I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore! And in the past I’ve only ever managed to make one that I stuck to. It wasn’t so much a NY resolution as a life-saving necessity. I’m not sure what would have happened to me if I hadn’t stopped drinking six years ago!? Maybe I would have continued along, binge drinking, never achieving anything personally or professionally, spending my weekends in the fogs of depression and self deprecation… I think I would have inevitably ended up losing everyone that matters in my life and become a scarred, jaded alcoholic making new friends every Friday night with whoever was sitting next to me in the bar. It doesn’t sound like an emotionally fulfilling life, does it?
Sure there’d have been a few laughs over the last six years and maybe even a couple of short-lived periods of happiness, but I think that my life would mainly comprise of a set of shallow, mercurial experiences that were semi-remembered and easily forgotten. But this is only a supposition on my part. Overcoming addiction is definitely no walk in the park, with blue birds and daffodils. It’s brutal at times! Addiction, although not the right choice, is often the easy choice. There are nights in the early stages of my sobriety that I’d be at a party, loitering on the sidelines of fun, thinking about sneaking a quick tequila just to get me in the mood. Often my whole night would be spent making small talk with people I didn’t particularly want to be spending time with just to prove to myself that I could resist the temptation of having a drink. I am not advocating this course of recovery for anyone! “White knuckling” it is not for everyone and that is why there are rehab centres and support groups around the world. The recovery statistics vary, but more people seem to stay sober if they attend a support group. There are other options of course which include therapy, counselling and coaching. And I’m prepared to go out on a limb and say that everyone needs to find the one, or a combination thereof, that works for them.
Just because I never gave myself over to a higher power, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. It’s not about how you chose to get and stay sober, it’s about doing whatever it takes to find your way to sobriety. For myself, I don’t believe that substituting drinking every day of the week (or part thereof) with meetings and support group. It seems like exchanging one crutch for another, and I believe in finding ways to break the restrictive confines of addiction in positive, constructive ways. I’m not sure that sitting around talking about an unhealthy past is the way towards a healthy future!? I might upset a few people in my outlook, but I believe in present- and future-focused recovery rather than dwelling on the negative behaviour of the years gone by. Yes, take stock, make amends, lay the demons to rest, but then for goodness sake move on! Don’t spend months and years rehashing what you did as an alcoholic gripped in the clutches of your disease, but rather look forward as to how you want your new life to be. Don’t go digging up the skeletons of the past, but rather aspire towards the new life that you chose for yourself.
I don’t want my disease to define me! I’m so much more than that… Yes, I am an alcoholic, but I’m also a woman, a partner, a sister, a daughter, a friend, an educator, a future coach… There are so many parts to who I am that I choose not to be defined by this one part of myself. I’m a fighter, a survivor and a passionate believer that anyone can overcome this disease if they are prepared to do whatever it takes to get and stay sober. If that means walking away from certain people, places and situations then by all means do it, but remember that it’s not them that have the problem. Sure there are a few people that were part of my life when I was drinking that no longer feature, but the majority of the people who meant something to me then are still in my life now. They weren’t to blame for my addiction and new starts can be made within existing circumstances. It’s not the people around you that need to change to overcome your addiction, it’s you. And the people that love you and believe in you the most will be there for you along the journey, holding your hand, giving you strength and cheering you on.
So as the new year starts think about all the wonderful, positive things that make you the person you are and don’t just focus on alcoholism as being all that you are. Look inside yourself and find those attributes that make you the unique and special person that you are, then use those to develop a plan to get and stay sober. It’s what I did, and although I am an alcoholic, I am so so much more. I chose to focus on the positive, uplifting parts of who I am to keep moving forward towards my dreams and aspirations, at the same time acknowledging and honouring the lesser parts of me that make me who I am.
‘Til next time