Having Enough in Sobriety

Here is a confession.  For much of my life, I struggled with having enough.  In my addictions to alcohol and food, one drink or doughnut was too many and one thousand were never enough.  Through the 12 Steps in Alcoholics Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous, I address the physical aspects of those addictions.  I have continued to deal with the many other manifestations of having enough.

For example, an area of life I focused on extensively in sobriety was my career.  In early recovery, I went back to school and ultimately earned a PhD.  Over the course of my studies, I received grants and fellowships for maintaining a 4.0 GPA and completing my dissertation in near record time.  But, for a host of reasons, largely related to my insecurity, I did not believe I had really succeeded.

In reflecting on the last 20 plus years of my career, I can say with confidence, I always left the place better than I found it.  But that never seemed enough.  I have published widely in my field, chaired committees for national professional organizations, done all the right things and more, but that too has often left me wanting.

Only in the last 5 years have I come to feel really comfortable in my own skin, as it were – where I have begun to experience having enough.  I had a strong “aha” experience over this Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  Here is some of what happened:

  • Our next door neighbors from Memphis, all of my stepchildren and their children were at our house for Thanksgiving Dinner – 18 total.  We never had so many family at our home for a holiday and I was grateful and appreciative.  I am comforted that I do not need anything else from family or friends to demonstrate our mutual commitment and love.
  • A dear friend drove from Austin, Texas to our home in New Orleans for Thanksgiving dinner.  We sat on the back porch after dinner and talked about how we met when she was a Team Leader for AmeriCorps NCCC, and how our relationship grew and continued over the years.  After our conversation, I do not need anything else to validate the value of my career.
  • On Saturday, I received a package from Suzanne Henley a good friend of my wife.  Inside was a creation and card titled Prayer Beads in Thanksgiving for Robert.  The card described the prayer beads (above photo) that contain pieces from Ethiopia, the Afgan Silk Road, Brazil, China, the Dead Sea, and more.  The prayer beads are now a very regular part of my guided imagery and centering prayer life.  After receiving these beads, I do not need any other material object to make my life complete.
  • On Friday evening, Emma and I strolled with our Memphis friends through the French Quarter.  Emma reminded me that such walks along Chartres St., through Jackson Square and beyond were how we spent our earliest days together as a couple.  After that walk, I do not need any more memories to know how wonderful my life has been.

The often quoted “page 449” of Alcoholics Anonymous statement on Acceptance is complimented well by Brene Brown’s understanding that:

Belonging starts with self-acceptance. Your level of belonging, in fact, can never be greater than your level of self-acceptance, because believing that you’re enough is what gives you the courage to be authentic, vulnerable and imperfect.

Today, I have enough.  If I remain active in my recovery program, I am always rewarded with such profound understandings that enhance my life.  For this I am truly blessed, and grateful.


9 thoughts on “Having Enough in Sobriety

  1. Hi Bob,

    This is very interesting, because I have always felt that many of us from Norwood and St. Pete’s suffer from the same affliction. I see my oldest brother, Jack, still at age 70, trying to make more and more money because he “never had enough.” I see Joe moving from one gorgeous home to another and leasing new cadillacs because what they have is not enough (his wife especially and she is my husband’s sister). I even see my husband, owner of hundreds of tee-shirts and sweatshirts never having enough. He just bought a hoodie from Quatman’s (smh) on Thursday.

    I myself suffer from not having enough validation (much like you). I have always been insecure if I was pretty enough, smart enough, etc. I validated the smart when I graduated cum laude from UD while raising three kids and working full time. For a while, I validated the “pretty enough” during my 30s and 40s when I was thin and had the money to dress well. But those insecurities crept back into my psyche as my knees gave way and I began gaining weight. Even working with a trainer for over two years was not enough to get me back to my 40s size. I struggle with the image consistently. I understand where and why it originated, but it is constantly a struggle.

    The reason I believe many of us from our generation suffer from this is due to our parents’ generation who grew up in the depression. They suffered real “not enough” money, food, whatever, and for that reason, became very focused on saving, saving, saving so they didn’t end up like their parents. My father worked on the assembly line at Ford in Sharonville, and we made ends meet, but none of us were given a free ride to college (thus me skipping it and working). I was astonished when Dad told me about J writing out a check for $25,000 to R for a gambling debt. And he had much more in his checking, and that didn’t include his savings account. How did Dad save all of this? He saved it because he always did to make sure he would never be evicted (he and his mother and sisters were several times after his father died), never have to stand in a soup line, and never have walk long distances without shoes (he walked barefoot from West Norwood to Purcell to keep his shoes from wearing out). I believe Norwood was full of families like mine, and we now have a general of having enough.

    As always, I enjoyed your writing. You have a wonderful talent that I feel fortunate to be able to participate in the reading.



    • Pam, thanks so much for your comments on this. You raised a perspective I had not really thought about so much – those growing up years in Norwood and our parents childhoods during the depression. A book study I am now in is reading the The Book of Joy by The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Today I read:

      “There is a Tibetan Saying that adversities can turn into good opportunities” the Dalai Lama explained . . . “even a a tragic situation can become an opportunity . . . You can see this in an entire generation that has experienced great difficulties like you, Archbishop,” the Dalai Lama said. “When you got your freedom, you really felt joyous. Now the new generation, who are born after, they don’t know the true joy of freedom, and complain more.” p. 145

      I think of those words in terms of the having enough. It does seem that if we are able face and struggle through with our insecurities and get to the other side, the freedom and joy is great. Have a blessed day!

  2. Thanks for sharing this powerful insight into your own life, and so many others. It’s a gift. Many of us grew up with parents who are themselves products of the Great Depression. Some of them carried that as a fearful need to stockpile, because, if ever some dusty something were to be discarded, someday it would be needed. And then whatever would we do?!? Many of us came of age just as the post-war boom slowed and began to reverse, and have some first-hand experience of “branding” and “re-branding” which require constantly updated lists of accomplishments, from time to time transformed entirely. So many choices and practices in your life have brought you here. There is beauty in saying “Enough.”

    • Thanks for your thoughtful response. I am struck too that a good bit of the difference today in the branding and rebranding is a greater understanding of what we are called to do for our true self as opposed to feeding ego and the expectations of others. Life is good today.

  3. I am so happy that you have reached the place of knowing you are enough. I have found it illusive myself, knowing then not knowing, then…..Working on the elements presenting in my sphere that I allow “in” which heighten insecurity. Thank you for your gifts of expression and sharing. You have come to give a gift, which you have. Write, write, write for as long as you breathe, then channel from the other side. You have so much to say in your gift.

    • Jona,

      Thanks so much for your kind words and support. The recent past has certainly been an adventure in the travel toward true self! I have come to appreciate more than affirmation:

      I will get well not out of the fear of dying but out of the joy of living.

      Peace be with you.

  4. Pingback: What Not To Tell Me About My Cancer | Process Not An Event

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