I was released from my inpatient treatment center in December of 2015 and was transported to a local halfway house. I lived there for a few months during my last attempt at sobriety, and it was truly the only place in Florida that felt like home. When I arrived I was immediately greeted by the manager who strongly suggested that I commit to a year in the structured sober living environment. By suggest, I mean he told me that if I didn’t commit to at least a year, he wouldn’t let me stay at all. At the end of the day I know he wanted what was best for me and it was suggested by my support system that I let other people make my decisions for a while. I was apprehensive, but I agreed.
It took a little bit of introspection on my part to realize I had always done what I wanted when I wanted. I was my own worst enemy because even after all my slips and falls I truly believed I knew what was best for me. Albert Einstein once said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” That was undoubtably my truth. This was the first time in my life that I had really gotten honest with myself and it was an instrumental piece of my early sobriety. I was finally able to look at my life objectively, and my honesty allowed me to accept my current situation and start building from it.
The first three months of my new life were an uphill battle, and I constantly felt as if I was losing ground. It was if I had the weight of the world resting on my shoulders and it was making it hard to breathe. Not to mention, there was a constant feeling of impending doom deep down inside of me. The days were longer and more volatile than a raging river, and the nights were cold, dark and lonely. There were many instances that I was extremely close to throwing it all away, but God, the sober men in my life and hope kept me pushing forward.
Hope is a very powerful force no matter how much or how little you have of it. That is what makes hope so special. It has kept people alive and fighting for thousands of years and has allowed those in the worst situations to continue on regardless of what obstacles were in their path. Hope has kept better men than myself from giving up, and even though mine was running thin, it was still present in my life. People told me to “hold on, pain ends,” I was just praying it would be soon because every day was more difficult than the last.
I realize I had hope inside of me all along, otherwise I wouldn’t have continued on my journey to find sobriety for so many years. But it was faith that allowed me to look outside of myself and surrender to the process that was laid out for me by the sober men in my life. I had the pleasure of working for two gentleman in long term sobriety and I believed in them. I listened when they talked to me, and their stories before and after getting sober were eerily similar to mine. I trusted them, and they trusted the process, so I had enough conviction to walk the path of faith – no matter how fearful I was.
Getting and staying sober is not an easy task. I refuse to minimize how much effort and work it actually takes. The old adage says, “I am not telling you it is going to be easy, but I am telling you it is going to be worth it.” It took me a great deal of courage to look in the mirror and face myself. It took courage to look at all the horrible things I had done in my life and that alone was no easy task. It took courage to stay away from my family and learn to grow on my own. It took courage to stay at a halfway house when my first inclination was always to run. Courage allowed me to stand my ground while every other instinct inside of me told me to scamper away.
In those first three months there were times when I called drug dealers and was on my way to go meet them. But I had the courage enough to call someone I trusted and to be honest with them and myself. There were days at work where I felt like my whole life was unmanageable and I would have anxiety attacks for hours at a time. There were times that I was so overwhelmed with thoughts of my past that I was completely unaware of my surroundings. There were mornings and nights where I would lay in my bed crying my eyes out because I didn’t think I had the strength to carry on.
As I sit here and reflect on this point of my life I realize how much I actually needed all of this pain in my life. In my past attempts at sobriety things were much easier for me at the beginning and it made me more complacent and relaxed. This time around, I had no option but to attack my sobriety head on and work for it. I don’t say that to be dramatic, I say that because if I didn’t do everything that was suggested to me I wouldn’t of made it out of what I have designated the Pain Stage.
I highlighted this portion of my sobriety not to scare others for what lies ahead, but instead to drive the point home that sobriety takes work. It takes self honesty and acceptance to understand where you are at in life – and more importantly – why you are there. It takes hope to hold on through the tough times and faith to believe they will get better. Lastly, it takes courage to stand your ground when everything inside of you wants to run.
I held on long enough, and eventually the sun started to tear through the clouds like a lightbulb through and old and moth laden lampshade. The weight was removed from my shoulders and the impending feeling of doom was replaced with a feeling of childlike wonderment. Hold on, pain ends.