Sober Is The New Zen
How I embrace each new year without the chaos and insanity of doing the same thing over and over again.
My Spiritual Bankruptcy
The true definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.
That was me in the beginning of every new year. It was like ground hog day as I vowed not to drink, not to eat sugar, and not to fall back into bad habits. As always, I failed miserably at doing all of the above. This cycle would repeat itself over and over again until April 3rd, 2011. I had drunk myself into a series of events that would be the final episode to a yearly saga that was the sobering catalyst for CHANGE!
The day after my drinking disaster, I woke with my young children checking for hot puffs of air to come out from under my nose to see if I was still alive. When I finally opened my eyes I noticed the clock said 4:23 PM. I staggered toward the light of day while remorse kicked me in the face so hard that I fell to the ground and prayed for whatever force held the stars in the sky to take away my suffering. I didn't want to drink anymore, but I couldn't seem to stay stopped. No matter what I tried, I failed until that final day when I was forced into surrender.
I am beyond grateful that an alcoholic death was not the end of my story. I vividly remember that night as I took refuge from the embarrassment of my choices. I cried so much that my tears stained the concrete floor of my garage. I remember hiding from my children so that the stench of my shame could escape into the balmy night air. That night was the epitome of incomprehensible demoralization and it forced me to take a hard look at who I had become.
After praying for help, an image replayed in my mind of a social acquaintance that didn't drink at friendly gatherings. After several cell phone dials and hang-ups, I finally connected to this persons voice. Swallowing my pride, and with a lump in my throat, I asked her how she did it. I asked how she hung out with us and didn't drink. She told me that she attended 12-Step meetings that kept her sober, one day at a time. I was intrigued and curious. I thought maybe, just maybe, it could help me do the same.
A few days later I went with her to a 12-Step meeting. It was a relief to know I was not alone. Within weeks I found that I didn’t have to feel like I did on that last day of my drinking-ever again. I kept going back to see if this was really the solution to my drinking problem. I stuck myself right in the middle of a group of women, including a trusted sponsor, who guided me and helped me understand the steps while I worked my way through the mental anguish and pain of my past.
Exposing the Cycle of Failure
I learned that the childhood sexual abuse skeletons in my closet were the reason why I kept, repeatedly, failing when I tried changing all by myself. I learned how life pressed beyond my capabilities to cope with my trauma and why these cycles ultimately led me right back to the only thing I knew, which was to self-medicate to ease the discomfort of being in my own skin. I saw how the darkness that lingered inside of me continually overruled my commitment to be a better version of myself. I felt how the sharp pain of remorse and self-pity prevented me from being able to stay the course. I learned what caused me to slip into the depression that was fueled by anger, fear, sadness, and shame. Eventually, I learned how to step back and look at my failure as a positive guide for change. All of this taught me how to end the cycle of insanity.
Embracing a New Life
Fast forward to over five years later, I have been given a new life because I had the courage to ask for help. Humbling my ego and asking for help was admitting that I did not have the necessary skills and tools to make it over the mountain of emotional garbage that I was trying to deal with myself. I had to finally come to terms with the fact that I could not do it alone. What I have come to discover is that my unhealthy patterns needed to be looked at more closely for change to take root and flourish.
When I bonded with people, places, books, authors, speakers, and those who have been where I was, I could see that a real sober experience was more than a theory, it was possible. When I connected with people like me, I was willing to do what it took to get sober, stay sober, and embrace a spiritual transformation. I could not see this from my limited perspective until I began to reach out to those who had the same life experiences. When I began to identify, not compare, with those who came before me change became easier.
The Zen State of Mind
Today, I have a new outlook on life. I still have days that make me want to hide under the covers, but I have steps, tools, and meditation practices that keep me from reverting back to old behaviors. I have found peace and a daily spiritual practice that incorporates various well-being modalities. Being in a Zen state of mind allows me to sit still and enjoy the art of living in recovery. I no longer have to live in emotional chaos. I am free to be the imperfectly perfect me who embraces life on life’s terms which, in my book, is the ultimate Zen experience.
“To a mind that is still, the whole Universe surrenders.” ~Chuang Tzu