Sober. Not a playful or “fun” concept, but one that is necessary for life to go forward instead of spiraling out of control. Sober is more than just not using a substance such as alcohol or drugs. Sober is about being clearheaded and making decisions from the thinking part of our brain rather than from the dopamine or pleasure-seeking center of our brain. Being sober is about being awake.
The news is full of troubling statistics concerning the misuse of oxycodone and recognizing it as a national epidemic. Opioid drugs bind to receptors in the brain, spinal cord and other body areas and reduce pain messages sent to the brain. For some, opioids are a way to live with otherwise unmanageable pain. Sadly, for many, they become a way of life and a way to escape sobriety. Sobriety allows us to feel life, without masking or filtering it.
Taking away alcohol, drugs or other potentially addictive behaviors such as eating, shopping, sex, sports, gambling, electronic devices that mask pain is not what sober is about. Although abstinence may become a necessary first step, a life in pain that is wrapped around only abstinence is wrapped around nothingness, which is the problem in the first place. Escape from emptiness is not helped by just more emptiness.
Prevention and recovery from any addiction is about learning to find our value not in what we have but in what we are and to stop running away from what we fear. That often happens best when we can find our purpose in something larger than ourselves. A sense of belonging and being a needed part of a community can help sobriety happen. Nar Anon (www.nar.anon.org) is a lifeline for those who live with a person suffering from the brain disease we call addiction. NA (www.na.org) has a 24-hr. hotline (800-561-2250) to help with regaining the quiet sense of comfort and purpose that is being sober.