As it is March and my sobriety birthday month, I always find myself reflecting on the past, addiction, what I have learned, what I was spared, what exactly happened to me...
While I was sitting in a meeting the other day, it dawned on me that before I got sober, I really cared only about what I could pull into my orbit. Addiction is all about addition. Adding on, supplementing, altering by adding substance. And that is what I cared about before I got sober....what I could add to me to make me feel better, differently, more complete. I could not feel that way while sober. I could only feel whole, or some semblance thereof, when I added the right amount of alcohol.
It may have change my life, this addictive seeking to add booze, but I added many things to my life. Men, clothes, food, sugar, cars, houses, new jobs and businesses and if I really look at it, that is what I did before I got sober and even after. I was still all about the process and act of adding. I was addicted to addition.
Something happened at about 20 years of recovery that began to change that for me. I started subtracting...first it was almost my sobriety. I was in a lot of emotional pain for having stayed too long in a marriage that I really wanted out of five years earlier. So like any good addict, I thought about drinking and blowing up my life as only an addict can do. But I paused and took a walk with my Higher Power and was relieved of any thought of taking action on that thought. I knew that blowing up my life would do nothing to make anything better. It would only make it worse...
Then, I am somewhat ashamed to admit, but I thought about ending my life. I was so overwhelmed and I couldn’t see how the future worked out being a single mom, working a more than full time job, relocating coasts, leaving my family behind, leaving my marriage, dealing with my son’s issues which were only exacerbated by the separation and divorce, dating. It was all just too much. I didn’t really want to die as much as I just didn’t know how I, simple little me, was going to accomplish all of that. So very dramatically, thoughts of just ending it all came to me in waves. They were short lived and really just outcroppings of self pity which were summarily kicked to the curb by a program of action that has never failed me even one time.
It didn’t take long for me to realize what a childish and selfish thought ending my life was over the fact that all that was really happening was life was changing and I was not in control...still. But I have to own that I did contemplate it...the ultimate subtraction.
I survived that crisis and then began another process of addition. I gained a new job, a new state to live in, a new manner of parenting, a new address, new partner, new kids to help parent. My life was full of addition for the next two years.
But in December of 2016 another spate of subtraction started and it continues to this day. I was forced then to let go of someone that I loved dearly, so much so that it took me another three years to really let go.
I do not mean to say that there has only been subtraction since then...my life, like all other lives, is filled with addition and subtraction all the time, people, places and things constantly being added and removed from my life.
But my focus changed.
I stopped acquiring with the same zest I did before. I stopped being so focused on what I could add and began asking myself harder questions about what I could live without. What could I let go of and still be happy?
Turns out a lot.
And I began to turn away from addition, looking to what I was always taking into me. Instead turning more toward what was already inside and turning that outward. I began to write, to share what was inside with the hopes that something I felt, thought, ached would be of some use to someone else...
And my internal focus of addition began to change. I sought to multiply instead of only add and subtract. I found that when I stopped adding all the time, and bemoaning the subtraction, and I just let those two processes occur in my life, trying very hard to not mind which one was occurring but trusting that there was a process and it was operating for my benefit regardless of the direction it was headed...
And I began to think about an outward multiplication of my inner state. I wanted and cared about giving...no longer consumed with what I could put in my body, mind and soul, which freed up a lot of space for me to change directions and think about what I could radiate outward. And I will say that the feeling I have today is one of multiplication...of all that I have that is good and soulful being multiplied with an outward push towards others. Service to others.
It seems that walking the road of addition for so long and then undergoing a five year subtracting process left me with a desire to stop taking in and turn toward pushing out. I feel as though before I was a one way street, directing all traffic into me. And somehow in this sober, principled life it was changed from a one way street to a two way street. That I was still concerned with what came to me, but I became equally concerned with what left me, what I moved toward others. What I gave instead of what I got. What I could share instead of what I could keep.
I am always going to be an ADDict. It is just who I am to my core. And that is ok today. It is all good. I know exactly what to do with that part of me. My time in subtraction helped me see that it is all just temporary anyway. So there is no use in clinging to the things and people that are removed. This is just the natural course of life and that if I give it some time, I will see how letting go and allowing whatever is leaving to just go, happens to be way less painful than holding on for so long. Let go, or be dragged. Turns out I am not a fan of being dragged.
Today, I have a level of contentment with my life just as it is right now. I don’t need to add anything extra or more. I see that I have it so good and anything added would take from what I have right now. Today I feel like I stand taller in the process of letting go and less ADDicted to the accumulation of people and things that only tied me to a life that almost killed me.
Today I am grateful for all that I have and all that has been taken from me. I am happy to be relieved of the mind that thinks she knows what should stay and what should go...and changed into a person who cares more about what she is putting out there in the world, and less about what she is taking in. It is a daily practice and I will never get it “right” or “perfect” or “nail it to the motherfucking floor.” Because life is supposed to flow, the chi moving freely without obstruction in me and out of me with a divine guidance evolving me from my former nature to some new version of myself that is more concerned with what I can put out there rather than what I can take in.