12 on 12
The Miracle of the Mundane is proud to host this month’s
Whoever we thought we were, we became something else.
Whatever we thought we knew, we were willing to learn another way.
However we were living, we found a new path.
June’s 12 are the surprises we discovered in a life without drugs or alcohol.
From the art and mind of Aaron Lee Perry
One of the biggest surprises I received from sobriety was born out of fear.
Shame and guilt had racked me for years. Shame and guilt for lying. Shame and guilt for stealing. Shame and guilt for using. Shame and guilt led me to trying to overdose and looking for rope to hang myself after that failed. Shame and guilt told me every second of every day that I was a piece of shit. Shame and guilt, the parents of fear. And that fear told me, my family would never forgive me.
Shame and guilt and their bastard child fear were wrong.”
My family not only forgave me but they have been my biggest supporters. After I had my break and the truth of everything spilled out, I was beyond surprised that I was met with love. Not anger. Not disappointment. But love. Do they understand the what or why of my addictions? No. But that doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that they never judged. They only loved. And that blew my mind wide open and taught me a lesson in love, humility and humanity.
Another thing that really surprised me in recovery was me opening my mouth and talking, and how that has helped others.
I remember lying in a bed in detox and thinking to myself that I have to tell everything. I have to get all of this out of me. To hold it all in any longer would kill me for sure. So in rooms full of strangers, I started to talk. First in IOP (Intensive Out-patient Program). Then in AA or NA meetings. Then on a blog and on to podcasts and so on. I did this for myself at first. I had to shed this enormous weight that I carried for years before it crushed me. But as I did, something else happened along the way. Strangers started to come up to me and thank me, and tell me I helped them. Not just other addicts and alcoholics but also parents and siblings and wives and husbands, all told me that my words, my story, had helped them understand what their loved ones were going through or what they may be going through. I opened up my deepest secrets and shared them with the world and the surprise is … that the world opened up to me. And in shedding my weight of failures, demons, addictions, fears and the general everyday life of a drunk dope fiend, I have helped others and that has helped me heal more than anything else in recovery.
From Lara Frazier’s Story of Healing
Coming out sober.
Breaking My Anonymity & Recovering Out Loud: I have no idea why I was so worried that people would judge me if I came out sober. I’m sure it was quite obvious something was going on, since I had pretty much re-coiled from the world and every connection it offered.
My biggest surprise was the day I finally decided to be truly open about my sobriety.”
I had posted little hints of sobriety, here and there, but never wrote openly about the experience. A friend of mine had asked me to write a blog post on her page and I decided to go for it. I was worried what my friends from school would think of me, how it would hurt my career, and what my 12 step fellowship would think. It went far better than I could have ever imagined. I was not only accepted, but I was loved and held. People told me they admired me, they were proud of me, and that I inspired them. It also gave me the chance to bring a face and a voice to my addiction and my recovery. It gave me the confidence to speak openly and the opportunity to heal a few hearts in the process. Since then, I’ve adapted an IDGAF attitude towards the whole thing. The day I was able to be truly honest about my story, was the day I felt the most free.
What you don’t own, owns you.” – Jan Smith/Debbie Ford.
I know who I am & I know the meaning of authentic.
Prior to getting sober, I equated happiness to success. The more successful I was, the better I felt. But it was a false bravado. It wasn’t true confidence. I didn’t understand what it meant to be authentic. I didn’t even know my authentic self. Who was I? What mattered to me? What were my values? Sobriety allowed me to live by a higher moral code and discover parts of myself that I never knew existed. Today, I am in touch with my highest self. I used to value material possessions far more than I valued myself. Today, I value myself, I know myself, and I sing myself. True confidence.
From Olivia Pennelle’s Recovery Kitchen
The true meaning of the phrase: ‘The good news is that you get your feelings back: the bad news is that you get your feelings back.’
