Eighteen Reflections on What I’ve Learned in Eighteen Years of Sobriety

Life will go on with, or without me. Whenever tragedy strikes, my energy is better spent thinking of others. Just because it feels like the world has stopped, doesn’t mean it has.

Alcoholism, drug addiction, and trauma are all diseases of perception. All three work to kill its host by convincing them they aren’t afflicted. No amount of thinking will cure these ailments, as we created our own perceptions that allowed the disease to take over. Connecting with others who understand and exercising a willingness to try and live life in a new manner, will quickly loosen the grip of these deadly ailments.

The measure of a good life is a good death. There can be great joy found at the funeral of someone who has led a meaningful life. Consequently, there is a deep sorrow when hope was just out of reach when the person passed. The good news is, by living a lifetime every day, we get to make that choice for ourselves.

Slow down. When is doubt, it is better do nothing. Any decision that appears to need to be made quickly, should be tested with inaction. The harder someone pushes for quick action, the more their motives should be questioned.

This too shall pass. Times are bad; don’t worry, this too shall pass. Times are good; don’t take it for granted, this too shall pass.

Create goals. Writing down actionable goals and placing them in a visible place is a great way to get and stay motivated.

It’s ok to be angry, it’s not ok to be hurtful. Anger serves a purpose. Its mere existence can uncover layers of repressed emotions, and that is a good thing. Explore it, feel it, own it, and share it with a safe person. Then let it go. No action should ever stem from anger.

It is within our control to change our perspective, but we can’t do it alone. To remind me that it is within my power to take the actions required to change my perspective, I make a regular practice of looking up. We spend much of our lives with a limited scope of reality by simply looking forward instead of looking all around us. Once we are willing to change our view of reality, we need only to ask for help and we are on our way to a changed perspective.

Whatever isn’t used and cared for will erode and decay. Our bodies and minds are ours for a finite amount of time. We can strive for good health and sound minds and die the same day as if we did nothing at all. But whatever we don’t use will erode and decay faster as it becomes atrophied. Inaction robs of us choice. Take the walk. Ride the bike. Read the book. Idleness will never be missed when filled with fruitful activities.

Cure trauma by replacing hurtful events with happy ones. Trauma can spark Shrinking World Syndrome (SWS) by connecting past pain with current places, events, and people. This can be undone by purposefully replacing traumatic triggers with pleasant experiences. It is cumbersome and can be tedious, but it works. If you slip on the ice, instead of avoiding it all together, learn how to ice skate.

There is no good or bad, only perspective. What is good for someone may be bad for someone else. Instead of wasting time with judgements, look for common solutions and understanding.

Look for the helpers. Whenever strife surrounds us and tragedy strikes, look for those who are helping others and join them. If there are none, become the helper and build a community of helpers.

Meditation strengthens the mind. A daily meditative practice prepares and strengthen the mind so when it is tested it will be strong. There is also no wrong way to meditate if we are willing. When it seems impossible to quiet my own mind, simply sitting in silence for an hour will produce amazing results.

Alcoholism, Drug addiction, and Trauma are terminal diseases. The seriousness of these conditions is not complex; left untreated, it will kill those it infects. Recovery from these ailments is for those who want it, not those who need it. Those who have overcome this hopeless state, can save lives by sharing their experience.

Creativity is the soul’s expression, listen to it. One thing the diseases of perception (alcoholism, drug addiction and trauma) all have in common is they rob their victims of their creative expression. Once on the road to recovery, creativity often bubbles up. Listen to that internal voice that tells you to start painting, writing, singing, sculpting, etc. This urge to create is the soul expanding. Nurture your creativity as if it were a small child. Be patient and accepting of the process of learning how to do something new. Given enough practice, not only will you have the power to change your own perspective through creative expression but to change the perspective of those you share it with.  

Humanity is filled with humans. We all have our nature, ethics, virtues, vices, values, and defaults. The goal is not to overcome ourselves or others but to learn to live in harmony. To live without judgement becomes a digestible feat when we look to the natural world. A shark is a shark despite anyone’s desire for it to be something else. We can appreciate the shark’s beauty safely from the shore. We resist the urge to swim with sharks because we understand the shark’s natural state conflicts with the average natural state of a human. This is not the shark’s fault nor our own. Humanity is much of the same. Once we know someone’s nature, we should look to find ways to appreciate them while maintaining healthy boundaries to keep ourselves safe.

Emotional intimacy is sparked by vulnerably. Asking for help can seem like an impossible proposition to someone who has routinely been let down. Self-sufficiency can only give you what you’ve already had, nothing new. However, the process of asking for help, regardless of the actual task, breaks down the walls and allows for vulnerably, which is required to create meaningful bonds with another human.

Reflection is required for growth. The number of times I’ve written, said, or produced something that quickly became obsolete is staggering. However, the process of doing so is what helps facilitate growth. I don’t know what I don’t know. When presented with the option of giving it an honest effort and failing or not trying at all, failing is the preferred choice. Fail forward. Reflect with kindness and keep going.

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