this is the first in what may be a few posts arising from thoughts I’ve had since doing Belle’s podcast. I’ve been mulling much over and they are coming to the surface bit by bit!
I am currently re-reading Rick Hanson’s fantastic book ‘Buddha’s Brain’, in which he quotes the Nepalese Buddhist teacher and master, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, as saying:
‘Ultimately, happiness comes down to choosing between the discomfort of becoming aware of your mental afflictions and the discomfort of being ruled by them.’
the process of becoming aware of my mental afflictions has certainly been less than comfortable, and the process of doing something about them even more so. I have talked through my pre-contemplation and contemplation stages of change with other sober people before, but doing so with Belle really gave me a perspective upon them that I found quite disturbing. when casting my mind back to those dark days, it is easy to fall back into the self-condemnatory talk of that time and judge myself harshly for taking so long to come to the realisation that I needed to stop drinking. I am focusing on ‘when we know better, we do better’ (my Maya Angelou mantra) and forgiving myself for all that is past, in the words of the Book of Common Prayer…
another aspect that came to me very strongly when thinking about the podcast is that my pattern of stopping drinking is not a common one. I am very aware that it is sadly quite rare to not have relapsed (insert obligatory *yet* here). if I were someone listening to that podcast who had experienced the far more frequent path of one or more relapses, I worry that someone could easily become discouraged at my proceeding through sobriety without the hiccups he or she had experienced.
I’ve written before here about my survivor guilt about this, and Mished in particular has given very helpful comments, saying that my role can be to show that relapse need not be a part of recovery. and I am content with that role, whilst at the same time acknowledging that there is a gap in my experience.
so, as I am unable to offer my own experience in this area, I thought I might use this space as a place where others might do so. All comments welcome as ever, but I would be particularly be interested to hear from anyone who has had more than one attempt before achieving a period of what they felt was stable sobriety (I would not like to define this for anyone else – but for me I felt relatively stable some time around six months sober).
– what was the period from when you started to attempt complete abstinence, until your final Day One?
– what did you think changed to enable you to achieve your final Day One? was it a change in a behaviour? a change in a belief or thought process? an change in an external circumstance? a combination of any of these?
– how long did it take for you to achieve what you feel is ‘stable’ sobriety?
– how do you feel about that period of struggle now? what did it teach you?
if you’d rather not leave your answers as a comment, you can also email me on firstname.lastname@example.org and I will add your words to the post for you.
I am interested in others’ answers to these questions – not because I think there is ‘an answer’ out there which could magically save those who are struggling – but because I think anyone who is struggling needs to know that others have done so, and made it out of the maze.
because my experience has been that hope is the string that can guide us out.