#3 The only thing that matters is how you feel
Sobriety is a strict teacher.
I had to learn the hard way how to earn my respect. There were no shortcuts and a lot of failures. But there were also wins. Something I experienced once a year and now I experience daily.
The conclusion is it’s better to have a harsh teacher than none.
And before sobriety, I didn’t have a teacher. Nothing served me as a catalyst for growth.
After 1128 days, I’m sharing the four most important lessons with you. You don’t have to be sober to use them. But I’ll always recommend you try, simply because of how fulfilling my life had become when I did.
1. Thoughts, feelings, and emotions are not going anywhere
Alcohol was my way out of feelings and intrusive thoughts.
I didn’t have to deal with them. It seemed fine for the time being. But when the crisis hit, I was helpless. Feelings were taking control over me. I wanted a quick way out so badly, but my teacher taught me there is no way out.
Sobriety revealed there is no running away from myself.
I had to face what lingered in my head. Then I could grow. The way was in, not out. It led to a result I never dreamed of.
I realized how important it is to accept yourself.
Fighting with your thoughts and feelings is futile. They only get stronger if you do that. The magic happens when you stop fighting what already happened. Then you see yourself for who you are. You can judge yourself if you want to know what to change, but there is no fighting for what is already here.
Nothing you feel is permanent.
But trying to fight the thought when it appears makes it last longer. It’s how you transform stress into its acute version. It’s how you transform pain into suffering.
Accepting what you feel makes you lighter.
You’re no longer bound to waste energy on changing something that already happened. Instead of going crazy about the past, you focus on what to do to improve the future.
Thoughts and feelings are here to stay. Accept them to stop being their prisoner.
2. People are interesting when you listen to them
Boredom is your choice.
Also, when it comes to talking to people. Realizing the depth of people is life-changing. Listen to them to learn about their passions and dreams. Maybe you saw only a piece of them and assumed that’s all there is.
To deepen your connection, listen to understand.
Show people you care about them. Ask them about their day, how their kids are, or if they solved the problem mentioned last time. Get to know them, and find connections you were not aware of. Focus on their story. Marvel their experiences and how they differ from yours. Open yourself up so they open themselves.
Don’t fake anything. Just listen. Put away your phone. Look them in the eyes. Ask them questions.
Watch them flourish in your eyes. Watch them grow their understanding of their issues.
You already know your stories.
You’ll benefit more from knowing theirs before sharing yours. You never know which story will enlighten you. Give yourself a chance and become an avid listener.
3. The only thing that matters is how you feel
There is a common belief that if you care about yourself first, you don’t care about others.
People say it’s egoistic to think about yourself. And by definition of egoism, they’re right. But they also think it’s terrible to be egoistic. I disagree.
The only times I made people around me feel great were when I felt great.
When I care about myself first, I smile every day. I wake up thinking of ways how to get what I want. Following my dreams and learning about myself gives me immense drive. Not only can I use it for writing and programming, but also for meeting with people.
And then I give them my full attention.
Because I don’t have to ramble about my problems all the time. I don’t need to complain about the government or pain. What I can do is to listen.
How you feel determines how others will feel around you.
Take your feelings in your hands. Learn how to feel great. If you feel miserable while trying to make your parents proud, stop. It won’t make them happy. And it won’t make you happy either.
When you build the life you want, at least one person is happy.
People who care about you will enjoy you feeling great. Then, when you’re happy, content, or calm, whichever you like, you can help others. You can serve.
This strategy gives you the biggest impact you could have.
On the way you build the life you want, you become an example. You fix your shit, get more resources and increase your impact.
You start with a single person to help – you. Next, you expand to a bigger circle of your family and friends. Then you can go fixing the world.
4. Conquer Fear With Small Steps
Sobriety taught me to take one day at a time.
Instead of focusing on staying sober forever, I promised myself one more day. Splitting the impossible challenge made those small chunks achievable. Then I faced only a tiny piece of it.
Thinking about the whole big, impossible task never helped me.
I tried getting sober with an idea for it to be for life. And a week was my record. Because every day, I imagined the rest of my life without a drink. Small steps strategy limited what I had to imagine to one day.
Instead of seeing all those sunny days on the beach without a beer, I only saw me today, not drinking while it’s raining.
Small steps give you enormous gains but with time. When you build momentum, like me, with an 1128 sober streak, you’ll get the motivation to keep the streak. Would I want a drink or to make it to 1129 days?
The answer, for now, is always plus one.
The benefits reach far beyond staying sober. Learning to split huge, scary tasks into smaller ones conquers fear. You still fear failure but are free from daily thinking about the whole task. It’s a life-saving skill to focus on the task at hand and be overwhelmed with life as a whole.
5. Bonus: The best way to help is to show the way
Talking is cheap.
People love to talk. Often they love to talk bullshit. Not necessarily because they want to. We’re hardwired to assume we’re right. It’s easier than verifying every piece of advice we give.
Fortunately, there are better ways to help.
The best one is to show others how to succeed. If you want people to follow your advice, follow it first. Showing results closes the mouths of the non-believers.
And even if they keep talking, who cares? You succeeded.
As a result, you give others hope. You’re living proof it’s possible to get what they want.
When I stopped drinking, people around me started to drink less.
I know because I stopped prompting them to drink with me. But it wasn’t everything. They saw it’s doable, even for someone who couldn’t imagine a weekend without drinking. Sometimes all it takes is to see something with your own eyes.
You get to live the life you dreamt of while being an inspiration for others. That’s better than talking.
Sobriety is a strict but patient teacher.
It gives you time to reflect upon your life to get to know yourself. It’s honest. From the start, you know there are no shortcuts. You must deal with yourself.
No external help makes you calmer.
You know you can’t drink today. So if you’re sad, you’re sad. You face it to discover why you’re sad and how to change that. And if changing that is not possible, you continue living. Nothing you feel lasts forever.
You don’t have to be sober to learn what sobriety taught me.
But I encourage you to try. It was a growth catalyst for me. And it never stopped giving.
What could sobriety teach you?