Recently I went out for a kayak ride and was immediately engulfed in a fairly thick fog. I knew the sun was peeking its way out and would eventually win the battle and burn off the fog. What I didn’t know was how long it would take and if it would be an immediate victory or a slow process. I was wondering when the fog lifts if I could see clearly.
Often I experience nature as a way to help me gain insight, realize my truth, and deepen my perspective. I intentionally look for ways to read the Earth around me for reflections that might be useful in my day-today life. This has certainly been a gift of living clean and sober.
While paddling, I had a fleeting boost of gratitude for my years of sobriety. I was very aware that I would not be on vacation in a place that I absolutely love and paddling a kayak on a beautiful bay without it. I rode the wave of gratitude for a bit and downloaded it while I paddled. Let it sink into me rather than scamper on to the next attention grabbing sensation, observation, or distraction. I began to see the fog as representing the late stages of my substance abuse and the early stages of living clean and sober.
The Late Stages of Substance Abuse
The late stage of substance abuse was a time full of confusion for me. I thought I could control my drinking and drugging and I absolutely could not. Each day I would say that “This day will be different.” It never was.
Sometimes I could make it until noon without using or until my stomach was settled down enough to drink some more. Part of the fog I was paddling in manifested as this lie that I had control over my addiction. Eventually though, the sun bore through just enough and I saw clearly that I could not control the alcohol and drug addiction that had taken over my life. With this realization, a true surrender began to gain momentum. But unfortunately I had to suffer a lot and cause a lot of suffering around me to cut through this thick and all consuming fog.
There was another aspect of this fogginess toward the end of my last run. I thought no one knew how much I was drinking. It turns out that they knew all along. It is the strangest sensation to realize that I had a make believe world going on. I thought everyone was totally faked out. My mind told me that no one knew and I went with that as reality. When the fog lifted it became clear that everyone knew. Frankly, all you had to do was take one look at me and it was evident. Puffy eyes, bloated stomach but underweight, and always on the move. Couldn’t stay still for long. As I look back I can actually chuckle at my make believe world and how strong my addiction was in my body and in my head.
In early sobriety I felt fogged in as well. All I wanted to do was stop drinking. That’s it. I didn’t want new friends or to become part of a group. I just wanted one day in which I did not pick up a drink or a drug. Here is where I was in the fog: I discovered that quitting, as hard as it was to put together even just 24 hours free from drugs and alcohol, was actually the easy part. Yup. The easy part. I realized that staying quit was the hard part. Learning to live clean and sober through all the ups and downs in life would require a skill set and a faith I had yet to develop.
You see, I thought the booze was my problem. Turns out, it was actually my solution. In early sobriety I thought it was my alcoholism that caused all my troubles. That turned out to be wrong. The alcohol was my coping strategy. And dammit – it stopped working! With this realization I accepted I was in need of support from others.
Without my coping strategy I was left totally in the fog. And I was clean and sober. My physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual condition was decimated by years of neglect. Fear, anger, and the constant state of being totally overwhelmed clung to me like a cloak of weights. It took time, patience, and guidance from those who had succeeded where I had not before the first few rays of sunlight appeared. It also took lots of prayer and making time to just be still. I had to take it easy in those first few months.
Coming Out of the Fog
On this morning’s kayak paddle it did not take long for the sun to burn off the fog and find its victory in the mid-day sky. The end of addiction was a much slower process for me. Today, I am grateful for those who stood by me and did not give up on me. I realize that being free from addiction is not a do-it-alone endeavor.
Sobriety has taught me to be more open-minded. I accept that there are times I need to turn inward and tend to my internal condition. This lesson has been learned the hard way. People pleasing was eating me up in early sobriety. A trait that I did not realize was sucking the life right out of me.
Silence has become a necessary verb that I practice daily and it used to scare the hell out of me. I could not stand being quiet with myself. The voices in my head and the nervous, anxious energy in my body felt like they would kill me. This took time and practice.
About an hour later I quietly paddled back in my kayak. The sun had taken full command of the sky and the fog had completely lifted. “I stood in the sunlight at last” is a memorable line in AA’s Big Book. Today, what that means to me is that the sunshine of gratitude has conquered the fog of addiction in my life, in this moment. I am at peace. And very, very grateful.