Yesterday was my fourth anniversary of sobriety. Ironically, I am still coming to terms with the fact that I am an addict. Some part of me wants to live in denial about it, even now. It has only been within the last few weeks, having been more present to observe my own behavior, that I realize that I exhibit addict-behavior in my life quite consistently, even in sobriety. I’ve never been able to see that about myself before.
Even though my life is stable in many ways now, and I can face reality head-on, a certain kind of escapism is inbuilt in me. I still try to control things I can’t control and try to make life go the way I want it to go, but I always come to the realization that life happens on its own terms. As a result of years and years of practice in addictive behavior, I easily get stuck in actions that allow me to escape the moment, however briefly. Whether it’s TV, video games, my computer, the internet, food, sugar, caffeine, love, emotions, you name it–I have some queer inner mechanism that kicks in, always obsessively clamoring for more of whatever made me feel good for a brief moment. I am coming to terms with the fact that I will always have to be vigilant of this side of me.
Saying that I am an alcoholic isn’t quite accurate. It’s like saying that Stevie Wonder is color-blind. Yes, that is true, but he is also blind. And I am an addict. Less so than some, more so than others. I realize this is a touchy subject for many, but I am not ashamed of being honest about the experiences that make me who I am. Many people who I deeply respect have grappled with the same issues, and I have found it helpful when they’ve spoken up about it, like a hero of mine, Aaron Sorkin, in this beautiful article.
I am grateful for having come to the realization that my life was unmanageable had I kept on the path that I was on. I am truly grateful for all of the days and years of sobriety that I have under my belt. Though it hasn’t been easy to look boldly at some of the truths I’d been trying to block with my various addictive behaviors, they no longer have the same power over me. Although chances are that I will never fully recover from being an addict, I can now be grateful for my addiction too. Recovery has brought much beauty and understanding and many deep relationships, that I wouldn’t otherwise have had. It has brought me strength and courage and is teaching me how to love myself and others. Those are gifts that haven’t come for free, but I’ll let Theodore Roosevelt sum it up for me:
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”