Today I’m celebrating one year without drinking alcohol. One whole year’s sobriety. People who knew me before might never have believed that. I might never have believed that. But the truth is, since having kids, I’d always wanted to get sober, and previously I’d even managed it for months at a time. But this time was different. And the main difference was, I had help. In today’s reflection, I want to share with you the main lessons I have learned in one year of sobriety.
- It won’t change your life, overnight.
In the first few weeks, for me at least, there was a kind of euphoria: like I’d escaped from hell or something. But I’d had that feeling many times before during shorter periods of sobriety. It wears off, like the initial craziness of a new love affair. But something else remains…
- It will change your life, for the better.
You get your life back. You have to accept that it is your life, and it might not be perfect: but it’s yours; you’re not being controlled by a constant desire to drink.
- Don’t try to go it alone.
I’ve tried to go sober on my own many times in the past. It didn’t work. There are many support groups out there, AA being the best known, and completely free to join. If you don’t fancy going down that route, maybe tell a friend who has given up drinking that you want to do the same. The best people to support you will be those who have already been in recovery for some time.
- Don’t trust everyone you meet in recovery, or believe everything you hear.
Though their intentions may be good, sponsors and support group members are still human, and still liable to make mistakes. Don’t let anyone control or manipulate you on your recovery journey. Find someone you can really trust to sponsor you, and don’t rush into any relationships you don’t feel comfortable with.
- Great things can be achieved incrementally over time.
I practice yoga. I’m not a naturally flexible person, and I’ve had to work a lot on my strength and balance. But I’ve done this consistently almost every day for a minimum of ten minutes over the past year. And I’m now able to hold postures I never would have dreamed about before. Same goes with spiritual growth. It takes a long time to build spiritual muscle.
- Neglect your spiritual health at your peril.
You might get sober, but you won’t get well until you start to take care of the spiritual side of your being. I don’t care how flaky this sounds: if we were merely material beings then material wealth would be enough to make us happy and fulfilled. I don’t think this is the case. I’m not saying you have to believe in God, but maybe ask yourself what you do actually believe in? Learn to meditate, detach from the thinking part of your brain and simply feel, simply be. That is the path to inner light, and peace of mind.
- You will need to find new a way to deal with everything that life throws at you.
Chances are, you’ve been medicating your spiritual wounds with alcohol, and this has led to further spiritual damage which has spiralled out of control, hence you wanting to stop drinking. Well, when you do stop, the wounds don’t heal overnight. Shit continues to happen. The good news is, you will learn a new and more consistent and effective way to deal with it.
- Be prepared to meet yourself for the first time.
Or at least, for the first time since you stopped drinking. You’ve been hiding behind alcohol for so long you may not recognise or even like the person you meet on the other side. But in time you will come to love that person as much as you hated the person who was hiding their truth behind the lies of alcohol.
- You will learn the value of detachment when it is appropriate. I’m still not very good at this, I’ll admit, but I’m getting better. The moment you want to make that hurtful remark, believe that negative thought, start that argument: Pause. Detach. Breathe. There is no need to react in the way you think you have to. You have the space you need.
- You will get stronger.
In all kinds of ways you never would have believed possible. And you can use that strength to carry yourself through the hard times and help others through their hard times. In short, you will become a better person. Or you will return to the better person you always were, who was simply hiding behind a façade of false alcoholic confidence.
I hope you found this post useful if you are struggling with alcohol addiction or thinking about giving up alcohol. Remember that there is always help available: if you need it, reach out and ask for it. The opposite of addiction is connection, and vice versa. Make the connections you need in order to heal yourself.