The way of living I have found in sobriety helps me live differently and more beneficially on a day to day basis. This has made for a good life.
I got sober at 29, ten years ago this month. Here are ten ways in which life is drastically different for me now:
1. Every Morning, I Wake Up Clean and Safe
This was not the case for so many years. I have awoken in people’s yards, in stranger’s homes, in cars, with black and blues and broken busted cheeks, with my things stolen or missing, in a jail cell, once in an FBI interrogation office, and countless times in a puddle of my own piss.
2. I’m Never Bored
Seriously, it’s true. For me the notion of getting sober meant a boring life and this was at the top of my list for reasons not to change. But the truth is that I was really bored the last few years I was still using. Bored and exhausted at the same time. In recovery I have learned that my ideas are actually things that can materialize and not just stay mostly conversations on a barstool that might move into reality at a snail’s pace. Today there are not enough hours in the day. I am writing a book, I have a full-time career that’s perfect for me, I see friends daily, I make time for art, I take care of my cats and dog, I have a hundred goals I plan on seeing through. There is no time for withdrawal or hangovers today. I am anything but bored. I am actually alive now.
3. I Prefer This Way of Living
I have some problems and I know what they are: I am impulsive and struggle to think things through, I love chaos and excitement, I live mostly in the past and the future, I am a people pleaser, I obsess about things and about people and I can be really hard on myself. These are all survival skills that helped me in the past somehow but hold me back from reaching my potential. I wish I could say they have changed but they seem to be my autopilot, deeply embedded behaviors. I never graduate my recovery program. The way of living I have found in sobriety helps me live differently and more beneficially on a day to day basis. This has made for a good life.
4. As Long As I Stay sober, I Will Never Have to Be Alone Ever Again
I am surrounded by love and not alone. Before I got sober, I was instead surrounded by people who drank like me. Friends who didn’t drink like me were distant in contact and grew into their own lives understandably. I felt very alone. Not the case anymore. The bonds I have made over time with people in my program of recovery are strong and plentiful. These bonds are strong like those of a cult but I don’t have to give up my dreams, paychecks, and outside contacts. During the darkest times in my sobriety, these people are there. They check up on me as I do them. They want me around on the holidays, want to grieve my losses with me and celebrate my successes. It’s such a gift to know I will never have to feel alone again if I stay sober. And if I don’t stay sober, which of course is always a possibility, they will undoubtedly help me if I want to get sober again.
5. I Am Well Aware That Alcohol and Drugs Will Not Make It Better
Without them it turned out I was pretty sick. At two years sober I was controlled by relentless anxiety and fear. Now I understand my trauma reactions and why I was abusing substances the way I was. Without numbing out my thoughts raced all of the time, my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder which I struggled with much of my life got so much worse and I started to try and obsessively “fix” people and situations for which in reality I had minimal control over. My body ached from being on high alert constantly. At ten years sober I am aware that when my outside world is stressed and overwhelmed, my warped stress response system goes into survival mode trying desperately to make sense of things by detective work, compulsive checking and seeking out ways to feel safe. Alcohol and drugs used to calm my system and was helpful until it started being more harmful than helpful. Now when I am caught up in my stress response system, I have learned how to ease it without abusing substances. and sometimes I just have to hang on, knowing it will pass.
6. I Realize I’m Intelligent and Very Capable
Much of my life I was considered to have learning disabilities and was even voted “most clueless” in my high school yearbook, yes, I still remember that bull&8%#- class of 1999. Through all the testing over the years I received for learning problems no one ever asked about what life was like at home. Due to early childhood loss and trauma my amygdala was working on overdrive and controlled by fear as I was worried all the time that something bad was going to happen to one of my family members or to me. This makes concentrating in a classroom setting pretty impossible. Today I have graduated college with honors, hold a Master’s degree and subsequent license and I am an expert in my specific field. Go figure.
7. I Now Have Help from Hundreds of Higher Powers That Do Not Screw Me Over Like Using Did
The whole concept of the Higher Power thing annoyed and angered me prior to sobriety. I wasn’t against there being some meaning to the universe, but I did not respect some of the older recovery literature and signage in 12 step meetings which I thought assumed the higher power was “God” and was male. Luckily, I found many recovery type meetings which welcomed a much expanded and evolved idea of what a Higher Power is. Today a few of the powers outside of myself that I rely on to stay sane, sober and grounded include but are not limited to; the making of calls to people in recovery, using guided meditations, laughing with friends, water; swimming or taking baths, daily meditative readings, using materials to make art or appreciating art someone else has made, exploration and belief in some spiritual theories, healthy eating, paying attention to synchronicities and to my breathing. You could say I am living a more spiritual life and, yes, I am okay with saying that now.
8. With a Clearer, Open Mind, I Understand That for There to Be Joy, There Must Also Be Painful Experiences
One cannot exist without the other. If there were only joy, it would be the status quo, and we could not appreciate it as joy, it would just be the way things are- the typical. For example, when you finally get to enjoy a piece of toast after getting over the flu, isn’t it just a great treat? I do not regret my past, or my pain. It has given me the life I have now, which is often a great treat. When I am in pain, I try to remember there is an opportunity for greater joy. Not always easy of course at the moment. But in time with reflection it’s clear that the universe has always led me to better things if I let it and trusted the process.
9. I Know That Sometimes My Worst Fears Will Come True, and That’s Okay
I do not need to use; throw away my sobriety to escape the pain. I wrote out a list of my fears when I was about a year sober. There were over 300. Many of them have come true; family and friends have died, I have been heartbroken, I have become ill at points, I have been judged and criticized. I have spent so much time in my living in fear. I have managed to not use to ease the bouts of fear, which is what I did for so long. I know using will only lead to more and more pain. I ease it now with a variety of other things such as cognitive behavioral techniques, meditation, talking to others in recovery, looking back on the times things were so hard I didn’t think I would make it through and I did make it through.
10. I Love Myself No Matter What
More and more all of the time. I was not able to show myself love for a very long time. I didn’t realize that until I was sober for a good while; really, for years. This has been a great gift of recovery. I am not always perfect at finding complete love for myself, but daily I can tune into it more easily. This self-love has dramatically changed my life and my ability to take risks, forgive myself, let go of shame and leave toxic situations. I have to see myself as my own daughter and protect her. This love is really what keeps me sober these days one day at a time.