Our guest post today is by a young creative writing major who publishes on Medium.com (we love their tagline: “A place to read and write big ideas and important stories”). Her story is important, and we can tell by the way she writes that she has some big ideas, indeed. You may read the original article here.
In gratitude, harmony, and support,
20 Years Old and 11 Months Sober — 3 Things I’ve Learned So Far
Spirituality Is Key:
I’ve heard it shared in several meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous that the spiritual part of AA is like the wet part of the ocean. My spiritual journey over the last eleven months has left me soaked. At first, it was like jumping off a burning cliff into cold water. Other times, it has felt as though I stood barefoot on a concrete driveway in the middle of a thunderstorm. Not as often, it’s felt like I’ve been cast out to sea in a dingy during a tornado. Most often, I would equate spirituality to the sensation of having received a hug from a person who has just jumped into a pool with their clothes on. No matter how or how much, regardless of whether I want to get wet or not- I always end up soaked.
For most people, their belief in a higher power ripens like a vintage wine- slowly, over time. Other people have a spiritual experience, wherein a sudden flash of kinetic lightning God enters their soul and cracks open their minds. I did not go to AA in search of anything spiritual, but I did arrive full of enough self-loathing, despair, and general demoralization that left me open to receive any help or guidance offered. This openness was in part because I already believed it had been an act of divine providence that transported me to a horrendous emotional bottom- but left my life and self relatively intact.
Rock Bottom Is When You Stop Digging:
I used to think negative, erratic, and self-destructive thoughts every hour of every day, week after week, month after month, year after year. The first time I wrote about being depressed I was seven. It was over a decade later that I finally got treatment, but by the time I received clinical help — I was dealing with more than depression. I started drinking to blackout in an attempt to combat the suffocating feelings and thoughts that dragged me down. Blacking out was like a temporary suicide, and blackouts were peculiar oblivion I craved. When alcohol wasn’t available, and my thoughts became unbearable, I retreated into the darkness of my mind. I believed I was a lost cause and would be better of dead.
I struggled between attempts at self-recovery, periods from age 17–19 where I would “take a break,” from drinking. The longest I ever went was six months. Usually, I only lasted a few weeks. Even so, alcoholism has a way of spiraling, so that even when I felt I was the most in control of it, I would do things in blackouts that left me shocked and appalled the next day. In the end, it wasn’t so much a devastating rock bottom where my entire life fell into disarray that prompted me to seek outside help, but one day after an unusual and unexpectedly lousy night that left me with a feeling of incomprehensible demoralization.
The rock bottom that caused me to change was more of an emotional low than a physical one. It wasn’t that I’d hit rock bottom and had nowhere else to fall, but a recognition that I was holding the shovel and digging myself into a deeper and blacker hole than ever before. At that moment, I cast the cliche and metaphorical shovel aside.
I saw a quote recently that said, “rock bottom is when the consequences of your actions come at your faster than your ability to lower your standards.” I think that’s another way of saying that you can always lower your standards, and you can still dig yourself in a deeper hole, but you don’t have to get to that point. My point is, if it’s in your power to make a positive change now, why wait?
Thoughts Are Habits:
Think of your mind as the world, and think of your thoughts like life on earth. Thoughts operate the same way that life cycles do. Thoughts grow, like organisms, and then they mature and die. For each thought that passes, a new one is born in its place to continue the cycle. Otherwise, all life would die out and there would be nothing left. This process is how you change your thoughts. You need to think about things other than what you’re mind is currently obsessed over. Filling your mind with new information, and effectively thinking about other things is how you replant the garden. You can’t just wake up one day with brand fresh flowers. You have to weed out the old ones, replant new ones, and nurture them until they grow and mature in place of the twisted old plants that ran rampant before. Think of spirituality as a metaphorical gardener, who tends the rotted bed of flowers and replants it with fresh and vibrant new life.
I didn’t wake up one day sober and filled with a sense of peace. I’ve been wandering around this planet for 20 years, and I’ve spent the vast majority of them sabotaging myself compared to the few years I’ve put towards recovery. In the last year though, I’ve found that by actively trying to connect to some power in the Universe that is not me, I’ve come much closer to finding myself than I ever could have dreamed. I’m still learning, and there’s so much to spirituality and recovery that I haven’t even begun to tap into, but that’s why I focus on taking things one day at a time. Healing doesn’t happen overnight, but as long you continue to pursue it the sky’s the limit, recovery is infinite, and anything is truly possible.