Alcoholic drinking sets us up for the hopeless feeling; it is a depressant and it dulls our senses. This alcohol induced despair makes us blind to all the good things around us – problems and bad luck become personal and good things are insignificant. When faced with a life that is hopeless and full of despair, it is easy to begin to hate ourselves, which is a horrible, familiar and predictable place for an alcoholic. Self-hatred combined with hopelessness is so often the starting point to a drinking cycle over again.
For years, I was stuck in a cycle of drinking and despair. Each day, I woke up hungover, feeling awful, and with no motivation to consider my life and health. I hated waking up hungover and I hated myself for doing it to myself again. There was always a desire to get sober, but I wanted it immediately and when it didn’t happen immediately, I would begin drinking again. Drinking for days or weeks on end, the misery and despair would always get worse. I was stuck in a vicious spiral of self hatred and regret. Every person in my life knew it was OK to treat me as if I hated myself. I knew this cycle would go on indefinitely unless stopped.
Getting sober would break the cycle. After a few days of not drinking, I felt healthier with more energy; I had a motivation that I could do things in life; and I wanted to maintain my health. I knew that the longer I stayed sober the more my past would fade. However, sometimes it is hard to not obsess. Unfortunately, trips down misery lane were the way I usually sabotaged my recovery.
The big question is: How do you get sober and make you care about you? The straightforward answer is that you just do it. You give that hurt person inside of you a big hug. You tell that person you’re not going to every hurt them again! And you tell that lost person that from here on out you are going to protect them, make them whole, let them grow in a nurturing environment and then set that hurt person free!
We can decide to take small, simple actions that can put us on a path towards bringing the embers of hope back to life. It can help to start really small and write a few very simple things down that could help. You could start with a question to yourself in the morning. What is one thing I can do for myself today that shows self-caring? Is it taking a shower? Doing some laundry? Cleaning up a mess? Do one nice thing for yourself. Procrastination can be an issue when we don’t care about ourselves, so I need to force myself to keep at it. But by ‘doing’ small ‘actions’ each hour of each day, I am better able to accept the simplicity of Being. I can very gently and non-judgmentally begin to blow on those tiny embers of hope and caring.
I had to learn that Life is what we make it, but it takes time. I need to build faith that things will work out as long as I didn’t drink. It is important for me to understand that the past does not equal the future and that it’s never too late to take control of my lives and make things better – sober and with a clear head.
Getting sober is not easy. It can be uncomfortable, unfamiliar, and scary at times. However, uncomfortable feelings and emotions will pass. I need to remember to be unafraid to experience the uncomfortable; in fact, I have learned to lean in to it. When going through these tough times, I don’t look for what’s wrong, for my faults, but I look for what is right, for the hidden gifts because that will keep me on path and lead me to the greater reward.
A critical part of recovery is to discover and build a purposeful life. By caring for others, we learn to start caring for ourselves. Sometimes it is good to see that there are others who do care about you, especially when you can’t see it yourself. The purpose does not need to be perfectly defined or carved in stone – it can always be changed. But purpose in life gives us the reason to stay sober and move forward.
I also find that as I forgive yourself for one aspect another issue might pop up out of nowhere. That’s OK. My drinking life was messy and sometimes my recovery will be too.