Sobriety vs Recovery and the transfer of addictive behavior
Updated: Nov 21, 2019
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Okay, so this is an interesting one. I saw somebody post in one of the sobriety Facebook groups asking the question "What is the difference between sobriety vs recovery" and I thought, hmmm....
I came up with my own answer in my head and then continued on to read the comments. This is a concept that I am very familiar with just through my own experiences but had not labeled it as sobriety vs recovery in my head. It was nice to see that other people were actually having this conversation as well. So I read the comments and began researching the topic for myself in the plan of producing a blog post/podcast on the topic.
What ended up happening was that through the process of researching this topic, I ended up learning more about myself and came to the realization that I was unaware that I am still dealing with some of these issues currently.
So, before I dive in to my personal experience, I want to share with you the difference between sobriety vs recovery.
Somebody who is "sober" is somebody who is currently in a state of abstaining from alcohol or drugs, but they are not treating the underlying issues that had led to their abuse in the first place. This is something that I struggled with for a long time. I wanted to get "sober" but I had no idea what was causing me to want to drink in the first place. It wasn't just one thing that lead me to drinking, it was a ton of things that had accumulated over time. For so long I couldn't figure out why I couldn't get sober and stay sober and that's because I wasn't looking at the events and beliefs that led me to that point.
Therefore, somebody who is in "recovery" is not ONLY abstaining from drugs and alcohol, but are actively working on treating the underlying issues that led them to their addiction in the first place. Recovery can come in many different shapes and sizes. AA, therapy, recovery centers, SMART recovery and other group meetings are all types of recovery. It's very important to find the one that works best for you.
Many sober alcoholics who are not in recovery and aren't actively doing the work necessary to recover, can experience a transfer of addictions. This could involve a new addiction to food, sex, shopping, romantic relationships, etc. because they have not found a healthy way to fill the void that alcohol had previously satisfied. They may have stopped drinking, but their life may remain exactly the same. This can lead them to be resentful, jealous or angry towards others who drink or can cause them to struggle with emotional or mental health issues.
Okay you guys, this last paragraph is the one that really hit me. I have been doing so much of "the work" but have still had many moments where I felt stuck. One of my biggest blocks that seems to hold me up is prayer/meditation. I know that if I spent more time in prayer/mediation I would be able to work through a lot of my blocks and find more clarity on the things I need to work through. My mind is literally always "go, go, go" that I never give myself a moment to just actually calm my mind and spend time with myself. I am realizing that is a 100% avoidance. I keep myself busy enough so that I feel like I don't actually have the time to sit down and be present with my thoughts. So after having this realization, I forced myself to sit down, on my own, in silence and pray/meditate. I say pray/meditate because for me they go hand in hand. I usually start off with a prayer of gratitude to my higher power and then transition into mediation where I do my best to quiet my thoughts and be present.
This is the first time I've allowed myself to do this in a while and what happened is pretty freaking amazing. As I sat in mediation and let my mind go still, I was flooded with messages of awareness of some of the unhealthy habits I've been continuing to play out in my life. Now, some would argue that this wasn't an actual state of mediation, because my mind was clearly going, but what came from it was pretty amazing regardless. As I got these messages I began writing them down. I would write down whatever came to my mind and then continue to close my eyes and do my best to keep finding more answers.
I am going to get real vulnerable here and share with you what I actually wrote down and then I will explain:
Now let me break it down. Through my reflection on the idea of sobriety vs recovery I learned that I have been doing a lot of work on myself, yet there are still areas that I have totally been avoiding. When I gave up drinking, I transferred my own addictive behavior into other areas of my life.
1. Spending Money/Shopping
3. Social Media
When I was active in my alcohol addiction, I drank for many reasons, but a few of the main ones were:
1. To satisfy a feeling of restlessness
2. To satisfy a feeling of boredom
3. To "chase the high"
4. Seeking a feeling of excitement
These are just a few on top of the deeper things like unresolved trauma etc. but these are very important things to notice. What happened, was that I became sober. I cut alcohol out of my life and began doing the work, but not ALL of the work. There were still behaviors I was unaware of. I had totally transferred my alcohol addiction into other areas of my life.
I often times still feel bored, restless, still seeking to feel excitement and still chasing a "high" in other ways than just drinking. Alcohol removed from my life, I am still stuck in those same patterns.
Now, when I feel bored or restless I fill my time with things that aren't necessarily in my best interest. I go shopping to fill my time and to feel that "excitement" even when there is absolutely nothing I need to be shopping for. My closet is perfectly filled and all of my needs are being met in that regard. At this point, it's just a bad habit.
I've also turned some of the obsessive feelings, the feeling of seeking excitement and "chasing the high" over to caffeine. Those are the exact feelings I used to feel when I drank. Those feelings were a big reason WHY I drank. It was obsessive and compulsive and I've noticed some of the behaviors and patterns transfer over into my caffeine consumption.
I've also noticed the obsessive and compulsive behaviors transfer over into my social media consumption. There are times when I obsessively scroll through social media even though I know there is no reason for me to and I know that I could be spending my time doing other more productive things. But there is this weird obsessive feeling to keep going even though I know it's not doing anything for me. A form of self-sabotage.
A lot of these things go hand-in-hand with avoidance. The overall theme and lesson here is that I am filling these voids and continuing these patterns because at the end of the day I am avoiding one big main thing which is:
being with myself.
I am filling all of the time that I used to spend drinking with other unhealthy habits in order to avoid the thing I've been avoiding all along which is MYSELF.
I have been avoiding my own damn self!
I know I am not the only one. I know I am not the only one avoiding facing myself and my reality. I believe it's one of the biggest reasons people drink in the first place.
You'll notice another thing I wrote down is "seeking outside validation and answers instead of looking within". Now this is both good and bad. It's good in the sense that I am always looking to expand my awareness and knowledge by doing things like listening to podcasts and reading books. I believe this is a healthy behavior and plan on continuing to do so. The issue comes when I begin to do ONLY that. When I hit roadblocks and instead of taking a moment to sit with myself and find the answer within myself I start seeking the answer outside of myself via podcasts, books, YouTube videos, Google etc.
Guys, these are some HUGE realizations.
This is a big reason why I write these blogs and do these podcasts. Because, as I always say, we are in this TOGETHER. By me writing and recording, we are in a sense working through these issues together. We get to connect by sharing experiences with one another. Each time we share our own experience we are giving somebody else the opportunity to learn through us and WITH us.
Moral of the story: Addiction is a sneaky bitch. When we feel like we've worked through or past certain issues we can start to realize that there is still way more to go. To me, that is beautiful. We are sober! We are sober and we are giving ourselves the opportunity to work through these things. To find them, look them in the face and do our best to find ways to work on them.
I am on this journey with you. I do not have all of the answers and I am learning new things each and every day just like you are.
All I know right now is that I am more aware today than I was yesterday.
I have been avoiding being with myself so I know that what I need to do next is LEAN IN. Lead in the that fear, lean into that avoidance and breakthrough it.
Thank you guys for being here and reading my words. I appreciate you.
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