Sobriety does not have to be a religion

19 Apr

11:28 am

So, a few nights ago, I watched two episodes of Cosmos and then watched the blood moon lunar eclipse from my roof. And I realized: none of this really matters. In a good way.

Lately (as in, the past year?), I’ve been mulling over this idea of “Being Sober” as being almost as bad as being an active “alcoholic.” It’s almost as much of a mindfuck, to be blunt. And, while choosing to NOT Be Sober does not have to mean I drink again, I think it might be the best thing I can do for myself right now.

I think there actually does come a point when your recovery ends. When you need to stop ruminating, stop excavating–not everything has to do with wine, or lack thereof. Especially when all this connecting-the-dots starts to subtract from your overall well-being.

Honestly, even though I haven’t been to meetings in a long time, I, too, have been indoctrinated with this false idea that “addiction” is in me, forever. It’s not. I am a completely different person than I was a few years ago–I don’t want to drink. YES, I have my moments, when I get depressed, or frustrated, or angry and want to blot it out. However, I’ve re-learned how to cope (I think we all do learn, at some point in our lives, and then “forget” when we give in to using alcohol for this purpose).

That’s the thing about the 12-step, and the disease-model: they both presume that you still want to drink after all, and they don’t take into account the fact that you’ve healed mind, body, and increasingly, soul. Personally, I have NO desire to blot out with booze–and next-to no desire to “have fun” by drinking. (I mean, I do miss the buzz, but maybe that’s because I have depression, and I haven’t as yet encountered an antidote that worked as well as wine.) I have an inkling that my body and mind have changed so much that drinking would not affect me the way it did before–drinking those first two glasses equals static brain instead of euphoria, in other words.

Wine is an option, but it’s not the best one. But, isn’t that what EVERYONE knows? Maybe it just took me a fuck-lot longer to figure out that life lesson than others.

Is it necessary for me to Be Sober, which has become burdensome? In my opinion, no, not really. In my gut, I know that I don’t have to drink, ever again. And, that simply means, I don’t have to drink. It doesn’t have to mean more. Sobriety does not have to be a religion, with all its confining constructs–constructs that I’ve built, and imprisoned myself within. It kind of reminds me of the organized religion that Jesus was rebelling against, simply by preaching, You can contact God and have a relationship with Him without intermediaries. It kind of reminds me of the organized religion that inadvertantly sprang up around Jesus’s teachings!

I used to think about a LOT of other interesting, exciting things; now, I find myself focusing on not drinking all the time. It’s sad, in a way. When I say, I miss me, this is what I mean. And, I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve been blogging on it constantly, and thereby making it more of a Thing? Who knows? Right now, I’m thinking about the cosmos, and the cities I’ve lived in, and science, and volunteering, and the fun I’m going to have in the future. Not the past, not drinking, not being “diseased” or tempted to drink. Not relating my behavior and mood swings and anger to wine, AGAIN.

Anyway, I think it’s just time for me to move on. Get back to living life, and not living recovery.

Happy Easter. May yourSELF be resurrected! πŸ™‚

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34 Responses to “Sobriety does not have to be a religion”

  1. wren1450 April 19, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    Wow. This is so good. If I get to your place someday, I can die happy. My only caution would be that alcohol IS an addiction, so to just be careful and to know it CAN sneak up on you unawares. But you sound so solid and “with it.” Your post is positive and, frankly, inspires me.
    Joan B.

  2. Chris April 19, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

    Awesome!! I felt more in control when I stopped going to meetings. I felt as if I had nailed one foot in the floor and walked around in a circle…..now I’m moving forward with a lighter weight on my shoulders. Yeah, I’m still a nubie ( 6 months sober last tuesday ) but labeling myself as an alcoholic and listening to endless A.A. rhetoric seemed unhelpful in my progress….instead of sitting in stuffy church basement meetings and listening to war stories, I’m biking, redoing my illustration/design portfolio and basically moving on because I’m physically and mentally able (patting myself on back). Anyways, your posts kick ass…keep ’em coming!

    • Jocelynn April 19, 2014 at 2:11 pm #

      I couldn’t agree more, plus I am also 6 months sober and an illustrator/graphic designer.

    • Vodka Goggles April 20, 2014 at 9:06 am #

      Graphic designers unite! I’m also six months sober next week.

  3. fern April 19, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

    I like that you are so blunt!!! You’ve got a good attitude that sounds like it will successfully keep you sober while not focusing on staying sober.

    My sober journey is more about getting out of my own head and there are times when writing this blog, going to meetings and constantly thinking about NOT drinking feeds my egotistical ways. I make it all about me and my sobriety. Perhaps when I hit a year I will feel like you — enough with the recovery shit now lets get back to living.

