I’ve mentioned several times on this blog that I’m kind of a Polly-Anna when it comes to life. I can always find a bright side. I don’t panic even in stressful situations. I greet everyone with a smile and my first priority in life is to always be kind. To say that I’m an optimist is a gross understatement.
I’m the one you want to punch in the throat 90% of the time.
I’ve been reading several new blogs recently written by newly sober people (mostly women). As you would expect in early sober folk, some of these souls are struggling. In writing my post yesterday and reading these blogs I started thinking, what was the magic potion the last time that got me over the hump. What made it different that final time?
What made it different was that very same quality that makes people want to stuff a sock in my face. That quality that helped me get through a rough childhood and still turn out okay. The quality that keeps a smile on my face long after others have left screaming from the room. It’s the ability to always see the good, to always stay in the light.
I’m not sure how it started (I have a theory – about Buddhism and enlightenment – but that’s another post entirely) but I know that it comes from a place of gratitude. So when I quit drinking that last time I decided (and yes, it was a conscious decision) to focus on what sobriety gave me rather than what it took away.
That single decision made all the difference.
You see, the other times I quit I threw a pity party and poor me’d all the hell over the place.
“Poor me I’ll never have fun again.”
“Poor me what will I do without WINE?”
“Poor me what will I do for friends? No one will want me around.”
That final time I decided to look at what I was gaining by staying sober. Better sleep, a better relationship with my family, no more hangovers, no more self-hatred, etc. I also took the time to figure out better ways to do things and reward myself. So when that first warm spring day arrived and I wanted nothing more than a cold chardonnay on my back porch (a HUGE trigger for me), I found a sparkling water I like and concentrated on the moment. How the sun felt on my sober face…how the bubbles tickled my sober nose…how the cold, thirst quenching water felt on my parched but sober throat…the coolness of the drink in my not sick tummy. How clear my head was after an hour or so rather than the beginning strains of more, more, more which was how it used to be.
All I can say is that by focusing on gratitude rather than grief, I was able to get over that hump I wrote about yesterday and find my way to sober and later, recovery. Don’t get me wrong, it was HARD as hell in the beginning but it was a lot easier than previous attempts when I focused only on what I couldn’t have rather than what I could.
That’s why gratitude lists and journals work so well for so many people. They provide a way to focus on the positive for those who don’t naturally go there. They force us to dig (sometimes VERY deep) to find something good about the day, hour or sometimes even minute. They also give us something to look back on when, no matter how deep we dig, we can’t seem to find one motherfucking thing good about being sober.
And we all have those days.
I love new journals – I don’t actually write in any of them for some reason but I have a lot of them just lying around because (even though I don’t write in them) I can’t bear to throw them away. I also love new markers and pens so I have a whole drawer full of those as well. In the early days of my sobriety, when I was hanging on by my beautifully polished acrylic fingernails, I would pick up one or two of these journals, get a pretty, fancy or colorful pen and just jot stuff down. There was only one rule – it had to be positive, uplifting or productive. No bitching, moaning, crying or whining allowed.
So I made gratitude lists, I wrote down quotes that helped me get through the day, I wrote down books I wanted to read that would help me stay sober, I wrote down my goals, presents I wanted to buy myself, dreams I had for a sober future – anything that would help me focus on the good things sobriety was bringing me.
I’m just saying that focusing on gratitude and not staying stuck in the grieving process too long is what saved me. I hope it helps you if you’re struggling.