Coping with Negative Feelings
Without Using Alcohol or Drugs
Self-portrait by the Author
I’m enormously frustrated right now.
I want to scream or break something.
Just writing that makes me see how stupid it would be to break something.
Being sober is not to live in a fairy tale. Life is real, and having used alcohol and drugs as a crutch for many years, and then taking those options away means that I need to deal with life as it is.
And, for most of us who go down the path of addiction, there’s a huge mess left in our wake when we get clean. It takes a lot of work to deal with that mess.
I’m a few decades into sobriety and I’m grateful that I’ve been able to instill the knowledge that a drink or a drug is not an answer for me.
So, what to do with feelings of raw anger and frustration?
Personally, I have a rather open relationship with an entity that I think of as God. There's an amazing book called "The Universe is a Green Dragon," by the physicist Brian Swimme that helped me to come to terms with my belief in an eternal energy, unknowable but most definitely present.
In that relationship, I do a fair bit of cursing and questioning, and I wonder aloud “What the fuck am I supposed to be getting from this?”
My belief is that we’re a team, that I can’t sit back and expect God to do everything for me, but also that I’m not running the show in my life.
If it was all up to me, my illness of alcoholism/addiction would’ve taken me out or put me in a prison or some type of institution long ago.
I had some amazing events and ideas and opportunities that were put in my path, and a door opened for a brief moment that allowed me to consider making a change. It was inspired by something outside of myself.
That has led to a fulfilling life.
But, damn. Fucking technology, bureaucracy, health and healthcare issues, and what comes down to plain old irresponsibility on the part of so many entities can make life hard.
There’s a great line from the movie “Heat.” Al Pacino, an investigative cop, goes to lean on a source. After setting up a meeting, he yells at him “Don’t waste my motherfucking time!”
I can’t believe how often that line comes up for me when I need to follow up on matters that were settled, or when I’m on an endless hold, or when I get disconnected when being transferred, or when the Bluetooth device won’t connect, or when I never hear back from a Help Desk, or...on and on and on.
It can be difficult to reconcile balance and frustration.
Yes, I have first world problems.
When I was drinking I could be a doormat in some ways, and overbearing in other ways.
Like so many things in recovery, finding balance is key. How do I deal with very real problems, stemming from irresponsibility on the part of others, without going over the top and creating more problems and frustration for myself?
At the same time, how do I keep from accepting the unacceptable, thereby being a doormat?
I try to quiet myself and ask for guidance.
I try to step back and let go.
Often, it works.
Today, not so much.
One of the best things I realized in early sobriety was that if I took away the option to have a drink or a drug, then I would have to discover ways to deal with life.
And I learned that the only way to deal with my issues is to deal with them. There’s no way but through.
Do I do it perfectly? Hell no.
Do I turn to a drink or a drug? Hell no.
Thank you for reading, if you’ve made it this far.
Writing this has relieved my frustration somewhat. At least I’ve written a post for Medium, so that is something I can feel positive about today.
Writing is becoming a tool for me to cope, it seems. To give voice to things I’m thinking about, and hopefully, some of my thoughts will help others to say, “hey, I feel that way.”
Connection, rather than isolation, is what sustains me. I imagine that is true for you, also.