I am free. I am no longer a slave to alcohol. I never thought I would be able to say that towards the end of my drinking. In fact, I thought “the end” would be a very different thing. I was beyond hope. I had given up hoping to ever hope again. I was exhausted, miserable, frightened, and hopeless. Pretty bleak, right? And yet, I still did NOT want to stop drinking. The obsession was that bad. It was killing me, yet I believed in my heart I could not live without it. My life was small, and I was terrified.
My life is so much better now. I take for granted the freedom from time to time. In fact, I have to make a point of remembering how bad it was so I don’t forget how bad it was. The good things sobriety has given can take me away from the things I do to stay sober. If I don’t stay sober, I will lose the good things. To keep the good things, I can’t stop doing what works, so I don’t have to go back. I never want to go back.
I wake up at peace most of the time now. I’ve heard it said that alcoholics don’t think very much of themselves, but they are all they think about. Low self-esteem, high ego, that sounds about right. So, I try not to think of myself first. Now, I try to build my self-esteem and smash my ego. Ego seems to serve no purpose for me other than making it easy to have my feelings hurt. I deserve better. I’m not getting enough. I’m getting too much. There’s never a just right where my ego is involved. Just a lot of bratty crying.
Self-esteem is better though. Self-esteem for me is becoming a man who no longer wants to drink. Who is comfortable in his own skin. I build self-esteem by doing esteemable acts. By doing something kind for no reason other than being kind. Altruism. That’s hard. Ego wants its payback. What’s in it for me? I heard a Buddhist answer the question of “how to be altruistic” once by saying “practice.” Just like anything else, the only way to be good at something is to keep doing it. I’ve never looked back and thought, “I wish I had been less kind.” So I try to do something nice for someone else every day without telling them (or anyone). That’s super hard. I dare you to try it. Ego wants its butt rubbed. I love being up to good. It feels great inside, and weirdly, that feeling is diminished if I tell someone. Happiness is an inside job, and it’s nobody else’s business.
It’s good to be openly kind too. I just need to remember to do it ‘cause it’s right, not for the reward. Plan the action, not the outcome. So I try to be nice. I try to get outside of myself, which goes against my ego’s desire. My life is really good today, and it sure wasn’t always. If I can show by example that there is hope in a seemingly hopeless situation, I want to do that. There is nothing like seeing the light come on in the eyes of someone who is struggling when they hear something that resonates, from someone they identify with. I remember when I started to think I may be able to hope again. It happened at my first rehab when I heard someone share (with clear eyes and a smile on their face) about where their disease had taken them. And that they were so clearly not that person anymore. Some people in recovery don’t appreciate a good “war story.” I, on the other hand, do and did. Those deeply painful and embarrassing stories showed me that others had been where I had and how far they had come. And they could laugh about it, wow! That’s powerful.
As miserable as I was while still drinking, I was certain it would be worse when sober. I am profoundly grateful for how wrong I was. I love to share and laugh about the absurdity of my behavior when I was in my disease. That stuff is only funny if I can look back from a sober place.
I can’t forget how bad it was or keep that to myself. I have to share my story with others, with a smile on my face. I have to keep doing what works because I have learned it’s far easier to stay sober than to get sober and it’s far easier to be happy than hopeless. But that requires me to work. My recovery is like walking up a down escalator. if I don’t keep moving, I’m going backwards. I have to keep working to stay free