Sobriety is its own reward: so said my first mentor.
I really got it, because I recall that being really happy, in my first year of recovery that I was not drinking.
I was immensely relived to discover, also, that what I had was a disease; not a curse and that I was not the devil incarnate.
Towards the end of my drinking, which in all honesty was somewhere in the beginning of my drinking, I had already noticed that I was not a normal drinker. Yes, I loved drinking, getting high and showing off to my pals that I could drink anyone under the table. However, pretty soon, I am the one they found under the table.
On coming Home, I was really sick and tired of the post drinking incidents: the fights, the moneylessness, the craving for booze and not being able to afford it, the fights, did I say the fights? If all those could be taken away, then I could be left alone to drink in peace.
Until the Return Home
When I came Home, I really wasn’t coming to stop drinking. You see, me, I did not have a drinking problem. What I had was an after-drinking problem; and if that was sorted, then I could well be on my way and leave the rest of you who seemed to have real problems to sort them out without any interruptions.
It all started with the acceptance that I am an alcoholic. Well, acceptance sounds so gentle.
“Please admit and accept your powerlessness over alcohol and all shall be well…”
“Admit that your life is unmanageable, and all shall be well…”
I now accept that I am an alcoholic; but that acceptance was anything but gentle.
I fought, I denied, I hedged, I bargained, I got depressed, I raged and raged; and then I accepted. I was too sick and too tired to fight anymore anyway. They took my drink away from me, and it felt like something had died within me. Yes, they told me it to keep away from it a day at a time. What they were not saying but I heard very loudly was that forever is made up of many many days at a time. They were saying I will never drink again.
This is where I chose to be grateful. I am grateful for being an alcoholic and for the fellowship that I depend and rely on for the great life that I enjoy today.
Why I call it a choice is because I could also have chosen to go back to where I came from: the misery, the shame, the guilt, the mess. After all, you people were not like me. You seemed so elegant, sharing your lives and world with me, sharing deep and profound stuff and always always, and at times irritatingly so, being grateful. Until the Return Home, I didn’t think anyone could be as grateful as you people.
That choice not only bought me freedom; but it has also kept my stay simple and purposeful. I may not be responsible for the disease but I am responsible for my recovery. My first taste of responsibility was in the return. And all I had to do was to choose and it begun with gratitude.
The choice to stay was followed by working my recovery programme. Now, it is not easy. In fact, it is painful at times. Developing the willingness to work my programme meant that, on a daily basis, I needed to choose being grateful. For instance, when working on my personal moral inventory, there were some instances that people had, indeed, wronged me and I felt that my anger was justifiable whichever way you looked at it. And on recalling the instance as I wrote, the anger resurfaced. I called my mentor who listened patiently; and when I thought he would understand my anger he asked me one question.
“Thank you for sharing that. Tell me, do you feel like drinking as a result of your anger?”
“Heck No!” I answered.
“Well, there you go. That is something you would normally, as an active alcoholic, drink over. Yet you didn’t even think about it.”
“You could be grateful that now, in sobriety, you can express your anger in a healthy way without having to pick up a drink.”
I actually saw that in every situation it’s possible to have something to be grateful for. I just need to look for it. And this, then, has developed into a habit, an attitude in fact. Gratitude becomes an attitude.
That there’s nothing not to be grateful for was an amazing discovery for me.
Practising this attitude on a continuous basis I have found that not only does it keep life simple but also light. It gets rid of the baggage of the past, which sounds sneakily like garbage: the regrets; the doubts; the guilt; the shame; the fears; the wasted and lost opportunities.
It now becomes a way of life.
Living sober is an adventure and no two days are alike. The days of miracles are with us and every so often something happens that just tells me I am on the right track. New people come into my life; new insights come in the most unimaginable ways. I also fell in love for the first time in 21 years whilst in recovery. I watch people transform right in front of my eyes and what a sight it is to see.
And then, only then, do I feel grateful for the magic of sobriety.
The feeling of gratitude, though fleeting, is the most powerful and is what reinforces ALL that gratitude is for me and my life; as a choice, an attitude and a way of life.