Suffering or Freedom ?

red roseThere are really only two stories we tell our self when contemplating or walking through recovery. We are either attached to our old story—our suffering, or, we are attached to finding a new story—our freedom. We can’t have both, at least not at the same moment.

We think that elimination of alcohol will make our life zippy. It does not. For many, the early sober life is worse than the last days of the drinking life. At least when we drank we escaped the horror of our choices—albeit temporary. If we do, by chance, get and stay clean for a while we are fortunate, but certainly not free.

If we do no type of healing work we are almost doomed to return to drinking. And if we do stay sober without healing work we are miserable to be around. We still view the world through our alcoholic lens. Our decisions are impaired by lopsided thinking.

This is such a normal state for alcoholics to be in … it is, in fact, why most of us drank. We don’t feel the way regular people feel day in and day out. We feel better drinking. That’s why we did it in the first place. Drinking took us to a place that felt better than not drinking. We didn’t much like what came with our drinking, but we were willing to sacrifice to have those few moments of reprieve.

What comes next? We give up alcohol, we mourn a former self, we accept (with hope) that a brand new self will emerge with work, and we accomplish it all while learning to function without our crutch in a world that promotes alcohol—relentlessly. We do pretty damn good.

If we’re one of the fortunate to be reading this sober, congratulations. We have accomplished a feat that few would volunteer to undertake. Recovery feels harsh. Few want to hear how well we are progressing because in their eyes we should have been doing well all along. Few recognizes the depth of our pain when we finally eradicate what feels like a part of our body. Few understand the discomfort and anxiety we have faced functioning in a world that shuns addicts (recovered or not). Few, but always another recovering alcoholic.

It is through the shedding of our old story, all the dreadful minutiae, all the pain we caused self and others that we eventually write a new story, a new person. It is through  investigation, inquiry, feeling, and diffusing that we discover a person we never knew. A person who is barely ready, but ready enough, to face their past and their future in this now moment.  A person that is willing to fight to be free on the inside.

Through all the rewrites we discover a beauty. It was a beauty we thought did not exist. And if it did, surely we had destroyed it with alcohol.

Some days this journey will come easy. Some days it will be confrontational. But it will always be truly and unimaginably awakening.

Do not believe you are all alone in your drinking story. Do not believe you will suffer forever. There is a new story and it comes with some work. Do some work, begin your investigating. The freedom you have so long chased is awaiting you. It’s not in a bottle. It’s in you.

There is really only one choice to make: Will you suffer endlessly with your old story or persevere and find your freedom in a new one?


Recovery SI : Bridging the gap between treatment and recovery. Literally, a library of incredible reads. Please check it out. No matter how long you’ve been sober, there is something to learn.
Inspire Malibu: Science Evidence Based Treatment (non- 12-step). Drawing a perforated line between treatment and maintenance. Cutting edge information.


Sober Identity and/or Lisa Neumann are not affiliated with either of these resources/sites and receives no compensation, whatsoever, if you visit these sites or pursue treatment. These are just some really great people.

No Responses to “Suffering or Freedom ?

  • If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got.


  • Rewrites are like Michelangelo and David. We chip away all which is not us (addiction). When it all falls away, we become David. xxx

  • I’m working on the freedom story. Thank you.

  • Lisa, once again your words have managed to pull at my inner self, as I read them over a 2nd time to double check that I read it right in the first place, *grins much to my surprise I indeed read it correctly and must tell you that you words are inspirational, honest and true, they are also refreshing not reading about how you should ask god to forgive you for this and that, telling people that forgiveness begins with that whole 12 steps, which in my opinion don’t actually ever work, it’s as though the 12 steps are deemed to make one fail who is trying desperately to uncover themselves, to get past their addiction and to remember who they once were, if not discover and create who they are now without the need to be wasted.
    Love your work your writing and admire your strength……….((hugs)) Angel

  • recoverysi
    11 years ago

    Thank you, Lisa- beautifully written. We are always a work in progress. It’s very hard to see the next iteration of ourselves when only the pain of past regrets and current unfulfilled wishes is visible. Looking beyond those takes a terrific effort. But, each sober day is a page in our story- worth living, worth reading, and worth sharing.

    We truly are stronger together. We truly share our strength by sharing our stories.

