that my happiest moments are when I’m fully engaged or immersed in worthwhile work. Not necessarily the “labor” of a job type of work, but doing something productive, even if it’s as simple as making dinner and washing my dishes. Some of that is dull and seemingly boring but it’s still productive. In ways it’s just “busy work,” but at least my life and my living environment isn’t a mess. When everything within eyesight around me is a mess, I feel like everything is a mess within me and that I don’t have control. I can reverse that psychological phenomenon and use it in my favor. When I take control of the simplest things I feel more in control of my life. As long as I get busy, inevitably I begin to feel better about my environment and myself, even if I don’t see immediate or apparent results from my work effort.
For me I begin by making a handwritten list of what I want or needs to be accomplished. I will also write out the actual activities that need to be undertaken to complete each of these items. Then I methodically start working on the list. Writing this blog and recording the podcast is one project. Continued work on my next book is another project. Domestic chores, exercising and fun activities are also listed. I use relaxation and fun activities as my reward for when I’ve completed something that I would consider as “work.” If I just sit here doing nothing then nothing will ever get done and I’ll feel even worse and probably feel like sobriety is a wasted effort. I can’t expect, demand nor even want sobriety—in and of itself—to make my life wonderful. Sobriety simply offers mental clarity. I must take action and use that mental clarity to open the doors for good and successful events to take place.
All of these little exercises and activities may not change factual conditions which exist, (physical or mental health issues, financial issues, limited job opportunities, loneliness, unhappy relationships, boredom, whatever you might be faced with in your life), but activity will help you with forward momentum towards overcoming and breaking through these factual conditions.
I feel this is worth repeating: If I just sit here and wallow in my mire, thinking how miserable and powerless I am, I’ll never break out of my funk. When I think about what I have done right, what is within my control and what I am capable of doing to improve my situation, I begin moving forward out of my funk. I’ll admit that at times it seems like I can’t do anything right. That’s when I’ll do some of the most basic, simplest activities—things I know that I can’t fuck up, like cleaning my house or going through mail. I need to get a few small successes under my belt so I have the confidence to get back in the saddle so to speak. This is a war of mental challenges. I refuse to lose the war, especially if I’m losing it to myself.
Please don’t ever give up and don’t be a defeatist. Yes, honestly accept how things are and then use your mind to figure out how to make the best of it. Look at what you may be doing wrong and then stop doing it. Invest more of your mental energy and thoughts towards what you do right and do more of them. Expect nothing from sobriety but demand the highest level of effort from yourself.
I’m not offering false hopes. One small success will spark the next. This may be what you need to get you through today and tonight so that you’ll be ready to fight again tomorrow. Never give up your own fight.
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 website. It’s LivingSoberSucks.com. If you like what I do and what I write about, you can help me pay for all this by making a donation to my site, it’s done securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site Donations are NOT tax deductible. Thanks for spending some of your very valuable time with me.