sober lifestyle


You know what scares me? I mean, besides needles — heading to get a COVID shot in a few hours…thoughts and prayers, please?!? — and heights and enclosed spaces and failure and feisty geese on the Delaware Canal…

OK, so nearly everything scares me. But specifically, what I’m talking about here, is my own laziness.

Maybe that’s a harsh way to put it. But how else would you describe a natural inclination, when given free time and freedom of choice, to choose the path of least resistance — or, really, the path of no resistance — every time?

In other words, unless I believe I HAVE to do something, I will ALWAYS choose to do nothing.

Thinking back, pretty much everything I’ve ever done in my life, outside of sitting on my ass in my home watching TV, or lying in my bed sleeping, I did because I forced myself to do it. I told myself I didn’t have a choice.

Going to school, suiting up for sports, getting into college, earning a degree, securing an internship, snapping up my first job before I’d crossed the graduation stage, remaining employed for all but half a month in the 21 subsequent years, showing up for my jobs for all but a handful of sick days — never more than two in a row, because then you need a doctor’s note! — and sticking out some bad employment situations just to keep income flowing…I know none of this makes me special. These are things most of us “have to” do, and we don’t ask questions or think twice about it.

Personally — and this is what is so scary — if I allow myself to think at all, to ask “what’s the point of doing this, anyway?”, or to consider even the slightest possibility that I could beg out of a given personal or professional obligation, I won’t voluntarily get out of bed.

Not to exercise. Not to get on Zoom for a recovery meeting. Not to interact with my sponsor or even my husband or family. Certainly not to leave the house!

My instincts invariably lead me to isolation and inactivity. My instincts also lead me to mind-altering substances and numbing agents, because — shocker! — isolation and inactivity do not make for a joyful existence.

I think you can see how much of a tooth-and-nail battle it can be, as someone struggling with mental health issues and addiction, to stay sober and remain functional. You are literally at war with yourself, and the war never ends.

On the one hand, my “have to” approach to everything in my life is THE reason I’ve been able to be a functioning sober person for 700 days, as of today. I tell myself when I wake up that I don’t have a choice: Get up. Go to work. Do not drink. “Keep on keeping on,” no matter what.

Giving up the fight is not an option.

In a way, though, by forcing myself to keep fighting, I am making a choice. Every day I get up and do what I would honestly rather not do, I am choosing life over death.

I am not being lazy, not taking the easy way out. I’m actually doing something that’s really f*cking hard.

Why am I doing it? I can’t explain. It might be impossible to explain. The best rationale for “fighting the good fight” that I’ve ever come across was a scene in “Game of Thrones” where Jon Snow and Berric Dondarrion are discussing their seemingly futile mission to try and stand up to the immortal Army of the Dead. Berric has already died and come back to life several times by this point, each time taking up his sword and devoting his life to a cause.

Jon Snow: So, what are you fighting for?

Beric Dondarrion: Life. Death is the enemy. The first enemy and the last.

Jon Snow: But we all die.

Beric Dondarrion: The enemy always wins. And we still need to fight him.

Does that make any sense to you? It makes ALL the sense to me. I mean, I would probably replace “him” with “it,” because I don’t believe the great abyss of death has a gender, and I’d replace “need” with “have to,” because that’s just the way I think. It’s the way I’ve managed to survive this long, and the way I get through each bout of depression and each craving for the comfort of alcohol, each urge to isolate and cocoon and never come out.

I have to fight. I have to believe it’s all worth it. Case closed.

“The enemy always wins. But we still have to fight it.”

That quote is going to be my next tattoo, to celebrate two years sober. I still have one more month of hard work left before I get there, so I’m not going to start worrying about the pain and the blood and the buzzing sound…yet.

Right now, I have a date with another needle, and I’d better get up and go before I start looking for an “out.” I already canceled one vaccination appointment because I didn’t want to deal with it, and putting off this very minor adult responsibility any longer really would be flat-out lazy.

1 thought on “Choice”

  1. Thanks Jen. For me, its my will to live, my will to mean, my will to serve, my will to repay and my will to NOT go back. I was definitely born with a strong will and a hard head. Fortunately, I found people who showed me how to point that strong will and hard head in the direction of self preservation as an act of love and gratitude for having been spared my own self destruction.

    Always good stuff, Jen. I appreciate your candor and I respect your drive. Peace.


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