I almost couldn’t believe it the day I walked out of a meeting and someone said to me, “You’re going to fall off of that pink cloud.” It stopped me straight in my tracks. How could he say that? Aren’t these people supposed to be giving me support? Lifting me up? Saying positive things so that I could positively beat this? I just didn’t want to believe that someone would want to beat me down when what I really needed was to be confident that I was doing ok. I was proud of how my sobriety was going and should have been encouraged to have confidence in recovery.
My response may have been a little naïve at the time though. I turned to him and replied, “That’s okay. I’m growing wings. Relapse is not an option.”
It was snide, off the cuff, and very typical of something I would say when I was drinking. Okay, give myself a break. I was newly sober and in need of breaking old habits.
But it was also very true. I was growing wings.
Problems with Confidence in Recovery
What this man was referring to, however, was my pride. I was feeling very proud and something I have discovered with some groups is that pride and cocky confidence is a character defect to look down upon.
Many people believe that part of the reason we started drinking was selfish pride. Many people believe that relapse happens when people get too confident in recovery and stop working the program.
There may be something to be said about that for some people, but it’s not quite what I believe nor how I handle my sobriety.
Maybe I’m not quite jaded or cynical enough to be like that man. Maybe I want to believe that everyone is good and that no one would ever really want to hurt me.
Wanting to Fit Is Human Nature
Oh to hell with that. I understand social groups too much from my years studying them to believe that. It’s in our human nature, our DNA, to want to fit in, and to do that, the people around us have to be like us. This man wasn’t trying to beat me down, but he was unknowingly trying to conform me to be what he thought I should be so we fit. In fact, he’s a wonderful man who later apologized about his comment and became a good friend.
Yeah, I know – just call me Pollyanna, the one who thinks that getting sober can be all sunshine and roses, that the pink clouds kept me strong. Why wouldn’t they? They also kept me from thinking about all the things I was missing out on like the parties I wouldn’t be going to, the craving for alcohol, and beautiful summer afternoons at an outdoor beach bar with a cocktail in hand.
Honor Your Pink Cloud
My pink cloud let me know I could enjoy all those things one day, when I was ready, just without the alcohol. And really, it wasn’t the cocktail that I enjoyed about the beach bar. It was the view, the people, and just being out in the fresh air in a place that made me feel better than hiding in a dark room watching television. I could do that with sweet tea.
But come on, even if people spend a lot of time believing that you have to beat the desire to drink out of the alcoholic by putting them in their place, stewing in their own negative thoughts has to get to them from time to time.
In case you’re not familiar with what I’m getting at, let me explain.
Many people believe that drinking and drugging is nothing more than a selfish activity that people do when their egos are too big for their britches. They believe that to cure them of the disease, you have to beat their ego down and humble them.
I have actually been told that I have too much confidence, that my thinking got me drinking, and I shouldn’t rely on it to get me sober. I’ve been told this by people who have no idea who I am or what I’ve been through.
Keeping Confidence in Recovery Safe
And I do struggle with this idea. In certain circles, I keep my beliefs and any show of confidence in recovery hidden in my silence.
Except I write about it for all the world to see. Crazy, isn’t it.
What most people don’t know, however, is that all my life I have done what other people expected of me, setting my own dreams and desires aside. They don’t know that when I started drinking I was feeling so disappointed in myself for letting other people beat me out of my purpose. They don’t know that the thoughts in my head circled around how ugly I was, how stupid I was, how unloveable I was.
Did I really need more people telling me that?
I could understand this if I were walking around thinking I was better than everyone else, but that wasn’t the case. Nor is it for a lot of people with addiction. In fact, I have come to realize that what really happens for many people (it certainly did for me) is that they walk around feeling their shame about not being good enough, and along comes alcohol to give them some joy and confidence, the exact thing they needed at the time they needed it.
And damn, it felt good, so they kept doing it.
Finding Confidence in Recovery
What if there was another way to find joy and confidence?
One that didn’t result in ruined finances, relationships, and health. What if there was a way to find joy and confidence in recovery that also gave you the ability to build a life you never thought was imaginable?
I say that’s the solution I want.
The problem is, we are surrounded by people who don’t understand that our drinking and drugging behaviors make perfect sense. That our brains work in such a way that when there is an immediate solution to a problem (regardless of the long-term effects) our brains reward us. The reward it provides eventually builds into a habit, so we can move on to the next problem. And that after a while, our reward system gets a little out of whack, leading us to a bigger problem.
Work On the Real Problem
What if we looked back to the original problem and started working on solving that in a more productive and positive way. Could it be possible that our brains would reward us with pink clouds and wings?
That’s how I got sober, and I did it without relapse. I’m not saying I didn’t struggle at all. Only that I ignored the naysayers, enjoyed my pink cloud, and my journey to sobriety has been relatively easy.
And man, I see so many people in pain while they try to recover. And what habit has our brain built to help us endure that pain… to numb it? More alcohol. It’s no wonder relapse is so common.
I just want to give them a taste of my recovery, so they can see how good it could be.
We can’t ignore our pain. We shouldn’t ignore it.
Feeling Your Emotions
Instead, we need to feel it and we need to understand where it comes from and why. Then we need to find a real solution. Alcohol is not an option!
Relapse is not an option!
Usually, all we want is to feel good. Happy. After all, doesn’t everything we do come from a desire to be happy.
It’s time we fight back against our negative self-loathing. People who contribute to that don’t help.
Take a Stand
And that’s why I’m taking a stand. I no longer listen to people who try to push me off my pink cloud. And neither should you. Next time someone tries to give you a nudge near the edge of failure, just remind them and yourself that you are growing wings.
I’ve already started by proudly saying to anyone who tries to remind me of my britches by proudly letting them know, “I’m growing wings. Relapse is not an option.”
Who’s with me?
One final thing. For some, relapse does happen, has already happened. I can’t ignore that, but the Pollyanna in me has to believe that there is some good in relapse. If you want to know what that is, read this article.