Many try to make sobriety an intellectual expedition, which is where it absolutely needs to start. But real transformation takes a change of heart, not the head, for it is what is in the heart that the body tracks.
Throughout our years of alcohol abuse and many other abuses, we knew in our minds that we were acting wrongly. We could see the self-destruction manifest itself but could not muster the energy to stop the movement. We said no and did yes. We said yes and did no. Our knowledge failed to change the reflexes of our bodies.
It could be said that we were not armed with the best plan of attack or perhaps were “not ready,” that a deep desire was not there. On these points, we disagree. We were absolutely aware that others had enacted successful strategies, and we were so deeply moved by the negative infoldings that engulfed us – we had a desperate desire and a knowledge that sobriety was a personal possibility.
Why, then, did we fail to transform? What we have learned, in hindsight, is that we were battling both mind and body, that the active alcoholic was leading, and that we acted as active alcoholics. We had desire and knowledge, but there was no change in our core thoughts or actions.
To transform, one must act transformed. To be sober is to behave sober.
As such, to think new, we needed new thoughts. We were achieving a new lifestyle that required embracing new life skills. Simply put, we had to create new habits for our thinking and behaviors. And if forty days make a habit, we committed to ninety days of uncomfortable, yet necessary, adjustments in our thought practice and activities.
We chose the following nine areas of focus to lay our foundation of success during the critical habit-changing period:
We took the option of a sip or a pop off the table.
For us, the admission ticket to this life-changing opportunity sits on a straightforward responsibility to veer from taking even a sip or consuming ANY mind-altering substance. What worked for us was to make this commitment in 24-hour increments. Meaning that we would delay consumption just for today, leaving the possibility of indulging until tomorrow. Spoiler alert: This self-fulfilling circle successfully repeats as the days go by, but looking at the overall calendar is never wise. The point is to take the option off the table for the day.
We stopped being “the one” in charge.
Accepting that we did not create the universe nor control most outcomes was a fundamental shift that was essential to the new us. Something or someone owns the domain of effect, but it is not us. It is not up to us to fix, to manage, or to control the swirling around us. We needed to find our place and live in that groove.
We constantly reconnected to our “why.”
What is the point of a journey if there is no point? While the reasons for why we desire sobriety vary, we have learned that reconnecting to our core reasoning provides our mind and body the resources to accomplish the unaccomplishable. As an athlete often reminds themselves of the prize they seek, we needed to remain connected to the vision of peace and quality of life we desired. We needed to remind ourselves that it was for ourselves that we began this quest. We needed to retouch the pain points to manage and maintain the momentum toward change. We had to constantly reassure ourselves that the uncomfortable would become comfortable and that there was a reason behind the reality that life adjustments are hard.
We resigned ourselves to the fact that actual transformation takes time.
An artist's work requires care and time. An accomplished athlete trains for years to accomplish their desired feat. Even instant rice takes time to cook.
We spent years wreaking havoc on ourselves and others. It may take years to reconcile and for true reform to be realized.
Sobriety takes time, and no significant life change happens in 28 days. Though a good start, we play the long game, focusing on the foundation, not the height. As we can’t have nine babies in a month, we must let the natural development of transformation to sobriety unfold at its own pace.
We accepted and embraced direction from others.
The life coaching industry is a multi-billion-dollar-a-year industry. Recognized Athletes employ coaches and personal trainers. The self-help industry is massive as people share their experiences and strengths with others to help accomplish personal goals.
We needed to find somebody skilled with a sober lifestyle. We needed guidance and directions to stay on the healthy path to recovery. We had to accept that the brain that got us to where we were was not sufficient enough to get us to where we wanted to go.
We placed a priority on self-health.
Having realized that sobriety was the main goal, we rightfully concluded that our physical health would have to become an appropriate focus in our daily lives. Not replacing one addiction with another, we had to find the balance of better eating habits, a good sleeping regiment, and an overall healthy movement to muster the proper amount of energy it would take to become and maintain the sober routine,
We embraced structure.
We were at the whim of the world's winds, or so it seemed. A new plan, an attack on the old, demanded organization and structure. It started with simple things like making the bed. Discipline had to become our new best friend if we were to achieve the outcomes we desired.
We forced socialization.
There is no doubt that we had become isolators. And though times of solitude are valuable and beneficial, social isolation goes against the very nature of the human being. Through some amount of pain, we learned that the benefits of camaraderie and companionship lay the base for promised peace.
We celebrated successes.
One does not know if they are winning or losing if they don't have a scoreboard. We learned to build ongoing power from our past proven capabilities and accomplishments. We move the dial from faith to fact. If we made it through our yesterday, then we have 100% proof that we can make it through today. So, each day was recognized as a success, noting deficiencies and improvement areas.
So where does all this lead us?: Planned and forced action, uncomfortable at first, becomes natural and comfortable reactions. Stresses become satisfactions. Pain becomes peace. We finally become ourselves. If it's not working, it is probably because we aren't working it properly.
A new 90 days can start today.
Alcoholics Anonymous and AA are registered trademarks of Alcoholics World Service. Inc. References to AA, the 12 steps, and 12 traditions does not mean that AA has reviewed or approved the contents of this publication nor that AA agrees with the views expressed herein. This publication is intended to support personal growth and should not be considered a substitute for healthcare professionals' advice. The author’s advice and viewpoints are their own.