It’s so easy to get bogged down when life gets tough. When the world starts throwing me curveballs, my instincts scream, “Run!” This quote reminds me to keep my feet moving, not kicking. By recognizing struggles are impermanent and resistance counterproductive, I begin to break the chains of challenge.
RALPH WALDO EMERSON
Transcendentalism aside, Mr. Emerson notes the paradoxical principle of 12 step recovery – that through charity towards humanity, I help myself.
Early in recovery, I questioned whether my benevolent actions truly originated from a desire to help others. A man sober almost a decade told me that under close examination, all actions contain some form of selfish motivation. He encouraged me to set my concerns aside and focus on helping others, regardless of my situational perspective.
There aren’t many people more qualified to comment on drugs and alcohol than a member of the Beatles. Ringo decided to sober up despite the limelight of fame that beckons debauchery.
I still remember quite clearly how empty I felt with belly full of booze and a body full of drugs. I sought meaning, purpose and connection in alcohol and narcotics. What I found was something like a mirage, tantalizing from a distance but evaporating upon arrival.
My roommate looked at me one day and said, “You used to laugh and joke around. You don’t do that anymore.” That hit home hard.
Deep down, I knew I had turned into a creature entirely devoid of substance. No emotions. No feelings. No life. I wished for death like a drowning man wishes for a life preserver. In a way, I suppose I did die. The narcotic garbage disposal I’d become passed away, and from its ashes emerged a man brimming with spirit.
Drugs may have robbed me of emotions, but recovery restored affection for myself and others.
Sometimes I read insights from a recovering alcoholic that make my jaw drop. It elegantly describes exactly how I felt but couldn’t put into words. This is one of those quotes.
Happiness always seemed within a grasp with a head full of mind-altering substances. With it came a cunning sense of pseudo-confidence. All these flash-in-the-pan feelings vanished when I awoke the next day.
“Next time” was a recurring theme for me in active alcoholism and drug addiction. Next time wouldn’t just be different – it would be incredible! Next time wouldn’t just make me feel good again – it would make me feel god-like.
But like Heather King, all my efforts were doomed because drinking and drugging didn’t work anymore. On the contrary, it never worked in the first place. It just appeared to work.
I was always told things would get better right when I got sober. But like many people in recovery, I didn’t believe it until it started to happen. For me, experience isn’t merely a teacher – it’s an authority.
As someone who came from a professional gambling background, I held no other option. I had to bet the farm that those in long-term recovery were telling me the truth – that life would get better if I stayed clean – or return to a life of penetrating misery.
Thankfully I pushed my chips in the middle to stay sober. The house already took everything I owned, again and again, when I returned to active drug addiction and alcoholism. Convinced the only way to a good life involved total abstinence, I made a play that saved the day. And month. And year.
Today, life is good because I was willing to incorporate suggested practices that naturally result in positivity. Not because I wished life to be good. Wishful thinking helped lead me into active addiction in the first place.
F. SCOTT FITZGERALD
The true test of anyone’s sobriety begins in a drinking environment. Stay sober long enough, and you’re bound to be in a situation where people are drinking heavily. Whether it’s a wedding, business event or class reunion, your ability to stay clean rests on the strength of a program of recovery.
Those who learn to say no, not necessarily with a holier-than-thou attitude, but with class, tend to have the best chance for success. If you don’t have a go-to line for refusing a drink, learn how to turn down a drink like a boss.
ROBERT DOWNEY JR.
Guilt and shame accompany active addiction like salt and pepper on scrambled eggs. An old sponsor of mine repeatedly told me to quit beating myself up over things I’d already done. His point was this – guilt and shame caused me to react exponentially worse. And it served no purpose.
The earth-shattering irony is that some of our greatest mistakes become our most valuable assets after sobriety takes hold. When I share my experience with another man regarding arrests, jails and institutions, it’s indescribable to watch his reaction go from fear to relief – relief that someone finally understands.
I see a lot of men and women get sober and think that, in and of itself, is a solution. What they fail to recognize is that drugs and alcohol were an answer to an unhealthy emotional condition. This condition came about through an unhealthy lifestyle, so simply getting rid of drugs and alcohol won’t go far enough to ensure a positive outcome.
There’s work to be done – work to restore a healthy balance in life, work to remove unhealthy habits and work to regain the confidence of those we love. When this happens, sustained sobriety is a certainty. And a good life is the natural consequence.
Rob Lowe rocks. If you’ve never seen him in Parks and Recreation, turn off your computer and watch it immediately.
Many people don’t know that Rob is in long-term recovery. This shouldn’t be too much of a secret, as he has discussed his sobriety on a public level in mainstream media.
By far and away, this is my favorite quote. Sobriety was and continues to be the greatest gift I ever gave myself. If you’re reading this and haven’t experienced the rewards of recovery, I hope you find the courage to grab the gift too.