    I heard a guy say we aren’t “recovered” we’re “uncovered.” I liked that perspective because once something is uncovered it’s no longer such a secret. Let go and move on!

    Great post!

    • wren1450 April 19, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

      I agree. Sometimes I feel like I am so concerned with my sobriety that I am obsessed, and I know it is not healthy to be “all about me.” I, too, hope that this alters once I have more time sober behind me.

  4. Jocelynn April 19, 2014 at 2:09 pm #

    Thank you so much for this! I have been trying to put words to how I am feeling and what I have been thinking and you have done it!

  5. sobertherapist April 19, 2014 at 4:14 pm #

    Hmmm. I like your “fuck-lot” so much. It might be my new standard unit of measurement. I am looking forward to the day when I can be sober without having to think ONLY about how to stay sober. I want sobriety, drinking, not drinking to simply be a non-issue. You know, many things in my life are a non-issue. Ready for this one to be as well. Thanks for posting.

  6. swimsonemile April 19, 2014 at 4:40 pm #

    Amen!! It gets so tiresome thinking of not drinking. I did more activities when I was drinking than I’m doing right now. And I might add I did not drink doing them. It feels like all my spare time is reading blogs and posts on reddit. Almost like this is my new hobby. I’m still figuring in out.

  7. minneapolisatmidnight April 19, 2014 at 9:54 pm #

    I love this and relate completely. I think partly because I come from a background of organized religion and all of the rhetoric that goes along with that, AA has been pretty unattractive to me. It’s so nice to see someone feeling the same way, but in a non-hateful way. I don’t disrespect AA, because I think some people need the structure as a crutch. But to me that structure and the whole “Sobriety forever” focus is making me feel suffocated and like you are saying, can be counterproductive.

    To me, life is best lived when you break free from the hold of substances or ANY other power/obsession. Seems like you are at a healthy point with alcohol, and that’s wonderful.
    Best of luck!

  8. Kirst April 20, 2014 at 8:09 am #

    Well said DDG, for some the Sober label and all it entails is necessary to keep the momentum to stay sober. But for me I found that I couldn’t find peace when I was constantly thinking about being sober, about not drinking, not relapsing, how many days … … … It kept alcohol as the focus in my mind when really I should be aiming for the opposite. This time around I just decided that it was forever. Not a year or until a big event came along. I can’t drink alcohol. Time to stop that shit. OK, what’s next? I haven’t made a big deal about it to other people so if it comes up I just say that I stopped because I was getting migraines but that the other benefits are so amazing that I just wouldn’t go back to it. It’s no ones business but mine anyway and I love the fact that it was only as hard as I thought it would be … so it just wasn’t. Sure, there are twinges but never enough to convince me to go back. Not drinking is as much a part of my life as not eating oysters – everyone raves over oysters like they’re some amazing tasting wonder food when really they are salty, slimy sea creatures with the texture of a slug. No matter how much fun people made it look like there’s no way I am putting one of those suckers in my mouth, lol. Sorry for the all over the place ramble, I really enjoy your blog, it has helped me tackle lots of the unthought of side effect of giving up – always food for thought! Thank you (and I hope I haven’t put anyone off oysters πŸ™‚
    Kirst

    • upjumpedthedevil June 16, 2014 at 10:54 am #

      I like the oyster analogy. That is an easy one to remember.

  9. 365 Reasons April 20, 2014 at 8:18 am #

    I love this! I have so many other things in my life, I can not see me going to meetings forever. I do not need a daily meeting. Sometimes the meetings make me want to drink more than anything! And the dogma that is preached in meetings reminds me of why I shy from organized religion. I like the philosophies of religion. Not the finger pointing.

    Only 89 days sober here. I can see me being happy without alcohol. I still get cravings and hope they diminish over time. But I can now see how my other passions can improve without blackouts, hangovers, and other ways drinking was wasting my life. πŸ™‚

  10. 365 Reasons April 20, 2014 at 8:18 am #

    I love this! I have so many other things in my life, I can not see me going to meetings forever. I do not need a daily meeting. Sometimes the meetings make me want to drink more than anything! And the dogma that is preached in meetings reminds me of why I shy from organized religion. I like the philosophies of religion. Not the finger pointing.

