In an interview, the poet and memoirist Mary Karr reflects on how she got sober:
The really horrible thing about quitting drinking is, I think, inside my mind I was so divided against myself. Nobody really talks about what happens to you and your level of self-confidence when you tell yourself every fucking day you’re going to drink X, and then you drink 10 times that—or you’re not going to drink at all and you drink anyway. You become very split off against yourself. So there was a part of me that would yell and scream and say, “You stupid bitch, goddamnit, you said you weren’t gonna drink and you drank anyway.” And there was this other part that was like “Fuck those people! Fuck the rules!” you know, blah blah blah…
You assume that when you quit drinking, you’re surrendering to that kind of nasty schoolmarm rule-maker. But for me getting sober has been freedom—freedom from anxiety and freedom from…my head. What has kept me sober is not that strict rule-following schoolmarm. There’s more of a loving presence that you become aware of that is I think everyone’s real, actual self—who we really are.
Blake said, “…we are put on Earth a little space / That we might learn to bear the beams of love.” And I think, quote-unquote, “bearing the beams of love” is where the freedom is, actually. Every drunk is an outlaw, and certainly every artist is. Making amends, to me, is again about freedom. I do that to be free of the past, to not be haunted. That schoolmarm part of me—that hypercritical finger-wagging part of myself that I thought was gonna keep me sober—that was is actually what helped me stay drunk. What keeps you sober is love and connection to something bigger than yourself.
(Hat tip: Maria Popova)