9 min read

14 Lessons From 10 Years of Sobriety: Part 3

14 Lessons From 10 Years of Sobriety: Part 3

Read part one and two to catch up on all 14 lessons.

10. Sobriety Ends Constant Slavery

Addiction is slavery. You’re obedient to and owned by that next hit, pill, high, or low. You’ll do anything to get it, which turns you into a slave to whatever gets you that hit.

If you want better, you do better. The converse is also true: if you want substance use and all the dysfunction that comes with it, you’ll choose to keep doing poorly. You choose to hang around those who want to keep doing that with you.

This is the part where people get stuck. “What are you talking about!? No one CHOOSES to do poorly in life! No one chooses self-sabotage, crime, missing work due to hangovers…It’s NOT a choice!”

It’s very much a subconscious choice. We go with what we’re comfortable with in addiction. I was comfortable hanging around total losers, dealers, fellow addicts, codependents, and adult children of alcoholics. I could find the most wounded, unhealed person in every room who wanted to get high. (Or low, honestly, as my favorite thing as depressants).

To hang around better people would have meant I’d have to do better myself.

That meant I would have had to face the pain and discomfort of being me. I would have had to get well and succeed. And then what? Often, success is what an addict fears most.

11. Addiction Boils Down to One Thing, Which is Society’s Main Problem

Addiction is the avoidance of pain, discomfort, change, and growth.

Our society today is full of this avoidance. We’re happy to get our next hit of escapism from social media, Netflix, the outrage of the day, various substances, consumerism, and whatever gives us the drama we crave.

No one is immune; we can only strive to do better.

I started wanting to avoid all adversity, pain, and discomfort in the mid-90s. I wasn’t conscious of it. I know now that I was a neglected kid who suffered from a lack of emotional and medical attention. I learned behaviors from parents who were emotionally immature and unwell both mentally and physically. They didn’t get help and neither did I—because I was a child.

What I did receive was C-PTSD (and later, more event-related PTSD) along with a collection of symptoms and behaviors that made me a horrible student, socially challenged, and horribly stressed from it all.

That first can of beer took it away. That first pack of Marlboro Reds soothed all the feelings for which I had no outlet. Then came the marijuana. I became so digestively ill, that I found my way to antispasmodics with barbituates in them—my personal favorite as a teenager that I dragged into my 20s. (Few today know what a barbiturate is or that it’s addictive, but for me, it came from doctors, much like opioids do now).

Life changes and so do the drugs, but humans remain the same. We’ll do anything to avoid the stress and discomfort of life. Mind-altering substances give us the instant off-switch to relieve the pain. Today, we have the added bonuses of always-on media, social media, scrolling, online shopping with fast if-not-instant delivery, the growth of casinos and dispensaries—and now—online sports betting.

The avoidance of pain and discomfort is one thing in addiction, instant gratification is another. We’ve built a society now that is oriented towards these high time preference behaviors.

12. Addiction is the Avoidance of Pain, Discomfort, Change, and Growth. But There’s Another Part to This

Addiction is the avoidance of pain, discomfort, change, and growth. (Louder this time!)

The second part of this means we think we are entitled to a life without pain and discomfort. We think we are entitled to pain-free, discomfort-free lives. We believe—even if it’s subconsciously—that we are entitled to feel good all the time. That we should never face adversity.

Hence the proliferation of “good vibes only” and a level of “always-on positivity” that is in no way sustainable.

We don’t do “good vibes only” and toxic positivity here at Destiny Architecture®. If you want to be the architect of your own destiny, you have to make room for all the vibes. You also have to own your own toxicity as far as “positivity” is concerned. (I used to be one of those “Positive Pollyannas” who loved “The Law of Attraction” and “The Secret.” I’ve learned to do better. I changed my ways).

Most of what leads to addiction comes from unrealistic expectations we have about life, our interactions with others, and our feelings.

Instead of “good vibes only,” all vibes are welcome. Yes, even anger. Emotions are to be felt and processed—not feared. I know firsthand that running from emotions leads down a dark road to where you’re stuffing them and numbing them.

Yes, even anxiety is welcome here. Even depression. At some point in life, we will experience all feelings. We will lose who and what we love. We will grieve. We will move on. If you want to move on in a healthy way, you learn to work through these things rather than run from them.

If your pain is so unbearable that you are reading for escape, stuffing, and escapism—then you need therapy. If you’re willing and able to work through these things, then the coaching, Reiki, meditation, and yoga I offer can be a path that serves you. (These modalities are not replacements for therapy, mental/behavioral, or physical health treatment by a licensed professional).

All the mind-body wellness modalities I offer are designed to help you come back into your body and work through the pain, discomfort, change, and growth that life offers. These things have worked for me through the toughest times of my life. When I go through tough times again—as no doubt I will and as every human does—I have my toolbox to dig into.

In that toolbox are the personal development coaching offers along with Reiki, meditation, and yoga. These tools grow with me and I with them. The truth of life is that we must always grow and improve. We’re never done. Done is dead. I am entitled to nothing but what life serves up to me. What that will be consistently is an opportunity to grow and change. I’m not entitled to “easy.” I’m entitled to challenge if I want to stay sober. Only challenge is guaranteed.

