It would be great if every transformational path—embracing sobriety included—was all forward motion. Floating on a pink cloud of giddy relief and wonder at this whole new world, energy surging, creative and sexual juices flowing, newly found pleasures, new rewarding habits taking hold, relationships not only healing but soaring to new heights of intimacy. Unfortunately, that’s not how life and the recovery path work. At least not consistently.
Embarking on any transformational journey is inviting what could be gale-wind forces of change. We might be dealing with issues that have been pushed down, denied, or medicated, ancient wounds buried in the cellar, ungrieved sorrows stuck away in the attic, or just some heavy bags leftover from childhood yet to unpack. Possibly one or two or a few bats in our belfry. Sometimes getting sober just turns the key and opens the door to the real work of transforming our lives. Hallelujah’s all around.
Even when things seem to be clicking along in good order, we can encounter a sudden patch of Darkness. Depression or anxiety or some other unwelcome visitor might break down the door and move in. Sometimes we know exactly what we’re dealing with, like the loss of a pet or the death of a loved one or a feared diagnosis or a betrayal or any number of painful life events.
At other times, we don’t know why our world has gone 40 Shades of Black or why we are in so much emotional pain that we can hardly breathe. Whatever is trying to be acknowledged or make it’s way out is just too deep, too unknowable. And it’s a great idea to throw the book at it—explore every behavioral and dietary change that makes sense, every bit of trusted wisdom and guidance, whatever we know or are guided to do. Shifts and breakthroughs can happen and light can start shining through the cracks.
Sometimes we’ll just have to sit with it for a bit—or take a deep dive into the very darkest middle of it and then sit. God! That feels so terrible. Just feeling stuck there drowning in pain, listening to our monkey brain chattering things like “If you give into this, you’ll be stuck here forever.” But the truth is we won’t be stuck there forever. In fact, the opposite is true: “Being with” is the fastest, easiest way through. Healers and therapists and therapeutic modalities are just midwives. We are always the ones giving birth to the Siamese twins of Pleasure and Pain, Joy and Sorrow. One may be ever so much more welcome than the other, but in this world, they can’t be separated. The same nerve endings carry every possible sensation, and the heart has only one door.
Mark Manson is a philosopher for our times who always makes me laugh out loud. Some days, his comedic, edgy, extremely F-bomb-laden “counter-intuitive approach to living a good life” speaks to me in a way that nothing else does:
The desire for a more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience. Pain is an inextricable thread in the fabric of life, and to tear it out is not only impossible but destructive: Attempting to tear it out unravels everything else with it. To try to avoid pain is to give too many fucks about pain. In contrast, if you’re able to not give a fuck about the pain, you become unstoppable. (from his book THE SUBTLE ART OF NOT GIVING A FUCK.)
So no matter what I might be feeling tomorrow, whether it’s on top of the world or skimming the bottom or anywhere else in between, I’m going to accept exactly where I am. I don’t have to drink to avoid it or to numb out or even to celebrate it. I can just breathe and allow, and hopefully, focus on gratitude for all my blessings. I can remain clear-headed and open-hearted. If you are going to stay sober with me today, give me a shout of YES!
Let’s rock this one, beloved tribe of badass warriors!
I’m staying joyously and gloriously sober today, let’s do this together.
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