Living Sober and Radically Free
Alcoholism and drug addiction do not spring from nothingness. They are a product of behavioral, psychological, biological, and social factors. For example, the families of addicts and alcoholics often have a history of substance abuse. Similarly, many who suffer from substance abuse disorder are also survivors of some type of trauma. Those of us with first-hand experience with addiction know how easy it is to fall into the victim role. We let a sense of predetermined doom pervade our lives, like we were born to be addicts. Luckily, when I was first getting sober, I came across a quote by the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre that reads, “Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.” Reading those words was akin to lighting a thousand candles all at once. I realized I was radically free and didn’t need to fill my life with alcohol and drugs.
A Vacuum…or a Blank Canvas?
Now that the booze and the drugs were gone, though, what was I going to fill my life with? It’s a pretty common problem in recovery. Think about all the time we spent running amok, scheming to get money and scheming to score. And when we weren’t using or planning how to use, we were passed out somewhere. Furthermore, we spent so much time deranging our senses that we lost track of who we really were. And now, suddenly, we’re sober, without an idea of what to do or who we are. The experience can feel pretty terrifying if we let it. Conversely, we can start to look at our lives as a blank canvas on which we can paint whatever we want. And it’s at this point that we may want to take a page from the business world and start to decide what our guiding principles are.
Guiding Principles: Beliefs, Values, and Culture
For those who don’t spend their time in corporate boardrooms, simply put, guiding principles are a company’s broad philosophy. They’re overarching rules that outline a business’s beliefs, values, and culture. For example, a service-oriented firm might adhere to the adage, “the customer is always right.” Some of Facebook’s are “cultivate fearlessness,” “commit to simplicity,” and “move fast and break things.” However, guiding principles are not solely the province of corporations. Consider bushido, the way of the samurai, or chivalry in the Middle Ages. For a more modern example, take a look at the 12 principles of Alcoholics Anonymous: honesty, hope, faith, courage, integrity, willingness, humility, brotherly love, justice, perseverance, spirituality, and service. Part of the effectiveness of twelve-step programs is the structure they provide to newcomers and that includes these guiding principles. They offer a foundation for those struggling with that lost feeling I described earlier.
A Foundation for Hope
What are your guiding principles? What drives you in life? What is your idea of lasting happiness? If you’re in a twelve-step program, have a talk with your sponsor about how you manifest the 12 principles in your life. If not, maybe you’d want to start writing down some ideas in a notebook and sharing them with some of your sober support network. You’ve made the decision to leave drugs and alcohol behind and, though you may have wreckage from the past to attend to, today is a clean slate. Fill it with awesome things. And if you haven’t yet been able to leave substance abuse behind, or if someone you know is struggling, please give Ocean Recovery a call today and start building your foundation for hope.