When you think about it, an addiction is like a living force. It has a power of its own. It continues to perpetuate like a rolling snowball, picking up speed and strength as it rolls onward. Living with an addiction means living without any control, any sanity, or anything that makes sense. Starting over and making the commitment to no longer drink or use drugs is a choice to finally live with sanity. It’s a choice to finally live with some common sense.
However, there are obstacles on the path. There are some roadblocks to get to that sanity because the blocks are inside of you. In order to arrive at sanity and long-term sobriety, it requires some awareness. You see, the patterns that drove the addiction in the first place are unconscious ones. If you knew why you were living a life of self-destruction, which is what addiction is, you likely wouldn’t be under the throes of an addiction. So, the only way to get out of those patterns is to become aware, to uncover those long held beliefs and transform them.
To speak the truth, this is a path of many obstacles. When everything familiar has changed and we are required to adapt to a new environment, we need to make peace with the past. We crave closure and acceptance. We all want to move forward in life unencumbered by regrets or a sense of loss. Often times, trying to find a new way while grieving the old life can become confusing. In fact, it gets so confusing that it clouds the vision ahead. We get stuck and perhaps we even relapse.
The beautiful story of Sandra highlights this process. She realized that instead of looking back to heal the pain in life, there is value in simply keeping her eyes on the future. Sandra left her marriage of fifteen years, and with it left everything she owned. She left her work and friends behind in order to save her life. She was in an abusive marriage and she was drinking heavily. When she left, she calls this break with her old life “the fire,” even though she claims that nothing burned up. The trauma of those losses brought up older trauma that she hadn’t faced before. Her experiences left her with an illness called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
When we go through a very frightening or intense experience, we can often feel like it is more than we can possibly survive. Rather than losing our minds, we step out of them. We check out of the mind in order to not have to feel what’s going on inside. There are a variety of ways of checking out and drinking is one of them. One of the biggest obstacles on the sober living path, then, is to learn how to come back to yourself.
Sandra wrote the following in her journal:
“Having experienced so much trauma, I feel like bad experiences are inevitable. I just want to lie down and wait for the next bad thing. Why get up? Why think about things being better when they can always (and sometimes have) get worse? I know these questions are colored by something called “victim consciousness.” I also know that things can get better and better in life.”
“My story was of me as a pleaser. I learned that I should meet any demands, no matter how unreasonable. Yet, I know that I can change the way I see expectations and manage them differently. I am in charge of this reset button.”
Over time, Sandra also realized that part of her process was recognizing her pattern to think the worst possible outcome scenario when something goes wrong. For example, she tends to think that she is going to become homeless because of an overdraft in the bank or that she will starve to death because she ran out of peanut butter. Sandra needed to also learn how to de-fuse her catastrophic reaction bad news.
Sandra’s story highlights what it’s like to start over, what it’s like to actually find sobriety, which doesn’t just mean no longer drinking. It means living a life that is sane. It means examining those internal patterns that drive you crazy. Over time by continuing to look at her process and go through the challenges of cultivating a sober and safe life, she eventually found a sense of happiness. She created a beautiful life for herself. Today, she has been sober for over 20 years, lives in Hawaii in a very loving marriage, and has two cats.
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