One of the huge leaps toward sobrenity (that happy place in sober-serenity land) is discovering that the true rewards, the stuff that makes our spirits and bodies feel so very good, usually calls for some hard work. I know, I know, not what I wanted to hear, either.
Sometimes that hard work is purely physical. Melissa Urban, founder of the Whole 30 nutritional program, is constantly Instagramming photos of herself busting her ass doing some indoor or outdoor physically challenging activity. A few Sundays ago we saw a photo of her cross-country skiing against a breathtakingly beautiful canyon background that she simply captioned:
“Attended the Church of Hard Work today.”
And by the way, several months ago she announced that she was starting her second year of “Still not drinking right now.” The blog post is a great read.
I Need a New Church !
The Church of Hard Work. Those words set off flashing lights all over my brain. I’ve been to that church before and it’s never fun or even easy in the beginning. The thought of it has zero appeal. Possibly less than zero. In my 20’s I was wild for a new boyfriend with friends who were all into endurance adventures and daily running. By God, at the very least I was buying a backpack and cross-country skis and taking up running. Me, the person who never ran an unnecessary step in her entire life. But also me, the insecure pleaser with such a desperate need to be loved and cherished that no human being could ever fill it.
First time out, I pounded my way up and down a few blocks—in Phoenix AZ in August, no less than 112 F degrees in the shade. The entire experience was excruciatingly miserable. Hobbling into work the next morning with shin splints, my boss wondered why I could barely walk. As soon as he heard that I was running on sidewalks with ordinary tennis shoes at the hottest time of day, he suggested a softer surface (like the canal path a half-block from my apartment) and running shoes. “I thought that was just marketing hype to foist over-priced shoes on an ignorant public,” said I.
“No, it is not,” said he. “And try running very early in the morning, when it’s slightly less hot than the surface of the sun. It’s a great way to begin the day.”
I can’t say running felt good or even natural for the first couple of weeks, but it did become easier. And I stuck with it. After all, I was romantically motivated to make a good showing. By the time we broke up 18 months later, the rewards had kicked in and so had my morning run. I had even added drop-from-bed-to-floor yoga stretches as a warm up routine. No more pushing, no more hard work. No thinking or self-arguments. Most mornings, I was at least a mile into my run before I fully woke up. Starting out each day with that rush of endorphins and feeling the emotional and physical lift of those amazing chemicals all day and into the night had become who I was.
That’s the thing about the Church of Hard Work. The more you do, the more you can do, and the greater that feeling of strength and self-esteem and body goodness. And if you remain at the Church of Hard Work, the thought of “doing that again” that used to make you shudder now stirs a little excitement. It doesn’t matter anymore that the reward is delayed. Reaching Nirvana is a cost vs benefit that becomes a total no-brainer. The Goodness becomes something you can’t imagine living without.
For most of us, getting and staying sober is going to require joining the Church of Hard Work. “I can do hard things” is a beloved sobriety mantra for a very good reason. This is especially true for those of us who grew up self-soothing, escaping reality, and numbing our feelings in ways that were less than healthy, but at the time, were necessary for our survival. Moving away from deeply ingrained habits that no longer serve us is always going to feel like hard work.
It’s not easy to start feeling everything we’ve always avoided or stuffed down. And it probably won’t be easy to begin new activities and ingrain new habits that have no immediate gratification. What that hard work does offer is a slowly growing ease and long-lasting highs that don’t bottom out and leave us lower than we started. Natural highs with the potential to reach higher and ever higher ground. It doesn’t matter what our goal is: Day One sobriety, getting fit, a meditation practice, daily yoga, a sustainable healthy diet, or steady progress toward a cherished dream.
Wherever we are on our sobrenity journey, the precious gifts waiting to be explored in the Church of Hard Work can hold the keys to a shiny new life that we can scarcely imagine sitting as we are in today’s underwear. Greater pleasure, more harmonious relationships, better nutrition, clearer head, sharper intuition, stronger body, fully restful sleep, a published book, your own business, new undies, the list goes on and on and on.
I’m joining a new church. Hope to see some of your smiling faces there!
Big BIG love, Maggy D
More by Maggy :
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