How Good Can Life Be, Clean & Sober?
Romanticizing in early recovery is the process by which our disease engages our selective memory. We recall the euphoric experiences we had with our drug of choice and overlook the costs. This perspective leaves us with a sense of loss. We despair that nothing will ever make us feel as good clean and sober. Everything else seems boring by comparison.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
The good thing about being clean and sober is that we feel more and the bad thing about being clean and sober is that we feel more.
In recovery it’s often referred to as “thawing out”. Everything that drugs temporarily took away comes back to us. It’s overwhelming and the cravings and desire to numb our emotions are intense at times. Being grounded in the reality of the here and now keeps us from returning to the quick fix of using.
With growth and clean time we achieve greater clarity. We reconcile that while it’s true that nothing can be as instantly gratifying as our drug of choice was, it is also true that nothing was/ is more destructive to us than our disease. We’re left with a yearning to feel good and uncertainty as to how good life can be clean and sober.
Long Term Gratification
We are not patient people. We’re told that time takes time. This seems an easy expression to dismiss. The healthier perspective is that “T.I.M.E. takes time”.
- This I Must Earn (Steps 1-3)
- This I Must Endure (Steps 4-9)
- This I May Enjoy (Steps 10-12)
We earned our seat in the halls of AA and NA, fortunate to have survived this far. We endure and experience ongoing benefits from the processes of holistic growth and healing. We reap the rewards of our investments in gaining a life second to none.
While we may never again experience the fleeting euphoria of drugs, we become free to experience more sustainable highs: joy, love, and fulfilment amongst them. We develop self-respect and a healthy pride in ourselves. Life is no longer the roller coaster of highs and lows, it’s manageable and healthy.
We didn’t get sober to be miserable, somber, or bored. Folks in recovery are fun, spontaneous, and expressive. In any given meeting there will be at least a handful of folks who are laughing and seem almost unrealistically happy. Seek these folks out. Not only have they got what we want in their program; they’ve also learned not to take themselves too seriously.
Fun is important stuff. It provides release and reduces both stress and social anxiety. It gives us things to look forward to in the midst of hard work and change. It socializes us and helps fulfil a vital need for friendship.
One of the most counterintuitive statements we hear in recovery: “I wouldn’t trade my worst day clean for my best day using.” In retrospect we see that we were only ever surviving. We come to see that authenticity and living life on life’s terms is vastly more satisfying and sustainable. Living without regrets, guilt, and shame affords us a freedom to explore and live more fully.
If we’re working recovery earnestly, there are a series of epiphanies that come to us:
- "I can remember the good time I had yesterday!"
- "This is really… real (and it’s good)!"
- "I can do things clean and sober that I only ever did under the influence."
- "Now that I don’t have to buy drugs, I have money to travel and do things I only ever talked about doing when I used."
Surrendered to Win
In the long run, spiritual growth becomes the healthy high we pursue. Having faith in a power greater than ourselves does not ensure that things will always be good. It ensures that everything will be okay and it provides an abundance of opportunities to make our lives progressively better. Just as we “came to believe”, we come to receive: grace, guidance, and connection.
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