Nine Lessons From Nine Years of Sobriety
Each year around this time, I like to look back on my life and think about the lessons I learned throughout my sobriety. On May 22, 2012, I checked into a Narconon center for my alcohol addiction. Little did I know back then that the course of my life would completely change by just that one decision. The thing is, at the time, I wasn’t sure if I could or even wanted to stay completely sober for the rest of my life. The thing I did know was that my drinking had utterly spiraled out of control, and it was time for a change.
Thankfully my time in rehab was well spent. I was able to confront my issues and work on myself to get better. I developed some life skills that would help me stay sober and rebuild my life. This upcoming weekend will mark my ninth year of being sober, and there is no turning back now.
Over the past nine years, I have learned many lessons and have overcome several obstacles. It is challenging to put everything I have achieved during this process into words. If I were to write down the most significant lessons I have learned, they would be as follows.
1. It’s okay not to be okay.
I think that many people who struggle with addiction struggle with the idea of sitting through uncomfortable emotions. I’m not saying that I enjoy feeling sad or anxious, but I am saying that I have learned it is okay to feel these things from time to time. When I was drinking, I would use any uncomfortable emotion or situation as an excuse to drink. Now that I have been sober for so long, I have learned that negative emotions will always pass with time. Unfortunately, there is no way to be happy all of the time, and you know what? That’s okay because the hard times make me even more thankful for the good times.
2. Real friends will be supportive.
Part of getting sober required that I change some of the people I had in my life. It wouldn’t have worked for me to continue hanging out with people who also overindulged in alcohol the way I used to. At first, this was a difficult transition because I realized that most of the people I was hanging out with were alcoholics themselves. With time, I made new friends who supported my recovery and sobriety, and in all honesty, I don’t even miss the people that I used to hang out with anymore.
3. When I am sober, my whole family benefits.
My drinking problem took a significant toll on my family. My poor parents seemed to bear the brunt of things back in my heavy drinking days. I am grateful that they were always there for me and loved me even when I was at my worst. I am also thankful that they finally decided to show me some tough love and put together the intervention that helped me get sober. I will never forget how happy my mom 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 through the roller coaster of my addiction. I am grateful that my children don’t have to see the person that alcohol used to turn me into because I don’t like that person all too much.
4. I can get through anything sober, even a global pandemic.
Since getting sober, my life hasn’t been all roses. There have been many great times, but there have also been some very heartbreaking and challenging times. In my early days of recovery, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to face all of the heartbreak that life has to offer without the crutch of alcohol. Still, the more time that has gone on, the more I have seen that I can get through difficult situations sober without using them as a reason to drink. Alcohol may have numbed the pain for an hour or two, but it was always short-lived and only made all of my problems worse. Each heartbreak I have endured sober has made me stronger than I ever knew I could be.
5. Boundaries are healthy.
I used to have a hard time telling people no. The people-pleaser in me always wanted to make other people happy, even at the expense of my own happiness. I have learned that healthy boundaries are an essential part of staying sober. I had difficulty enforcing them initially, but the more time that has gone on, the better I have gotten with them. Knowing my limits and setting boundaries with other people is healthy for the people I choose to have in my life and for me.
6. I must prioritize my health.
I once heard someone say that if you don’t make time for your health now, you will have to make time to deal with an illness later. My recovery has taught me the importance of taking care of my physical, mental and emotional health. When I am eating healthy, exercising regularly, limiting negative influences, and maintaining my integrity, I feel better overall. When I feel good about myself, it is much easier for me not to drink because why would I want to ruin how great I am doing 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, this is essential.
7. Sobriety is a gift I chose to give myself every day.
There were times in my life when I was on probation, and court-ordered monitored sobriety where being sober felt like a punishment. I thought it wasn’t fair that I couldn’t drink or get high. Now that I have been sober for so long, I have realized that my sobriety is a gift that I give to myself and the people I love. Not only is it a gift, but it is also actually the best thing that I could do for myself, and it has a positive impact on every aspect of my life.
8. The importance of helping others.
After I finished rehab, I decided that I wanted to help other people get sober, too. I wanted to give back and give hope to people facing the same struggles that I had encountered. I had the opportunity to work at a Narconon center for several years, and I was able to work with hundreds of people who were working towards living a life of recovery as well. I quickly learned that by helping them, I was also helping my community and myself.
9. It was all worth it.
Getting sober was no easy task. The early days were not all that enjoyable. I questioned what I was doing on several occasions. With time I learned that I loved living a sober lifestyle. And I learned that all the complicated steps that took me to get to where I am today were worth it. So here’s to the past nine years of my recovery; I am beyond grateful for where they have brought me.