It happened on a Wednesday morning. I was driving back to the office after a successful breakfast meeting. The windows on my car were down, the music was on, and there was nothing but blue sky and sunshine above me.
Then, without warning, I felt it. It started in my chest and quickly engulfed my entire body, from the top of my head down to the tips of my toes. Was it happiness? No, that's not nearly strong enough of a word. Elation? Still not strong enough. Joy? Yes, it was joy ... pure, complete, unadulterated joy. Down to the very core of my being. I've had many moments like that in the six months since I had my last drink. The irony is I used to think I needed to drink to have moments like that. More and more, I wonder how many of those moments I missed because of my drinking.
Several weeks ago, I began a series of three posts in which I attempted to articulate the reasons why I have been successful on this alcohol free journey (171 days as of today, but who's counting?) when I have failed so many times in the past (for those looking for some hope or encouragement on their own journey, keep in mind that my longest previous AF period was 45 days. 171 is more than 45. Just sayin'). Ultimately, it comes down to four words: Decide. Survive. Now Thrive.
In Part 1 I discussed how the first step on this journey is to DECIDE you want to live an alcohol free life (or, if you prefer, you CHOOSE to thrive in sobriety). Notice DECIDE is in all caps. You can't decide and be successful, you have to DECIDE. Or, as Yoda would say, "Do. Or do not. There is no try."
Part 2 was about surviving the early days of my new alcohol free life. I'm not going to lie, those early days can be hard. Really fucking hard. The cravings can be intense, the world seems to conspire against us by providing temptation after temptation, and so many people get stuck in the early stages of sobriety (or, closer to the truth, failing to stay sober) and wonder why they can't escape the cycle. The key is momentum and doing whatever it takes to keep your little sober car moving. Let me repeat that, because it's important. The key is momentum AND DOING WHATEVER IT TAKES TO KEEP YOUR LITTLE SOBER CAR MOVING. If you want or need a refresher on the little sober car, please see Belle's wonderful blogs.
Which brings me to Part 3 - Now Thrive. In the past six months I have gained mental clarity, I have become more patient, I have learned to deal with really strong emotions (positive and negative) without artificial "assistance", and I have had moments of pure joy. I've also had a few moments of heartbreaking sadness. I love this new life and, more and more, I am learning to love the new version of me who's living it.
I have to admit that all of my other problems didn't go away when I stopped drinking. In fact, some of those problems are more clear than they ever were while my brain was clouded with booze. To overcome those problems, to stay the course on my new AF life, I continue to lean heavily on my WHY. You see, sobriety is a WHAT, it is a means to an end. It is not a WHY. WHY encapsulates the reason (or reasons) I am living an AF life. If I had to put it in the most simple terms possible, I am living an alcohol free life because I cannot be the person I want to be AND drink. If I have to choose, I choose ME. But the WHY is different for each of us. Make sure you have a strong WHY, it's what will get you through the dark times and help pull you into the light where your new life is waiting.
Decide. Survive. Then Thrive. Four simple words. The key to my success. May you be successful in your alcohol free life as well.
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