Sobriety—what a ride! It’s been one year since I first put down my substance of choice—alcohol—and began the sometimes challenging road of recovery. And while not every day has been good, not every day has been bad either. But one thing I can state without a doubt is that my worst days sober are far better than my best days drunk.
And I remember it as clear as day. My last drink, my last drunk, and the subsequent days that made me seek sobriety once and for all. For me, my last days of drinking were marked by perpetual isolation. What began as a way to have fun progressed (as this disease does) to something I couldn’t live without but couldn’t live with either. My days went from ‘having fun’ with friends to sitting home alone drinking, crying, and wondering how it would end.
Would I drink myself to death? Accidentally burn my house down with that pizza in the oven for eight hours when I passed out? Crash my car? Or take my own life? It was really that bad. And while I had my house, my car, my family, and my job what I didn’t have was a healthy mind, body, or spirit. All of which I desperately needed to have any type of life worth living.
For me, as it is for many who are either living with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) or substance use disorder (SUD), the thought of going through a day without alcohol was excruciating—and that was just the thought. My life had become one of drinking most of the day, most days a week. Justifying a lunchtime drink with a similarly-inclined coworker became my norm. Once I began working from home, it got harder to wait until noon—and some days I didn’t wait.
I was a prisoner to the drink, to my addiction to alcohol. It consumed my thoughts. When could I start drinking? What would I drink? Did I have enough alcohol on hand? On and on it went day after day, week after week, year after year.
But then that fateful day came when I couldn’t take any more pain, any more chaos, any more being chained to the life my addiction to alcohol had created. As I huddled shaking in the bathroom of a local store from withdrawal my life somehow became a bit clearer to me. And the role that alcohol was playing in my demise was no longer obscured by the fear of living without it.
The fear was huge.
Alcohol was how I coped. When I was happy, I thought it made me happier. When I was sad, I thought it made me feel better. When I had anxiety, I believed it calmed my nerves and took the edge off. Alcohol had become a part of everything I did. It was my life. My best friend. But it was killing me—body, mind, and soul. And I couldn’t stop.
Somehow I found the courage. I found the phone and I reached out for help. And one year later, I’m beyond grateful for the courage to ask for help that day. It has changed my life—changed it for the better. (If you are ready to get help for an addiction you are not alone and Futures Recovery Healthcare can help.)
Early Sobriety: What to Expect
Upon entering a 30-day treatment program the first step was detox. My body had become so used to having alcohol in it I had to safely detox under the care of medical professionals who could not only monitor me but also provide comfort as I walked through these early days of sobriety. Many of these individuals were in recovery themselves and understood first hand what I was experiencing. This was tremendously comforting for me.
Then I left rehab. This is where I knew I’d be put to the real test. It’s much easier to stay sober within the walls of a treatment center than it is back out in the ‘real world’—at least that’s how it appears at first.
What made the difference for me was the resources and aftercare support the addiction treatment center I attended offered. During my time at rehab, I was exposed to various resources that were also available on the ‘outside’. This ranged from 12-Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) to Refuge Recovery and SMART Recovery.
Each of these programs offered things, insights, tools, and tips—all from those who had been in my very shoes—to not only stay sober but to find peace of mind and happiness in my recovery journey.
In addition, since I was able to experience each of these support programs while I was within the safety and security of rehab, I was able to get to understand the formats of each as well as the unique specifications of each and how these groups could support my recovery.
For me, the 12-Step programs were where I could relate the most and found the most helpful. The day I left rehab, I headed directly to an AA meeting. I sat awkwardly in the back, wondering if everyone knew I was a newbie. I was nervous, afraid, and thinking of the comfort that drink would bring…or so I romanticized.
So I raised my hand.
I began to share that it was my first day out of rehab…and I broke down. My mind was beginning to race. Could I do this? Was I really an alcoholic? How was I going to go my whole life and not drink? And while these questions were all addressed in rehab, they came racing back into my mind as I sat in the AA meeting.
And then it happened.
When you are in a 12-Step program you’ll often hear of the fellowship, of how other people in AA will go above and beyond to help you. This is what happened for me. After the meeting, I was greeted by women from the meeting. Women who had been where I was and now were happy, joyous, and free. They had what I wanted and I had learned in rehab these were the people to associate myself with—and so I did.
This group of women introduced me to more women (and men) in the program. I exchanged numbers and people began to call and text me. They surrounded me with a network of love and support. I was amazed.
And so my recovery journey in the ‘real’ world began and continues.
Life continues to be life whether you’re sober or in active addiction. However, with a dedication to sobriety and living that life, the coping skills developed are far better than picking up alcohol or drugs. Both temporary solutions at best that lead to an aftermath of incomprehensible pain anyone with an addiction knows only too well.
The first year has been amazingly good and extraordinarily difficult all at once. I’ve developed friendships that are real for the first time in many years. My sober friends call to see how I am and I call them to see how they are. I don’t just call to talk about myself like I once did. I care and they care.
I’ve learned to feel my feelings—the crux of what i was running from with my alcohol abuse. And it’s not so bad. I continue to struggle with being present with my feelings but today i don’t have to drink to numb them. I understand that sometimes I’ll be sad—but it won’t last forwever. I also have learned through treatment and AA that there are things I can do to help me get through difficult times.
I go to meetings. I share. I call sober friends when I can’t get out of my head. I help others.
I’ve had some challenges in my first year of sobriety. But I’m still sober. These challenges would have normally sent me to pick up, but today I don’t do that. I use the tools I learned in rehab and continue to learn each day.
Sobriety and recovery are lifelong journeys—and they take work. I’ve learned that if I want to stay sober and continue to experience all the beautiful things I missed out on being drunk I need to put in the work.
Some people and treatment centers tell you that sobriety is easy. It’s not. But what I can tell you from living through one year without alcohol or drugs is that it’s the most worthwhile work I’ve ever done. My life sober is far better than I ever could have imagined.
I’ve learned that I don’t know much and if I’m open to hearing it there are messages at every meeting, in every conversation, and in each day that will help not only keep me sober but enhance my journey and life.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that I need to stay honest, open-minded, and willing. When I have these three in my mind every day, I will be able to not only stay sober but continue on my recovery path and experience blessings beyond my wildest dreams.
If you are living with an AUD or SUD, there is hope. Many others just like me have been in your shoes. Taking that first brave step is hard, but I can tell you it is worth it. Futures Recovery Healthcare offers a strong alumni program that surpasses most in the country. In addition, Futures exposes clients to various types of support programs available in the ‘real’ world.
For me, being able to leave rehab and have a solid support system on the outside along with an excellent alumni support program have been key to one year of sobriety. And while I’m proud of having one year, I know that I really only have today. I take life one day at a time (as much as possible) and put my sobriety before all else.
If you are ready to get help for an alcohol or drug addiction contact Futures today. Online or by calling 866-804-2098.