(some of the language in this post is "R" rated)
Earlier this week I celebrated three years sobriety. I posted about reaching this milestone on several social media platforms and received hundreds of likes, loves, positive comments and other affirmations. Each one provided a tiny shot of dopamine to my nervous system.
I was moved by the outpouring of support, but I was also caught off guard by the spiraling negative thoughts that followed.
As each "congratulations" rolled in I found myself feeling unworthy, and questioning my motives for sharing this milestone.
I thought to myself, "Have I kicked alcohol only to replace it with a need for applause, social media approval, and other accolades?"
I felt sick to my stomach as I accused myself of praise-seeking and glory-hounding. My internal dialog turned dark and my perception of the events that followed turned even darker.
When the administrators of a Facebook recovery group page deleted my post I took it to mean, "The recovery community has decided that your comedy sucks and you are ingenuine. Get lost looser!"
Shortly before the administrator deleted the post, someone commented, "I don't think it is funny to make fun of people in recovery. No thanks!" I took this personally and assumed the deletion of my post was related to this comment, but I was wrong. The post referenced my website, which was a violation of the group rules regarding promotion, and resulted in deletion.
It was as simple as that. It was very logical and was in no way an attack on me, my story, or how I add value to the world around me. However, my thoughts spiraled.
Then a friend of mine commented on one of my posts that was not deleted. He said, "Congrats. 3 years is a great start.”
WOW! It seemed obvious to me that what he meant was, "You piece of shit. Who do you think you are, celebrating 3 years. That’s nothing. You're nothing. You’re a phony. Everybody can see through this facade of friendly positivity. You are an egotistical, self-serving delinquent who is fatally flawed in so many ways that nothing you will ever do or accomplish will make you ok."
Looking back now, he might just have meant, "Congrats. 3 years is a great start."
Spiraling negative thoughts are not healthy. They are destructive, hard to control and can lead to acting out through compulsive behavior.
Fortunately I have people around me that help me recognize when destructive thoughts are bubbling up.
Fortunately I have learned coping techniques through recovery that don't include turning to the bottle.
But, the question still remains. "Have I kicked alcohol only to replace it with a need for applause, social media approval, and other accolades?"
Perhaps — partly.
I get to tell jokes and share about recovery and faith on stage and on-line. This has got to be the best job in the world and it has replaced alcohol — partly.
I enjoy being encouraged. I enjoy leading a room full of people to laughter. And I enjoy it to my core when my story encourages someone to make meaningful changes in their life. This has replaced alcohol — partly.
This has replaced alcohol, but only partly because it is not where my value comes from.
My value comes from my faith; My belief that Jesus Christ is my higher power.
However flawed I may be. However dark my thoughts may spiral. I am a child of the One True King, and He loves me not just partly, but entirely.
This understanding has replaced alcohol — completely, totally, entirely.
Because of this, I will continue to share. And you can continue to applaud, like, love, share, comment or anything else you want to do to show your support.
I appreciate you, your support and your encouragement. Please don't interpret my transparency to mean anything contrary.
Thanks for letting me share.
Aaron Sorrels - The Unemployed Alcoholic