2 Years Sober: What I've Learned and What's Next
2 Years Sober!!!
2 years ago on June 14th, I made the decision to no longer drink alcohol and I'm 2 years in and not a drop! (Here is my declaration on 1 year :) )
My friends and family are proud. But most of all, I am very proud of myself.
Frankly, because this is one of the hardest things I've ever done.
I fought the mental demons, I fought the physical desire, I fought the social pressures.
I fought and I won!
It is no longer a daily battle, but an occasional battle where I think "I'd love to get lost in a drink", but I don't because one slip and I will have to start the battle all over again.
And the phrase "get lost in a drink" is telling as well - I will lose myself again.
Nothing is worth that.
What have I learned from this experience?
Working on a life-long self-improvement task for your growth is hard.
Being a healthy artist is a balancing act between the mind-body-soul.
Many artists think that you have to be on a drug of some sort to tap into that inner creativity (check out this podcast with Euphoric The Podcast: Myth of Booze and Creativity where we discuss this very topic).
Several years ago I read the book: "Daily Rituals: How Artists Work" by Mason Curry (affiliate link); I bought the book hoping for insights on what a great artist looked like and learn from them. Well, I did learn. I learned what I didn't want to be or remembered for....
I didn't want to be known for my habits like Patricia Highsmith. Patricia "kept a bottle of vodka next to her bedside, reaching for it as soon as she woke and marking the bottle to set her limit for the day."
The book was eye-opening on how messed up we can so easily become and how easily anyone can let negative rituals influence their mind and, in turn, their art.
But the truth is, you can be a healthy artist, you can be drug-free, you can be a creator with your unfettered mind!
We all have our battles.
Some of us are waging war on drugs, or mental struggles of being an artist and feeling unappreciated, or feeling not good enough, or struggling to get the painting past the ugly stage :). And some of us are waging war on our bodies controlling our daily lives through physical ailments.
But through it all, we have one thing that we can use to win these battles: our minds.
When we understand what we have to fight we are in a position of power and strength.
What got me through it all?
I attribute getting through all of the mental and physical struggles to 3 things:
- be around, and serving positive people
- and my art.
We all live in our heads so much, it helps when you write it down to pour out of your mind onto paper.
I picture all the jumbled thoughts as puzzle pieces and once I get them on paper, they start to form the picture. And I can see what is connected and the pieces that are missing.
I'll be honest, it took a good 40 days of daily journal writing to see the ebbs and flows of my mindset with alcohol.
The journaling process: I would start at the top of page 'Day 28! I am so grateful!' and then the thoughts would flow.
And 2 years later, I still journal. Journaling is a tool to unravel the mind.
Some days I have nothing to say and it becomes a list of to-dos or ideas, and other days I write 5 pages, single-spaced, front and back.
My journal is a hot mess, but it is my mess that allows me to be clean and clear with myself to benefit myself and others. It is a mess that unwinds over time.
Being around POSITIVE people who support each other made a huge difference.
You don't have to fight alone.
This is one of the many reasons we have the Positive Painters Online Community - we are the army that protects and promotes each other.
When you think about community, this is also why AA and other support groups are such a huge help for millions of people; they are comrades in arms. They get where you are right now and will help you through the battlefield.
This is our self-expression, our therapy, our place where we can co-create with our great creator.
Many times, there is no better place to be than our studio, in the flow, regardless of your medium (paper, camera, paint, singing, all the gifts you have to express yourself).
For some, this is also going to be the place where you are going to struggle because, for many, part of the ritual of getting into the flow is that glass of wine, or mushrooms or whatever (artists are even creative with addictions...). You will need to find a healthier ritual, like lighting a candle, singing loud and proud, pound the clay, have a single canvas that you slap paint on every time you come into the studio - whatever you have to do to break the unhealthy and find the love you had for art and yourself.
Your art is in your head, it doesn't come from the bottle or other substance - it is in you and with you!
What's Next For Me?
On June 14th, 2021 I decided to give up sugar; I purposely picked the same day to start so I only have to remember one anniversary date :).
When I started the journey of removing alcohol from my life, I began seeing how sugar has developed into a new addiction.
When I thought about why and when I want an oreo blast, or to go buy a cake or have a coke: I noticed that I was driven by similar feelings as when I wanted alcohol.
I wanted to 'celebrate' or 'feel better' or 'I deserve a treat'.
When I realized I was using an external substance to adjust my feelings I knew it was an addiction.
And it had to go.
But this time I am more mentally prepared, I have my tools ready to fight - journal, community, and art.
Like what I did for alcohol addiction, I did my research on the impact that sugar has on the body and mind. And wrote my list of reasons to remind myself why this life change is so important. Here is my list:
Reasons to give up sugar:
- Sugar feeds cancer, which means sugar breaks your body at the cellular level
- Food companies engineer foods to make you want them more by using sugar, salt, fat, and other chemicals using a 'bliss factor' which leads to excessive weight, which leads to cancer and other health problems (btw- obesity and diabetes are on the rise and one of the demographic audiences highly impacted by COVID).
- You just KNOW it isn't good for you. No one has to tell you, you just KNOW it!
- You are dependent on it for certain feelings
- Be a good example to the kids
- Have a healthier looking body
What I expect over the next 5 days
I fully expect to go through the same level of detox that I went through with alcohol: I expect in the first week:
- night sweats and nightmares (maybe - I'm not sure if that is an alcohol detox thing - that was what I experienced on day 5 of no alcohol)
- and lots of points of wanting to give up and give in to the mental and physical craving.
I expect after 40 days it will become less of a physical fight and will turn into nothing but a mental fight.
Am I nervous, yes...mainly because I don't want to lose this battle. I feel this is just as important to my long-term growth as was giving up alcohol.
I'd like to know from you: how are you using your art to overcome?
Until next time, stay safe, happy and healthy! AND happy creating!!