I’m wishing everyone a Happy New Year. And a sober one should help ensure that. When I look back over my 21 and a half years of sobriety, I can honestly say that the biggest obstacle I faced was fear. Fortunately many of the fears I had turned out to be the boogeyman, and the ones that turned out to be real, helped me to grow and become a stronger person. So while not everyday may bring us happiness, we cannot fail to be happy by facing our fears, knowing that we will find greater strength in doing so.
Some people don’t like using the word “sick” when describing someone with an addiction. I get it. Just like the words alcoholic and addict, saying someone is sick can add to the shame and stigma associated with addiction, and prevent a person from getting the help they need.
But was I sick? Yes.
Although I didn’t drink every day and I seemed to be doing well in life, I wasn’t. I had fears and insecurities, not of the normal variety, that made me emotionally sick.
As a result, I was overly jealous of people and an extremely jealous husband. I felt like I needed to prove myself at almost every turn—believing deep down that I didn’t stack up to others. And I tried to be something I wasn’t, often acting out in arrogant and egotistical ways, in an attempt to feel better about myself.
I was also spiritually sick.
I should have been a better person than I was. A better friend. A more loving husband. And certainly a more loving and caring father.
Not that I was a bad person. I tried not to do things that I knew I shouldn’t, and I actually did some good things in my drinking days. But I just couldn’t sustain a better way of living. Sooner or later my fears would overwhelm me. My insecurities would become too great. And I would turn to the only thing that I thought could help me with how I was feeling. Even when riddled with guilt, I could not stop drinking for a long period of time, and I would return to the behaviors that actually made me feel worse about myself.
Eventually I got help and began living a different way, but I was still emotionally and spiritually sick in the beginning. But as I remained sober, my brain healed. And as I kept trying to be a better person than I was before, I was no longer sick.
I had changed the things about myself that needed to be changed. The thoughts and behaviors that didn’t make me a bad person, but along with my drinking, kept me emotionally and spiritually “sick” and prevented me from becoming the person I always wanted to be.
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.”
“There can be times in our recovery when we focus more on what we’re doing wrong than on what we’re doing right. While it’s certainly important to find and correct the things that made us unhappy in life and with ourselves. It’s equally important to see the good things we do. Eventually, as this process continues. We find less things that need correcting. More things to be happy about. And more reasons to love ourselves.”
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.
Being an only child, I have a lot of fun by myself and do some pretty immature things for my personal amusement. I sometimes make up words to songs I’m listening to and even sing to them in a foreign language that’s unrecognizable because it’s made up.
I also talk to myself and find I’m actually good company.
An example of this would be the other morning. I was pouring orange juice into a glass (a daily drink I find both tasty and refreshing) and almost knocked the glass over. I immediately stopped pouring and said out loud. “That was a close one,” before resuming my quest to add just the right amount. However, when I did, I actually spilled some all over the counter and exclaimed. “That was even closer!”
Maybe you don’t see the humor in this, but the only child in me thought it was funny and quite witty.
The reason for sharing this is that at one time in my life—a time I call my drinking days. I would have gotten angry over something like this and used a few select words that grownups call swearing. Not that I don’t still get mad at times and curse. I find using the F-Bomb can be very therapeutic under certain circumstances. But it feels good to be able to laugh at things like this and to be able to laugh at myself. (Being able to laugh at ourselves is a sign of growth and a great asset to have in one’s life.)
Although I act immature at times, and have “only child syndrome“—a term that is actually real. The growth I’ve experienced in my sobriety has done more than just allow me to laugh at myself. It has also enabled me to love myself.
I never thought about whether or not I loved myself as a child. (Maybe that’s just part of being one.) But I know I didn’t love myself as a teenager, and certainly not as an adult.
It took several years of sobriety and the growth I mentioned to achieve self-love. And even then it took a couple of more years to be happy with who I was.
An only child who not only finds them-self to be good company. But someone who has learned to find humor in things that aren’t worth getting upset about.