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“Make decisions based on future hopes, not from past pain.” ~ Unknown
Over the years, many people have reached out to me with questions about sobriety.
While I can’t know what’s best for someone else’s journey, what I am able to offer though is my experience, strength, and hope.
I gave up drinking seven years ago for many reasons—one of them was that my life wouldn’t have ended well had I continued to do so.
I believe God speaks to us through our intuition, and I intuitively knew I needed to give up drinking. Aside from the fact that it contributed to too many hangovers and poor decisions, the curiosity I had about giving up drinking was like the sound of a familiar song whose tune I couldn’t get out of my head.
One of the songs sounded like a story I heard from a woman I knew who had gotten sober in 2005—her name was Sarah. Sarah told me that for pretty much her entire adult life—besides an occasional glass of wine at a party—she didn’t drink. She was happily married to a loving husband and had two wonderful sons. Then suddenly, one afternoon, her husband of 30 years had a massive heart attack and died.
Sarah told me how devastated she was and that grief kept her up at night. She wasn’t able to sleep, and so to help, she started drinking a glass of wine before going to bed. Soon, one glass led to two glasses, then three, then a whole bottle.
It wasn’t long before Sarah woke up the next morning without any memory of how she fell asleep. As quick as her husband’s death, Sarah’s drinking spiraled out of control. Without much drinking experience, she was suddenly a 55-year-old alcoholic.
I’ll never forget Sarah’s story and what she told me. She said, “Alcoholism is like a light switch. If it runs in your family, alcohol can come along and flip on the switch at any time in your life. No matter how old you are, there’s no age discrimination in alcoholism.”
I used to think about how sudden Sarah’s addiction appeared. It made me think about how much addiction ran in my own family, and if what Sarah told me was true, I was basically rolling the dice every time I took a drink.
I don’t believe there’s only one way to give up drinking. What I believe to be true, however, is that alcoholism is a disease. Just like any disease, there are various forms of treatment.
The most common way of getting sober is through Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). I was able to give up drinking without going to AA. I have a strong spiritual practice that I turned to for support. I was also clear about my motivation for quitting.
Recently, I had a conversation with someone about alcoholism. I asked him, “What would be so terrible if you were considered an alcoholic?” I’ve even asked myself the same question.
I’ve come to believe the true fear behind being considered an alcoholic is accepting powerlessness. Step one of the 12-Steps says, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.” The idea that we can’t control something about our lives can make some of us feel weak.
As human beings, especially if we come from a culture that celebrates individuality and independence, or we’ve been taught the “American Dream,” we’re socialized to believe we actually have control over what happens in our lives. This false sense of power is seared into our psyches.
Admitting powerlessness doesn’t mean we’re powerless while taking action. It simply means we’re powerless over the results of any action we take.
Whenever anyone reaches out to ask me about sobriety, I never tell them what to do or how to do it. Each one of us have their own journeys, and we begin when we’re ready. I also believe everything is better when it’s shared—particularly if it’s something that improves our own life.
One thing that’s become clear for me this year is the importance of listening to my intuition when it’s inviting me to make a change—even when my mind is trying to talk me out of doing what my curiosity is nudging for me to do; like the returning sound of a familiar song whose tune won’t go away.
Especially when embarking on a new journey, we’re going to have doubts.
Especially after we’ve said yes, we’re going to want to turn back around.
To be honest, I don’t know if fear ever goes away when we’re being invited to change. Having doubt doesn’t mean it’s a sign not to try—quite the opposite, really. Having doubt means we’re getting closer to our heart’s desire.
I know in my own life, the closer I am to making a positive change, the stronger my fear voice becomes. I’ve learned that it’s not so much about focusing on getting rid of fear, it’s more about exploring where it’s coming from.
A lot of my behaviors that held me back were the defense mechanisms I used to help me feel safe when I was a child. When I look at fear, doubt, and admitting powerlessness through that lens, the changes I seek to make seem less scary.
No matter who we are or where we’re at in our lives, each of us is being invited to make a change. The world we live in is changing, and we’re all traveling to places we’ve never been.
For some of us, it’s about changing a relationship, a job, our health, deciding how our kids should go back to school, or whether we should go back to school.
Maybe it’s about moving, giving up drinking, having difficult family conversations about racism, addressing our own internalized oppression in order to be a better advocate, leaving friendships, making new ones, or asking deeper questions about our purpose, God, and the meaning of life.
Regardless of where you are in this profound time of change, be gentle with yourself.
Take it one day at a time, and don’t let fear, doubt, or admitting powerlessness hold you back from going to the places your intuition is inviting you to go.