Submitted by: Abby Foster
My tumultuous relationship of drunken chaos came to a head and I made violent, angry decisions that would reward me with a felony if I did not take an immediate plea. I took the plea and my lawyer got my sentence reduced from years to months.
Being thrown in jail because of drunken chaos changed everything. To some people, jail is not enough to clean up their act, but I finally realized that I needed to redefine myself. I lost everything, including the simple option to walk down the street. I lost faith in humanity because I felt like I could not trust my friends, my family or my significant other. If you have none of those things, then you have nothing to lose.
I was not sure how I was going to stay sober, but I knew I had to no matter what. I had to disassociate with everyone I drank with previously. I had to avoid social engagements. I had to cut people unworthy of trust out of my life. I had to find a new purpose.
Before, I looked forward to getting drunk and getting lots of blow every weekend. Suddenly, had to look forward to something else.
I went to counseling to understand my train of thought and I found out I had mislabeled my feelings. When I was mad, I was usually actually depressed. I rarely attended 12 step meetings, but I spoke with people who had sober time about how I should approach the new life. I found the new purpose in jail because that is where I found the higher power: The human race.
I still somewhat believed in a traditional sense of a deity in jail because that was what I was born with. I saw countless pictures of a Caucasian man with a white robe and beard. His father was the creator of all who had made everything and his greatest creation was us, but we must prove our worth to make it to the place where we can be with him after we die. This made sense when I was a kid, but never that much sense.
I would get angry as a kid in Christian school when I really analyzed the “Jesus Loves Me” song. “Little ones to him belong, they are weak but he is strong.” None of it made sense. Why am I weak? Why do I need this random man in my life that I have never met? If I never heard of him and died, would I be punished? If so, why? That does not sound loving. And why would someone kill their son for me? Am I supposed to feel guilty? Why, I was just born. And if he rose days later, what was the purpose of any of it, the death was not final. But if I know about this story and laugh then the hell is final? In what world is this a good idea? It could only be reconciled if I just shut up and “believed.” What kind of manipulation is this?
As a kid, I eventually forced myself to sit in the darkest, most frightening part of my closet so that I could realize that my fears were only in my head. I remember choosing to alter my perception when I was scared in my dark room. Instead of fearing the blackness of my closet, I purposefully climbed into it. I remember I chose to pretend that I was the monster in the dark. I began telling myself that nothing was worse than me. Of course this understanding was the foundation for my emancipation. I could be the darkness and the light. I had it all inside me. After that day, I was not afraid of the dark anymore and jail was the beginning of the end of my belief in the man-made god I was taught.
Some people claim that I was never an addict because I was able to get clean and stay clean without a program but I beg to differ. As I became more educated from going back to school out of jail, I learned about the human species, evolution, brain chemistry, psychology, and history.
I could never and can never believe that an all-powerful, omnipotent being granted me the “gift” of sobriety when there are millions of starving children. I would gladly give up my sobriety if it meant starving children would be fed, which would be the only just thing to do for anything with that power.
My issue with having the mental need to ingest intoxicants is an extremely minuscule and pathetic dilemma in comparison to the thousands who recently died of Ebola in Africa. Could I ever accept that kind of attitude of self-importance– that of all the people in the world who need help, I was given the choice to simply not drink alcohol? Could I ever say that my sobriety was more important than preventing rape in India? Really? Absolutely not.
Instead, I stay sober because I have found that “feeling good” is what I am addicted to and helping other people also makes me feel good. In my mind and through my understanding of impermanence through meditation, I have already died. With this feeling of peace, I can summon a second chance mentality that allows me to use every day to its fullest. It is like being Scrooge and waking up to what you have been taking for granted and having the option to go out and experience all of it. Get a law degree, why not? Get in the best shape you have ever been in, why not? Write a dozen new songs in whatever genre, why not? Pick up Jeet Kune Do, why not? Hug the people who have been there for you when you were at your worst, must do.
I stopped feeling sorry for myself and situations. The more responsibility you take for your sobriety, the more doors open. As addicts, we are so full of ourselves and what we have suffered.
Yes, I think I had the luxury of being an alcoholic drug addict but it is over now. I do not have that luxury anymore because there is new meaning that I have defined. Of course, there are still many problems, emotions, relationships, hardships, successes, etc. that are part of life, but if I face it with a sober brain, I can handle anything. Yes, sober communities are (no matter what type they are) essential.
I do not attend meetings other than going to support my dad, but I can tell you that I am always glad when I do. I always learn something new and that consistent growth and learning is like a charge to keep grinding. If I can offer any help, I will, but sometimes I feel like I am not the most sympathetic person in the world, especially living in South OC where we have an ocean view at the gym. I do understand the pain is relative, though, and I have students who have gone through more devastating horrible things than most people I have ever known. I try to make myself available to them. Sobriety works when you talk about things and coming up on eight years, I will continue to keep talking. It’s how I stay sober and sane.