Thursday, July 30, 2009

What Is Sobriety?

I had the chance to participate in a lively discussion last night about how we determine sobriety. It was a confidential meeting so I won't be sharing any details of the discussion. However, it triggered my thoughts for this post.

When it comes to drugs and alcohol sobriety is a pretty easy mark. You didn't drink, you're sober. You did drink, you're not. Thinking about drinking or craving a drink isn't drinking. But what about other addictions like food or sex. Now it's a little more complex. I have to eat to stay alive. Does that mean a food addict can never achieve sobriety? NO! Eating has a proper place in our lives. Food addicts, or compulsive over eaters, are people who go beyond normal food consumption. And not all compulsive over eaters are overweight. You can be slender and lean and still use food as an inappropriate coping mechanism.

Sex is also a natural function of human relationships. However, a sex addict uses sex for control, comfort, stress relief and many other things it's not intended for. Sex addiction support groups will tell you that abstaining does not equal sobriety. There must be another measure.

The definition of sobriety for compulsive overeating, sex addiction and other types of addictions can be difficult but it always hinges on a person's ability to be honest and insightful. In other words, a food addict knows internally if the food they're eating is for sustenance or for an addictive fix. As a person in recovery for compulsive overeating myself I can tell you that I know pretty much every time when my eating is driven by addiction not healthy appetite. That means I know when I'm sober and when I'm not. That's the insight part of it and that insight develops the longer I'm in recovery. The honesty part comes when it's time to admit to myself and another human being when I'm eating out of my addiction. Beyond that it requires that I find healthy replacements for compulsive overeating and live in sobriety.

What about you? Are you living sober? Are you being honest with yourself about the things you do that are driven by your addictive needs? Do you even have the insight to identify when you're acting out of addiction? Somewhere inside you know. It might just be a sneaking suspicion at this point. But when you get serious about recovery you'll gain greater insight. You'll start to clearly see when you're acting out of addiction and when you're sober. Then you'll have to be honest about it. Then you'll be on the road to living a sober life.

Why not start today?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Father Factor

My wife and I were talking about the Michael Jackson memorial service today. She said she'd heard he went through all those surgeries, in part, so that he would never look like his dad. The pain inflicted by Joe Jackson on his sons is the stuff of legend. She also noted that I'm no stranger to father issues.

True enough. My father was an alcoholic who died at 57 and my stepfather was worse because he pretended to be a good man while womanizing and abusing myself and my siblings. He died alone at 60, no Staples Center celebration of his life! In my experience of recovery I can say I've yet to meet a man who doesn't have some trauma inflicted by his father. Alcoholic fathers, physically abusive fathers, emotionally distant fathers, fathers who left altogether.

The influence of a father in our lives is immeasurable. Both for good and for evil. If you're struggling with addiction or have a hard time in relationships or have generally low self-esteem I'll hazard a guess you've got father issues. Trust me when I tell you that they don't go away on their own. The things you're doing right now to cope with the pain inflicted by your father could be killing you. Unless you submit to recovery and start choosing a healthy path, you'll most likely never get truly healed of the wounds inflicted in childhood.

Now, if you've got the money and the influence you could just remake yourself the way Michael Jackson did. But it doesn't seem that plan worked out so well for him after all. You might consider different choices!