Sometimes we may feel as though we want to use alcohol or drugs, even after we’ve been through detox, treatment, and have some time clean and sober. Thinking like an addict is a great way to let our addiction take control all over again, and crying in our beer is a tradition for alcoholics.
As I write this, my sister is undergoing surgery. The details don’t matter, but there are risks due to her age, physical condition, and the procedure itself. This is pretty scary for me. I’ve known my sister longer than all but one other person on Earth at this point, and just the thought of losing her is heart-wrenching.
I was thinking about what I’m going to do when I leave work, and I thought of several things that need doing or would be pleasant to do while I wait to hear from my brother about how things are going. After mulling the possibilities over for a few minutes, I suddenly realized that it hadn’t occurred to me to have a drink or take a few pills. In fact, that idea hasn’t arisen as a solution to unpleasant feelings in quite a few years.
That’s pretty amazing, because for many years that was the natural thing to do. I drank and used drugs because I was unhappy, because I was happy, and to keep from knowing how I felt. As they say, I used drugs because the dog ran away, and drank because he came back. Just about anything was an excuse for tying one on chemically — because that’s what addicts do. For us, using is as natural as breathing, and it takes a long time before the urge to use when we’re under stress disappears.
I’ve been clean and sober now for roughly one year more than my active addiction. It took me several years to get rid of (most) of the habits and ways of thinking that I developed over two decades of drinking and drugging. During that time I changed the way I thought about life, other people, and myself. Well, sort of. Part of it was a conscious effort, and part of it just happened when some of my old ethics and morals returned to a brain no longer clouded with chemical insanity. Oddly, one of the by-products of getting clean was that I no longer had to use drugs in order to live in my own head. Go figure.
And I don’t have to turn off my brain because my beloved Sis is in an operating room 300 miles away. I’ve lost favorite pets, my mom, nearly lost a brother, and at my age friends have a way of dropping along the wayside as well. I’ve made it through abscessed teeth with ibuprofen. I’m not that tough; it was all I really needed. I’ve managed all of those things without using, and in most cases without thinking about it. In the case of my sister, who is proud of the things I’ve accomplished far out of proportion to their actual worth to the world at large, I can’t imagine a bigger insult than to use her illness as an excuse to get high.
When we’re active in our addiction, our choices are limited to using or trying to stop. But once the drugs are out of our systems our options open up. If we do what we need to do, using becomes a choice, not an imperative. It also becomes a slap in the face to the people who love us.
The other side of that coin? Getting clean and sober is the greatest gift we could possibly bestow. Think about it.