I thought everything was going to be perfect when I got sober… what happened?
Life has very few grey areas. There are distinct colors and hues to life.
Colors are often used to describe recovery stages and life moods in general. For example you hear people say, “I’m feeling blue. Her future looks bright. There are dark clouds brewing, “or “She’s on a pink cloud.”
Some things in life do fall into a grey area, but most things don’t. Pregnancy isn’t a grey area. You can’t be “kind of” pregnant. Either you are or you aren’t. Your pregnancy can make you happy or sad or both at the same time and at different times. You can’t be “kind of” married. Either you are or you aren’t. Being married can be a joy or a burden and often it flips back and forth between the two. You can’t be “kind of” sober. Either you are or you aren’t. Sobriety can be great for you or it can be a suffering or it can go back and forth. And there is no guarantee that sobriety (pregnancy or marriage), will bring only bright colors into your life. The emotions and life conditions of sobriety don’t come in one single color. Living life sober is not always bright or dark; it’s not even grey. In sobriety, some things are brilliant white, some are the darkest of black, some are varying hues of happy pink and others are an unappealing shade of monkey vomit green. At least that’s how sobriety is for me.
It seems that some people feel as if living sober is a grey area. “I only drink on weekends. I only drink beer. I don’t drink to get drunk, I drink to feel better.” It doesn’t matter to me whether you drink or not. It doesn’t matter to me if you only drink on weekends, if you only drink beer or if you only drink (or get drunk) once in a while. It should only matter to YOU if you drink or not, especially if your drinking is creating problems in your life. Your consumption or drinking lifestyle may be a problem if it’s harming other people (the people you love or are responsible for), or if it’s adversely effecting your job, career or education advancement. But it’s still up to YOU if you will drink or not drink. Drinking or NOT drinking is pretty clear.
It’s black and white, there is no “grey area” to sobriety—either you’re sober or you’re not. And even though drinking or not drinking is black and white, neither is right or wrong. It’s up to you to decide whether it’s right or wrong—for YOU.
A peculiar aspect of being clean and sober is that many colors and hues happen (or are felt) simultaneously. For instance, you may be facing the darkest of problems when suddenly an unrelated ray of bright light shines in. This doesn’t melt the colors together into one single grey, each of the colors are felt uniquely. One color may blend into the other, making a dark moment look brighter or the bright, happy moment look muted and a little darker, but I find that I can experience differing emotions at the same time,
I’m sure you do as well. I don’t recall having that ability when I was drunk or drugged out —I was either happy or pissed off, and switching between the two could happen at any moment without warning.
I can also say that I haven’t woken up once with a hangover since the day I stopped drinking. I haven’t once had to apologize for saying or doing something I regret while being drunk. I haven’t once had feelings of shame, guilt or self-loathing due to drinking. Believe me, I’ve said things I needed to apologize for, done some real bonehead things and there are plenty of decisions I’ve made that I have regrets about. But all of those rude statements and bonehead decisions were done with a clear mind. I felt that I was doing the right thing at the time. There’s a lot of things in life that you don’t see the results until a month, six months, a year or 5 years later, but that’s just part of being sober.
What’s my point with all this? Well the emotions and results of living clean and sober aren’t black and white. It isn’t even grey. It’s a wide variety of colors all happening at once. Getting load
ed is a way to try and change the colors you don’t like, but it’s not a very good way. You can attempt to drink your way into a bright spot, but that can easily turn into a dark abyss. When you’re drunk, colors become distorted (and so do people’s appearances). It’s difficult to see and experience the reality of life’s colors through a drunken mind.
I believe there are ways to assist yourself so that your life’s colors won’t be distorted and that you move towards the colors you desire. First, by avoiding or eliminating mind altering substances from your life you will be able to get a truer picture of the colors in your life. Next, having tangible and realistic goals helps you move towards the colors you desire. Every goal may not be accomplished, but the pursuit of a worthwhile goal keeps you in a brighter spot. Finally, stability in life helps. You don’t have to love or even like your job, but if it’s stable, that gives you something solid to stand on. Responsibilities can create stability. If you have children or you’re in a relationship, being responsible to your children (and your partner) can bring stability. Stability and responsibility doesn’t automatically turn your colors brighter, but it can give them clear definition.
Life continues to move along regardless of if you’re drunk or sober. Good things still happen and bad things still happen. Bright spots and dark spots will always come along. A constant grey doesn’t sound all that interesting to me. A wide variety of colors makes life more vibrant. And for me, living as a non-drinker and non-user has allowed me to see, feel and experience many more of life’s colors, even when I’m not all that fond of the color combinations.
This is my journey… this is my life!
