The key to sobriety is not giving up on the days you want to
I did not want to get sober when I was 21. I went to rehab because I was killing myself and literally thought, “I just need a reset.” That first rehab was not about finding sobriety at all. But, it did plant the seeds that I was actually an addict/alcoholic and that recovery was available. So, when a few years later, I was ready to give sobriety a real try, I knew what to do and where to go to get clean and sober and stay that way.
Even though I was ready for sobriety, I still had a pretty bad attitude. I was not psyched about this new way of life that took away things I loved and separated me from the people and life I’d lived for so long. Of course, it was necessary and I’m so grateful I found my way. That’s why I’m here to confirm that it is so worth it and sobriety will make your life exponentially better. But, it takes time. And, time takes time.
You see, what I believe is so confusing to people trying to get sober, to their families, to the “normies,” is that for most people, learning how to maintain long-term sobriety is a tricky and lengthy process. You have to do a lot of emotionally charged work on yourself, you have to figure out what you like in sobriety–who are you sober and in recovery? What do you like to do with the days and days you spent partying? Then you have to make new friends, have you ever tried that as an adult or in a new town? Awkward at best–even when you’re good at it. I know, I’ve done it a dozen times. You have to find a new social life, new places to go that won’t trigger you. It’s serious business! The idea that someone could give up a life of drinking or drug addiction and transform into a healthy, positive person in 30, 60, or even 90 days is misleading and unrealistic. The road can be long and have hurdles.
Drinking and using are the symptoms, but what’s the problem?
Yes, there are always those exceptions, the alcoholics who picked up a drink or drug and loved it from the first moment–no family history of alcoholism or trauma to take credit. However, most of us do have alcoholism in the family and have to recover from trauma. Then there are the mental health issues, and possibly other addictions to deal with once when we get sober. This is not fun work and there’s a natural resistance to it, so those things can take years. Maintaining sobriety is the fundamental basis that has to happen for one to recover from any of those issues.
Now, what if you have someone who relapses for a while? Like myself. How does all that other work get done? Very slowly. There are multiple issues being addressed while someone is dealing with the everyday battle of staying sober. I was led from program to program, to therapist to coach to mentor, all while learning to stay sober and sometimes through relapses. It took a long friggin time. But, it was so worth it when I consider the life I have today.
If you focus and get help with what ails you, sobriety can give you everything
My travels haven’t been smooth–definitely filled with bumps, misstarts, and many restarts, but some spark of grit inside wanted to keep going and I always kept coming back. That’s the point, even when you fall, all that matters is that you come back. The longer you stay sober, the longer you keep working at these things, and the better you get. You will wake up and realize you have tools for recovery, you have tools for family dynamics, a new community is created, new sober besties are found, career issues get straightened out, and sex and financial inventories are made. This is when life gets good. When the shame and the fear dissipate and a better version of yourself emerges.
It’s the inside and the outside stuff
The real trick is to heal the inside stuff and work for the outside stuff. Truly, the inside stuff is what will give you inner peace, serenity, forgiveness, good judgment, self-esteem, the ability to love and heal, and on and on. But, some of the outside stuff has been proof of my hard work, which is important to me and my self-esteem. My experience has been, once you get through those messy early sobriety years, and heal some of those seeping wounds, you are able to focus on things like goals and relationships. Then, one day you wake up and you have a life beyond your wildest dreams. It never feels that way when it’s happening. But, if you hang in there and fight the good fight you’ll get there.
If deep down you really want something, hold onto it
We all want things in life. Maybe it’s love, maybe it’s work-related, maybe you’re an artist like me, and the need to create trumps most other things. Maybe you’d be really great at helping people and that purpose will make recovery worth it. Whatever it is, find those things that make you feel something and make them a part of your life as quickly as you can in sobriety. It helps to have things you care about as you journey down the recovery road.
It gets so much better, I swear
Give yourself time. If you’d told me it would take a decade to have the life I wanted, I would have been discouraged. Who wouldn’t be? But, I had a lot of issues. Maybe you have fewer! But, it’s all still so worth it. I’ve learned so much and continue to all the time. I’m genuinely happy and grateful and want to pass it on so you know, it can all be OK someday. No matter what you went through, how you feel about yourself right now, and what a struggle it’s been, you can get through it. And, you’ll be a warrior for your journey.
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