Although the opioid epidemic needs to remain at the forefront in our efforts to help those addicted. (The death rate from overdoses continue to rise.) We should not forget the problems many people face due to excessive use of alcohol. A substance that robbed me of many things, including my happiness, until I got help over 21 years ago. I can’t truthfully say that I may have died. I didn’t drink every day and I still had my health. But I can say I was dying emotionally and spiritually.”
The word obsess comes from the Latin word obsidere, one meaning of which is “to besiege.” Being someone who has, at times, obsessed over something, I can say that if we’re not careful, thoughts can besiege our minds, take us out of the present moment, and rob us of any enjoyment we might otherwise experience. In my drinking days, I often obsessed about one thing or another, and depending on what it was, I could find myself filled with such emotions as resentment, anger, self-pity, or anxiety. This was always wasted time on my part; I never looked for solutions if there was a problem. And nothing I obsessed over was ever as bad as I originally thought it was. But mostly, I simply could not stop thinking about something once it became ingrained in my thought processes.
Fortunately, I learned how to turn these types of thoughts around, so to speak. Whatever it was I started to obsess about, with practice, I was able to keep it to a minimum and eventually stop thinking about it altogether. The practice I speak of was to literally redirect my thoughts to something else, something fun, or telling myself how pointless it was to keep thinking about it. And I often talked to someone about whatever I was obsessing over. It took time to break free of obsessive thinking, but it was never as bad as the days when all I could think about was getting drunk. That obsessiveness almost always led to the same conclusion: my mind besieged with worry, distress, and often hopelessness after a night out drinking.
I celebrated 21 years of continuous sobriety this month. I went from calling myself a high bottom alcoholic, to a recovered alcoholic, and at some point I called myself a self-proclaimed alcoholic. But eventually it no longer mattered what I called myself. The bottom line is that I was a problem drinker who needed to be something I wasn’t, full of fears and insecurities that made me unhappy, and I was often quite lonely and sad.
Thankfully that all changed after waking up hung over on April 27th, 1996, sick to my stomach and afraid that the argument I started with my wife the night before had cost me my family. Fortunately, it somehow didn’t, and the rest is history as they say. But I’ll add that it was hard and scary along the way at times.
I didn’t drink every day, and I was far from the stereotypes one sees in movies and on TV, bottoming out and losing everything. But I had bottomed out emotionally and spiritually, and at the time I only knew of one place I could go to get help—Alcoholics Anonymous.
I wrote about my experience there in my book, and how the Twelve Steps helped me to love myself and be happy in life. And I wrote about some of the answers I found outside the rooms of AA that helped me find even greater happiness. But this post isn’t about AA or my book. It’s about the two answers I didn’t find.
It frightens me some days that there may not be something after we die. And I’m still not sure what my true purpose is in life.
Yes I have a book and a blog. Yes I help people with substance use problems. And yes I currently work helping people with mental illnesses. But I have to wonder why my prayers of being able to financially support myself while writing more books and helping more people haven’t been answered?
One might say that vanity has something to do with it. If I get a swelled head and begin to think I’m more important than what I am, I could end up drinking again, right? But I’ve ruled this out. A lot of things have contributed to my growth and my happiness, and I know drinking would rob me of that. Plus I have never been more humble in my life. I don’t have a lot of money, an expensive car, or a big home. And I’m aware that I still have a lot more growing to do, both spiritually and as a person.
So what is it then? Why haven’t I achieved my dream yet? No god? Not my purpose to help the many people suffering from what has become better known as a chronic, progressive disease of the brain? Maybe I’m just not qualified? Maybe a book and blog doesn’t make me an expert on addiction and helping others? And if there is a god of some kind. Maybe I’m not supposed to be famous or well-known in the field of addiction?
I’m not sure if the answer as to whether or not there’s a god will ever be answered. And I can only hope that the term “when preparation meets opportunity” becomes a reality for me. But I can honestly say that there have been some signs that I’m on the right path in life.
I celebrated 21 years of continuous sobriety this month. I went from calling myself an alcoholic, to a recovered alcoholic, and at some point a self-proclaimed alcoholic. But it no longer matters what I call myself. I don’t need to be something I’m not, and I’ve learned how to overcome my fears and insecurities. I’m no longer lonely. And although I feel sad on some days, finally being happy with who I am sustains me during those times and the sadness never lasts.
So I guess I’ll simply keep trying to believe that something created life and the universe for a reason and that we do have a purpose while we’re here. And not worry about the answers.
If my sobriety has taught me anything, it’s that we can create our own happiness, and that living in the present moment is one of the best ways to achieve it.
