You can not always do what you want, and if you try, sometimes you might find you do what you need. What if these were the lyrics of that famous Rolling Stone song we love so much? What if Keith Richards and Mick Jagger would have traded in “get” for “do”? Maybe I would have understood the message in the song.
Doing what needs to get done has never come easy for me. For example, getting sober was something I needed to do for a long time before I eventually ended up getting sober. Looking back, I should have never drunk alcohol or smoked weed after my bipolar diagnosis in 2011. It wasn’t until 2017 that I become sober curious. In October of 2018, I overdosed on booze and prescription meds. And finally, in November of 2019, eight years after my diagnosis, I embraced sobriety with grace and dignity. Side note, I NEVER welcome a challenge with beauty. My nature intuition is to destroy my obstacles even if, in the process, I destroy myself.
I also wholeheartedly LOVE doing what I want. I can not think of anything more rewarding in life than time freedom; the freedom to do what you want with your time. My feminist identity revolves around this idea. However, what I neglected to consider is that doing what we want to do often requires a series of actions around doing what we need to do. Being thoughtful about my mental illness diagnosis was something I needed to do. Still, for whatever self-sabotaging reason, I did not.
I can write a five-hundred-page tragic novel about the highs of hypomania. That shit is real, and it’s fucking awesome! I am going to cut myself some slack for refusing to acknowledge these episodes were not healthy places for me. Staying in these prolong episodes was something I wanted to do, but not what I needed to do.
The same is true for the other side of mania. I have certainly experience the kind of depression that only strong antipsychotic medication can lift. But most of my depression episodes have been prolonged by my failure to do what I needed to do, which was not picking up a drink or joint.
What I did not know until I got sober is that doing what I need to do requires me to do the right thing. In fact, “do the next right thing” is an A.A. slogan. I now understand why “doing the next right thing” in early recovery is so revolutionary.
"Doing the next right thing," brings up an important point, thou. How does one know what the next right thing is? Do I even trust myself to know what the right thing is? It turns out that the next right thing is to do something that is not going to kill you or sabotage your future. I am not perfect at this. I have been smoking tobacco since getting sober.
However, sobriety has given me the power of clarity, and with clarity comes confidence. I can now trust myself. I know how to do the next right thing. Most importantly, doing what I want to do is finally aligning with what I need to do and that my friend is the gift of sobriety. There is no longer a struggle between my wants and my needs. They are the same.