It is said that those of us who suffer from alcoholism froze our emotional maturity at the age at which we started to drink regularly. I am living proof of the voracity of that statement as I lived decades of my life, well into my early sobriety, with the emotional maturity of a teenager.
Impatience is a cornerstone attribute of emotional immaturity, and my ability to calmly wait for anything was as undeveloped as that skill can be in a human. I learned early in my recovery that patience was a tool I needed to master if I hoped to make it over the elusive hump to permanent sobriety.
My own history of attempts at sobriety, and subsequent relapses, provided ample necessary proof that my impatience wasn’t serving me. I made it to six months of sobriety twice, and to nine months once, only to start drinking again because I still felt depression and anxiety, and joy had not yet returned to my life.
There was no big temptation.
The cravings did not get the best of me.
I just ran out of patience for the process of healing my hijacked brain.
So I started drinking again. I expected months of sobriety to accomplish changes that take years to make. I lacked both the knowledge, and the stamina, to reach the finish line.
So far, nothing I’ve shared in these first few paragraphs is likely to be news to you. If you have invested even minimal time in your recovery from your drinking or the drinking of someone you love, you’ve probably heard dozens of times about the importance of patience in the process.
But here’s something new — something I didn’t understand myself until a couple of weeks ago.
Patience is not just a skill. Patience is a destination.
Alcoholism is full of counterintuitive thinking. We drink to relieve stress and anxiety, not realizing the alcohol is responsible for the anxiety in the first place. We drink for pleasure and to lift us from sadness because we don’t understand the brain chemistry impact of addiction, and the damage drinking does to our pleasure neurotransmitters.
Here’s another one: We drink to find a sort of unnatural contentment because we are…