I enjoy helping others. It makes me feel good about myself, and gives me a sense of achievement.
The definitions listed below are why I think most people’s troubles come from insecurity, and not ego like many spiritual gurus state. The third definition of ego comes from insecurity. It is a false sense of ego used to overlook our fears and insecurities, and help us feel better about ourselves. I should know. I had a false ego all through my life—even into my early sobriety. It was in my sobriety, however, that I was able to become more self-confident and grow to love myself. I also found greater happiness in life. Especially after finally becoming happy with who I was.
It is those things that I want for others. It’s why I do what I do to help people. Not because of ego. And not because of insecurity. But because of who I’ve become.
ego: 1. A person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance. 2. The part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity. 3. An overly high opinion of oneself
insecurity: 1. Uncertainty or anxiety about oneself; lack of confidence.
Whether we’re aware of it or not, there are different levels of things we experience both in life and as a person. For instance. There are different levels of wealth or debt we occur. Different levels of happiness we experience. Different levels of love we feel for people. Different levels of faith one can have. And for the sake of this writing, there are different levels of confidence we can have in ourselves.
For some of us, it takes time and different experiences to grow more self-confident, and there are occasions when we need to talk to someone when we have doubts in our lives. Doing so can help us uncover any underlying fears and insecurities we may have and better understand why we have them.
I have a lot of confidence in myself these days, but it certainly doesn’t mean I’m more confident than some of you reading this, or that I’m completely free of insecurity. But I know that as long as I’m willing to learn from certain things I go through, and use what I learn to improve on myself, my confidence will continue to grow. One of the more recent experiences that helped me reach a higher level of self-confidence was going to college.
I first dreamed of going back to school in 2003, and although I would get quite an education through helping people with addictions and counseling teenagers, I still always wanted to attend college someday. I believe education can add to our personal growth, and when circumstances came into play that would allow me to obtain an associate degree in drug and alcohol counseling, I was excited for the opportunity. I must admit, though, that while I thought I already knew a lot about counseling and addiction, I would learn many more things, and I would also learn more about myself.
I really enjoyed going to college. In some ways it reminded me of when I was in high school. Just like back then, I would often display a sense of humor in the classroom and have fun with some of the teachers.
Besides being the funny guy at times, I also participated in discussions we had in some of the classes. I liked sharing my thoughts on whatever the topic was, and I could be quite passionate about it at times. Most people didn’t seem to mind, and a few would say they liked what I shared, which made me feel good, but I could tell a few of them didn’t care about my views. I just wrote it off as thinking they just didn’t get me, but something would happen later that year to make me see there was more to my active participation than I realized.
In one of my classes during the last semester, just after one of my soap box exhibitions about something I don’t even remember now, someone joked about me going on for so long and a young lady, who was actually defending me, spoke up and said. “He just has a lot to say.” Everyone laughed, including me and the teacher, but it opened my eyes to the fact that I had been feeling a very strong need to share my views all the time. A lot of what I had to say came from the passion I felt about helping others, and participating in class seemed like the perfect outlet for it. But after that day, I made it a point to try to show more restraint in sharing my views and I often sat quietly while others shared theirs.
In my second year, although I continued to show restraint in most discussions, something began changing inside of me, and by the time the last semester got under way I knew there was more to my need to share than just passion. During that semester, I didn’t always agree with some of the things we talked about in class or with certain things I read in some of the books about addiction. Much of what we discussed from these books had to do with stereotypical alcoholics and addicts, and I felt the class needed to hear more about people like me who didn’t drink everyday, but still had a problem.
I was also proud of the knowledge I had obtained from working with people with addictions and it frustrated me when I felt some of my views weren’t being taken seriously. This wasn’t actually the case, as I knew some of the students liked and trusted what I had to say, but it’s how I allowed myself to feel at times. Fortunately, though, as the semester progressed I would realize what was actually making me feel the way I did.
I had begun having doubts earlier that year about some of my personal views on counseling and addiction and I let it affect my self-confidence. I also felt like my identity was slipping away and I no longer felt as good about myself as I once did. The good news, though, was that I fought these insecurities and I was determined to emerge with what I would later call a quiet confidence. One where I didn’t feel the need to have all the answers and could simply sit back and let others share their views.
Finally, as the semester was coming to an end, I began exhibiting this new-found confidence and it felt good knowing that once again self-awareness and my drive to grow had paid off. I left school with more knowledge than I had before and I was now able to show more confidence in my personal life as well.
A quiet confidence where I no longer feel the need to have all the answers, and I’m able to sit back and listen to what others have to say in life.