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Maybe you found salvation from your poison through a 12-step program, or some other program, maybe church—or perhaps you simply woke up one day and said, “Enough!” But you did it. Congratulations. It really is a brilliant achievement to conquer one’s demons, to basically save your own life. But how you got sober is not the focus of this.
The question is: so now what?
Consider the amount of time you put into your addiction—just into obtaining your drug of choice, getting high or drunk and then, recovering from the high/drunkenness. Maybe you even put some time into cleaning up the messes you created when you were “under the influence.” Maybe, you eventually gave up on that.
That’s a lot of energy and time—and where does that time and energy go when you stop that cycle?
I am talking about people who have been in recovery, sober, clean, abstinent, “on the wagon” for a while. You have your foundation down whether it is “meetings,” church, or the strength of your decision to stop. But where does that energy and time go that was once devoted to using?
In a recent interview with Rich Roll, he shared with me that after multiple years sober, he developed a food addiction as well as workaholism. He commented that he was miserable until he turned that around and directed his energy to sports: running, swimming, and biking.
James Fry, author of That Fry Boy says, “When I first got sober, I was so thrilled with being able to hold down friendships and stay gainfully employed that I didn’t find myself wanting for anything else. It wasn’t long though, before I found that with the gift of living a normal life, also meant I was now eligible for ‘normal’ problems. Be it boredom on the job, in relationships or simply just the slow burning humdrum of daily existence, without the excessive peaks and lows I had conditioned myself to during my using days, my newly found happiness was starting to lose its shimmer. Yes I was sober, and incredibly grateful for the fact, but also crazily bored at times.”
“This left, unchecked could become rather dangerous ground. Sure, I had no intention to alleviate the boredom through using anymore, but what about the other things now more readily available to me as a sober member of society, that offered up a quick hit of pleasure, without needing to work on myself such as sex or relationships? I needed to take committed action if I was to be happy. To date, I have found intense physical exercise to fill this void, whilst also improving my general well-being. I prefer to exercise with others, because not only does it push me a little further than when I do it alone, it has become a great way to meet others, too. Recently, writing has also taken prominence in my life. Putting words on paper (or a computer screen) has not only given me something to do with my time that I enjoy, but through the publishing of my work has connected me with like-minded individuals across the world. In my experience, addicts, whether they are using or not, are seekers by nature. In sobriety, that trait, when used wisely can be an amazing gift that can open up new worlds for us.”
Whether you were homeless or “functional,” active addiction takes over your life in an insidious and all-inclusive way. You may be a successful writer or a captain of industry. Still, a prevailing thought in your mind, most of the time, is about getting high and, possibly, how to get away with it. Maybe the thought is about how much you want to stop and trying to think of ways to do so. Regardless, addiction has you in a chokehold.
Martha Frankel, the executive director of Woodstock Writers, remarked: “When I was using, I spent a lot of my time thinking about getting high, getting high or recovering from getting high. When I stopped, I had a lot more time. I went to lots of meetings. I sort of stumbled from one meeting to another, building a foundation for my sobriety. As I got my bearings, I realized that time shifted in a way that I hadn’t ever experienced before. Some days seemed elongated, some compressed. So I started knitting. Knitting did a couple of things: it gave me something to do with my hands when I wanted to pick up a drink. And it gave me an incredible feeling of accomplishment, even if it was just knitting a baby hat. Also, it was a great thing to do at meetings! Now my life is so busy and full, I sometimes yearn for those days when it was just meetings and knitting.”
Breaking any destructive pattern of behavior frees you up to live a fuller life. Isn’t that what breaking the chains of addiction is about? The world becomes (hey, it always was!) a larger place. Did you really care about global warming and GMOs when you were looking for a vein? But now you have become (figuratively) an active member of the present world. No purple haze between you and reality.