“Many people are living in an emotional jail without realizing it.” –Virginia Satir
Anxiety, depression, tension, unhappiness, confusion, anger…these may be factors that cause us to drink and/or drug.
I was definitely a ‘self medicator;’ using alcohol and narcotic pills to try and escape uncomfortable feelings.
Finding Myself in a Prison of Addiction
When I began this self-destructive behavior, I needed just a bit to accomplish my goal. Over time, I needed more and within a few short months I was not only ingesting large quantities, I was addicted and quite sick if I tried to go without.
As it is said, “Hindsight is twenty, twenty,” yet I was so inebriated that hindsight was not available to my dying brain cells. I had willingly allowed myself to be locked into an emotional jail.
Recovery was always available to me. I continued using for a lengthy period of time, however. I was both frightened to feel and frightened to withdraw.
When I eventually found the courage to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, I learned that people have many differing reasons to become sober. Personally, I realized that my addiction was destroying my family and that was enough to motivate me.
Cleaning up the Wreckage
Once sober, I began to feel again. But what to do with all those awful issues? How could I even begin to clean up the wreckage I had caused and escape this emotional jail I was in?
In one meeting I heard someone say “it took me 32 years to become such an emotional mess. I know that it will take the rest of my life to heal.” How ignorant I was to believe that all would be well overnight.
Thankfully as time has passed, I have learned, grown and changed. It took insane amounts of effort, and at times I struggled. But I learned that we all have to struggle.
Utilizing the AA and NA programs and a counselor, I felt a bit better each passing day. I hung in. I prayed and meditated. I talked to my sponsor, attended daily meetings and read the literature. I always reminded myself that I was “not alone.”
It worked! AA and NA works!
Working my way out of the jail of addiction was not only freeing, but I found that I could function again—that I could love and be a worthy person.
It turns out that sobriety was worth every iota of discomfort I felt at the onset. I truly have no ulterior motive when I say…
“Sobriety is LIBERATING!”
Why do I believe that? Well, there are many reasons for sure. At a Narcotics Anonymous meeting that I attended recently, the topic for that evening was, ‘Benefits of Sobriety.’
As a group we decided to make a Top 10 List. I jotted down that list as we debated the many reasons to seek and maintain sobriety.
1. Sobriety reduces the chances that we will wind up in jail, institutionalized or dead
2. Our minds will feel and behave in a rational manner.
3. Our spirituality will be able to play a major role in our existence.
4. We will be positive role models for our families (including children if we are parents) and friends.
5. Others will trust us again.
6. We will be functional members of society.
7. We won’t be embarrassed by our behavior.
8. Our bodies can heal from the years of ingesting toxins.
9. We can hold a job.
10. We won’t spend our money on alcohol or drugs.
The third reason on our list seemed to have the lengthiest discussion. Spirituality was defined in myriad ways and that alone took time. We decided to ‘agree to disagree’ as to a definition of spirituality, and also as to a definition of God. Both Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous state that we may use a “God of our understanding.”
If I were to ponder and write my own personal list, I would begin with Number 2 – clarity of mind. My years of sobriety have shown me not only how incredibly important that is, but that clarity of mind encompasses my emotional and psychological well being as well as my intellectual resources. (I could NEVER write this piece while drunk or high, for an example.)
I suppose that, had we the time, we could easily come up with another 100 reasons as to the benefits of being sober. But if I had to sum it all up with just one reason, it would be this:
Sobriety is liberating.
Thanks to sobriety, I’m no longer in prison. And that’s enough for me!
Author: Katie H. is a writer, recovering addict, and mother based in Connecticut.