Although the first thought that comes to my mind when I think of the word ritual is a nefarious Voodoo ritual involving a dead chicken and someone’s hair, rituals themselves are not as sinister as you may think. Serge Kahili King describes a ritual as, “a well-defined sequence of words and actions designed to focus attention, establish significance, and achieve a beneficial result.*” For instance, we celebrate the beginning of life with baby showers, we celebrate life being lived with birthdays and the end of life with funerals. All these are modern day rituals. King goes on to explain that in order for a ritual to be fully effective, rituals must encompass four requirements:
1.It must be intellectually satisfying.
2. It must be emotionally satisfying.
3. It must have a strong beginning.
4. It must have a strong ending.
To be fully effective intellectually, every word and movement must be full of meaning that all participants and observers understand, otherwise the ritual can end up being confusing and uninteresting.
Although we have common rituals used in every day in modern society, I believe that we can also make our own rituals to help us move from one phase of our life to another. For example, when someone goes through a break up, you might buy yourself a pint of “Ben and Jerry’s” ice cream, boxes and boxes of tissues and watch sappy romantic movies. You might even burn (or delete) all of the pictures you have of your now ex. So what if we were to do a ritual for saying goodbye to our addict ways and welcoming in the new sober you with a ritual of our very own?
It seems that most addicts do not celebrate their sobriety in fear that they may relapse again. And although groups like AA and NA have milestone chips to celebrate lengths of sobriety, I want to concentrate on having a ritual that celebrates letting go of your old self. You may pick up a drink day after the ritual, but that is not the point I want to make. I want this ritual to be used when you feel as though you are ready to shed your old skin. It won’t change who you are, no. You’ll always be you. But it may help shine a light to a side of yourself that you have forgotten about. The part of you that is buried underneath the bottles of alcohol you have consumed over the years. The side of you that’s voice has become silenced. Let us give that part of you their voice again.
Ok! So you are ready to start the process of welcoming your sobriety into your life, what is next? Well, in this blog, I want to write down some ideas that I think may be beneficial and then you in turn can come up with your own personal ritual.
#1. Take a piece of paper and write down everything that you despise about yourself. I know, I know, this is completely opposite of the self-affirmation list we had a couple days ago, but I think clearing our heads of all the things we feel we despise will help us understand where all of this resentment comes from. Are the items listed on your paper reasons why you drink or are they caused by your drinking? Make it as detailed as possible. Put down all your hate and anger into this piece of paper, or pieces. Just get it all out.
#2 Pull out another piece of paper and write down all the thoughts that come to mind when you think of leading a sober life. What do you hope to achieve when you are sober? What problems may be fixed? Once you finished writing this down, look at both of your lists. Do any of the items on the lists cancel each other out? How did you feel when you wrote this list in comparison to the list prior? Does it make you feel more hopeful for the future? Does it get you excited or do you feel exhausted just thinking about the changes?
#3 Now, come up with a third list. In this list, I want you to write your dreams, passions and goals. What do you love to do? What makes you happy?
-Take that third list and do one of the following: if you have a safe place to do so, light it on fire. If you do not, drown that sucker! Rip it up, stomp on it, scream and shout while doing so. This list is not you but the lies your addicted self tells you. W
while you are in the process, remember or recite all the items on your 2nd list. Recite it to yourself because that is who you are going to be. No maybes, no ifs, ands or buts – you will be that person!
Once you finish, put both list 2 and 3 somewhere where you can see them every day. In your wallet, on your wall at home. Maybe in your car. Add it to your list of positive affirmations and keep it close to you.
I know this may sound like a stupid ritual, but you need all the positivity you can get while you are sober. You need to be reminded of what a wonderful, caring and amazing person you are. Your addictive voice is strong and will keep putting you down as much as possible. There will be days where all you want to do is drink, one last time. But take out these lists and remind yourself. Remind yourself of who you are and what you can be. Maybe you will still drink that night, but there is always another day. And the kinder you treat yourself, the easier letting go of drinking will be.
Some other rituals that you can do to help you along your path of recovery are listed below. I know that addiction is a brutal obstacle to overcome, but you can do it. We can do it. If you ever need someone tot talk to, reach out to me. I am here.
- Go to AA meetings:
You may not like AA or maybe you do not agree with some of the beliefs they have, but GO! Take what helps and leave the rest. It was difficult for me to go at first. I put it off for months, but finally started going to a young people’s meeting that meets at 8pm almost every night. It is in these rooms that I met friends who understand what I am going through. I met people who could relate to me and talk to me about their experiences. And, in every meeting, I can take away something from it and relate it to my own life. AA helps you remember that you are not alone, because no matter how much your addiction may make you feel as though you are, you aren’t. There is a whole world of people out there waiting for you. Go meet them.
- Find your passion:
I truly believe that this is one of the most helpful pieces of advice I have gotten in recovery so far. Your addiction takes up all your time. When you are not in the thralls of your addiction, you are thinking about the next time. When you are in the thralls of it, you are engaging in those thoughts and carrying it out. Uncover a passion you can put your mind, body and soul into instead. Find something that makes you happy, that brings you to life. Writing has done this for me. I may suck at writing. I may never be able to become a successful writer, but I don’t care. It makes me happy. I feel successful whenever I engage in the act of writing. I never felt that way when I was drunk or high. You may go through different hobbies at first while you are trying to figure out which is your passion. Enjoy this because it is a process of learning more about who you are, without the voice of your addiction taking over.
- Get a sponsor. Someone who can walk you through the steps. Someone who you can talk to and vent to. Who understands what you have been through and who can be the voice of reason. I have a sponsor and although I do not stay in contact with her as much as I wish I did, I know she is always there for me. I know that going through the steps is just another opportunity for me to learn more about myself as a person. The whole journey of sobriety is to learn more about who you are. To learn to love who you are and accept yourself.
I hope this post has brought to life an idea in you to start your own ritual or find your own passion. Maybe it will help you decide to become sober and start on the journey of getting to know yourself.
As always, please share with me your thoughts, feelings and concerns on your journey through sobriety.