Good events and bad events usually have invisible turning points. It isn’t until the obvious becomes obvious that you notice that a turning point has occurred. Destruction happens faster and is more obvious than the rebuilding. A lot of times you don’t see the destruction coming, such as the weakening of a dam or a funny sound coming from your car. But when the dam breaks or your transmission craps out then it suddenly becomes blatantly obvious that something happened.
Alcohol dependency or drug addiction is like this. It slowly builds and develops (or devolves) into a problem until a major calamity occurs—that’s when it becomes obvious. Dependency is a great example of an invisible turning point. I can’t think of anyone who has said, “Next week Tuesday I’m going to start my downward spiral as a drunk,” or, “this Wednesday I’m going to get addicted to heroin.”And even when drinking or drugs becomes an obvious problem some people will ignore it, or they’re so mentally muddled that they can’t see it or don’t want to accept the facts.
You don’t necessarily see problems coming, but then suddenly something bad happens or your problem becomes obvious. Then you start on your rebuilding process. At first it may seem like the greatest thing ever. Then in a few months or years you’re miserable, or you may be able to develop your sobriety into something wonderful. But you don’t always notice all of the subtleties of the rebuilding going on and you don’t always see the invisible turning point when things are beginning to get better.
People want obvious and immediate results. Don’t rely on or expect major and obvious turning points to occur. Look for and recognize the positive within invisible turning points. What at first seemed to be a small or insignificant decision may have been the catalyst to an invisible turning point for a wonderful outcome. The human mind prefers the obvious and wants to see correlations. i.e. “I did this so then that happened.” But the obvious and correlated aren’t always the case. Something may have simultaneously occurred that was out of sight or out of your awareness. Just acknowledge the turning point, be happy with it and work at making the best out of it.
There are more invisible turning points in life than visible turning points. Turning points aren’t always clear and there are multiple facets within any turning point. Having a child come into your world may be a joy, but that child will also come with responsibilities, duties and often some sacrifices on your behalf. Marriage may be a joy, but it will also come with responsibilities. Sobriety may be wonderful for you, but it will also come with hard decisions, sacrifices and self-control.
There are usually only a handful of major and obvious turning points in life: Graduating from school, choosing a college, choosing a career or certain job. Joining the military, getting married, getting divorced, having children or making the decision to live sober. But the wonderful turning points of sobriety (and life in general) aren’t always obvious.
Even when you do make major decisions and undertake major turning points, numerous invisible turning points continue to happen within the spectrum of the major decision you made. Quitting drugs or stopping excessive drinking are major decisions and major turning points, but many other invisible turning points will unfold and take place. You may suddenly realize one day that you no longer have the same level of cravings. You may realize that you no longer think about or feel like doing drugs or drinking. You may not consciously realize that you’re no longer always broke. (You might still be broke but at least it isn’t because you pissed your money away on booze.) You have to sit and think about these things. “Hey, I’m not completely broke. I don’t feel like shit every morning. I don’t have to remember who I pissed off, argued with or what I did last night.” An invisible turning point has taken place.
It is because of these invisible turning points that I highly recommend that you reward yourself—regularly—for staying clean and sober. (You don’t have to just reward yourself, you can share your reward with your family or friends.) I dedicate an entire chapter on building your own personal reward system in my book: Okay, I quit. Now what? Without constant rewards (even small ones), the invisible turning points slip by without conscious recognition. Having goals and rewarding yourself allows you to see goals achieved—turning points reached—and it helps galvanize your decision to stay clean and sober.
There will be many invisible turning points during your sober evolution. You will rarely wake up one morning and say, “Wow, as of today I no longer feel like drinking.” Turning points happen slowly. If you’ve genuinely changed your life into behaving as a non-drinker, you won’t even notice that the opportunities for temptation become fewer and farther between. If you’ve changed your life you will naturally not get yourself into dicey situations. And even when “tempting” conditions exist, you have turned a corner and can handle the situation. For instance, I have a part-time job where almost every Friday night my co-workers all get together and have a small party. It isn’t a wild booze party. People all bring a food dish and somebody whips out a guitar and starts playing and singing. Oh sure, the beer and wine is flowing, but not everyone there is a drinker. The focus of the gathering isn’t just to drink and get loaded. I typically hang out for about an hour and then slip away. I’m not tempted to drink—and I’m not turned off by others who are drinking—but I don’t feel like hanging out much longer than an hour. I have gotten through an invisible turning point. I can go to parties, hang out, have fun, engage in conversation, and then leave without feeling tempted to drink or feel as if I’m missing out on something. I don’t know when that turning point occurred, it was invisible.
Often there is no clear line of demarcation with turning points. You might meet someone and think they’re the greatest person ever. But you have no idea how it may turn out in 5 years. It might develop into a fantastic relationship. It might be pure hell after a year or two. It can be the same with sobriety. You don’t know how it will turn out, but at least you do know that you’ll be sober while life is unfolding, and that gives you a better chance of making life work in your favor.
Even my own decision to stop drinking was a major turning point (lifestyle change), but so many invisible turning points happened after the obvious decision to stop drinking. Many of those invisible turning points enabled for a lot of wonderful things to happen in my life. I can say without hesitation that I never would have had so many wonderful experiences and would absolutely NOT be living at the standard I do today had I kept drinking. However, some very painful and heartbreaking invisible turning points have also come with it. None the less, I have no regrets for making that major decision to stop drinking.
Additionally, I am often asked what my turning point was for me to make such a major decision. As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, downward spirals take time and my downward spiral took a long time—years in fact—to come to a full implosion. Yet there had been many major catastrophes along the way, but I always managed to drink my way through them. In my case, there really wasn’t a single event that turned me. It was a series of events that all collided at the same time. My predicament was that it was too late for me to fix or repair some of these catastrophes. However, I felt I had no other alternative. I knew that if I continued to drink, things would just get worse and worse consequences would follow. If I stopped drinking I could at least still save myself. (It was too late to salvage anything but myself.) I made the decision to change my life and to use my skills and my mind to figure out how to make the best out of all the unknowns and ugliness that was about to come my way. The only regret I have is that I didn’t make the decision sooner.
By understanding that there will always be invisible turning points, I have become calmer and happier with my status as a non-drinker. Now I look for those invisible turning points and I look for ways to make the best out of those turning points. I want my life to continuously keep changing for the better. When you reflect on your own invisible turning points you might see how those various turning points facilitated change and how you adapted to and accepted those changes. Most people don’t care for change, especially when it’s abrupt and dramatic. But slow and invisible turning points will ease you through the change. If you have made the conscious and obvious decision to live as a non-drinker or non-user, then please be patient with yourself. Allow time for the invisible turning points to take place and do what you can to see them, enjoy them and make the best out of them.
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 show your support by making a donation to my site, it’s done securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site I post a truthful report on my website of how much is donated and what all this costs me. Thank you for spending some of your very valuable time with me. Mark Tuschel.