What is Right or Wrong About Me?
In early sobriety I could not shake the chronic mindset that I was somehow deficient. The comments and suggestions from providers and family members as I perceived them seemed to imply that there was more wrong with me than there was right in early sobriety. I decided to change the view and focus on what was right with me rather than what was wrong with me. This proved to be an excellent support to long term sobriety.
This shift did not come easy. I was running around trying to chase sobriety in a way that someone else said I should rather than listening to my own internal cues. I quickly became frustrated and began to despair that I would ever be able to handle living free from drugs and alcohol for any length of time. Relapse seemed to be the only way of life for me and it was crushing my spirit.
Everyone said I had to go to AA or NA meetings. “Just do what we do” was a familiar refrain. So I did. I went to meetings. I learned some things about my addiction and met some really great people.
And I also got so sick of hearing peoples’ war stories. It seemed at times they were romanticizing their using days when I was trying to get as far away as I could from those memories. I once heard a guy say he had been arrested more times in sobriety than he had when he was actively drinking and drugging. And he was one angry dude.
I had a very clear thought: if this is sobriety, I don’t want it.
Then I heard a speaker at an AA meeting say that her goal was to live happily clean and sober. That made a lot of sense to me. I was miserable when I was actively using drugs and alcohol. At the end of my addiction I had so much anxiety and depression that I thought it would literally kill me. Some days I wished it would.
So being clean and sober and happy was something I was very interested in. But was that attainable? I did not want to be miserable in sobriety. Hell, I might as well use if that was the case. But how was I to find this happiness in sobriety?
It was evident that what stood in the way of my happiness was the negative and very challenging emotions I was feeling. For the first time in a very long time, I was aware of every single emotion I had and with great intensity. I was starting to discern the nuances of feeling good and bad. For example, I was starting to see the distinction between anger or jealousy and love or joy for the first time in my adult life.
Accepting All Emotions As Positive
A friend had suggested that listening to guided meditations might help me with the low- grade anxiety that typically comes with early sobriety. So I downloaded an app on my phone and gave it a try. One guided meditation in particular talked about accepting all emotions as simply a part of being human. Even the difficult ones that I had determined were somehow “bad” were to be explored, allowed and accepted.
What if these negative feelings were just a natural part of being human? It was suggested that the fact that difficult emotions do not feel good does not mean that I should do whatever possible to make them go away. I realized then that accepting these dark moments is as natural as accepting the happy and joyful feelings. This was a major shift for me.
The fact that I was feeling and not numbing became a positive not a negative!
People had implied, or at least I thought they implied, that when I was feeling anxious, fearful, insecure, sad, or any other negative or bad emotion than something was wrong with me. I felt like I wasn’t supposed to feel these things and somehow I was deficient. I thought it meant that I was doing sobriety wrong.
Shifting this perception and accepting the difficult emotions in the same way I accepted the positive ones was a huge shift. I realized that feeling the entire array of human feelings is simply part of my humanity. It did not mean that something was wrong with me.
Rather than something to be eradicated or simply tolerated, these difficult emotions were to be embraced. This was the beginning of focusing more on what was right with me rather than what was wrong with me.
The other area in my life in early sobriety that was constantly casting a dark shadow over everything I said and did was the lack of trust from my family members. I knew I did not deserve their trust. My addiction had brought me to a place where I lied and stole from those I cared the most about. It is a baffling feature of active addiction that I cannot explain.
I was questioned and felt second-guessed at every corner in early sobriety. My family would constantly ask me what I was doing, who I was with, and where I was spending what little money I had. It often felt like they did not believe my responses. Why should they? My head knew that their mistrust of me was warranted; yet, my heart would ache every time I felt like they did not trust me.
It was like this vicious circle. I knew I did not deserve to be trusted and I knew full well why they did not trust me yet I was upset and hurt that they questioned my every move. A no win situation for all involved.
Then I had a change of view. BY investigating my difficult emotions I realized it was on me to make this better somehow. I knew I could not change my loved ones and that I could only change me.
I saw this great quote one time and it really stuck with me.
“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at will change.” Wayne Dyer
So I decided to change this lack of trust from a negative to a positive. It really was as simple as going from seeing it as something that was wrong with me to something that was right with me. I begin to see that they were willing to trust me again. The fact that my family had not given up on me and were trying to trust me became the foundation from which I could rebuild.
I took it on as my personal mission to be incredibly transparent. Rather than wait for my Mom to ask me where I was going or my Dad to ask me who I was with I would offer the information. I kept them informed willingly and with a joyful spirit. I had a transformation of sorts that immediately began to have positive results. I had found the trust factor multiplier!
A Change of View
Accepting my difficult emotions as a normal part of being human helped me to see that they were an indication that I was not numbing and instead was feeling and coping appropriately. It meant there was something right with me rather than wrong with me.
This was also true of the distrust I felt from my parents and my other family members. I changed my view and saw that I could rebuild that trust more quickly by accepting it and working with it in a positive way rather than seeing it as a “problem” and evidence that I was somehow broken and bad.
Focusing on what is right with me rather than what is wrong with me has helped me so much in early sobriety. I have learned excellent coping skills and have increased my ability to accept what was once unacceptable. I have changed my views and in so doing I have been changed!