Lately, I have been very overwhelmed by the circumstances of my life. My emotions often get the best of me and some days I just feel lost. It can all be too much sometimes, having to navigate my recovery, work full time, be a mother, and deal with the strained relationship I have with my ex-husband, but through it all, I know that I do not have drink, or use. I have learned that regardless of being overwhelmed in sobriety I never have to resort to old behaviours as I have many tools to use today even if it's just holding on for the day and going to bed early.
This wasn’t always the case though and a little over two years ago I had to drink over just about everything that happened in my life. When I had a good day I would reward myself with a drink and when I felt overwhelmed, which was quite often, I would turn to my only solution, the bottle, for comfort. At the time it was what I had to do to survive because I didn’t know there was another option. I would become overwhelmed by the littlest of things and then I would feel absolutely paralyzed. The only thing that I could do to escape this was to drink, and so drink I did.
Suffice to say that this way of dealing with life did not work for very long and eventually when my only solution stop working, I had to find others means to deal with life. Luckily, sobriety offered me these means, but employing them is not always easy.
Looking back now the first couple years of my sobriety seemed like a cakewalk. Yes I had responsibilities and yes I had my challenges, but compared to what I have been dealing with recently, these things were not so bad. I guess I just wasn’t aware that I could struggle so badly while having a relationship with God and being sober. It is not as if I hadn’t heard in the rooms that life would show up, but I guess I sort of just didn’t really know what this meant.
I am finding out that sobriety does not necessarily mean that I am going to feel good all of the time. It does not mean that I won’t get completely overwhelmed and get the urge to pack everything up and move to the woods in order to run away my life. What sobriety does mean is that I won’t have to act out on any of these things. That I will have the courage and strength to deal with my problems head on, even if some days I don’t want to.
So being without my initial solution of drinking in order to deal with being overwhelmed, what sort of things do I do today when my chest gets tight and I feel a wave of anxiety washing over me, telling me that I am not going to be able to make it?
The first thing that I do is pray. I take a moment and step back from whatever is going on and I ask God for help. This doesn’t always alleviate my feelings of being overwhelmed, but it is often the first step that I have to take in order to continue to walk through my struggles.
After this, I usually call someone. The act of talking to a friend or sponsor when life seems too much is one of the most powerful things that I can do in order to help my feeling of being overwhelmed. It reminds me that I am not alone in this and that I can overcome anything with the support of my family and friends.
Supplementing my conversations with friends I also sometimes journal. The act of writing out my thoughts often times allows me to slow my thinking down to a reasonable speed. Once this has occurred I many times do not feel as overwhelmed because I can look at my problems piecemeal and begin to work towards dealing with them.
If my anxiety and emotions are still running high after this, I usually try to turn my attention towards someone else. This is something that I never did during my active alcoholism. When I would get stuck in my emotions I would stay there and there was no room to take anyone else into account. What I have found since getting sober, is that often the way through hard times in life is getting out of my head by helping someone else. Logically this one never really made sense to me. I would always question, how does helping someone else, help my problems, but in practice, this tool has proved invaluable.
Then there are times when I become so overwhelmed with my life that none of these things seem to help. In the past when this occurred I would have to drink because I just couldn’t handle it, but not today. Today I am able to deal with my emotions, even when they make me want to crawl up in the fetal position and cry. When this happens I know that the best I can do is try to make it through the day, try not to hurt anyone, make it to a meeting, and try to get out of myself.
This is not always easy and sometimes I feel like I am walking up a dark stairway with no idea where it leads, trusting that there is a step in front of me every time I make a move. I find that I am walking more so these days by faith and not sight because my sight is fairly limited. I can only see as a far as my current predicaments and even though I do not know how I will make it out of these feelings of being overwhelmed or a lot of the confusion that I am currently experiencing, I have faith that God will make that possible.
That to me is what it means to be sober. Taking one step at a time, even when you don’t want to. Facing life’s challenges without the need for a drink and trusting that all things will come to pass.
Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.