What were your favorite activities when you were drunk or high? Most people don’t drink or do drugs and then just sit there in the darkness. We all have at least one activity or another—likely several—that provided us some sort of experience we found enjoyable when under the influence. Some sort of experience we believed to have been heightened by our altered state of consciousness. Some may have resorted to any one of a variety of criminal activities, while others simply enjoyed watching TV and playing video games. Certain members of this latter group have likely had struggles with maturity in their time.
This is not to say that everyone who spends their free time seeking such entertainment is immature. But many of us have showed a lack of maturity in other ways; our sources of entertainment simply provided us one additional outlet. The problem with those of us who struggle with our own definitions of maturity is that we may not always believe our substance abuse to be harmful. We kept to our own, bothering no one. In such cases, it can be hard to see why our addiction needs to be corrected at all.
Of course, this is one of the root problems, and one of the reasons that we must understand the importance of maturity if we are ever to maintain our sobriety. We must learn the importance of responsibility, and we must learn that our addictions have prevented us from becoming the people we could have been had we remained sober all these years. One does not need to change everything about themselves to embrace a more mature way of life. They only need to understand the true meaning of maturity, and why it is integral to sobriety.
Maturity and Responsibility
One of the primary reasons that we must embrace maturity if we are to remain sober is that it will teach us how to be more responsible. The addict or alcoholic may be very intelligent, articulate, and sophisticated. They may know quite a bit about culture, and they may even have a very mature taste in books, music, and other forms of classic entertainment. But to assume that this person is mature is to embrace only the shallowest definition of maturity. True maturity is linked to responsibility.
By this definition, a person who possesses all of the above qualities may still be quite immature. They may be in their 30s, yet living at home with their parents while seeking no means of employment. They might help out around the house, but only when they are asked to do so. And even when they do so, they may harbor some resentments toward the person who requested their help. In other words, responsibility is not a part of this person’s daily routine. It’s not something they go out of their way to do, but rather something they do begrudgingly because they fear they would otherwise risk losing their free living situation.
There is an article on the comedy website Cracked that defines maturity as becoming “the tap” instead of “the bucket.” Some of you may understand this analogy right away. Those who don’t need only think of the relationship between these two things. The tap fills the bucket with water, while the bucket does nothing but receive it. The bucket does not give water back to the tap, but this does not prevent the tap from performing its function. A bucket is a person who does little but take what others have to give. A tap is a person who provides for others, even when they receive nothing in return.
Maturity by these standards is the point at which you become a responsible person who fulfills their obligations because it is the right thing to do, not because some selfish gain is to be expected. When we are drinking and abusing drugs, we often shirk any responsibility that cuts into our using time. As such, it is nearly impossible to balance maturity with active addiction. Even high-functioning alcoholics and addicts are not fulfilling their obligations to the very best of their abilities. They are doing just enough to get by. In order to become truly mature, we must strive toward a much higher sense of duty than this.
Learning to Embrace Maturity
The first step toward learning to embrace maturity is to realize that responsibility is not something to be avoided. It is something to be loved, for it is through our responsibilities that we gain a true sense of fulfillment. When we acknowledge that we are capable of doing good for ourselves and others, we find a reason to keep on living. Alcoholism and addiction are methods of avoidance, escapist pursuits meant to rip us from a reality we find to be discomforting.
Mature people do not run from this reality. They face it head-on, and they never look back. Even if they do not love their jobs, they may feel a sense of personal accomplishment after a long day at work. They do not think of the things they would do if they had nothing but free time, because a life of irresponsibility is a life they would not want to live. Instead, they feel gratitude for the fact that they are able to put food on the table. Depending upon their job, they may even feel as if they have provided a valuable service.
Even our earlier examples of immaturity may interfere with this pursuit to some extent. If we spend all of our time in front of a television set, we are not exactly embracing the real world for what it is. We are instead immersing ourselves in the realms of fiction. This is okay, provided that it is not done to excess. When done excessively, however, we may be prone to becoming a bit lazy. Both excessiveness and laziness are two character defects commonly associated with addicts and alcoholics, so we should be on the lookout for such behaviors. If we begin to exhibit them, something must be done.
Once you have made these realizations, you must simply begin embracing the concept of responsibility. Once you begin to stop resenting your responsibilities, maturity will follow. Start with the basics. If you don’t have a job, get one. If you haven’t been paying alimony, child support, or utility bills, then go ahead and write a check. Then, start looking for more responsibilities. You may consider volunteering somewhere; there’s a lot to be said for performing service work in recovery. Not only is the ability to give so freely of yourself a major sign of maturity, but you may find that it makes you feel much better about who you are.
If you are just now learning to become the tap instead of the bucket, then you may also want to pay back those who have helped you over the years. If someone has helped you out by giving you money for food, you may wish to cook them dinner. This is something most people in 12-step programs may wind up doing when they begin making their amends, but there is no harm in starting early. Don’t do it because you have to as part of the Twelve Steps. Do it because you want to demonstrate your appreciation for the people in your life. When you find yourself wanting to do more for others on a regular basis, you will have fully embraced maturity and made great strides toward long-term sobriety.
Holding on to Our Identities
Since we have now twice mentioned entertainment such as TV and video games, we should make a note that it is okay to engage in these pursuits from time to time. If you’re the type of person who enjoys reading comic books or watching superhero movies, then you shouldn’t feel as if you have to stop doing these things simply so that you may appear more mature. Another big part of maturity is the willingness to make a change in your life without completely sacrificing who you are.
If you are really dedicated to one particular form of entertainment, then you might consider making something of a vocational paradigm shift. Start looking for jobs that allow you to interact with these worlds, so that you may keep your entertainment pursuits in line with your career responsibilities. Naturally, you should not quit your current job until you have found another one. But if you feel unhappy in your current position, then there is nothing wrong with looking for nothing new. In fact, taking steps to improve your life is most definitely a sign of maturity at its best.
In short, do not feel as if maturity demands you to become something you are not—unless that something is “responsible.” You will hopefully find that maturity opens you up to a whole new world of sobriety, allowing you to be the best possible version of yourself. It can be scary in some ways, and can call for some difficult adjustments. But as it becomes easier, you will find that a life of responsible maturity is far more fulfilling than a life of addiction. The two do not even compare.