Non-Toxic Intoxicants

Hangovers happen in sobriety.

I experienced them particularly in early recovery when I was unaccustomed to feeling good without substances. I was learning to feel substantive, to feel complete.

Feeling whole was all I ever truly craved when I drank and drugged. Before then, I never quite had that feeling of fitting in. I drank and used on that condition; a spiritual longing was the cause.

Alcohol is well-known for diminishing inhibitions. Drunk, you lose that filter—you burst the bubble of self-consciousness. The phrase “a drunk man’s words are a sober man’s thoughts” explains the phenomenon.

But the drink and the drug are deceptive, like the ornate gift-wrap of a big empty box. What I thought made me happy left me unfulfilled. I tore open the gift-wrap and was left with nothing—every time.

I was so inhibited before I drank, so crippled by social anxiety, that alcohol gave me exactly what I needed. And recovery gives me the same thing.

Ironically, admitting I’m an alcoholic gave me the same comfort that I craved when drinking alcohol uncontrollably. It released my inhibitions, gave me the feeling of fitting in.

And if it feels good, I will abuse it.


Friday was a whirlwind of activity for this blog.

Paul interviewed me for the BUZZKILL podcast, and Liv featured me in her Recovery Kitchen (see here for a list of all my generous hosts). I posted a sentimental piece about my baby girl connecting with the world. Site views spiked. What’s more, my soul was brimming with that feeling of fitting in.

But, when social media notifications stopped pinging, and comments were replied to, a familiar feeling settled in. I can liken the feeling to the hangover after a night out. I feel unfulfilled and lonely, like the roller coaster ends, the safety bar lifts, and I have to exit the car.

The logic would follow that if there are sober hangovers, it is possible to be drunk on life.

I think you could change this site from “the Miracle of the Mundane” to “knock-down-drag-out drunk on life” and you’d be reading the same thing.

At least once a day, I am smashed on life, so filled with purpose and direction, with contentment and joy that I am not tipsy, not buzzed, but loaded.

The sober high does not wear away at my soul, it uplifts it. The sober high doesn’t gnaw under my skin, but gives me a peace and serenity in who I am. But, as with synthetic highs, there is always the next morning.


The sober hangover has a cure.

What did I do when struggling with a hangover from intoxicants? I discovered many solutions, the easiest of which was to get stoned. I just loaded up on more of what I thought was the answer. I tore open the gift-wrap covering more empty boxes.

Naturally, to cure a sober hangover I need more of the same—I need more of the answer. I need to share, to be of service to others, to help another alcoholic, to pick up the phone and call someone.  

The happiest this blog has made me was when I heard that Patrick O’Riley prints pieces and gives them to inmates at the Missouri Department of Corrections Treatment Center. Giving it away is the true restorative elixir. Helping others gives me the gifts I always wanted. And like Santa’s wonder-sac, there is no end to the bliss it contains.

13 Responses to “Non-Toxic Intoxicants

  • Caring the message to help others is what helps me to stay free from a drink or drug. The Offenders really eager to learn how to stay free from their addictions upon their release.

    • It’s hitting them at the right time. They want freedom no doubt. And sobriety is freedom. Patrick, let’s keep fighting the good fight!

  • I hear you loud and clear. I’ve had a love hate relationship with social media since day 1. The people are real, but for me the method doesn’t work. I had to shrink down my world to see that what I already had was enough. It’s a balancing act and work in progress for sure.

    • I was so wary about it for 8 years. Now I’m wondering around in it like a lost child in the woods. I really hope once I know more, I’ll need it less.

      • This caused me to do some reflection and realize my latest obsession, which is chasing numbers via the Fitbit. I am all about validation, ha! There are far worse vices, as we know. With writing, you get to carry the message.

        • That’s such a good one! I have a bit of a fitness obsession too. I have a lot of obsessions I guess. Writing is my favorite! By far.

  • I’m just so glad you are here. So happy that you have found a loud, clear, and joyful voice and you are sharing it here with a us. It’s a gift to each of us who read here, my friend.

  • elvagreen123
    2 years ago

    You brought to mind the Bill W. story of what he thought about as he considered going into a bar or not. He thought about that next man that might die of this disease because instead of carrying the message he, Bill, decided to take a drink. And so he contacted someone who hooked him up with a sick alcoholic. Constant thought of others. Thanks for your post.

    • You’re welcome. I’m glad something resonated. I never thought it would the biggest source of happiness, until I just trusted and tried this way of life.

  • I love this Mark. I had a similar experience last week. I am so glad I found you from Olivia. Your honest and authentic writing is beautiful. Thank you for this.

    • Thank you Lara. It’s funny I just left a similar comment for you on FB. Very happy to connect, and collaborate it seems!

  • Hi you can totally get high on life in recovery or when you are sober before recovery. But I don’t always like that high on life feeling as I have bipolar traits and when I’m high on life I feel like I have done 4 grammes of cocaine! Then obviously there is a bit of a crash. I like being content in recovery it feels safer. Good that you are reaching out to other addicts and alcoholics I really don’t think it is possible to have true happiness without helping other people unless you are a not very nice person!

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