My first year of sobriety was unlike anything I had experienced before because it was NOT just about putting down the drugs and alcohol. This year was also about growing and developing how I treated myself. If anyone out there is reading this and still struggling with the concept of sobriety, I will try to shed a little light on what it actually means to me.
Sobriety is not a word I take lightly because I know how imperative it is to every other facet of my life. I started using drugs and alcohol at a very early age, and for the better part of my life I masked all my emotions, fears and feelings with one substance or another. I thought it was a harmless way to socialize and have fun, but it was never that at all. I was never comfortable in my own skin and I was always looking for a way to escape that uneasy feeling. I deflected the real struggles I was facing with humor and never let anyone get close enough to question who I really was. You see, sobriety is not just about putting down the drugs and alcohol, it is also about working on all the things that were masked by the drugs and alcohol. Sobriety is learning about your strengths and weaknesses, while practicing humility in all your affairs.
Sobriety is . . .
Sobriety is learning to love myself and making myself available to those who need help. Sobriety is admitting when I fall short and trying to grow from each experience. Sobriety is answering the phone when my mother calls and asking her about her day. Sobriety is suiting up and showing up whenever I am called upon. Sobriety is confidence without arrogance. Sobriety is making sure my family knows I’m safe and never giving them the reason to worry about me. Sobriety is asking what I can bring to a situation and not what I can take away from it. Sobriety is sending my grandmother a birthday card and thanking her for being present in my life. Sobriety is being able to look at myself in the mirror without regret or disdain. Sobriety is a journey that I actively choose to partake in every day.
On November 20, 2016 I celebrated one year of continuous sobriety, and just four days later a very close friend, and ex-girlfriend of mine, passed away as a direct result of this disease. I had spoken to her on the phone just a few days prior, and we were making amends to one another for all the pain and suffering we put each other through in active addiction. We were not good for one another when it came to our addiction’s, but when we both got sober and lived across the country from one another, our relationship was much healthier. She was a sober support of mine, someone I truly cared about and also someone I had a lot of shared history with. It was a very difficult and confusing time in my life, and I needed to rely on my faith and all the sober men I had in my life.
This part of my sobriety took self-discipline and good judgment on my part. After all, I was overcome with feelings of fear, anger, sadness, guilt and grief, and whenever I felt things like that in the past, my first instinct was always to drink or get high. That wasn’t my thought process at this point. I wanted to be of service to her family because they had always been there for me; even during my darkest hours. I wasn’t selfishly looking for a reason to use, I just wanted to be available to anyone who might need a shoulder to cry on. I know she is smiling down on all of her loved ones and making sure we walk by faith and not by fear. Lord knows, she had a lot of faith.
For the first year of my sobriety my only real requirement was to stay sober, pay my bills and continue working on myself. But the longer I stayed sober, the more responsibilities I had, and the more things were put on my plate. This was my time to practice self-acceptance and understand what was being asked of me – and why. It was my turn to dig down inside me and find the discipline to keep doing the things that were working in my life. They say, “It is not going to be easy, but it is going to be worth it,” and I believe in this whole heartedly. Perseverance is about continuing on your journey regardless of how steep the climb becomes, and the climb sure was getting steeper.
Life wasn’t easy for me at this point, but I continued to pray and ask for the awareness to find his grace. Life has a funny way of working out if you are paying attention to the signs along the way.
I met my girlfriend last February, and my relationship with her has been instrumental in what it means to be a sober man in recovery. While she is just a few years older than me, she has over eleven years of continuous sobriety. Her faith in God was something that mesmerized me from the onset, and her positive outlook on life is second to none. They say that behind every strong man is an even stronger woman, and I couldn’t agree more. She has become my girlfriend, my best friend, a sober support, and also someone I can lean on when times get tough. Not to mention, I look up to her and hope to find the peace and serenity that she has. Only when I stopped trying to force my will on life, something showed up and far surpassed my expectations. I was finally aware of the blessings that were being given to me. My eyes were open.
It took a lot of self-discipline to continue working on myself regardless of what was going on in my life. The concept of good judgement was instilled in me because I constantly bounced ideas off other people before making any rash decisions. Even when the road was narrowing and it was getting harder to continue, I was able to practice perseverance and stay the course that was laid out for me. Lastly, it took awareness to recognize the blessings that were being given to me. And at the end of the day, it was always up to me to make the most of them.