    Only 89 days sober here. I can see me being happy without alcohol. I still get cravings and hope they diminish over time. But I can now see how my other passions can improve without blackouts, hangovers, and other ways drinking was wasting my life. πŸ™‚

  11. Mary LA April 21, 2014 at 8:00 am #

    I’m seven years plus sober now and I find that I don’t consciously think very much about not-drinking. My blog is filled with all kinds of other topics and concerns. What I do pay attention to are old patterns of wanting to avoid or escape things, bouts of anxiety, withdrawal from others, intense feelings of anger or shame, often to do with the past. Those are warning signs that might take me into a bad place, not necessarily drinking but not engaging or caring or willing to get on with living my life.

  12. Ron M April 21, 2014 at 8:32 am #

    Happy Easter to you, DDG. I’ve always said that if I had to be continuously “in recovery” for the rest of my life, I’d just as soon drink. Happily, I found that there is an end to recovery. I call it being ‘recovered’. I reached a point where drinking and not drinking both became non-issues. Another way to say it is I no longer spend emotional energy thinking about drinking or thinking about being sober. Like chlorine bleach, I don’t think about drinking or not drinking that, either. πŸ˜‰

    In a big way, the whole point of my blog is to let people know that recovery really can have an end point. In fact, I believe that Bill W. thought the same thing. We can recover, put the whole thing behind us, and rejoin the human race as productive individuals.

    Great post, and congratulations on your recovery!

  13. Valerie April 21, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    You know – I think you hit on a sticking point for me, too. It seems to me that as a measure of progress, “staying sober” naturally has to take less of an importance to other areas of growth. I liken it to a child learning math. While repeating multiplication tables over and over again in the second grade makes sense, by the time one is ready to graduate, if they still have to repeat multiplication tables every.single.night, it seems to me they may want to try and find a different way to learn because something isn’t quite working or clicking with them.

    I’m trying to curb my judgment that I find it odd that people in my regular meetings who have 25 years sober from their respective issues still attend 6 or 7 meetings per week but I just can’t, at least at it relates to me. And, since I’m being honest, those folks who have 25 years in and are still going to 6 or 7 meetings a week don’t have the kinds of lives I want to emulate.

    I’m early enough on in my particular 12-step journey that several meetings a week make good sense for me and will for some time yet … but, I agree, at some point, you know when you’ve built a solid foundation underneath you and it’s time to move on. Thanks for all of your insights and honesty – best to you as you move forward!

    • mishedup April 22, 2014 at 3:07 am #

      Here’s the thing about people with many years of sobriety returning to meetings. picture a meeting with a bunch of newcomers and no one with any length of sobriety…how would that work? Old-timers continue to come back because they are doing what the 12 step clearly states is our duty…to carry the message to another alcoholic. They come and share and deliver practical experience that, at least in my case, has been a life-saver and helped me to stay sober and free of the obsession to drink

      I think we can be recovered to, but that doesn’t lessen the need to be of service, to help others.Its; the whole point of the program, the only reason for its existence…to show others there is a better way, and to do it by one drunk talking to another.

      I spend a few hours a week at meetings and have daily things i do to help me stay in recovery. No skin of my back…i used to spend hours upon hours, daily, drunk. I don’t think about drinking anymore, I work on being a ether person and helping others. That’s where i find my recovery now.
      I am building a solid foundation for myself, and grateful for it. But I am not going to abandon others once I feel ok….

      • carrythemessage April 22, 2014 at 11:58 am #

        You said one thing I was going to say, M – that a few hours a week spent on my recovery is nothing compared to the countless days and weeks and months utterly wasted with me being…wasted. I don’t go to meetings because I am in a world of hurt and need help – that is why I went in the first place. Now, it’s to connect and stay connected with others in recovery. Face-to-face stuff. Talking about how we’re doing. Life stuff, just not recovery stuff. I go to help the guy that feels the way I felt when I got into recovery – broken. Like you mentioned, M, if we’re not there (i am not an oldtimer, of course), then why AREN’T we there? Like the blogging world here – here for each other. I could stop blogging tomorrow and I’d be fine, recovery-wise. But I do it because I love it, and if it gives a new person a measure of relief or that whole “I’m not the only who thinks that!”, then it’s all good. πŸ™‚

        Paul

  14. CH April 21, 2014 at 11:49 pm #

    I like this. To me it means connecting with the pre sober me. That there is continuity, yes a lot has changed for the better, but before and after thnking feels extreme. I am still me. I just choose to not drink now.

    • upjumpedthedevil June 16, 2014 at 11:03 am #

      Yes, connecting with the “pre sober me” is important. It scared me, as a newly sober person, to think that I would have this chasm between my present and my past. I was relieved to find that the person that I left is very similar to the person I am still. I like a lot of my old self.