(I call these moments, my Tina Turner Moments – those penny drop moments – like when I realised that Tina Turner didn’t have a tan…)
I recall being flummoxed by this saying when I first came around. I thought to myself, as many of us do, that I’d just attend a meeting to get help not using; what on earth does feelings have to do with it?! At that point in my recovery, all I thought I felt was a pendulum swinging between immense anger to depression. I recall practising my well-versed false pride as a retort… I was very popular in the early days (!*)
I soon came to realise that, my word, do you get your feelings back. Little-by-little all of these suppressed emotions, feelings surfaced. I felt like I had been hit by a bus! It was like someone had turned the volume right up and shone stage lights in my face. I couldn’t cope; at least that is how it felt… As time has progressed, I have navigated my way through, initially sitting with another person who would help me sieve through my feelings – a little like searching for gold – and then I remember coming across Byron Katie’s sheet of emotions, which helped uncover the beginnings of what was really going on – that underbelly of what’s really going on – hidden under the guise of anger and depression.
*Brit sarcasm added
That I have a fear based disease
Say what?! Are you mental?! I think was my response to someone telling me that for the first time. I explained that fear wasn’t an issue for me, in a rather dismissive fashion – – I’d been able to hold down a reasonable job, I took risks, I moved forward, ‘don’t you know…?!’ Cut to another Tina Turner moment!
I have a disease. I have a disease! I recall saying to myself. Defined as a progressive and incurable illness unless arrested…
As I worked through the steps – in an attempt to quell with my disease – each layer I pulled back revealed that fear is the root of my issues and it is linked so deeply to my self-esteem and worth.
Fear I’m not good enough
Fear I’ll be rejected
Fear I’ll be abandoned
Fear no one will want me
Fear I can’t do this
Fear of not being accepted
Fear of being a failure
Fear of being threatened
Fear of being hurt
Fear of loving
Fear of disaster
Fear of people really finding out about me
Fear of change
Fear of attachment
You get the picture… I guess the flip side is learning that, in spite of all this fear, perhaps I was right; in that I can move forward in the knowledge that I will be okay.
No matter what, I will be okay: That, to me, is recovery.”
Enjoying camaraderie amongst strangers.
Social anxiety was an underlying issue that was revealed to me in sobriety. I definitely used alcohol to “socially lubricate” my tongue and personality. I’m not a fan of small talk or meeting new people because my self-esteem thinks I’m constantly being judged. It’s something I work on currently. When I started going to AA meetings and joined an online recovery group, I began to realize that the feelings I felt were also felt and shared amongst complete strangers. It was suddenly easy and okay to talk about the deepest shameful and hurtful feelings and the crazy thoughts that I thought no one could possibly have ever thought before.
Hearing other people’s struggle with their relationships with alcohol and struggles in life allowed me to be free in being able to speak my truth, my story, my shame and my pain.”
No matter how “out there” I felt my thoughts seemed, no matter how self-destructive my actions might be, no matter how sad I feel… being in the rooms I have found that there is always a hand to hold or a shoulder to lean on and bring me through to the light side. The light side is the side of freedom; the side where healing begins and recovery is the path that is now my new journey. I now have a second chance at life with the help of new, genuine friends to complement my existing friends that have stuck by my side. And despite generally disliking being touched, I don’t mind hugging strangers now because I know they understand and remind me that everything is going to be alright.
I’m not as bad as I thought I was.
Drinking excessively hid the discomfort I felt about who I was. I usually felt less than. I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, etc. Turns out, drinking only added to my self-loathing, when in the moment I thought I was the bomb. When I drank, I became a version of myself that went against every moral fiber I had. Although being sober and seeing myself as I really am is truly a difficult task, I’m really not as bad a person as I thought I was. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m… “normal.” :::gasp::: Ok, maybe human is a better term. Being at war with myself, or beating myself up on a daily basis just kept on perpetuating my alcohol use. Truth be told, I was just too afraid to really look at myself in the mirror, physically and emotionally. It was so much easier to blame other people or terrible situations as the reason I felt so broken inside. But once the fog began to lift in my recovery and I really started to look at my character defects, I realized that I’m a good person underneath all those negative thoughts about myself. The hugest moment in my recovery so far was reuniting with my higher power, and realizing that He’s been there for me all along. And He thinks I’m perfectly imperfect just as I am.