    • RecoverySI, It put the biggest smile on my face to see you over here on the blog. Thank you for your support. I feel blessed to have found your site. You provide much that I am not able (willing) to. I agree, we are stronger together. I am glad to finally be learning this. Untreated alcoholism is a lonely place. Blessings

  • So right on. Love this:

    What comes next? We give up alcohol, we mourn a former self, we accept (with hope) that a brand new self will emerge with work, and we accomplish it all while learning to function without our crutch in a world that promotes alcohol—relentlessly. We do pretty damn good.

    Thanks for your post; needed it today!

    • DDG:
      You are a large part of my writing inspiration. You share/post from the depth of your soul. I love that about you. You give me much and I’m glad to return the support.

  • Perfect timing to read this post…. Thank you!

  • Great post, Lisa. It’s so important to acknowledge that all is not sweetness and pink clouds when you stop drinking. As you say, we drank because it made us feel better…until it didn’t. But we still have to figure out what to do with the feelings we drank to get away from. Choosing to live a real and authentic life is not easy, but it beats being numb to the passing days. At least most days. 🙂

    Thanks–it’s good to think about this.


  • I definitely think that the first part of recovery is the hardest one, it is when we feel more lost than ever, having ups and downs like a roller coaster. The good part comes when we get up every single time we fall down. But, we get that with help. Your help has meant the world to me, Lis, and when I thought I couldn’t get back up, you showed me otherworldly strength. Thanks, a million times thanks.

    • It’s one thing to learn something and quite another to apply the principle. You are feeling stronger because you are facing the illusions that have demonized (wow might be a little strong but you get it) you. Your success is in direct relation to your ability to bust through those false beliefs. And yes, we do it a little every day. So so proud of you.

  • This is exactly the kind of thing that needs to be printed off and given to those who ask “why do you drink?”. It is so eloquent and raw at the same time – an incredible thing to read. The idea that “if you knew how I felt when I *didn’t* drink…you’d drink too” is so well captured. And that is truly how I felt when in the midst of my active alcoholism. I was layered with garments of guilt, anger, resentment, dishonesty, fear and a slew of other emotional ailments that shrouded the Authentic Self that was Me. It was through the healing and actions of AA that I was able to strip and peel off most of those layers. And let me say that in doing so, it was a frightening experience. In removing the False Self, I was increasingly worried about finding that real me – something I craved and yet feared. What would I find? Would I like it? Would I like ME? It’s something that I struggled with for a while, and am still putting together more of me all the time…slowly revealing itself like a jigsaw puzzle being assembled.

    The old story no longer serves me. But it was my story for such a long time. I know it’s the best thing to remove it, but I hold onto some fragments still, but I know those will eventually shed away from me. As the new story continues to unfold, I wonder what the allure of the old story held. The shine has long gone. It is not where I am now…and am happier for it.

    A most beautiful read, Lisa. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    • Paul, You are kind beyond measure. You have a knack for seeing the positive in everything. You are so open-minded, I used to be jealous of people like you. Now I try and be like you and learn from you. You know, I still work on the new story … every day! Our problem is metaphysical, our solution is metaphysical. The issue arises because those both manifest in the physical world and as long as I reside here I will need (want) to be vigilant. Thank you for always adding your thoughts. You brighten recovery with your affirming perspective.

  • I’m with Paul, this is another one of your posts that could be distributed at every rehab in the country (and a few al-anon meetings wouldn’t hurt!). It is so important to know that just putting down the drink is not fixing our problem, and that the work is ongoing, but so incredibly rewarding! Thanks for posting, and hope all is well, haven’t heard from you, and noticed you did not reply on these comments. I am praying that you are well!

    • You are so in tune with me. I am well. Thank you for noticing. I have been busy with work. This blog is my third job … mom, life coaching, then blog. I try and keep it in that order. One of my goals this year was to not let my work get in the way of the family’s needs. In all this recovery I have managed to put the people I love the most on the back burner. I am seeing that I want more unity and balance, so I am prioritizing. If I really have the faith in God that I say I do then why do I fret over WP???? Alas, I get to WP … when I get to WP. I can honestly say I’m happy about this. Big growth for me. I did get over to your blog today and am all caught up. You always manage to brighten my day…always!

  • Outstanding as always, Lisa. I love your straight forward, call it like it is, style. You have the gift of simplifying complex and abstract issues, making them understandable for all.

    Thanks also for the links–I’ll check them out!


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