On my way home this afternoon I ran into a friend. I’d already heard from someone else that he wasn’t currently sober, but I always like to give people the chance to disclose their lives themselves. I didn’t have to wait long. I barely had the “how are you” out of my mouth when he told me what was going on.
Of course I was curious as to what happened, but it’s a bit of a delicate situation to ask so again I just waited for him to offer. He said something that a lot of people have said when they’ve started using drugs or alcohol again after a period of sobriety. He told me he was doing everything he was supposed to be doing, but it didn’t work. The depression he was feeling got to be too much and he decided to “fix it”.
The way he phrased it (and the way it’s usually phrased) made it seem like the fact that he got depressed even though he was doing all the work he was supposed to be doing meant that what he was doing didn’t work. I can only speak for myself here – and anyone that has a different point of view is welcome to disagree in the comments section – but my experience is that the work I do to stay sober does not, and isn’t intended to, keep me from getting depressed. It’s designed to keep me sober.
The way it works for me is that the basic philosophy of the method I use for staying sober is: Trust God (however you understand God), clean house and help others (from here on – TGCLHO). It’s simple. That philosophy doesn’t keep me sober by keeping me happy or by keeping my life trouble-free. No one is always happy and no one has a trouble-free life.
What it does is gives me a template for how I should deal with my life on a daily basis. If my life is going great, TGCHHO. If life sucks, TGCHHO. If I’m happy, sad, hungry, angry, lonely, tired – TGCHHO. My drug problem wasn’t caused by the circumstances of my life. It was caused by my complete inability to figure out how to deal with the circumstances and the emotions that came along with those circumstances. Whenever something good or bad happened, I thought I had to figure out what that meant in the grand scheme of my life and how it should change how I was behaving from one day to the next. And if I couldn’t figure it out, than I panicked. But that probably wasn’t even the worst part.
The worst part was that if I figured out how to handle something – if something I did made me feel better once – than I just decided that was what would work every time. So when doing ecstasy for the first time made me happier than I’d been in months, I decided that ecstasy was the answer. Until it wasn’t. And on and on it went.
But now, instead of me figuring it out I have a template – TGCHHO. Now the helping others part is fairly self-explanatory. But what does it mean to trust God and clean house?
Again, this is only my understanding and it’s probably completely flawed. But it’s my blog so I’m going to tell you anyway. For me, trusting God (and I’ve said many times before that God refers to MY conception of the spirit of the universe and not necessarily to any conception that is espoused by others) means realizing that no matter what is happening in my life – good or bad – there is a lesson in it. It might not be a lesson I like. It might not even be one I understand right now. But I just trust that there’s something to be learned there. And since there is a lesson, my job is to just walk through the experience and hopefully learn something rather than trying to short circuit it and avoid whatever might be painful or uncomfortable. It’s not always fun, but if I’m in on this “trust God” thing, then I’m in regardless of the circumstances. And as I wrote the other day, the one thing my God and I are clear on is that the lesson is NEVER “use drugs”.
What about cleaning house? Well, I have to admit I’m still not real great at that one. It’s all still a bit fuzzy for me, but I think I’m supposed to identify the things inside me that keep me from trusting God and helping others and get rid of them. Things like selfishness, envy, judgment and the like. One of my favorites is wrath. Apparently I like to mete out punishment to all the wrongdoers in the world. I would say I’m being helpful, but really I’m just trying to tell the universe how to do its job. And if I’m doing God’s job, I’m certainly not trusting God. So, once I figure out (with a little help) what all those things are, I get to work on getting rid of them. I’m not going to go into the details of that here, but there’s a process.
So what’s my point? Well, here’s the thing. If I keep doing those things every day, regardless of whether the day is great or it sucks, I don’t really have to concern myself with the greatness or the suckiness. Tomorrow’s going to be different. Maybe not bizarro world different, but different enough to make it interesting. Maybe I’ll still be depressed tomorrow, but if I haven’t gotten high then at least I still have the chance to ask someone for help with that. And by trusting God, I may discover that asking for help is exactly the lesson I was supposed to learn.