From the Sobriety Collective’s Laura Silverman
Quitting drinking didn’t solve all my problems.
I thought once I quit drinking that magically my problems would disappear. Ha! Drinking was but a symptom of the bigger issues going on underneath the surface—OCD, trauma from years of bullying, social anxiety, panic attacks, and a chemical imbalance that predisposed me to addictive behaviors. Naturally I gravitated toward something that silenced all the noise. So when I stopped physically ingesting poison, I figured life would turn around.
What I didn’t anticipate was all the work needed to make that happen.”
Therapy, cutting toxic influences, choosing every day to stay sober, being accountable for my actions, wanting more for myself—to be a better daughter, sister, friend, ME.
Despite this, I’m living a better life than I ever could have imagined.
Life will always have darkness and light. When you get sober, and especially when you’re in long-term recovery, you’ll deal with possible losses: of jobs, friends, loved ones. You’ll be challenged and have trials. You GET to be sober through them all because that is the best way to be you and to be there for people who count on you. But that doesn’t mean you’ll like what happens.
Acceptance, what I’m learning, doesn’t mean liking or being happy with situations. It just means acceptance.”
At the same time, there is so much more beauty and love you’ll feel and experience. The salt in the sea air, the taste of a rich meal, the pure sound of a baby’s voice, the sheer joy of belly aching laughter, the warm embrace from someone you care about, the bliss of waking up without a hangover, the pride you feel in earning your own money and providing for those you care for, the vastness of the universe and how you’re a part of it all. And again, you GET to be sober, not HAVE to be. Or at least that’s how it is for me. Recently I’ve gone through some crappy stuff, both outward and inward. Really testing my everything. And yet I’m happy—knowing that happiness is more about living a balanced life—one with bad and good, that infamous duality—instead of all smiles all the time. And for that, I’m grateful. And sober.
From Mark Goodson’s the Miracle of the Mundane
I am more likeable sober.
Alcohol was my social lubricant. It helped me be around people the way oil makes an engine run. Gradually, the perception that I needed to drink to be cool became the reality that I needed to drink to be social. I told myself this lie to continue drinking and drugging. The truth is I am more social without the drink.
The greatest freedom recovery has given me is the gift of being comfortable in my own skin.”
Wherever I go and whoever I’m with, I only need to be me. I’ve learned that being cool is a cosmic joke. Everybody wants to appear a certain way, but trying to appear a certain way is not cool at all. Being yourself is cool. And sure, you may find those words on an inspirational poster in some middle school hallway, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
Sobriety makes me more creative.
I’ve read and heard Aaron Lee Perry (see #1 and #2) elaborate on this, but my heroes were all tragic ones growing up. And as I became interested in writing, I naturally picked up Hunter S. Thompson, Jack Kerouac and other substance-abusing scribes. I never wrote without a drink—then I couldn’t write without a drink and a toke—then I couldn’t write without a drink, a toke, and a snort. But I was fooling myself. My writing was shitty because it was never about my writing; it was about my addiction.
There’s a story in the back of the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous that describes a doctor who prescribed himself medications. I was the same way. I wrote my prescriptions for what I believed was healthy creativity.
Sober now, and experiencing deeper relationships outside of myself, I find inspiration every day.
To illustrate, let’s take a quick multiple choice quiz:
Which of these phrases does not belong with the rest:
- a) A 30-year mortgage
- b) 7 years at the same employer as an english teacher
- c) Providing for 2 dependents
- d) Miraculous Living
(I should hope you answered d)
What if you were asked which phrase does not belong with these options?
- a) A home filled with love
- b) Inspiring young men to become lifelong readers
- c) Watching two kids blossom into their beautiful selves
- d) Miraculous Living
(A bit harder to answer that one isn’t it?)
Experiencing life with sober clarity allows me to appreciate the small, simple joys for what they are: miracles.