It’s approaching midnight and I am still typing.
I know I should be going to bed.
And I should sleep.
I tell myself that.
But I don’t want to listen to that voice of reason in my head. I’ve found, in life, that the calling to unreasonableness is far stronger than the call to normalcy. I don’t want to hear that voice that tells me to quit this rant.
Words are everything…
I keep typing because words are everything to me.
Words gave me something to do in my first thirty days sober.
I wrote a poem every day. When I didn’t write one, I couldn’t sleep until one came to me.
The poems were bad, I admit. I look back on them now. They perplex me—nonsensical scribblings, descriptions of objects, internal mappings of emotion, mismatching ideas or overdrawn concepts. In retrospect, they were gibberish. But at the time, they were everything.
Early on, I associated things like writing and the discovery of written expression with the good feeling that sobriety gave me.
There are biochemical explanations for the elation we feel in early recovery. The small victories then—a steady hand, a sturdy voice, a poem here and there—feel like landmark victories to someone whose entire life has been ruled by mental and emotional instability.
And they are major, the victories. After all, aren’t all victories as large or small as we make them out to be?
During the course of my newly sober life, I became hooked on words, hooked in the same way I was hooked on pills, plants, powders, and plants. I told myself I needed them in order to live, the same way I convinced myself I needed a self-prescribed drug regimen to live.
Words helped me stay sober, and sobriety helped me create more words. Their relationship was dynamic and reinforcing. The trajectory of drugs and alcohol was a one-way path of destruction. Words took me—and still take me—forwards and backwards, while always upwards.
Substances took me from, words pulled me through.
Words remain my daily reprieve from the lash of addiction.
I’ve found other reprieves as well, like fellowship and self-reflection. I’m even hooked on honesty. If I tell a lie, it eats me alive, whereas lies were what I lived on in active addiction.
My life sober is so markedly different and so utterly the same. My brain latches on to what feels good.
Being honest is uncomfortable…
The main difference between then and now is not that I no longer suffer from addictions of all kinds, but that I am addicted to a deeper source of contentment than I used to be. Being honest is uncomfortable, but ultimately rewarding. Writing story after story while receiving rejections for their publication is humbling, but it strengthens my resolve that I am a writer no matter what the results of my writing will become. Exercise is painful, but it gives you a good night’s sleep and a confident mind.
Like before, I am hooked on anything that makes me feel good. Only now I’m better experienced in what exactly it is that makes me feel good in the first place.
When I was in rehab, my counselor convinced me to pray twice a day because, as he said, a camel goes without a drink of water by starting and ending each day on its knees. When he told me that, the story clicked in the bizarre way that things click in early recovery. All of a sudden, we say things like, “One day at a time,” or, “First things first,” or, “Live and let live,” like it’s personal scripture. I prayed from my knees every morning and night for six straight years. And good things began to happen.
And I kept praying…
I got a job teaching. I met my wife. We bought a house. I kept praying. Our children were born. I found a scholarship opportunity to get my masters in teaching. I kept praying. While I couldn’t stop and tell you the literal connection between prayer and the good things that were happening, I developed faith that good things were happening because of prayer.
If I missed my morning prayer halfway through my teaching schedule, I found a quiet place to get on my knees and pray. And while I rarely if ever felt the immediate effect of prayer, I understood that prayer led me to a higher quality of life. The evidence is impossible to deny.
Considering it, I can write with confidence that prayer feels good. So yes, I am hooked on prayer.
Hooked on an illusion…
I have thought about this topic for the nearly ten years of my time as a clean and sober man. Exactly what was I hooked on then that filled my life with shame? And exactly what am I hooked on today that gives my life fulfillment? Here’s what I’ve come up with.
Drugs and alcohol gave me an immediate rush. The immediate rush gave me a sense of control over how I feel. I was hooked on that control. Never wanting to face any misery or pain, I was hooked on the illusion that I could turn my emotions off and on like light switches.
I’ve learned that feeling good is more about long-term satisfaction. What provides a rush in the moment leads me to misery in the long run. Connecting my immediate thoughts and actions to the longer-termed requirements of happiness and satisfaction keeps me praying, writing, and getting honest with myself and others.
Getting hooked on the cure means transferring my craving for instant gratification to my longing for prolonged satisfaction.
It’s why I wake up early to write, even on mornings I am up late doing the same. I am still hooked on that which alters my mood; only I better understand what truly makes me happy.