I was driving home from work late last night listening to a song from an old burned CD I made in high school. The lyrics hit me like a smack in the face – something along the lines of “I’ve got nothing to lose”. I really thought about it the rest of my drive home and it’s stuck with me since last night.
I realize now that having nothing to lose was my safe space. If I didn’t care, if I kept a distance, if I didn’t really value anything – then I couldn’t feel the pain of it being taken away from me. If I didn’t want to hurt, I truly believed that I had to avoid feeling. The thought of the few things that I couldn’t escape feeling about often terrified me – my family, my health, life’s unpredictability – the prospect of any of those things being taken away from me, or shattered in any way, terrified me to my core, brought about shakes, dizziness and an inability to catch my breath. I couldn’t listen to songs that mentioned death, I couldn’t watch movies about losing one’s mother, I couldn’t even let myself think about the possibilities that life could torture me with. At one point in the last year of my drinking, I couldn’t handle any sobriety at all and was racked to my bones when I was forced into staying sober for work or some other (of which there weren’t many). There was no peace in my life, there was no comfort in my own skin. I couldn’t sit alone, sit with someone else, sit with my thoughts, without some form of numbness or detachment.
I knew there were certain things that I couldn’t avoid caring about, being invested in: my mom, my sister, my family, my health … my, my, my. I know now that I wasn’t really worrying about anyone or anything else – I was in a constant state of panic and anxiety over my own reaction. I knew I couldn’t handle any kind of pain that would come my way. I did my best, put forth my hardest effort in order to avoid getting close to any person, becoming invested in any potential opportunity, believing too deeply in my own abilities or hoping for any potential future for myself. If I had nothing to gain, I had nothing to lose.
Today – I have something to lose. Today I have more to lose than I ever could have imagined. I have so much in my life – so many gifts and blessings. For awhile, I admit, I was afraid of how good sobriety felt because I knew that the better it felt, the more it would hurt if it was taken from me. Through faith, effort, support and a sincere desire to stay sober, I have come to understand a power greater than myself that provides relief to that anxiety today. Not only that, I am comforted by the more days that go by where my sober thinking outweighs my alcoholic thinking. The more faith that I have in my own sobriety, my willingness to live the life that is meant for me, the more it comes to fruition.
Once the desire to drink had left me, I was amazed. More than anything, I was sure that I had personally witnessed the first miracle of my life. But I was terrified the first few times in sobriety, when I realized that the alcoholic thoughts were still living, somewhat dormant, within me. The first time one popped into my head I was knocked back a little – shocked, I guess. I had thought that sobriety was a choice that I was committed to, and so, I was terrified by the infiltration of the same thoughts that directed my drinking months before. The thing I came to realize later, after talking to sponsor, was that instead of accepting these thoughts as a part of me, as I had always done, I recognized them as part of my alcoholic mind. I acknowledged them, recognized them for what they were and chose to do the things that were necessary for me in order to take the opposite direction. For me, that night, it was a hot bath, a good book and a warm bed. I also texted my sponsor, who assured me that I was, again, NOT ALONE – this happens to almost all of us alcoholics! The thinking is still there – our mind is still an alcoholic one, but our choices do not have to be that of an active alcoholic. That is where faith, choice and commitment to sobriety come into play for me.
I never thought I would get a day sobriety, and when I got 24 hours I thought there was no way I could get a month. That went on and on until I finally clued in to what everyone was saying, about one day at a time. I couldn’t anticipate, stress or worry about tomorrow – because tomorrow always remains in the future, unaffected by me and unchangeable today. I can’t focus on the past, because it too, is unchangeable. The only thing I can focus on is today – and anyone, myself included, can fight the battle for just one day. As time went on and I eventually celebrated my one year of consecutive sobriety, I realized that those days had added up without me ever worrying, stressing or planning for them. God took care of me, one day at a time, and guided me to this place of true peace and joy.
I think that’s how I understand my life today –
I have so much more than I ever have had in my life, certainly in my drinking –
and I’m not terrified to lose it.