Do you want to rise up and meet the challenges ahead? Or do you want to hide, drink, and binge-watch TV? Do you want to grow or use mind-altering substances to numb yourself? I’ll choose “hard” and a life of sobriety every single time.

13. People Will Still Cross The Street To Get Away From You No Matter What

No matter how much you improve, change, and grow…

No matter how long you’ve been sober…

No matter how much good you put into the world from being sober…

There will still be people from your past who you hurt or bothered and who will go out of their way to avoid you. They don’t want to meet the new you. They’re not open to it. That’s about them—not you.

This is still hard to take. It goes back to “The Four Agreements,” by Don Miguel Ruiz, one of which is to not take anything personally. Sure, your new spirituality, religion, and that 4th step you did should be enough! Everyone should like you now! They should roll out the red carpet and get to know the new, improved you over a hot chocolate!

But they don’t. And they won’t. And you have to be OK with that.

You also don’t have to make a story about it that goes, “Well, I guess I deserve it. I was an obnoxious drunk…” or whatever you tell yourself. It’s totally OK for people to stay mad, hurt, and offended by the old you.

I had a hard time with this over the past ten years. I finally realized it was part of my people-pleasing, codependent nature. Once I let go of that, I was free. It was a battle, don’t get me wrong. But I had a need to avoid conflict. I needed to people please. I needed everyone to like me.

What that looked like was me always needing to entertain. I’d make jokes or small talk. I felt I needed to be overly smiley and friendly. I’d self-deprecate if I thought that would help me become more likable.

Imagine that level of my pain, of always having to be “on” all the time. It also showed up as me always being made up and afraid to show a flaw. I’m pretty sure I even wore makeup to run a marathon.

Freedom came sometime during the pandemic, when there was no reason to wear makeup anymore. There was no reason to put on the literal and figurative mask. See me—the real me. I make a lot of no-filter videos now on TikTok. They don’t do as well as the ones in which I’m made up or filtered. See, people say they want authenticity until they get it. The metrics show otherwise. But screw the numbers, I’m happier being myself and that’s enough for me.

At some point in sobriety, I began to define what “enough” means. I find the line to draw around working enough, being enough, being ambitious enough… I learned to become the one who defined my life—rather than wait to see what others thought of me. I grew to be just fine when those old folks from my old life crossed the proverbial street to avoid me. I began to lose the urge to “show them who I am now” and “change their minds!”

To be happy, you have to learn to let things go and let others be. The greatest gift is to let yourself be. Just be. You’re enough.

14. Some People Will Merely Get Sober

This has been a hard realization I’ve had over and over throughout my decade of sobriety. What I mean by this is some will only achieve the bare minimum of sobriety. Those are the ones who only learn to survive. They never quite make it to thriving.

I was one of those people. I think we all are during early sobriety and this is a stage some will never grow past.

I didn’t grow past this stage until I’d been working in the addiction industry for more than a year. It came because I realized AA wasn’t serving me anymore. It was harming me more than helping me. I turned to religion until it was more harm than help as well; finding a church to truly feed me spiritually for the long term has always been a challenge.

Spirituality has definitely been a key factor for me in long-term sobriety. It’s looked different over the years. I tried AA and Refuge Recovery until it had a huge scandal that turned me off. I attended churches and Bible studies. I turned to yoga and meditation to finally find a spiritual home where I feel I can never learn enough and can constantly grow while being spiritually nourished.

For me, long-term sobriety has meant more than a spiritual path to healing. There also had to be financial recovery, career changes, additional educational opportunities, the re-examination of my beliefs, and attention to physical health, diet, and exercise. Getting sober is the battle but staying this way is the war.

This is why some only get sober. It’s enough work for them to not use again. They may never grow in other areas of their life. They may get stuck in the endless cycle of 12-step groups and relapses. There may be deep, dark reasons as to why this is. Some may never experience personal growth beyond a certain level.

It’s enough for them; I’m not knocking it. I’ve seen far too many relapse, overdose, and die.

This is why we need to view sobriety through a different lens than we do. It’s also why I wrote this. From ten years of sobriety that included 4.5 years working in the addiction field, I’ve seen A LOT. We need to view the steps toward sobriety as being backed by scientific research and respect this life choice knowing that 75% of us who recover are capable of staying sober for the rest of our lives.

We need to create a world for sober people that offers healing. We need to ensure that we approach this holistically so that recovery from addiction moves beyond surviving and into thriving. Don’t settle; I never did.

Read previous “What I Learned From Being Sober” posts:

I no longer sober coach; I prefer to work with those who are already sober on creating a holistic path forward that includes personal development, coaching, Reiki, meditation, and yoga.

Learn more and get started working with me today.

Not ready yet to work with a mind-body wellness practitioner? Begin with digital downloads in the store.

Ready to start meditating? Become a member today.

Subscribe to the free newsletter for mind-body wellness tips & info 👇