Most people get the mistaken idea that living a sober life is difficult, boring or, for the lack of a better term, lame. I could hardly blame anyone for coming to that conclusion – that’s exactly what I thought before I quit. Along with this often comes the mistaken impression that choosing to be sober would mean that we give up a part of human existence that others find enjoyable, which would thereby make life less than enjoyable. This can seem to make sense but only if viewed from a certain perspective – that a life without consuming alcohol cannot be a happy one.
Please allow me the chance to broaden that horizon, just a little bit: I used up all of the fun before I quit drinking – by the time I was ready, drinking had become my only escape from an existence that I was too chicken to end and to miserable to continue.
The proper perspective to look at this from is that of a cancer patient. If you came up with the cure for cancer and it just happened to be that this cure involved not consuming soda and attending a meeting or three every week, how long do you think the lines would be to get to those meetings? National sales of soda pop would drop instantly.
Not only is our disease forced into remission, we are given (free of charge) a model which will allow us to clear the wreckage that was our past, enjoy true freedom from the bondage to it and to know true contentment and happiness. When looked at in that light, it should start to make sense.
Without sobriety, my wife, my kids, my home, my friendships, my company, the bikes, toys and vacations; they’re all gone – in fact, everything that I hold dear and enjoy in life simply wouldn’t be possible because the tough thing about my disease is this: Alcoholism won’t take everything that I love, it will have me pushing everything away – the disease brings about the complete corruption of self – and that corruption is where we run into trouble.
The susceptibility in our character that allows the corruption to infect us means there’s a trick to this: Recovery, and thereby our happiness, is only good for one day at a time (often much less at first but let’s not confuse the issue). This gets deeper: The longer I remain sober, the more susceptible I am to pursue actions that can bring about the collapse without even picking up a drink – I’ve seen too many people fall victim to their own success.
For instance, a very close friend of mine has been sober for just a few years longer than I have. He, for a long time, worked a much better recovery program than I did and it showed – he was wildly successful… Or more correctly stated, he was even more successful than I was. Unfortunately, that success corrupted him. He started believing his own propaganda (that he was better than having to maintain what he did to become successful in the first place) and soon set on a path that saw him give up that great job to stupidity. He then spiraled out of control for a time before realizing the error in his ways. Miraculously, he saw the light before picking up a drink and turned things back around… He came back with a vengeance and his life got even better. A short while later and he’s right back to screwing it up again. It’s the success.
In my case, I started out slow but I’ve picked up speed as I’ve gone along. I know my propaganda is tainted and as long as I continue in this knowledge, remaining teachable as we call it, as long as I continue along the right path, I will continue to grow and it will be possible for me to choose success and happiness over chaos.
While this post centers on my (and by friend’s) recovery from alcoholism, the principles remain sound for most struggling to grasp living happily.
When people repeat the old axiom that happiness is an inside job, a phrase that I love and believe in with all my heart, I often wonder if they truly grasp the full meaning of that statement. Happiness is an inside job, as long as the insides make it possible for happy to reside there in the first place – I have to do the work to keep the place clean.
Fortunately this does not require perfection, just progress… And action.
…And remember, if it was easy, anybody could do it.