“Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”

–Helen Keller

I’m not known for my confidence. As a child, I was known for basically the opposite: my shyness. I was highly anxious, even as a kid, and lived in constant fear of saying the wrong thing, or saying something that someone would deem stupid. As I matured, I also began to fear saying something that might make someone angry, or stir up controversy.

When I knew the answer in class, I never raised my hand. Every time a teacher asked a question I knew the answer to, and I sat there in silence until the teacher finally revealed the answer, my answer, I wanted to slap myself in the back of the head. Just raise your hand! What are you afraid of?

It’s silly to look back on, now that I’m much older and have matured and could go back and reassure my teenage self that everything would be fine. But, the fear back then was real. I would sit in classes where the teacher called on people randomly, and have silent panic attacks. Heart racing, body shaking, palms sweating, and just pray I wouldn’t have to say anything.

I had no confidence back then. No one had ever really instilled in me a sense of confidence. For reasons unbeknownst to me, that it will probably take a licensed professional years to dig up, I am not a fan of myself, generally speaking. I am not confident enough to take risks and try new things, because I am afraid of failing. I am not confident enough to speak my mind or express myself, because I am afraid of criticism. And I am not confident enough to fully open up to other people, because I am afraid of the vulnerability and shame.

When it finally became clear to me that I needed to choose the path to sobriety, I wasn’t confident about that either. It seemed impossible for me to do it. It promised to be painful, scary, difficult and uncomfortable. It took weeks of having my self-esteem re-inflated by the counselors at rehab before I had a shred of belief that I could manage life without alcohol.

And then I finally realized that I was going to have to muster some semblance of self-confidence if I was going to have any chance at succeeding. This is why they have me listening to and repeating so many affirmations, I realized. Because they were rebuilding my confidence. My hope. My belief that I could do it.

In the end, the only thing stopping you from doing anything is a lack of confidence. It’s the last road block that’s left at the end of a plan or a dream. You have to break through all the messages coming at you that you’re not worthy, you’re not able to, you can’t, you shouldn’t, you won’t, you never will, you aren’t going to.

You need to move past all of that. Or through it. Over it, under it, whatever it takes. And then you’re there. And then you can look back at your struggle. And here’s the best part about confidence: once you get a little bit of it in you, it grows, and grows and grows. And pretty soon, you’re unstoppable. And your confidence spreads to those around you, and they believe in you too.

I’m 96 days sober. And I never could have done it without self-confidence. And now, I feel like I can accomplish so much more. I look forward to the next 96 days, instead of dreading them. And the days and months and years after that. I am excited to see what I can do.

In your struggle to be sober, you must believe in yourself, above all else.

Living For Today

The concept of “living in the now”, “living in the present” or “living for today” was a constant theme in my early AA meetings, in my rehab program and in life in general. I kept hearing this phrase come at me, like a broken record. I wanted to live for today, it seemed so simple, and people who I thought had really grasped it seemed so serene.

But, try as I might, it was still a foreign concept for me. I’m terrible with regret. Well, not regret exactly, but I look back at certain moments from my past and think about what I could have done differently. Even though that’s totally useless. I do it all the time anyway.

I also do what they refer to in AA as “future tripping.” Where I get so caught up in what’s going to happen tomorrow, a week from now, a year from now, five years from now, that I totally forget to enjoy the moment I’m in.

So, I tried and I tried and I tried to live for today. To be present. To enjoy every moment. But because of my anxiety and worrying, I couldn’t. And then I was anxious and worried about that.

I still have a lot of trouble with this, but I did read something recently that helped me understand the whole thing a lot better, and gave me something to repeat to myself when I find that I can’t concentrate on the moment at hand.

I have an app on my phone from Hazelden that provides me with daily little snippets of advice and encouragement for addicts like me. A few weeks ago, it started with a quote.

“Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper.”

                                                                                                          –Francis Bacon

The paragraphs following reminded me that, “This day is all we really have to work with.” Again, something I had heard time and again, and mostly understood as a concept. But it was the quote that helped me figure out how to put it into practice. How to start being the kind of person that truly lives for today.

At the end of the meditation, the action item was, “May my supper be my contentment. I’ll breakfast on hope again tomorrow.” It was like a lightbulb went off in my head. Start the day off thinking of your hopes and goals for the day, and end the day content with what you had accomplished.

I was caught up in a cycle of starting my day worried about what would happen in the distant future, and ending my day irritated with myself for all the things I hadn’t accomplished. How can a person ever hope to live in the present if they are constantly bombarding themselves with worries about the past and the future?

And the idea of having hope at the beginning of the day is such an amazing concept to me. Today is the only thing we really have. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come. It’s just today. And in the morning when you first open your eyes, and you realize you’ve been allowed another day here on Earth, that’s when you should have your hopes. When the day is new and fresh and wide open.

But the other part of this equation is key too. The idea that when your day draws to a close, that you will feel contentment. Accomplishment. Serenity. Don’t focus on what you did not do. Or what you are worried about needing to do the next day. Instead think of all that was accomplished on that day. Because we all accomplish at least one thing every day, chances are you accomplished a great number of things. And no accomplishment is too small to be proud of.

Living for today can be easier than you thought, and will certainly benefit your sobriety, healing and recovery.