Chaos and Confusion into Confidence and Courage

I am not sure when it actually happened.  It was this long process that revealed itself as slowly as a New England winter transforms into spring.  It takes awhile and unfolds at its own pace.  It cannot be rushed. A few steps forward and a couple of steps back.  Slowly, progress is made. Chaos and Confusion

At some point, I realized “Ah. I. Can. Do. This.”   I can live happily clean and sober. It occurred to me that the chaos and confusion I was once living in addiction transformed in to confidence and courage. And this is how.

Physical and Mental Transformation

Cravings for my drink and drug lasted long after detox.  The physically cravings had subsided but the mental ones were screaming like megaphones in my ears.  It was so loud that it drowned out every other thought and all other noise.  In many moments, it seemed near impossible not to pick-up to once again experience the comfort that comes from having that drink or drug ride the jet stream of my blood flow.

I knew what I had to do though. Chaos and Confusion

This time I knew I just had to wait it out.  The intensity of the cravings at times threatened to overwhelm me and win the battle.  I learned to just simply wait.  Sometimes with clinched fists and a tight jaw. But waiting always won.

Occasionally, I picked up the phone and called someone that I trusted just to say hello, to vent, or to distract my mind. I prayed too.  Pleaded really.  Going to an AA meeting helped most times.  I had to find those meetings where the topic of conversation was more than just war stories about the trials and tribulations of addiction.  I knew how to live addicted. The meetings that focused on living in the solution and provided tips on how to stay clean and sober were a lot more helpful.

Physically, I felt lousy, had no energy, and was awake when I should have been asleep and asleep when I should have been awake.  This fed the chaos and confusion of my daily existence for many months in early sobriety.

I clearly saw that physically and mentally I needed to transform chaos and confusion into confidence and courage.

Emotional Mixed Bag

There was also a deep sadness that resided inside of me.  For the longest time, I really could not figure out why I felt this way.  Then I heard someone explain that she felt like she had lost her best friend when she stopped drinking.  Me too!  I was experiencing the grief of missing my companion of drugs and alcohol that had been with me since I was a teenager.  We hung out together pretty much daily for literally decades.  And now my friend and companion was suddenly gone.  Knowing that this grief was real helped me to transform the emotional chaos and confusion I was experiencing into confidence and courage.

It seemed as though every little tip and piece of wisdom was another piece in the puzzle of sober living. I was gaining traction in putting the puzzle pieces together to create a unified whole.

Keep It Simple

I heard the slogan “Keep it simple” before and never really understood exactly what it meant. Actually, I never really gave it much thought.  It was only in the rearview mirror that I realized that is exactly what was helping me to stay sober. I had to keep every thing very, very simple.  In order to do that, I followed three rules that really helped in that first year:

1. Avoid Drama at all costs

2. Talk less and listen more (in other words stop having an opinion about everything)

3. Develop basic routines & rituals and be consistent

Chaos and Confusion into Confidence and Courage
Avoiding Drama

It seemed as though every relationship in my life had some level of drama to it.  Both spoken and unspoken drama played at the edge of every conversation, silent glance, and the body language of those around me.  So much havoc had been created by my addiction that I no longer knew what was real and what was imagined between others and myself.  I was often caught up in the drama of friends too that really had nothing to do with me.  I lacked boundaries and stayed silent when I should have spoken up and spoke up when I should have stayed silent.

It occurred to me that one effective drama-killing tool was practicing contentment.  Just being with things as they are rather than trying to make them be what I thought they should be. This practice relieved a lot of suffering for myself and for others.

Getting through that first year of sobriety meant I had to take stock of what was causing me to be so upset all the time and redirect my attention and my efforts.

Learning to observe what I pay attention to and feed with my thoughts and actions became a very helpful skill.

Drama in my life got the boot.

Accepting things as they are takes a lot of practice.  But slowly, over time, it became easier and “I stopped fighting everyone and everything “ (AA Big Book).

Talk Less & Listen More

It also helped for me to stop having an opinion about everything and everyone.  It was as if I had to be the defender of all of my opinions in order to feel worthy.  My serenity was the price I was paying and it was costing way too much.  So I simply started to shut up.  When tempted to speak up I would ask myself “What am I defending?”  Usually it was so trivial it was not even worth the breath required to utter a word.  I found staying quiet made people want to engage with me more.  And it spared me lots of unnecessary physical and emotional energy.

This simple, but not always easy, practice was a huge benefit in transforming chaos and confusion into courage and confidence.

Routines & Rituals

The routines and rituals created by my active addiction were significant.  The certainty of particular ways of preparing and using drugs, the habits involved in daily drinking, and the thought, preparation, and energy needed for these activities oddly enough brings satisfaction and comfort.  Feeling in control and a sense of competency, even those it is injurious, provide a structure that brings familiarity and an odd sense of safety.

For those people that do not battle substance use disorder, it is likely astonishing to hear that there is comfort that comes from the routines and rituals of active addiction. But for those of us that have lived the hell of addiction, this makes total and complete sense.

I replaced those harmful routines and rituals with more healthy ones.  I started walking daily. My phone counted and tracked my steps. I found it helped to create structure in my day and also was a boost for me mentally.

I also started with small things like making sure I was drinking enough water and trying to get to bed at the same time every night.  Self-destruction was replaced with self-care.

The process of moving from chaos and confusion to confidence and courage takes commitment, attention, and patience.  Letting go of the idea that I was doing things perfectly helped too.   Eventually, living clean and sober became easier than living in addiction.

Photo by Xuan Nguyen on Unsplash

Transforming Chaos and Confusion into Confidence and Courage

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