  15. Lilly April 22, 2014 at 12:03 am #

    I totally get this and it’s a stumbling block for me too. Funny that you put it that way as I was thinking about exactly that this weekend – as in, “Isn’t it a bit sad to be spending so much time thinking – and writing – about NOT drinking?” It’s exhausting and sometimes feels like way more of an obsession than drinking actually was to me.

    Having said that, I guess if you had to do that for a year, two, three, to get to where you are now, then maybe it is all worth it? I do think it might be necessary in early sobriety but maybe at some point it’s not and just becomes a (bad?) habit? I’m not sure. OTOH, the one thing I’d personally worry about is that if you step too far away do you risk becoming complacent and thinking drinking isn’t that big a deal after all, which leads nicely to those ‘oh fuck it I’ll just drink’ moments. There has to be a balance in-between and I believe you’re on your way of finding it. Just don’t stop posting altogether because we’d miss you. πŸ™‚

    • Lilly April 22, 2014 at 8:05 pm #

      Actually, I just read Paul’s reply and I take back part of what I said here (and realise it came out a bit the wrong way) because what he says makes perfect sense to me. Firstly, the helping others bit and connecting. And secondly when you compare it to the time we wasted drinking, then it doesn’t seem that excessive at all. That said, I still feel like I am exhausted by thinking about it all quite as much as I do and that I need to find more balance with it somehow. Interesting discussion indeed!

  16. Rebecca A. Watson April 22, 2014 at 7:53 am #

    I’ll agree with Lilly here. We’d miss you if you didn’t post any more, but I totally understand not wanting to write and think and deal with not drinking all the time. It seems like you’re sitting still after years of sitting still while drinking. Of course, there are plenty of other things to write about and do. No need to make life all about one thing.

  17. carrythemessage April 22, 2014 at 12:07 pm #

    People have said that 12-step becomes it’s own addiction. They will say that it’s a cult (ugh). They will say that it’s a religion of sorts.
    I am not here to get into that kind of thing, because I know the spirit of this post isn’t anything to do with those things, and is not accusatory (if it was, I probably would have skipped it – live and let live, ya know?)

    Recovery does end, but my spiritual growth doesn’t. I don’t get a certificate and move on. I may not have the desire to drink (yay!) but there are things in my teeny-weeny brain that like to drive me batty, and it affects me – emotionally, spiritually. So, I just keep at it – talk to others, write, pray, meditate, exercise, write out what’s on my mind, meetings, read…no big deals. They don’t take more than a few hours a week at most. They aren’t time-sucking. It’s like being a mormon or a vegan – it’s a lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle, for me at least.

    I know what you mean though – I was at a point where I truly was in recovery mode 24/7. And I knew I had to let that go. Scary as hell. I wrote about it too a few times on my blog. I let go and…everything was fine. I think we all go through that. Some people even stop blogging, or what not. But I have to remember that the things that got me here are also still a part of me. I know (FOR ME), that if I don’t do any of those things I mentioned, I will start to get bent out of shape. Nothing to do with booze! Just Paul getting into old, ugly Paul. Sure, of course, I have changed. I have grown and developed, just like many of us out here have. But I know that if I have a shitty day, or I get bent out of shape, I can get into my old ways of thinking. And that isn’t good for Paul…or those who know Paul…lol.

    Anyway, I get what you are saying, and I agree that we need to live life. I couldn’t do recovery 24/7 – I’d get batty (and I did, until I realized that I got sober to live life!)

    Good post, and great responses πŸ™‚

    Paul

    • Lilly April 22, 2014 at 8:07 pm #

      I commented above that your other comment made me rethink my somewhat hastily written comment but this is also such great food for thought. I’m somewhat heartened to hear that this is something many people go through – the feeling that it’s 24/7 and maybe that’s a bit excessive. Anyway, thanks. And also: hi! xx

      • carrythemessage April 22, 2014 at 8:37 pm #

        Hi! I don’t think your comments were hasty. I am pretty much in agreement with what most people have said here. And I know everyone well enough that I feel comfortable speaking my truth as well…as we all should.

        As I said, I went through that whole almost excessive thing about recovery – was always at a meeting, or reading or working with someone or blogging or reading other blogs, etc…it was almost too much, but I know at first I needed it. To stay away from the booze. To immerse myself in something other than alcohol, or the thoughts of it. Then it got to a point where life beckoned, and I had to let go of that safety blanket. And I did – reluctantly at first, but then realized I was okay.

        As long as I don’t go too far the other way – getting *too* comfortable and getting away from what keeps me grounded, then I am okay.

