“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 am happy to post what I consider a work in progress (I believe there is always room for improvement in certain things we do) that I hope will help others. I have written Five Basic Concepts that helped me remain sober and find greater happiness in my life. You can click here or the tab above to see how the idea was formed.
I wrote about this in my book, and for those who read it, let me add that although I tried to be something I wasn’t throughout my drinking days, and even in my early sobriety, I am not doing that now. I am actually worried that maybe I’m asking too much of myself—I feel fearful at times about trying to start these meetings/discussion groups.
I may not know what my future holds in this endeavor. But I know that besides believing in myself, trying to believe that something created life and the universe for a reason will also be a part of it.
Currently my faith isn’t as strong as it’s been in the past. In truth, being happy with who I am has been sustaining me while toiling away at a job that I like, but that I’m not fulfilled in. I’m actually thinking about moving back to my home town next year to find people who can help me get this started, that’s how serious I am about it.
Of course, thinking about doing this adds to my fear. But when you write a book called Facing Our Fears, well, I think you get the point.
Here are the Five Basic Concepts of Creating Our Path.
1. We are capable of creating our happiness through the Six Selves
Self-Awareness– Understanding the emotions behind our thoughts and behaviors. Knowing our strengths, but also where we need to grow.
Self-Improvement– Changing negative thoughts and behaviors to positive ones. Seek knowledge in a variety of subjects. Search for answers needed to grow as a person. Be open-minded to others values and beliefs. Practice love, kindness, understanding, and tolerance toward others.
Self-Confidence/Self-Esteem– What do we like about ourselves?
Practice love, kindness, understanding, and tolerance toward ourselves.
Self-Love– the instinct or desire to promote one’s own well-being; regard for or love of one’s self.
Self-Actualization– the realization or fulfillment of ones talents and potentialities; considered as a drive or need.
2. We are capable of changing ourselves for the better
We understand the power of changing any negative thoughts and beliefs we hold about ourselves, others, and life in general.
3. We are capable of changing our lives for the better
We understand how important behaving and living differently is to our sobriety and happiness.
4. We are capable of loving ourselves and others
We become more receptive and excepting of love.
We are able to forgive ourselves and others more quickly.
5. We are capable of being happy with who we are
We realize how being happy with ourselves sustains us in times of uncertainty and unwanted circumstances.
We are able to laugh at ourselves and embrace all that we are.