Every year around this time, I like to look back on my life and reflect on the lessons I learned during my sobriety. On May 22, 2012, I went to a Narconon Center because of my alcohol addiction. Little did I know at the time that this one decision would completely change my résumé. The thing is, I wasn’t sure at the time if I could or would stay completely sober for the rest of my life. What I knew was that my drinking was completely out of control and it was time for a change.
Fortunately, my time in rehab was well spent. I could face my problems and work on myself to get better. I have developed some life skills that would help me stay sober and rebuild my life. This coming weekend will be my ninth year sober and there is no going back.
In the past nine years I have learned many lessons and overcome some obstacles. It is a challenge to put into words everything I have achieved in the process. If I were to write down the main lessons I have learned, they would be as follows.
1. It’s okay to be not okay.
I think many people struggling with addiction problems struggle with the idea of going through uncomfortable emotions. I’m not saying that I enjoy being sad or scared, but I’m saying that I’ve learned that it’s okay to feel these things from time to time. When I drank, I used any uncomfortable emotion or situation as an excuse to drink. Now that I’ve been sober for so long, I’ve learned that negative emotions always pass with time. Unfortunately, you can’t always be happy, and guess what? That’s okay, because the hard times make me even more grateful for the good times.
2. Real friends will support you.
To sober up, I had to switch some of the people I had in my life. It wouldn’t have worked for me to continue hanging out with people who were also consuming too much alcohol, as I used to do. It was a difficult transition at first because I realized that most of the people I hung out with were alcoholics themselves. Over time, I’ve made new friends who have helped my recovery and sobriety, and in all honesty, I don’t even miss the people I used to be with.
3. When I’m sober, my whole family benefits.
My drinking problem has taken a significant toll on my family. My poor parents seemed to be shouldering the brunt of things during my alcoholic days. I am grateful that they were always there for me and loved me, even when I was the worst. I’m also grateful that they finally decided to show me some hard love and put together the intervention that helped me get sober. I will never forget how happy my mother was when she finally got her daughter back from alcohol. Now that I have a family of my own, I couldn’t imagine putting them down the roller coaster of my addiction. I’m grateful that my children don’t have to see the person alcohol made me into because I don’t like that person too much.
4. I can get through anything sober, even a global pandemic.
Since I’ve been sober, my life has not only consisted of roses. There have been a lot of great times, but also some very heartbreaking and challenging times. In my early days of recovery, I wasn’t sure I could endure all the heartache life has to offer without alcohol. But the more time has passed, the more I’ve seen that I can get through difficult situations soberly without using them as a reason to drink. Alcohol may numb the pain for an hour or two, but it was always short-lived and only made all of my problems worse. Every heartache I soberly endured has made me stronger than I ever thought possible.
5. Borders are healthy.
I used to have a hard time saying no to people. The ogre in me always wanted to make other people happy, even at the expense of my own happiness. I’ve learned that healthy boundaries are an integral part of staying sober. I struggled to enforce them at first, but the more time has passed, the better I’ve become with them. Knowing my limits and setting limits to other people is healthy for the people I have in my life and for me.
6. I have to prioritize my health.
I once heard someone say that if you don’t take time for your health now, you have to take time for an illness later. My recovery has taught me the importance of taking care of my physical, mental, and emotional health. When I eat healthy, exercise regularly, limit negative influences, and maintain my integrity, I feel better overall. When I am feeling good, it is much easier for me not to drink because why would I want to ruin my performance with something that makes me feel terrible? If we don’t take care of our health, no one else will, and when it comes to living a life of recovery, it is essential.
7. Sobriety is a gift I want to give myself every day.
There have been times in my life when I was on parole and the court ordered supervised sobriety where sobriety felt like punishment. I didn’t think it was fair that I couldn’t drink or get high. Now that I’ve been sober for so long, I’ve realized that my sobriety is a gift that I give to myself and the people I love. Not only is it a gift, it’s the best I could do for myself and it has had a positive impact on every aspect of my life.
8. The importance of helping others.
After I finished rehab, I decided to help other people sober up as well. I wanted to give back and give hope to people who were facing the same problems I had encountered. I have had the opportunity to work at a Narconon center for several years and have worked with hundreds of people who are also working toward lives of recovery. I quickly learned that by helping them, I was also helping my community and myself.
9. It was worth it.
Sobering up wasn’t an easy task. The first few days were not so enjoyable. I have asked several times what I am doing. Over time, I learned that I loved leading a sober lifestyle. And I’ve learned that all of the complicated steps that got me where I am today were worth it. To the last nine years of my recovery; I am infinitely grateful for where they took me.
Reviewed by Matt Hawk, BS, CADC-II, ICADC