        We’re all doing our best :0

        Nice to see you too πŸ™‚

        Hugs,
        Paul

      • Lilly April 22, 2014 at 10:03 pm #

        No, my comments were literally hastily written so I felt they weren’t well thought out and maybe came across wrong but thanks πŸ™‚

        I guess I am struggling with the fact that I’ve been at this for quite awhile but due to all my on-off drinking-not drinking in some ways it’s still early days and so I feel like I am still focusing on it A LOT of the time and I get tired of that. In that sense, I can see that relapsing has kept me quite stuck. I think it’s probably only after a good solid period of sobriety that one can feel secure enough to move away a little. But, like you said, for all of us I think the risk there could be in getting complacent and so, as I said to DDG, I think there probably still has to be a balancing act even in long term sobriety.

        I REALLY, appreciate that people like yourself and others who have more time are here and blogging. I mean, if it weren’t for those examples it’d be so much harder for people newer on in the process to have hope, to see it can really be done and sustained, to see that it gets better. It’s why I’ve hung in there and kept trying. If I was only reading the accounts of other newbies and people also slipping and sliding, as much as that’s great for solidarity, I probably would have given up by now. So thank you to all ye olde-timers πŸ˜‰

  18. novemberdry April 22, 2014 at 10:16 pm #

    I’ve loved reading this post and all the comments that have followed. I’m also sick of thinking about not drinking. I’m five months sober and have entered this strange realm of the process where I now dream of relapsing. Bahhh. I used to dream about binge eating when I went thru a chronic dieting phase in high school/college and I feel the same sense of entrapment a lot of you guys talk about. Why be sober if it means your mind is a slave to actively thinking about not drinking when a person without this awful alcohol sensitivity is blissfully free of such obsessions? Thank you to those of you sober longer than I’ve been to keep me humble and for those of you newbiesΒ for reminding me I’m not alone. Every single one of you posters gives me strength every day.

  19. erics1100paces April 22, 2014 at 10:48 pm #

    I like going to meetings. My friends are there. And I hope that I might help people while I am there, because people were there to help me when I needed it most, and besides, I’ve already done so much harm. I’ve got a lot of making up to do. This is not a critique of your position DDG. What you say makes plenty of sense. Maybe there will come a day when I feel differently than I do now.

  20. littleman031103 April 23, 2014 at 10:45 am #

    Recovery is not for everyone. Not everyone who comes into the program is truly an alcoholic. Nothing in life should ever feel overwhelming or burdensome. I mean, yeah, things get heavy at times, but when we allow something to overtake our very existence, then we are not truly living. The coin says, “To thine own self be true;” it doesn’t say, “AA rules you now! Bend to its awesome power!” The book talks about the heavy drinker and the moderate drinker who are able to stop on their own power. Perhaps this is you. There is no need to apologize for that, nor should you feel pressured to do something which doesn’t feel right. AA is for people who want it. If you don’t want it, don’t feel you need it, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I feel I need it. I want it and it doesn’t seem burdensome to me. If others can get sober without the program or even drink without destroying their lives, hey, that’s great! Just because this is what works for ME doesn’t mean that you have to do it. Anyone who tells you otherwise is perhaps speaking more out of their own fear of relapsing. The simple truth is, we are the only ones who know what is in our hearts. I can no more tell you your truth than you can tell me mine. Just love yourself, however you feel you need to.

    • littleman031103 April 23, 2014 at 11:04 am #

      Just a short addition after reading through the other comments: Yes, it does calm down after a time. I’m nearly 6 years sober now. I go to about 3 meetings a week – to give back and to keep my mind in the right place. I sponsor and I do service work, but I haven’t actively thought about drinking/using or not drinking/not using since about 2 months sober. Yes, I’ve gotten occasional urges – more in the beginning, but very rare now. I do think about recovery principles daily, though. The things I did to get sober are now the things I do to live a happy, productive life. My drinking/using was not the problem; it was a horrible solution to a darker problem inside me. The first step is the only one which talks about alcohol. All the rest are about how to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and like what you see. ❀

  21. Former Escape Artist April 26, 2014 at 12:12 am #

    Preach! I’m too tired to write a good response, but I wholeheartedly agree with your approach. It’s not popular with the AA “gurus” – but what’s popular is not always right.

  22. perfectlittlewagon April 28, 2014 at 7:35 pm #

    Amen. I was sober for a year and went to AA. I enjoyed it but there was a part of me that obsessed about the recovery as much as I did about the drinking. This time I’m not counting days or collecting coins because I don’t want my sobriety to be about that. I want it to be because I care about myself and that might mean going to meetings and watching Intervention until the sun comes up but hopefully I get to a place where I just am…I’m not an alcoholic, I’m not in recovery. I just am. That would be the biggest blessing I could ask for.

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