Next Right Things

Just do the next right thing, one thing at a time. That’ll take you all the way home.
— Glennon Doyle Melton

When I was drinking everyday I was really happy and productive and going places in my life.

Or no, wait. I definitely wasn't. That wasn't me at all.

In reality, I didn't do a damn thing. I just...existed. In a place in the world that was sad and getting worse and worse everyday. I couldn't make a decision. I couldn't do anything. I swirled around in my own head, playing tug of war with my life. At the end, I was doing the bare minimum to get by. My bottom wasn't the lowest, but I was getting to a scary place and low was just around the corner. All of my glasses were precariously resting on the edge and one false move was going to shatter everything into a million pieces.

I don't want to paint the worst picture. I got shit done. I worked every day, I fed my kids, my home wasn't a wreck, most of the time. Sometimes, I would go on wine fueled cleaning sprees jamming to old records, or I'd tackle a project and reorganize or declutter. But I put off things that needed done if I didn't want to deal with them. Anything that was hard, or scary, or I didn't have an immediate cure for- I just couldn't even look at them. I was really hurting myself.


Now that I am sober and the energy is coming back, I find that I have a new focus to be a fixer. Last week I was forced to face a tax issue that I had put off for YEARS. I sat down and handled it in a matter of an hour and filed 2 years of taxes that I hadn't taken care of. And I know that you think I may have been avoiding a tax bill, but I wasn't. I am getting a refund for both years. I just procrastinated. 

That's just the example. I caused myself stress beyond stress, probably ulcer inducing stress and held up the transfer of money that I absolute need, because my priorities in life have been wholey fucked. I had lost total control over my what I needed to do everyday until my choices no longer belonged to me. My addiction was running the show.

The next right thing at first was just to not drink. And that always has to be the choice. I know it seems hard at first, but when the dust settles and you get your new sober sea-legs, one day you wake up and you just start moving. And it's, "ok- now what?" So my now what became cleaning up. Cleaning all the shit up. Throwing things away. Opening the piles of mail. Keeping my fridge full. Prepping lots of meals. Being prepared and stocked for life. Keeping more than one roll of toilet paper on hand! Lots of hot showers and clean sheets. Writing in a journal for the first time ever. Reading books with the complete abandon I haven't had in 15 years. Taking better care of my body, working out more. I pack my kids' lunches every night and go to bed with my kitchen clean. When you start it just keeps piling up, the good things. The right things.

And it's not just the big grown up adulting stuff, it's about the joyous stuff, too. When I think what should I do next, I can look at things that I wouldn't even have considered before, because I am past things that have been blocking me for so long. I can consider that the next right thing is doing some yoga, or taking a bubble bath, or listening to music really fucking loud and dancing in my kitchen. Sometimes it's tiny, like making my kid a sandwich. Sometimes it's bigger, like making scary phone calls to start in on fixing the things you have been putting off, and it's doing those things that start to change the actual course of your life.

When you get sober, you finally get out of your own way. You get courage to do harder things because you know that you are already doing the hardest thing. I have been living an accidental life that I have not been control of for so long that I didn't even know I had the power to change things in any real way. Taking alcohol off the table was the first step for me in taking back my power and regaining the control I never even knew I had. It is exciting when you discover that you ARE actually capable of steering the ship instead of just drifting along and crashing into anything that makes it's way into your path.

I grew up in a home where we avoided answering the phone, or if we did "dad wasn't home". I was unconsciously taught from a early age that we avoided problems and struggle was always our normal. I took that on as an adult in all of its facets. Today, I don't feel like that. I know that all of my problems have solutions that I can work toward. I am not afraid of tackling them because I realized something. When you answer the phone call or even make the phone call that you have been avoiding, a miraculous shift happens. A thousand pound weight will become lighter. The fear dissipates. Action is the cure for fear. Just start walking in the direction of the things you are avoiding instead of running and you will see that the monster under your bed really was just a pile of socks and clothes after all.

My drinking was a way for me to escape all of my stress, but in the end, all it did was amplify all of them. I would have never believed that giving up my wine would eventually give me more relief than I had ever felt in my life, but it's true. I gained more by subtracting the thing I thought I needed most. When I finally let go of the rope that I was causing my hands to bleed from clinging so desperately they started to heal and now that they don't hurt so badly, I can finally take the wheel and that feels better than anything.