What's different this time? I have been asked this question a few times now. I mull over the possible answers.
Me I guess. I am different ... or becoming different anyway.
Years of dallying with drugs, then more years of heavy drinking followed by 3 or 4 years of efforts to cut down interspersed with spells of sobriety. What has changed? What is working now that didn't before?
... and will it keep working if I stop trying so hard?
The sunny days are sunnier that's for sure. A clear mind is better able to distinguish between the wood and the trees. Life feels simpler and less out of control. But the hard days seem just as hard as ever they were ...
... except they're not. Even the hard days don't seem to be filled with the darkness of despair that I experienced in my drinking days. I don't miss that. The rehashing of difficult memories and emotions, constantly trying to find a way to make the past better than it was. The inability to see beyond pain to the futility of these efforts. The inability to see the cost. To others. To myself.
I do miss the release.
I miss the anticipation of release too. The planning, the deviousness, rebelliousness even ... the feeling that I was doing something a bit deviant ... something just for myself and nobody else ... for no better reason than to make me feel good. I miss the ease of transition from one mental state to another that one finds with drugs and drink. Basically I miss getting wasted. How pathetic is that?
I guess part of the difference is that I do now see that as being pretty pathetic. Not so much the urge itself ... after all ... having experienced chemically enhanced euphoria you can't "unknow" how that feels ... how it suspends reality ... how it reconnects the disconnected feelings inside a person. It's just that it isn't real. Or sustainable. And eventually it blinds you to virtually everything else. To the point where nothing seems to matter much any more.
Addiction bequeaths nothing more than an impoverished life at best. But to see that one must first look from a perspective freer of the effects of the addiction itself. And how does that happen? How long does it take? How does one know to what degree addiction is still working on our own thought processes?
I guess by looking for inconsistencies. And that strange semi-logic that so typifies addictive thinking. Wishing is far far easier than doing. Such logic would appear on the face of it to be perfectly straightforward. Intuitive even. Somewhere in the addictive psyche that message seems to get muddled though.
It feels like wishing should be enough. It feels unfair that it isn't sufficient. We might spend years wishing our lives were different without ever lifting a finger to make it so because the addictive mind is in some ways addicted to what feels like stasis but is in fact decline. We don't see this decline ... or if we do we deny it ... or when it becomes undeniable we add it to the list of things we wish were different.
The problem with growth is you can't pinpoint single factors in subsequent changes that take place. A series of decisions made a long time ago started the process but at the time it didn't feel like the start of recovery at all.
It's tempting to focus on the slowness of the growth rather than the fact of it happening at all. Some habits are hard to break and if at the root is a fundamental lack of self belief then much inner work has to be done before outward changes are even the tiniest bit noticeable.
Despite the low feelings of late I am grateful to see 200 days sober. It is not a long time. I know that. Even so I am thankful to see outward manifestations of inner changes. To be on this journey of discovery and on a path that leads away from the dark days of my past.