Difficulties of Sobriety.
The next question from twitter I’m going to address is @scitrigrrl’s question: What’s the most difficult thing about sobriety, (or staying sober)? This is a very interesting question, because I think it highlights a couple of phenomena about sobriety the way I’ve been taught to practice it which normal people (that is, non-addicts), have no framework to understand. So, I’m not sure my answer will be elucidating, because in some ways, I think the recovered alcoholic is an entirely different animal from the unrecovered, and the ordinary person.
To a normal person, I suspect that the parenthetical question is meant to restate or clarify the first clause. But difficulties about sobriety and difficulty staying sober are different things. Difficulty in sobriety, to me, sounds like having difficulty doing step-work, difficulty being fully honest (generally with myself) or doing service work. Difficulty knowing how to apply the lessons of my program of sobriety to life, so that I remain planted firmly where I need to be. Difficulty in staying sober sounds to me like having trouble struggling with the desire to drink.
I have no difficulty staying sober. I haven’t had any difficulty with cravings or struggling not to drink since day twelve. Drinking is just not part of my life anymore. I don’t really miss it. I miss the pretend way that I prefer to remember it. I miss how it was in the beginning, sometimes. But those things are remote from me in both time and capacity. I no longer have the option of drinking the carefree way I did in the beginning. My only choices are freedom and life and abstinence, or alcohol and toxic, lethal misery.
Working the program, on the other hand, is often difficult. Honesty can suck. I am required to look very hard and very closely at myself, seek out the defects in my character which prevent me from being useful to others, and root them out. I am, like most of the alcoholics I know, often obsessively self-centered. It is difficult to set that aside sometimes. It is challenging for me to think of other people first and myself second. But the rewards for doing so are manifest in my life. Good things happen to me when I am, as a dear friend taught me to say, focused outward.
But the real answer to the question is that nothing about sobriety is truly difficult. What was difficult was hiding my liquor. Finding ways to drink that I didn’t get attacked for. Trying to live while totally inebriated most of my waking (and sleeping!) hours. Going from that to where I am now? I am astonished daily by how easy my life is.
Once we get past the ugly part of early sobriety, our lives become much more straightforward. Because we have tools for living. We learn to rely on things other than ourselves. We move forward by following the footprints of those who’ve gone before, and then finding our own new way. In that way, it’s much like science.