It is commonly, correctly, truly stated, “if you sober up an alcoholic horse thief, you’re still left with a horse thief”.
I’ve never, in twenty-eight years of recovery, seen a person walk through the door of an AA meeting and announce, “Yeah, I’ve been doing awesome! My family is happy, my work life is fantastic, the bills are paid and I feel an overwhelming sense of being content with how things are in life… I just drink a little too much so I thought I’d quit just because I have nothing better to do.” Nobody comes in on a winning streak. We resort to quitting after we’ve been on our hands and knees looking for a crumb in the carpet for the last 40 minutes in our underwear after spending our last five from trading in the TV at the pawn shop.
We therefore have things to rectify in order to get our lives back on track to being a productive member of society again. Osmosis, sadly, isn’t good enough. We have to work for it, and in the meantime we tend to feel a lot of pent up emotion. The emotional pain can be immense – it was for me and I couldn’t wish away that pain anymore than I could wish away the absolute need to get drunk or high.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel – and that light is heaven on earth, not a train. Hear me out.
When we work at a program of recovery (my program of choice is the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of AA), we clear the wreckage of the past that made escape so desirable. Once at the end of that process, we pass on what we’ve learned, our experience, strength and hope, to others as we help them to find their light. As we seek to help others, thereby losing interest in selfish things and build on the good we are doing, we go through a change. Our lives are transformed from needing to escape, to greeting the new day with enthusiasm. Eventually we get to a point where we wake up looking forward to what a new day will bring.
That is, if we stick around long enough.
For me, this process took decades. I was a slow worker, though. Back then, I had a skewed perception of the work. I wanted to do just enough to get by. I didn’t realize until much later, the more diligent I was about working recovery, the greater the benefits, the happier life became, the more I had to pass on to someone else. Meh, “sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly”. Peace and contentment will always materialize if we work for them, as they say. And they do say.
And I always remember, if I don’t pick up a drink, if I keep coming back and working on my recovery, I’ll never have to go through quitting again… and that’s music to my ears.
Don’t think about the work as a task. The work is the key that picks the lock holding you back from being content.