This is the fourth post in a five-part series discussing addiction, recovery [relapse], and long-term sobriety. As I celebrate five substance-free years, I am taking the time to [publicly] look back at where I really was in the months preceding my “clean date”, how I got to where I am now, and the ongoing implications of sobriety in my life today. While I’m not secretive about being sober, it isn’t a facet of myself that often comes up in any area of life. This is something I’ve decided it is time to change.
A Lifesaver: Obviously saving my life, well…saved my life. But it went far and beyond survival. I’m not a big A.A. or N.A. girl (which I think is okay; I personally believe one can find support and create sobriety-sustaining community outside of any particular program) but I’ve been around the program enough to know that the adage it gets better is one of the primary ideas of cleaning oneself up. Usually this is taken and understood in terms of the first few months–a year or two, tops.
I’m here to say, it’s more than that. It’s way more than that.
It gets better. And better. And better and better and better.
Having removed the debilitating demons from my life (yes, demons; in my first year of sobriety I slowly released the choke hold bulimia had on me), I am now free to make wise choices. I once again have a sense of intuition. I am responsible and logical. I’m committed and [at times alarmingly] productive.
I’m driven. I make goals. I cherish plans. I appreciate life; the highs along with the lows and inclusive of the in-betweens. I am free to be a real person, with real feelings and legitimate [socially accepted] needs. I walk without shame and carry only the guilt of a mother (not an addict, not a difficult patient, not a failure, not a burden or an outcast).
It gets better.
I feel better. I act better. I’m treated with respect [and I believe I deserve it]. The longer these things exist in tandem and feed one another, the better life gets.
I’ve become a person (versus a label).
I have a partner. I have a baby. I have a family.
I have a future. I have a home. I have a degree. I have a support system. I have a history I can mention in passing conversation. I have skills. I’m drawn toward life-affirming and enriching experiences. I hold beliefs. I have a sense of self. And I have a sense that who I was yesterday is [mostly] who I am today, and the same will hold true tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that…
As I’m able to fill up with the good and stand strong in my own skin, I become able to offer. I have something to say. I deserve to be heard. I can help. I can inspire. I can listen. I have resources. I can argue. I can fight. I can call for attention. I can benefit the greater good. I can participate in change. I can focus outside of myself.
I’m raising two children.
The better begins to multiply exponentially.
And then there’s this weird feedback loop that I’m just now getting a good grasp on. Not only do I not do drugs, but I don’t drink. My husband (for his own reasons) doesn’t drink. This decision (and lifestyle) benefit us greatly:
- None of our budget goes to alcohol.
- None of our weekends are devoted to recovery.
- Our children get the same parent they’ve always known; day or night, Monday or Saturday.
- There’s never a question as to who can (or should) drive home.
- When is comes to being Paleo, alcohol is neither a stumbling block nor point of contention. Nor does a drink or two lead to a plate of nachos or tub of ice cream.
- We remember what we did the night before. Always.
Not to say there is anything wrong with drinking [in moderation] or even partying [occasionally]. Just to point out the benefits we experience from abstaining. And, just so you know, it isn’t always easy and it isn’t all saving money and avoiding belly fat (but that’s the next post).
Now here’s the freaky thing. If my “better” isn’t for you, don’t lose heart. No one’s path is the same. I’m right where I wanted to be. The following I wrote to answer the question What Do I Want?
I wrote it more than I year before I got sober.
I want security. Security in myself and my beliefs, security in my relationships, security in my finances. Security in my future and the presence of my past. I want to be secure that they won’t randomly disappear. I want purpose. I want something to work for or towards, look forward to, hold back because of. I need the drive and motivation that comes with a reason and the fulfillment a purpose brings. The security in one’s own self.
I want people to talk to…really talk to. People I can tell anything and not feel judged. People who care. People I can laugh, giggle and just be silly with, but also sit down and be smart and intellectual. People who will share some of my views and enlighten me on those they don’t. People as genuinely interested in me as I always become in them. I want someone to come home to.
I want things. I wish I didn’t, but I do. Maybe I also want to not be swayed by the materialistic, but I am. For the moment. I also want security in society.
I want a family. Right there I’d find a reason, a purpose and a sense of security. And people. But I want dependability too. A dependable family. So that I can be that as well, for them.
I want sunshine and beauty. See it, live in it, feel it and perhaps, on good days, embody a piece of it. I want the peace that’s supposed to come with it.
I don’t want the control. It’s too much stress and work and heartache. But I feel as if I need to have the reins. Although I guess the question was explicitly what I wanted…
I want joy. Joy that is different than happiness or contentment. Joy that exists beyond a good time. I want joy that brings the rest. Or perhaps just accompanies it.
I also want freedom and independence. I don’t want to be chained by looks or money, longing or need, fear or addiction. People; in person or in theory. God. I may want beyond control, but I do not want to be controlled. I want to make mistakes. Life would be an overproduced commercial if one didn’t. Yet I want also to learn from my mistakes, to program their cause and effect, take note and move on. I want freedom that can come only once one is unstuck and done drowning.