“We should embrace the things that we’re good at and the goofy and dumb things we do. By doing so, we find balance in our lives. One that allows us to feel good about ourselves while remaining humble. We will become more self-confident and yet see the humor in what is called the human condition.”
“We can find happiness and self-confidence with alcohol. But we don’t get to keep them. Having those things takes work for some of us”
“Over the years, research has confirmed what so many therapists have known intuitively, that the therapeutic relationship itself is essential to the success a patient experiences. Some studies have even called it the most important common factor to successful outcomes.” (From an article called The Importance of the Relationship in Therapy written by Lisa Firestone Ph.D. for Psychology Today.)
I don’t flatter myself by thinking I know more than what I do when it comes to helping people with drug and alcohol problems. After all, I only have an associate degree in drug and alcohol counseling that I obtained as a fifty-two year old student back in January of 2013.
It was from a highly recommended community college and I was fortunate to have teachers who picked the right books to learn from and who also knew more about addiction than I did. But again, it was an associate degree in a field that requires a bachelor’s degree or higher, and truth be told, I haven’t done any counseling since that time, at least not in a professional setting.
What I have done since then, and actually for years before, is to help people with drug and alcohol problems in my private life, and I am currently employed as a case worker helping people who have been diagnosed with mental disorders. Some of them are also diagnosed with a substance use disorder, which is termed as having co-occurring disorders (COD). And it has been enough to fulfill me in life without being a drug and alcohol counselor.
The main reason I feel fulfilled is due to the level of help I am able to give to some of my clients.
Although therapy is left up to a professional for the level of help needed by some clients with co-occurring disorders, I still bring something more to the table than simply being a case worker, who pushes paperwork and provides transportation when needed.
I hope this doesn’t sound arrogant, because I’m not. But if it does, please reread this post from the beginning.
You see I have also known intuitively for a long time how important a relationship is with anyone I am helping, and although my self-confidence in doing so wavers from time to time, it still remains strong despite the lack of higher college degrees. I know inside that the belief I have in myself will always shine through to those I am helping—help themselves.
Although I did not know intuitively that it is up to the individual to take the reins of recovery and use whatever help is needed to remain sober and become emotionally well, I did learn this for myself. It not only filled me with a level of self-confidence I never had before, but also enough self-love to become happy with who I was.
I hope that doesn’t sound arrogant, because it’s not. If it does, please reread the last two paragraphs above.
Helping others help themselves has kept me humble enough to tell each person that it is they who deserve the credit, not me, while knowing intuitively, that the healing relationship we share is essential to the success they experience.
“When I was young. I never needed anyone. And makin’ love was just for fun. Those days are gone.
Livin’ alone. I think of all the friends I’ve known. But when I dial the telephone. Nobody’s home.”
I had girlfriends as a teenager. But the above lyrics from the song All By Myself, sung by Eric Carmen in 1975, still sums up my teenage years. And although I got married at the young age of nineteen, the song also sums up many of the years that followed. Years that I call my drinking days. Where even with a wife and kids, and friends in bars, I still often felt sad and alone. But fortunately that’s not the case anymore.
I celebrated 22 years of sobriety on April 27th, and although I was actually “all by myself,” it was a quiet and relaxing evening.
With my wife at home in a nearby state, the night went by with some TV and doing a few things to improve the personal use of my blog. I then fell asleep in front of the TV at some point, (it happens a lot more now that I’m fifty-eight years old) and after waking up at a time I don’t remember now. I went to the bathroom and then went to bed. (There’s a lot more peeing at fifty-eight too).
Now the point of this blog post isn’t to talk about my drinking days or tell you about my bathroom habits. I covered the loneliness I experienced throughout my life in my book and my frequent peeing may fall under the expression, “too much information.” But I do want to talk about how after 22 years of growth, both personal and spiritual, I am the happiest I’ve ever been, even though I’m not as happy I was several years ago.
I know that sounds confusing but stay with me. I promise there’s a positive message coming.
Back in January of 2013 I wrote a blog post called A Quiet Confidence. It’s about my college experiences, but it mostly focuses on one in particular. An experience that helped me to grow at the age of fifty-two, and one that reflects how I have been feeling for a while now.
I have spent the last year and four months working as a case worker for people with mental illnesses and I have also spent that time being away from my wife more than before. Although we have been married for over 38 years now, I can honestly say that we miss each other when we’re not together.
Since there’s a rather long story behind my current situation, I’ll move on by simply stating that my present circumstances came to pass due to the passion I have for helping others.
