Living Beyond Sobriety: After I shared my road to sobriety story, I had so many emails thanking me, I decided to do a series on what life is like in recovery, the link to relationships, childhood trauma and finding one's LIFE after sobriety. Because getting sober is not the hardest part. Staying sober is not the hardest part.
It's finding LIFE again. If one ever had it in the first place. It took a long time for me. But I found it. I love life now. And I believe it is possible for you to.
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This is Part 1.
[00:00:04] What I was left with in my sobriety was not this grand new life. Rather, I was left with boredom, anxiety, depression and emptiness.
It was here that as I began to confront my own healing, that I realised the link between relationship and addiction.
I'm reminded of the words of Thomas de Quincy in his book, 'Confessions of an English Opium Eater'.:
"What was it that did, in reality, make me become an opium eater? Misery, blank desolation and abiding darkness."
[00:00:35] I don't think we need to be opium eaters to resonate with this. De Quincy's words describe one of the most painful and most common human condition, and that is the struggle for a life where we feel can feel loved, alive and worthwhile.
I really thought for those first ten years of my sobriety that there was something truly wrong with me.
First of all, I thought I thought the way I was feeling was going to last for ever.
And second of all, I felt like I felt like shift in the darkness was beyond me. And I felt desperately, desperately alone, surrounded by people who seemed to be just getting on with their life.
[00:01:16] People who could laugh where I couldn't even feel a moment of joy. So even when I was no longer depressed, I was still stuck in unhappy relationships. And I didn't know how to feel alive.
I didn't know how to make myself feel good. And instead of alcohol, I now clutched at partners for that pleasure and that pain relief.
I didn't know it then, but that turned out in hindsight to be a window of opportunity for me to heal.
Journalist and best selling author Johann Hari in his book 'Lost Connection', says that the opposite of addiction isn't sobriety, that the opposite of addiction is connection.
[00:02:00] For me, I saw that the opposite of loneliness and boredom and and that emptiness wasn't being in a relationship. The opposite of those desolate feelings was connection with myself.
And because in my case, my negative relationship patterns were stopping me from experiencing intimacy with others, where no matter what someone did, I just couldn't feel loved.
But more more importantly, that those negative relationship patterns were stopping me from experiencing in that connection with myself.
I had zero resilience.
[00:02:32] I had this dependency that kept me chasing unavailable partners.
I was a rescuer, a people pleaser and desperate for validation, and I couldn't keep any agreements with myself. So I felt like an absolute failure.
I'm wondering how much you may resonate with everything I'm describing?
So it was here that I got to see that the alcohol wasn't the problem. As much as that the alcohol was the symptom.And now instead of the alcohol, these bad relationships were a symptom of something, something so much deeper.
Both alcohol and bad relationships were just an escape, an escape from me.
[00:03:13] According to psychiatrist and addiction expert Dr. Gabor Mate, he says that addiction is most often caused by trauma and abuse in childhood, but not always so.
It can be it can can be born from any painful experience. And in my case, that painful experience was social rejection in in my childhood.
In his book Hungry Ghosts, Mate describes an experiment that found the same part of our brain lights up when we experience rejection as when we experience physical pain.
So think about it. It's mind blowing.
When we have physical pain, are we not encouraged to take painkillers? Does society not recognise that physical pain is real?
[00:04:02] And yet, if society doesn't recognise our emotional pain in the same way. And isn't it a wonder then that we're driven to look for some kind of painkiller to get relief from this emotional pain?
Mate says that it isn't our fault that we do that. That we are biologically driven to seek pain relief and to seek pleasure.And if we don't have healthy ways to do it, we going to do it through unhealthy outlets.
First, through addictions:.
[00:04:36] Secondly, we'll do it through relationships.
We'll seek it and demand it from the people in our lives, which you can imagine then if if when we're doing that that no wonder those relationships end up being painful and end up feeling depleting rather than feeling sources of love.
Because like any addiction, whilst it gives that moment of high and that pain relief, ultimately the side effects of that are disastrous.
My true healing began not when I became sober, although that was a definite first step.
My true healing began when I liberated myself from negative relationship patterns, starting with the most important relationship of all, my relationship with me.
Jo Ntsebeza is a qualified professional coach, facilitator, trainer and lay counsellor.
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