Today, July 2, 2017, marks eighteen months sober! This is an amazing celebration indeed — one that I will start as I wake in just a few hours and head out on a boat with close friends and B in the summer sun on my first vacation of a very busy year. This milestone of one and a half years marks the beginning of a new era and the end of the hustle.
When I first stopped drinking — both the first and second times — I felt a large (subconscious at the time) desire to hustle for the worthiness of my sobriety. What do I mean “hustle for the worthiness” of it? Well, Brene Brown teaches that our worthiness is that sense of “I am enough just as I am, and don’t have to do anything to show that I belong” — SO, in the context of my sobriety, hustling for my “sober-worthiness” meant that I felt like I needed to prove that I was worthy of being in recovery — that I belonged. I constantly wanted to make sure that people understood not only that I am sober but WHY I was sober — not just because it is better for me and because I deserve to have a life that is healthy both physically and emotionally but because (insert crazy story here to prove that I am a bad drunk).
Hustling for your worthiness in any facet of life is exhausting and you never quite win the hustle, and the same is true for sober-worthiness. I was out there trying to prove that I was “enough” to be sober and in recovery hoping to prove myself to who? I guess the same people that I am always trying to prove myself to, and depending on the day that could be just about anyone. I have always wanted to have approval from others and honestly, drinking gave me a break from that –sort of, or so I thought, but not really. There were moments were drinking allowed me to pretend to embrace an IDGAF attitude that I truly don’t have too often in life when I think about others and what they think of me. So, just as I wonder if I’m “enough” in regards to being worthy of other things (as we all do), I wanted to prove I was “enough” of a drunk to become sober. News flash to me: I didn’t have to hustle to prove anything, my drunk behaviors did that for me.
I think another reason that I was hustling for sober-worthiness was because I had what some would call a “high bottom” –even though I’ve decided I’m not so fond of that word– and I guess I felt guilty for not hitting the “rock bottom” that others have to sometimes hit before becoming sober. I (luckily) never lost a job, got a DUI or ended up in jail (as an adult) due to drinking. I carried a 4.2GPA in graduate school during active addiction and after, held down two jobs and checked some of those “adulting” boxes like buying a car, starting a retirement account, etc. all while blacking out for 2 or 3 days of the week. On the surface, to those who did not know me intimately enough to realize that my drinking and other substance abuse was killing me from the inside out, I looked like I was doing just fine. Sure, I got drunk and made an ass out of myself but I was “just young” and “would grow out of it.” I was really good at rationalizing, even better at pulling others into my alcohol abuse and the best at covering up. And honestly, as bad as it sounds, having an older sister who has struggled with heroin addiction for nearly fifteen years, lost a child, jobs, been in jail, etc. and still continues to use sets the bar a little high — not to say it’s an addict competition but I did feel like I was some sort of imposter compared to her, not that any one else was comparing. All of this combined with this continued “never enough” script that can run in my head created this feeling of being undeserving of being in recovery, stupid for sharing my story and unworthy of getting sober.
That, my friends, is bullshit. All of the above is bullshit. It is all some idea that I made up in my mind — a load of crap. Just like hustling for my worthiness of being a fan of a specific type of music because I haven’t been to 100 shows, or hustling for my worthiness as a competent professional because I “look young,” hustling for my worthiness of being sober because I haven’t had a significant “on paper” consequence is ridiculous and is a battle never to be won. It took a long time, but I finally think I am realizing this: there is no need to hustle for sober — or any other type — of worthiness. I should be celebrating that I am sober not trying to check boxes on all the reasons that I should not be using and handing it in for some sort of grade.
I didn’t even realize that I was hustling at first but once I figured it out, I realized that giving up this hustle was necessary to continue down this path in a healthy manner that allowed me to move forward. When I was drinking, I was hustling for my worthiness as a person, especially as a social being and to continue to do this would only hold me back in my soberity, and I knew it. I started to realize that I had to sort of force myself to begin to believe that I had nothing to prove because no matter what any one thought of me, I knew that this choice was for me, and that I am a better person for being sober whether I was ever “enough” of a drunk to be sober or not, on the outside. What does it even mean to be “enough” of a drunk, anyway? Like really. If you are any of a “drunk” shouldn’t it be time to reconsider your alcohol use?
Giving up the hustle isn’t just about giving up the messages you send yourself, it’s also about giving up those people that cause you to feel like you have to hustle. In active addiction, I managed to surround myself with people who caused me to feel like I had something to prove. I spent a lot of time navigating social situations that involved people that I simultaneously felt like I didn’t even really care for but also had to “win over.” The internal battle that went on when bouncing between disliking people and feeling like you have to get their approval was so anxiety provoking and overwhelming that I would drink more and then mold myself to fit into what I thought they wanted me to be, resulting in even worse consequences for myself. So, if you want to give up this hustle, maybe even before you start to repeat to yourself over and over how worthy you are of your sobriety, I recommend this to everyone: GIVE UP THE PEOPLE WHO MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE TO HUSTLE FOR YOUR WORTHINESS. It is SO freeing! You don’t even have to be sober to do this. If someone makes you feel like you are not enough and you know it’s not you, thank them for their service to you and let them be on their way. You don’t need to hustle for anyone’s approval, not even your own.
So, here I am, breathing a little less rapidly when I say I’m sober and not filling up the moments after that with horror stories. Oh, and did I mention 18 months sober? **DOES HAPPY DANCE**
Giving up the hustle doesn’t mean I’m going to stop sharing my story, so trust that I’ll continue to be on here writing about my recovery, my sobriety and how it all is going. Actually, it means just the opposite. It makes me want to share more of my story — pieces that I kept quiet, pieces that show not just how bad the addiction was but how great recovery is, how worth it sobriety is and how worthy we all are of it. It also doesn’t mean that I am never going to feel inferior or feel like I am hustling for my sober-worthiness or just my regular old worthiness again, either. It just means it’s all a little bit lighter, at least for right now. Maybe my sobriety is just becoming more imprinted in who I am and my way of being. Maybe the people I am surrounded by now make it a little easier to just be me. Maybe I make it a little easier for myself to just be me. There are many things that giving up this hustle means but the most important is: I am enough and I am worthy of sobriety and recovery, just as I am.
So here I am, Day 546, feeling full of joy, gratitude, light and love — and still staying up way past by bedtime just for way better and much more satisfying reasons. I am truly one of the luckiest, without anything to prove and no complaints.
Oh, and PS — If you’re wondering, you are enough and worthy of anything you desire, just as your are, too. You don’t have anything to prove or hustle for.