“I sure can get phony when I get scared …. I stick my nose up in the air… stony… stony when I get scared!” – Joni Mitchell
Have you ever met someone that instantly made you feel unwelcomed? You can’t quite put your finger on it… but you know you’ll always be guarded around them. Over the past year, I’ve experienced that feeling every time I’m around one particular guy. I see him at social gatherings, my temple and community functions and the reception is always uncomfortable. I realize that I’m the type of person you either instantly like or hate… My personality is over the top and I irritate lots of innocent people. That being said, this man has made it clear which side of the street he’s standing. After an encounter with him today, I realized maybe I’m not the problem… maybe he has insecurities he hasn’t conquered.
Every person in the world has something he or she is insecure about even if only slightly. I could fill a sports arena with mine and have plenty left for the parking lot. Education has always been so important to me. I believe in part because my father is well educated. He was a school teacher and could talk with authority on almost any topic. I love his ability to reason and make difficult decisions. I’ve spent my entire adult life enrolled in some sort of educational program… but I never felt intellectually adequate. As a dyslexic with ADHD, traditional methods of learning have been a struggle. I’m a fairly smart guy… I have three college degrees… I’m just racked with insecurities that control my life. When I received my undergraduate degree and first MBA, I didn’t attend the graduations. I felt that if I could get the degrees they were of little value. The pattern followed me into three PhD programs… I was accepted… I did well… I quit. I allowed fear and insecurities to rule my life… untreated depression and substance abuse didn’t help the situation.
After years of personal therapy and even more years strapped to textbooks, I’ve learned a little insecurity is manageable … a lot of it in certain areas can ruin your life. When I got sober I had to face my demons… For me the only way of ridding myself of insecurity is to put myself out there and live through whatever I fear. Believe me… the process sucks, but I think it holds true for everyone to just do it!
Logically, I understand self-doubt is irrational. Insecurity is irrational. Irrationality has no place in my life. All it does is frustrate me when I don’t get the results I’m hoping for. Those that live an insecure life don’t live a happy life.
I know from experience insecure individuals don’t have the confidence to try their hand at enough things. That’s why they have so much trouble figuring out what they really want to do in life. The only way you can figure out how you should best live your life is by testing things out. You try things until you figure out what does and what doesn’t work for you, calculating the probability that the following test will result in positive experiences. You try, you learn, you draw conclusions and you try again… that’s the only way to live. Those that are insecure hold themselves back from trying new things. The more you’re insecure, the less likely you are to find the ideal life. Personally, I think that’s a stupid tradeoff.
Insecure people live in a world of fear of judgment. The more insecure you are, the more that insecurity weighs on your mind. You think more about it and think less about anything else. You live in fear, hoping that no one notices how flawed you are, even if only in one regard. You’re scared of interacting with people because you don’t want them to see through you. People judge… that’s the way we’re built. The real question is: Why does it matter to you so much? Most people won’t be as upset with your flaw as you imagine to begin with. And those that are, never really matter.
Sadly, they half-ass everything and end up living a half-assed life. Things only matter when we decide they matter. How much they matter depends on how much importance and meaning we give them. Your life is exactly that… the more you put in, the more it means. The less you put in, the less you try and the more you avoid responsibility for your life and your actions, the less meaning your life has.
The insecure can never entirely be themselves… they always hold themselves back. Being insecure doesn’t excuse you from functioning within society. For this reason, they function under a false pretense, pretending to be people they aren’t. They hide their flaws and therefore hide themselves. If you’re insecure about something then either change it or remove it from your thoughts. What you can’t change isn’t worth worrying about. Don’t live your life in a shell. All the fun starts when you jump out of it.
Because they never attempt to be themselves, they never really find themselves or get to know themselves the way they should. Most people don’t know themselves well because they don’t take the time to get to know themselves. The only way to get to know yourself is to live and see what happens… see how you react in certain situations, see what you enjoy and what you dislike, experience the world and find your place in it. If you aren’t honest with the world about who you are then you’ll never find a place in it.
Essentially, insecure people live in a world filled with denial. You’re not perfect, but no one is. The only thing you should be insecure about is being irrational and illogical – everything else is subjective and out of your control. By being insecure, you are telling yourself that you’re not good enough the way you are. That’s a lie. You’re accepting a lie as the truth. That’s the textbook definition of denial.
They miss out on the best things that life has to offer. Insecurity forces you to live less… literally. You do less and worry more, accumulating negative thoughts and missing out on new experiences and memorable moments. Life has so much to offer if you go out there and take what is given to you. You have opportunities to explore and grow as an individual daily. Choosing not to take advantage of it all is a waste of a life. Life is hard enough as it is; take whatever freebies are thrown your way.
I have a feeling the guy I mentioned earlier is never going to call and invite me over for a hamburger. Somehow I’ll survive the rejection…. I won’t be happy about it… but it isn’t my issue… it’s his.
There’s a prayer that says to accept the things you can’t change, change the ones you can and figure out the difference between the two. That sounds like a pretty good plan to me.