It was in that blog post from 2013 that I wrote how I had begun having doubts about some of my personal views on counseling and addiction and how it was affecting my self-confidence. And it was also in that post that I wrote that I felt like I was losing my identity. Now while those things currently hold true, I will say that I love myself and that I’m happy with who I am. Which is why I am the happiest I have ever been, but not as happy as I was when I was in college.
Now for the positive message I promised.
I have found that being happy with who we are can sustain us in times when we’re not as happy in life as we want to be. And that as long as we don’t give up, our lives will improve for the better.
I believe that this past year and four months have helped me to grow as a person, but it has also shown me where I need to grow more. And that even though I have a job that I love, I need to start being with the wife that I love more.
I also need to start believing more in a creator of some kind. A creator that I sometimes call god. Not the God of the bible, but one that gave us the ability to be happy and to change our lives for the better if we need to. After all, it’s what helped me to grow spiritually and become happy with who I am.
“All by myself. Don’t want to be, all by myself anymore. All by myself. Don’t want to live, all by myself anymore.
Hard to be sure. Sometimes I feel so insecure. And love so distant and obscure. Remains the cure.”
In truth I have been sad at times without my wife by my side as much. But I know that love will be the cure.
The love I have for my wife. The love I have for myself. And a love for life that I never had in my drinking days.
I’ve found that when it comes to having doubts in life or in ourselves, we can be insecure in one of two ways. We can look up to people who are confident and strong, and be inspired to grow and be like them. Or we can be jealous of them and act out in ways that we think make us look confident and strong.
I was the latter of the two during my drinking days. But once I stopped drinking and admitted I needed help staying sober, I was fortunate to find people in Alcoholics Anonymous who understood me. People who loved me unconditionally, and explained how my pride and ego were to blame for my vain and pretentious behaviors, and my unhappiness.
I didn’t always like some of these people, but I listened to them anyway because I wanted to be like them—happy and sober.
In time I began to see that what they called ego was really fears and insecurities, and although I eventually stopped going to AA meetings, I still continued to change the things about myself that prevented me from growing both spiritually and as a person. (Mostly my negative thoughts and behaviors.)
I don’t pretend to be the most confident person today. Nor do I pretend to be the strongest. But I have grown enough to continue looking up to people who are, and try to be like them.
I’m just grateful that all those years ago (almost 21 now) that I found the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous and people there who wanted to help me stay sober. People that expected nothing in return, and were still growing themselves.
People I will always remember.
I’m not religious. But I do ask for signs that something created life and the universe for a reason when I need too.
They may not come right away, and some signs are more subtle than others. But they sustain me in times when my old enemy fear shows up, and causes unhappiness in my life.
Some say there isn’t a god of any kind. Maybe god is the wrong word to use. If all the signs I’ve received in my sobriety so far tell me anything, it’s to keep trying to believe in more than just this world. Doing so has helped me to love myself, which is a miracle considering how I felt about myself when I was drinking.
Despite the occasional fears I have. I’m no longer a frightened little boy inside. I believe in myself and I know things will be all right, even when they’re not. Because I know I can be all right even when I’m not. It may take what some people call prayer on some days. But I know I can eventually stop feeling worried and afraid and return to my former state of happiness.
Actually, my happiness never fully goes away, because I’m happy with who I am.
Being happy with who I am also sustains me in times when my old enemy fear shows up. And perhaps that is an even bigger miracle, considering who I was when I was drinking.
Some say there isn’t a god of any kind. Maybe god is the wrong word to use.
If all the signs I’ve received in my sobriety so far have proven anything, it’s that I have the ability to create my happiness.
I just need a little help now and then.
June 3rd will be forever bittersweet for me. My daughter was born on this date, which makes me happy. But my adolescent idol, Muhammad Ali, has passed away. He meant so much to so many that I know I am not alone in the deep sadness I feel. I also know I cannot claim to love Ali more than anyone else who is grieving over what feels like a sudden loss. All I can do is remember him for who he was and what he did for others, and certainly for the influence he made on me personally.
Seventy four is considered young today. But besides influencing many lives, Muhammad Ali also lived many lives. I’ll let history explain why I say that. All I want to add here is that I hope the Greatest has found what his religion promised him. It was his belief in Allah that helped him through tough times, and I’m sure also helped him to believe in himself when he needed to. He was a wonderful example of what self-love looks like, and he will be greatly missed. Ali! Ali! Ali!