It’s almost time for Sober October, and Halloween is creeping ever closer….
Let’s talk about Death, shall we?
Oh I don’t mean physical death so much – though it does come for us all … (cue eerie music here – can’t resist! )
I mean the death of our spirit.
It is said that the soul is what animates a person.
To him, the body is simply a shell, and the soul is the life-breath that fills it and gives it meaning and movement.
Some would say, it’s the wondrous depth of a person that captivates us and connects with us.
It is the soul that is most wounded from trauma – and it is the same soul that can rise again from the ashes of grief.
It is a most intricate and remarkably resilient thing – and yet, there are things that can distort the soul’s natural beauty, tarnishing it’s lustre over time.
One of those is addiction. In my case, to alcohol.
Throughout the course of my drinking – a solid span of 20 years – I assaulted myself almost daily with a poison that left a stifling gray haze over my soul.
I still functioned, I still loved and took care of my family, and I still tried to balance, the best I could, a myriad of other responsibilities – but it was all done under a tremendous weight shouldered by my soul. Booze laid a burden on my spirit and my body that over decades finally reduced me to crawling.
Crawling. Just surviving. And certainly not thriving.
What a difference there is between surviving and thriving!
At some point, when my body began to cry out from that tremendous weight upon my soul, I knew the time had come to put the bottle down. Put it down or be put down.
I wasn’t myself anymore. Any lightness or joy or humor I once had was replaced with fear, guilt, and a grim and cynical outlook on the world around me.
Things I once loved, such as painting, writing, running, and spending time with people, had all been pushed aside.
My easel stood alone in the corner holding a blank canvas, waiting to be filled – I hated to see it each time I came into the room. I finally put it away.
Whatever writing I did in a journal was an angry, scrawling mess of put-downs toward myself, criticizing others, and cursing life.
And exercise? I was so exhausted and so disgusted with my body that I didn’t know where to start. The little display of 5K medals I’d won over the years now just hung on the wall, dust-covered… a once-happy bygone era. I packed them away too.
Formerly, I soaked in the company of others, but now I rarely went out. People became almost “tools” to me – I’d deal with them briefly, or only if they furthered my plans along (plans that now largely orbited around drinking). And the ones who appeared happy only angered me.
My sole focus was numbing myself. Mostly at home, and almost always alone. But what started out as an occasional buffer against crippling anxiety and a floundering marriage, turned into a constant shield against life itself. I didn’t feel the bad anymore, but I was also walled-off from the good. Life was just gray now. And sometimes black.
But the soul isn’t meant to be covered. It struggles to break free from things that chain it down.
Though I’d settled into darkness, and thought blurry, booze-filled days were now the inevitable course of my life – somewhere underneath – there, in the stillness – I could feel an ember burning. A little spark. My soul may have buckled under the weight of addiction, but it still managed to eek out some light. A beacon in the fog. The Real Me wasn’t done fighting yet!
With whatever energy I had left, I began a simple search online: How to stop drinking.
I have to say, I’d searched those same terms many times over the years, sometimes with a glass of wine in hand! And I’d had some stints of sobriety, days at a time. But this time was different. It felt to me like life or death.
It is a curious thing – it’s almost like the soul has a built-in sensor of some kind. We just feel and know when we’ve crossed the line – when what we are doing to our body, spirit, and family is no longer a risk we can take. It becomes clear that we need to change. Not tomorrow, but now.
I came upon an article from Boozemusings – I read it, then read other related articles in links below it. I read and read. I couldn’t believe that the authors were so candid about their struggles! Their transparency really impressed me. These were real people. Flawed people. People who had lived in the darkness like I did. Some who’d been through absolute hell. People who now had hope and were working on a new life! They’d found themselves again!
So, how do you pick up your soul after decades of pummeling it with booze?
One moment and one good decision at a time.
My first hours and days seemed an eternity! Without my booze-buffer, life and all it’s “feels” hit me with an unbearable, raw intensity. But in moments when I was inches away from ripping the top off a bottle… I’d force myself to remember the Spark. The little fire in the core of me that hadn’t gone out.
I wanted so badly to fan that into flame! The idea that, with every moment I stayed away from booze I could make that flame grow, began to propel me!
Moments turned into hours, and hours turned into days, weeks, months. Sobriety was like a bellows, and the flames of sober living started to consume whatever gray haze still lingered over my soul.
I was feeling everything again! Everything I’d tried so desperately to numb over the years. And ohhh, did it hurt! But … I also caught glimpses of life’s sweetness. Little glints of sunlight on the water… or shafts of light breaking through the darkest grove of trees. Things I hadn’t noticed in years. Like tiny gifts Ieft for me on an unfamiliar path, gently urging me on. Those moments gave me hope enough to keep going.
As the months have passed, naturally, some of the things I’d pushed aside, I’ve started to bring back into my life. I’m not painting again yet – to be honest, I’m afraid once I sit down at my easel I will have forgotten what to do! So… patience. At some point I’ll pick up the brush and see what a clean heart can create.
I am writing again, as you can see! 😊
I have started walking regularly with a dear friend from my sober community – and perhaps one day we’ll begin running a bit. No hurry. I’m enjoying every single moment of laughter and understanding that I find with her.
Living “present moment”. Not looking forward too much, and not glancing back.
And, a true joy to me now – I’ve reconnected with people! I’m fully present to them. I’m enjoying their uniqueness and laughing with them! I’m welcoming their perspectives and celebrating their successes! They are no longer tools to me, but dear souls accompanying me on this life-journey.
Each day I stay sober is a day my soul can flourish. I had trapped it and smothered it for far too long. But, in it’s longing to be free, it called out to me to make a change. A change I honestly thought was impossible.
At some point, my life will end. It may be from old age, it may be from an accident or illness – or I may just pass like a whisper in the quiet of the night. But what I can say and know with certainty is – I will not die from alcohol.
It no longer possesses my body or my soul.
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re thinking of making a change too. Or maybe you’ve started your sober journey and are nervous what a future without booze might look like. Either way, it can be so overwhelming – but please know you’re not alone!
And… that you can find yourself again.
Give it time. Slow and steady. It is absolutely worth it, I promise!
Find your Spark. It’s still there. And I’m here, walking with you – one moment, one day at a time. It’s time for Sober October. Come join us.
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