4 Ways to Live Sobriety (video below)
For whatever reason I love talking sobriety with my buddies in recovery. Sobriety has given me so many things! One of the one’s that I value the most is meaningful, deep, relationships, where I am able to talk about ANYTHING without fear of judgement.
The topic of today’s blog post is something that I discuss often with my core recovery buddies here in Miami, and usually comes up in conversation as a question like “how you livin’ papa?” Our conversations seem to be fun, light hearted, and brutally honest.
If I can get honest with myself, it allows me to be honest with others, and vice versa. I am not talking about “cash register” honesty here, but more the freedom to be introspective and transparent.
So, how AM I livin’, IN SOBRIETY, today?”
Wow! Good question?!
Life one day, and one moment at a time can feel wonderful, terrifying, stale, exhilarating, serene, “connected,” and everything in between.
But my answer usually falls into 4 categories, and because I like to think in analogies, I use one of myself in the “ocean” of life (corny I know but bare with me).
Level 1: Drowning. I am in emotional turmoil and am not coping very well at all. In fact, I am in grave danger of relapse. I am usually locked in to some self-centered, fearful, self-pitying theme in my head. I am feeling the opposite of “connected” with the world around me. I am feeling like a little kid who’s fallen off the balcony of a cruise ship.
I am not actively participating in recovery. Spiritual practices, (Step-work, service-work, meetings, self-care, practicing healthy boundaries), connecting with family and friends, the ability to look myself in the mirror without some shame or disgust; these are a thing of the past.
Level 2: Treading Water: I am begrudgingly struggling to cope with life on life’s terms, and doing so is becoming tiresome. I can do this for a VERY, very long time with astonishing ease! Days, or years at a time might pass in this state. I am not going anywhere. I am doing the bare minimum in terms of spiritual practices (recovery), self-care, and connecting with loved ones. Spiritually, emotionally, relationally, I am generally not in a good place at all.
Level 3: Swimming: Whatever the conditions of the ocean might be, I am moving my arms and legs steadily, rhythmically, with a sense of purpose and direction. Although my internal, emotional life may be here and there, my behavior is influencing my thought life, and impacting relationships with self, others, and a higher power, favorably. I am engaged in a positive feedback loop.
I am “striving,” and generally experiencing positive results like inner peace, energy, love, strength, vulnerable,
More often than not I am “showing up for myself” through self-care. I’m conscious of boundaries, both internal and external and able to be vulnerable. Service work, attending 12 step meetings, rich family life, and connecting with others both in and out of recovery becomes the highlight of life.
Level 4: Surfing: This is a different experience altogether, and one that I am shooting for, but very often fall short of.
It may be an art form, “the flow,” or “the zone.”
The spiritual equivalent of Michael Jordan, who was legendary for getting in that unstoppable trance like state BECAUSE he had an even more EPIC practice routine.
This “zone” comes about more and more often as I am practicing love, tolerance, patience, and and a commitment to a lifestyle of service and loving self care.
In this state, I have risen above, but am still connected to the ocean. I am moving with it dynamically and harmoniously, one microsecond at a time. Regular things that usually seem meaningless, take on a growing sense of wonder. My heart feels like the warm slowly setting sun whose light falls lovingly and forgivingly upon all things.
I AM both Josh the loving parent AND Josh the whimsical inner-child, who fully experience the love, purpose, and joy exchanged between them.
It is a blessing to know that such a place exists.
AA’s big book has Carl Jung describing such a state to Roland Hazard on page 27, when describing exactly what he sees in the few who managed to move beyond addiction:
“Yes,” replied the doctor, “there is. Exceptions to cases such as yours have been occurring since early times. Here and there, once in a while, alcoholics have had what are called vital spiritual experiences. To me these occurrences are phenomena. They appear to be in the nature of huge emotional displacements and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them. In fact, I have been trying to produce some such emotional rearrangement within you. With many individuals the methods which I employed are successful, but I have never been successful with an alcoholic of your description.”
I hope to share more of the journey with you, and would love to hear about your experiences with these 4 states and everywhere in between!