When I first got sober, it was pretty easy for me. I’m not bragging, but I had hit such a low point that I figured getting clean and sober might well be worth a shot. The one thing I hadn’t discovered in my new sobriety was ways to cope with life on life’s terms. This was definitely something I needed to figure out quickly.
See, life just kept on happening to me. It didn’t matter that I was clean and sober, or that I was trying to do the next right thing. It didn’t matter that I was making a valiant effort to see my kids, to stay away from people, places and things or that I was working a rigorous twelve-step program.
My car still broke down, I still got yelled at by my boss and I still had (very) bad hair days.
Of course I would go into the “poor me” cloud. “Hey, I’m doing the right thing… what’s this crap all about?” I had this grandiose sense of self (huge ego!) that since I finally started to do the right thing (after years of doing very wrong things) that I should get a reprieve of sorts and nothing bad should ever happen to me ever again. Ever.
Reality check: shit happens. I had to deal with life on life’s terms and I had to find out pronto how to do that.
The only way I could do that was to go to meetings, be around other sober people who had serious clean time and work a good program.
I learned that drinking or drugging was not a coping tool. It just added fuel to the already out of control fire that raged inside me.
I learned that I should start writing again and that I am a pretty good photographer. I learned my triggers and how to avoid them most of the time. Sometimes triggers still invaded my head space (usually when my mind was idle) and I learned that the best thing to do in that situation was to call another alcoholic in recovery. Maybe they could help me. Turns out, I was helping them just as much as they were helping me.
I couldn’t wrap my head around that one. How the hell could I possibly help someone with years of sobriety when I was so new? Now that I have over six years clean and sober, I know how. Because when I talk to someone new in sobriety it puts things in perspective and reminds me of the way I used to think. I no longer think that way.
Some of the ways I learned to cope:
- Go to a meeting. Talk to another alcoholic in recovery.
- Go for a walk.
- Go for a drive.
- Listen to music.
- Go to a park.
I can always come back to the problem later. Obsessing and keeping the problem at the forefront of my mind will not help me. And trust me, I am huge on obsession. After all, I am an alcoholic and everything is about me.
If I had a dollar for every time I asked someone “What’s wrong?” with the presumption that it had to be something I did, I would be retired and living in my dream cabin in the mountains.
See, another HUGE thing I had to learn to cope with was myself. I had to learn that people pleasing was not a coping tool, rather a way to mask whatever guilt or remorse I was feeling. I had to cope with that. I had to learn how to recognize the difference between actually coping and sweeping the problem under the rug or enabling someone or using other poor methods:
- silent scorn
- ignoring the feeling
None of these ways worked! These were not coping tools, these were character defects that I used to hurt people to get my way, pretending I was right (when I knew I was wrong). Because as long as I was sure other people knew I was right, I felt better, if only for a short time.
How do you cope with day-to-day life or problems that come down your road?