As it relates to alcoholics and addicts, our drug of choice was at one time one of the greatest discoveries we had ever made. Anxieties were eased, fears diminished and sometimes even just existing in our own skin was somehow more manageable. However, as the story always goes, it works until it doesn’t anymore. Though I still had it in my head that getting sober was the end of all things enjoyable for me, I can honestly say that my life has turned around in ways I never thought possible.
First and most importantly, I can look myself in the mirror. It’s no secret that addiction is a monster that transforms some of the most beautiful lives into chaos and ruin; I certainly found it to be true. I no longer recognized who I was anymore and what I did see flat out disgusted me. Getting sober felt like losing an old friend, I’ll admit, but in the process, I found myself and that gain is immeasurable.
My bank account is no longer draining faster than I can fill it. Keeping up a habit can be an expensive venture. Sure, it may be worth it when taking part in an enjoyable activity, hobby or anything else you’re passionate about. However, when you find yourself in a position in which you are willing to go to any lengths to get that next hit or buy that next bottle, everything else falls to the wayside. Priorities get scrambled, debt stacks up and scraping to make ends meet can end up becoming the new norm. The good news is, what is lost can be regained with the right steps forward.
I can wake up in the morning and actually remember what happened the night before. I can’t tell you how many times I woke up in odd, even precarious situations that I had no memory of even being involved in. It was almost like once the buzz set in, a different person took control of my body and made rather questionable (terrible) choices for me to deal with in the sobering morn. Drunk-me liked to call anyone and everyone and spill my life story and the downright pathetic truths I was living; my mask came off. Sober-me always had to backtrack, check call logs, text messages, and preform such intricate damage control, even the best PR agent would find themselves impressed.
Along the same lines, I always found myself mixed up in a web of lies the size of Texas. Trying to keep my story straight about my drinking problems, why I was taking so many pills and carrying them in my pocket; I always found some justification. Don’t get me wrong- I can’t say that they were all true, like the time I told a friend drinking was my hobby, like his was building model airplanes. When I decided to get sober, I made a promise to myself – rigorous honesty. Despite familiar habits, I’ve stuck with it. If I’m living a clean life, what’s the point if it’s not an honest one? I wouldn’t have cared a year ago. I would have said anything to anyone if it benefited me in some way in the end.
One of the greatest moments in my recovery was after the fog finally lifted; I gained the gift of clarity. That cloudy feeling of misery, fear and hopelessness slowly faded until I could finally see light. All the problems that I had created through my addictions seemed at last fixable and all the beliefs I had convinced myself to fuel my own self-hatred became questionable. It was a feeling that at one time seemed impossible because in that moment, I realized that maybe, just maybe, there was hope for an addict like me.
I could finally apologize and mean it when I spoke with my family and friends about my behaviors. Promises became empty words when the behavior continued over and over again, though I remained baffled as to why I couldn’t stop touching the hot stove. But it wasn’t just “that me” that my addictive behaviors were hurting and when I finally stepped away from my selfishness and ego I was able to grasp the true extent of the pain I was causing others. For so long I thought that it was only my pain which I used to justify the same, unrelenting cycle; it wasn’t hurting anyone else, so why should I stop? I’ve always struggled with the idea of getting sober for myself and honestly, that’s not how it started for me. It wasn’t until I accepted the ripple effect addiction causes that I was able to further fuel my recovery, knowing full-well that so much more was at risk if I lost sight of my “whys” as it relates to staying sober.
Today, I am dependable. I am a mother that can be present for her child, even if it’s through phone conversations. I am a friend that people can count on. I can’t say how many times I made plans and commitments, only to bail out in the last minute every single time. Today, I mean what I say and I follow-through. Sure, there’s still some struggle when it comes to my mental health because some days really are hard. But there’s so much freedom in knowing that no matter what happens today, no matter what rocks my world, I don’t have to drink or use over it. I am back in control of me and I can smile knowing that I’ve not only regained the respect of others, but the respect of myself.
Almost every alcoholic/addict I’ve ever met is so giving and compassionate that once they choose recovery, once they choose themselves, nothing can stop them. They say you can’t help another if you can’t help yourself and while I’ve bucked against that ideology most of my life, I’m finally in a position to accept how true that is. Another one of the greatest gifts of recovery is that I can be of service to others. Our stories are different but so similar is so many ways and our experiences, strength, and hope can be shared to help lift others out of the struggle. Watching a person who started off broken heal and then seeing that person help pull others into the light is honestly one of the most beautiful and rewarding sights to behold. What’s more, we can’t do recovery alone and finally, we don’t have to do it alone. In the rooms of meetings or in a therapy group, we can connect in such strong ways that rival even decades of a tenured friendship. Having that sense of community makes life seem so much more manageable and really, it is.
The most important gift of all, which I touched on briefly earlier is that today, I don’t want to die. Seems like I’m setting the bar kind of low there, huh? Well, if you had known me in active addiction, I begged for death, even prayed for it. I woke up every day wondering, dreading life. I couldn’t understand why anyone would even want to be alive. To me, life was a punishment and I had no hope of that theory ever changing. I had struggled with self-injury, suicidal ideations and attempts; Nothing was off-limits when it came to my addiction. If it got me high or drunk, it made existing in my skin just a little bit easier and I was all over it. Today though, I can’t even truly express in words the turnaround that I have experienced. I actually want to be alive and not just exist in the world but be a part of it. I am happy. I have dreams, goals; things that I had never experienced in my life had suddenly become obtainable. Opportunities to share my story and leave a lasting impact in this world. There is no way that would be possible while using. I will forever be grateful for this gift.
What else is better now that my focus isn’t on alcohol and drugs? Everything! My physical health, my mental health, relationships, belly laughs, beach days, lasting friendships, and self-love. Addiction impacted my life in every possible facet and in the same way, recovery has touched every dark recess of my mind, shown light on every shadowed corner. It’s been said by many and I still believe this to be true: My worst day in recovery doesn’t even compare to my best day in active addiction. And I don’t have to ever go back to that life, ever again.
The idea of abstaining from alcohol and drugs for the rest of your life can be a scary thought; trust me, I get it. But the life that is awarded from making the right choices, doing the right things and just treating yourself right is a life that had always been a concept outside of my wildest dreams. There is hope. There is a chance to live, thrive and create lasting memories with people in your life that love you. And if you find yourself at a point in life where you feel as though you have no one, just step into one of those AA rooms. You will be surrounded by love and encouragement, so much so that life becomes rewarding. I’m grateful today that I took a chance on myself. I’m grateful for the opportunities recovery has brought to me, through hard work and perseverance. Today, I am a grateful, recovering alcoholic and addict.