Simplicity; a word that I’m not sure our world fully understands any longer. I’m not even certain what it describes on this planet anymore. Most days, to me, it seems like an ancient mystical concept not used much in modern society—a bit like meditation was before it became so popular. It’s a word that sounds utterly appealing, yet is as distant and as unavailable to me as owning my own private tropical Island.
The Oxford Dictionary defines simplicity as “the quality or condition of being easy to understand or do; the quality or condition of being plain or uncomplicated in form or design; a thing that is plain or uncomplicated.” This embodies everything that my idea of a life that had soaked up all the wonderfulness and nourishment of recovery from addiction would look like.
But as I sit here working on my laptop, helping my two kids with homework, listening for the ping of the oven to let me know when dinner is ready, watching the time to make sure my daughter is not late for guitar lessons and ignoring the pile of folded laundry on the table in front of me while realizing it’s my sister’s birthday today and I’d almost forgotten, I despair of ever finding such an idyllic existence. I barely had time to brush my teeth this morning and my plan to write all day was rudely interrupted by the realization that I wouldn’t have enough money to last until the end of the week so phone calls had to be made to utility companies to tell them I’d be late with payments this week. And as I suck back tears of frustration, I ask myself earnestly, “Wasn’t it easier to deal with this stuff when I was drinking?”
As I consider this, I wonder how I can hope to find the illusive simplistic life we are encouraged to aspire to in the rooms of recovery in the midst of such catastrophic busyness and stress. Then I remember that the key is to start downsizing. By that I mean getting rid of, instead of adding—whether that’s unwanted and unnecessary emotions, thoughts and unhealthy emotional entanglements or unrealistic aspirations to own as many designer shoes as a Kardashian. My certainty that my destiny was to marry a handsome millionaire has to be thrown on the trash pile. This leads me to the realization that while I know very well that though designer shoes and millionaires are highly sought-after life goals for a lot of people, if I didn’t have recovery these things would only thrill me for a short while.
When my disease is taking over my body, even when I’m not consuming alcohol or drugs, I am a fickle creature and bore easily so I’m destined to eventually seek out my next high, fix or conquest. Anything for a hit, right? Even though I have been chemical-free for just over four years, my inner self still yearns for that jolt to give my ego a turbo-boost.
And so it appears that in fact I am right on track. The truth is that anything that was ever handed to me on a plate had no value and no meaning so a life of hard work, problem solving and determination to make things better is a big part of keeping me sober. Because I’ve had to learn to love a life of discipline and guidance, I’ve come to value myself more. The fact of the matter is that when I was active, there were no phone calls made to utility companies saying sorry that I can’t pay this week but I’ll catch up. Instead I’d let it roll for weeks and weeks, piling up debt and then cursing the world because life was unfair and rich people had it made. I had jobs that I hated and barely did enough work to earn what they paid me. And being present for my children was a rarity, as I was constantly in an alcohol-fueled, resentful, fog, blaming my family, ex-husband and even the dog for the state of my life.
Toward the end, every day was hell and I got joy from absolutely nothing. Still, I am fully aware of the fact that right now, a life of ease would probably be a problem for me because I am still not well enough to appreciate it. And so I return to the question: “Wasn’t it easier to deal with this stuff when I was drinking?”
The answer is a resounding absolutely not. For me, managing my life, as opposed to existing in an unmanageable hell, builds my strength and confidence. And as hard as it gets, many days not only am I doing it and doing it damn well but I also very much enjoy feeling alive and useful. In the end, then, I see this busy life that I’m addressing head-on as simplicity at its best—or at least the right path to be on to achieve it.