To me, it seems pointless to continue to dwell on the past; as obvious as it sounds, there is no changing the past. The future, on the other hand, we all know is yet to be determined. I believe in the idea that you make your own bed — so lay in it, and do not com¬plain. I completely destroyed mine to a point I could not put it back together. Thus, I had no choice but to search for a new one. For too long I failed to see that I was literally wasting my life. What gave me the right to do so? My family put so much into me. My close friends stuck by me. God gave me so much to be grateful for, that any self-despair, regret, or pity on my part was and is pathetic.
The toughest part for me now, ten months sober, has been the ability to separate the past me from the current me. This molding of the two versions of me has been difficult to deal with. I would want nothing to do with the past version of myself who was drinking; he is a loser, a nobody, a piece of crap. I would stay away from that person.
However, no matter how much I have grown over the last ten months, those credit agencies and law offices are still hunting me down. Because I feel like a new person does not mean those debts are paid off. I have said this before and I mention it again because it’s ridiculous. What the hell was I thinking taking on all those debts, ignoring bills, consuming and spending three to four times as much as I was producing? I dug myself a hole and now, no matter how well and mature I am, that hole is still there.
In a pathetic way, my past motivates me today. At least when the debt collectors call I am on the clock and working. I am an average bill paying American. I am living within my means and can afford all of my expenses. However, anything any other American would put into savings I must literally cough up to cover the old me. And with all the debts I piled up and the low wages I earn, I estimate that I will not be out of debt for another two years, at least. My cred¬it will remain horrible until I am in my late thirties. What makes this horrific is I have only myself to blame. I made my own bed. When I drank I could justify putting blame on family and friends. Without the alcohol I can only justify blaming myself.
Yet, to stay sober, it is vitally important to stay positive. The Big Book (Written by the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Dr. Bill Wilson) suggests that those of us in sobriety need to ‘avoid argument like the plague.’ I have found this to be extremely important. Anytime I feel an argument with another person is about to ensue I take a deep breath and do everything possible to defuse the situation. It is no fun to argue. However, when the argument begins with myself, there is no stopping it. I hate my old self. I wish I could give him a good ass kicking. To a degree, I have — by punishing the current me. I deserve nothing until all debts are paid off. I can’t buy a new pair of shoes for myself without thinking about the debts, without some form of guilt.
I remember just about two weeks out of post-detox I was at a record shop. A new album I really wanted was out. I had been sober for about a month and had twenty and some odd dollars in my pocket along with a fresh pack of cigarettes. My food stamps came through the day prior so that was not a financial concern. In fact, at that moment, I had nothing I needed to spend money on. I really wanted that CD. I had it in my hands as I continued to browse the store when my phone rang. Being sober, the caller ID did not matter, if I am available I always pick up my phone regardless of what number flies on my screen. I am not hiding and want to get a better of idea of how much I owe who.
“Is this Aaron?” And the credit agency disclaimer follows. I owed these folks six hundred dollars for N-Star Electric.
I promised to make a modest payment the following month, And I did. However, I did not buy the album. When I hung up the phone the record suddenly seemed ten times heavier. The twelve dollar price tag suddenly seemed like twelve hundred. No, I am not alone in being in debt, as I am not alone in having troubles with drugs and alcohol. And usually debts come with addictions, both financial and emotional.
I point out my struggle because I see this as the issue that most threatens my sobriety. A reward system is important to have in place, implemented into your daily routine as I discussed in my last article. To this I have failed. I do not believe I deserve anything even though I have gone ten months without alcohol and all other illicit drugs (except marijuana as previously discussed). And truly, I don’t. What right do I have to that CD when I did not pay my electric bill for six months? Or my gas bill? Or my rent, which my family had to bail me out for? This guilt only leads to bad places, however real, only leads to a relapse as the cheapest reward also numbs the guilt. This guilt must be replaced with the thought that the cheapest reward allows the guilt.
In essence, I have chosen to reward myself by not drinking. I have chosen to take head on every thought and feeling without running away from it. And I am not running with my casual marijuana use and will leave that debate for another time and place. I am dealing with the situations life throws at me sober. I will never be able to put into words how big of a gift this truly is. I will never be able to put into words how different I think today. I must be thankful for these past ten months and the fact I have had this shot at a second, sober, chance.
I am learning from experiences. I have learned why recovery is such a tough subject. There is no one correct answer as to how to do it — not one. However, more our experiences of using are more unified. While the people and places are obviously different the stories are similar. On the other hand, the avenue to success is limitless to those of us trying to better our lives in sobriety.
For me, I must constantly take note that my reward is sobriety. And I must be forever thankful for this gift as it includes many parts. I have my family in my life. I still have my girlfriend. My true friends are there for me. I am starting to learn what feelings actually feel like. These rewards you cannot buy. In fact, one simple purchase followed by a simple action of opening a can would destroy all of this.
No matter how disgusted I am by my past the future looks bright. I have the gift of being an addict in remission, for ten months and counting. So long as can, I remain thankful for this blessing. No road block or curve ball will ever throw me off course.
In my search for a new bed I have found that it must come with sobriety if it is ever one I want to lay in and this and this alone is my reward for my changes. Only that addict side to me disagrees. Only my addiction can take away this life saving reward. Sadly, not only I know the ending to this story. At this point, all I can say is my bed is made, and I am proud of it. I look forward to it being the same way tomorrow.