11 Things I’ve Done in 11 Years of Sobriety

I have made a lot of mistakes over the past eleven years like the time I wore a miniskirt in a tropic climate for the entire day and almost died from thick thigh chaffing, or the time I stayed with a man who ridiculed me for small things like getting blisters from new shoes or not drinking enough water. However, I have stayed sober for eleven years and that means I did so many things right and here are some of those things in no particular order:

  1. I learned how to be gentle with myself. I am human and prone to mistakes, lapses in judgement, and regressive behaviour. I give myself grace when I make mistakes. I have been hard on myself in the past and have realized that my standards have kept me from moving forward in my healing journey. Does that mean that I am not hard on myself anymore? No. It means that I can say, “I fucked up. It’s okay. I am learning and I can use this as a lesson to move differently in the world”. Give yourself grace, baby.
  2. I let people live with whatever version of me they want to. The thing about recovery is someone will always remember the person you were in addiction when you did shifty and shitty things. Someone will want to remind you where you come from or will refuse to see you differently. I have zero control over how people see me. If someone wants to live in the past, I let them because we don’t live there no more honey. We have upgraded our lives and we know what actions and changes we have made. We only need to rest our head at night with our own approval. This does not mean that I am in denial about who I was and the things that I have done. It means that I have made peace with where I come from then no one can hold it against me in a way that hurts me – because I have owned and grown from my shit.
  3. I can let go of control – not to be confused with losing control. As someone who came from a space of chaos in addiction, I wanted a very controlled environment. I needed to know all things and plan for it all. I had rules and guidelines for my life and lived them rigidly for a number of years. Eventually I learned that my need to control and predict was just a response to having lived in a state of insanity (addiction) for so long and that I needed to let go of my grip on all things. I have eased into a state of being and living -which means, I have learned to trust myself and Creator.
  4. I got in my own way. When I could feel the thoughts of relapse forming, I reached out to someone instead of doing what I would have done in active addiction – be secretive, hatch a plan, and cause a fucking ruckus. It felt unnatural to call someone and get in the way of my own masterminding process, but I am so glad that I did. There is nothing more humbling than calling someone and telling them you want to buy a bottle and some coke and don’t know how to stop yourself from ruining your life. Let people talk you down from a ledge – preferably someone who has been on the same ledge.
  5. I prayed for friends that would help me grow. Sobriety can be lonely and isolating. During my first year of sobriety, I would sit outside at night and pray that I would find friends that were sober and that would help me evolve in a good way. I found those friends – never discount the power of prayer and don’t be shy to ask for what you need.
  6. I let myself hurt. My addiction was about avoiding pain and I had to learn how to let myself sit with pain. For the first two years of my sobriety there was a part of me that said, “suck it the fuck up – you’re pathetic”. I had to consistently remind myself that it was okay to have emotions, to be sad, and to feel my feelings. I created new pathways of being for myself. I can sit through hard things and that groundwork set the stage for my ability to weather brutal storms and remain sober.
  7. I paid attention to my thoughts. As years went on the thoughts of relapse came less and less. However, they never completely disappear. When the desire to relapse comes I use it as an indicator that something is off balance in my life. I do not wait until the thought becomes an urge. I evaluate if anything needs to change or be removed from my life. I book myself a therapy session, go for a walk, cry it out, surround myself with people I love, or do some writing. They say relapse happens weeks or months before it actually occurs so watching for changes and being proactive is critical AF.
  8. I gave myself permission to socialize at my own pace. It took me over two years to learn how to be in social situations where there was drinking. I tried to go out with some friends who drank at a year and a half sober and had to walk out because I got to the point where I was holding a shot glass in my hand. I obviously did not drink but I knew I was pushing myself to be in a space I was not yet capable of. Eventually I could go out dancing (I love dancing) but it took a long time to be able to do so and not feel pressured, anxious, or unsure of myself. I did not force myself to do things “normal” people do until I was ready and even then there’s things I don’t do (IE house parties, fires with drinking, pubs).
  9. I spent time by water. You need to know what heals you and what/where your helpers are. I sat by rivers and lakes and spent time praying, letting go, and doing absolutely nothing but just l-i-v-i-n-g.
  10. I work toward my liberation. Getting sober was only the beginning part of my journey. I want to be able to be free emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I have sought out knowledge to understand my own behaviours and patterns so that I can no longer feel imprisoned by impulse. I am not there yet but the amount of freedom that I have is due to the work I continue to put in through reflection, therapy (off and on for years), ceremony, and the insight and love of amazing people I have met in my life.
  11. I let myself be dazzled by life. I let myself be in awe of all the small wonders of the world. When I was heavy in my grief and close to relapse and self destruction, I had to find magic somewhere to stay alive. I began to let myself bask in the joy of a sunrise or let my body flood with happiness when I had a good cup of coffee in my hands. I used to chase really big goals thinking that is what would make me happy. I still work toward lofty goals but my happiness does not lay there – it is in the everyday things. I can be in the world sober and in awe and I am so unbelievably grateful.

As A.A. cliché it is to say, wishing you another 24 and I’ll take 24 myself.

with love,

Helen K

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close