In my 6th year of sobriety, I’ve noticed something that has become very important to my recovery and to my daily peace of mind.
There are times when I don’t feel well.
That’s the big discovery.
That’s what I’ve learned.
I must have forgotten somewhere along the way, but realizing it made a huge difference.
What I’ve Learned
After working the 12 Steps diligently for a while, I’ve been trained to watch carefully for the Big Four Problems in all of their guises:
Sometimes I find myself feeling restless, irritable, and discontent.
I recognize judgemental comments coming out of my mouth that sound like the old me back when I hated my life—when I was drinking or struggling not to drink.
I’m a little bitter.
I’m blaming my circumstances for not meeting my expectations—not good enough fast enough.
I’ve got some self-pity going on and I’m doing some whining.
I’m bordering on dishonesty with excuses to miss social events or get out of the obligations I have to my friends and loved ones.
My first thought is that I’m spiritually sick and that my sobriety is in some jeopardy… That’s a strong possibility. I get spiritually sick, and I feel bad as a result.
But, not always. The reverse is also true sometimes.
There are times when I’m physically sick or exhausted, and I get spiritually and emotionally upset as a result.
I seem to be making shit up to explain why I don’t feel well and am behaving poorly.
I have found myself needing to provide a spiritual reason for not feeling well, and I forget that taking care of my body beyond sobriety is important, too.
The Knee-Jerk Reaction
Spiritual disease is my default assumption for why I don’t feel well. I’m a recovered alcoholic who gets off balance sometimes, so if I am not at the top of my game, I must be:
- Battling my character defects again
- Failing to recognize some of my shortcomings
- Not praying enough
- Placing limits on God
- Being a jerk
There’s clearly a spiritual crisis going on, and if better identify it right now!
I find myself grasping for labels to make the unclear clear, to simplify that which isn’t always simple.
How It Goes Down
Someone will say something like, “What’s wrong? You don’t seem yourself today.”
My brain will kick into overdrive, saying things like, “Maybe I’m resentful at so-and-so,” or, “I must be experiencing selfishness… Sure enough, I’m not making enough money! It’s economic insecurity! I’m sure of it! It’s fear!”
I’ll start complaining about people, institutions, and principles so that I have an answer, because having no answer is scary.
I’ll fabricate a reason. My brain will cook one up because I think there must be something there.
A Failure to Look at Other Obvious Possibilities
I often fail to realize that there’s a lot going on in my life, and there’s no way that I’m not exhausted.
I’ve worked 50 or 55 hours this week. Add on the commute and it’s 60-65. I’m exhausted—a fact, not a complaint.
I’ve not been sleeping or eating well for several days, which could just as easily signal something physical as spiritual.
I have spent a lot of my “spare” time on the phone helping men I sponsor, instead of decompressing, getting balanced, and taking care of the pile of odds and ends.
At 45, temporary endocrine imbalances or other minor health issues that go unidentified are common.
But, I assume that, just because I’m not puking toxic waste or coughing up great green gobs of stuff from my lungs, I’m physically fine and that my discontent must be a spiritual failing.
I start worrying if my program is effective, or if I’ve started to slack. Am I resting on my laurels? I wonder if relapse is near.
It’s critical to realize that every low point isn’t a spiritual crisis. It’s entirely possible that my poor mood isn’t emotional in nature, and that what I may need is to recognize that my body is screaming for help.
Keeping Things In Perspective
My 12 Step program is probably the most important aspect of my life.
It contains nearly all of the tools I need to survive and thrive, long after the booze was removed from my life.
It’s a simple program for really complicated people, and it solves so many problems for me.
However, it will not cure a cold. It will not provide adequate rest. It will not put my physical system back in balance when I’ve been redlining it for days or weeks on end.
But this does not mean that we disregard human health measures. God has abundantly supplied this world with fine doctors, psychologists, and practitioners of various kinds. Do not hesitate to take your health problems to such persons. Most of them give freely of themselves, that their fellows may enjoy sound minds and bodies. Try to remember that though God has wrought miracles among us, we should never belittle a good doctor or psychiatrist. Their services are often indispensable in treating a newcomer and in following his case afterward. (Alcoholics Anonymous p. 133)
Awareness Is a Spiritual Principle
Not every low point is spiritual in nature, but my spiritual condition can wind up mangled if I’m not supporting my mind and body properly.
In a life of sobriety, I need to be aware of what’s going on with my body (as well as my soul), and consider that measures may need to be taken to get back on track or to stay on course.
Am I getting enough rest?
Am I exercising?
Am I eating in a reasonably healthy manner?
Taking care of myself is an obligation, too. I can’t be in a place of maximum helpfulness to those around me if I don’t maintain both my physical and spiritual condition.
Considering Getting Off Drugs or Alcohol?
Contact Solutions of North Texas if you’d like to learn more about how you can live life successfully, free of alcohol or drugs.
David S. is an alumnus of the SONTX Residential Program and served as a house manager. He is celebrating sobriety as a up-and-coming writer in Dallas.