5 Things I Wish I Knew in Early Recovery
Getting sober isn’t easy, but staying sober is even harder
The first year of my sobriety seemed like a constant battle with my disease of addiction. It would tell me I wasn’t good enough or that I wouldn’t be able to stay sober. There were days that felt hopeless, but, in retrospect, those experiences all taught me important lessons that I am now grateful for. Sobriety isn’t all happiness—its difficult and its painful. On the other hand, all of those difficulties and all of that pain is 100% worth the life I have today
One day the obsession to get high will leave you.
I remember waking up and the first thing I thought about was drugs. Every day for the first eight to nine months of sobriety. I honestly thought that the obsession to get high would never leave me. There were many days where I simply wanted to give up, but in the end, I refused to leave before the miracle happened.
After continuing to surround myself with sober people, incorporating healthy habits into my lifestyle, and repairing the damage of my past, the obsession to get high slipped away. It was so subtle, that one day I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I thought about getting high. It was a miracle, after all, I had spent years held tightly by the bondage of addiction. Just like that, I had newfound gratitude for my sobriety.
Your family will forgive you.
I hurt my family in inexplicable ways while I was in active addiction. I lied, I manipulated, I stole, and I betrayed everyone who was ever close to me. I believed that I didn’t deserve forgiveness and that I would never be forgiven. I beat myself up and refused to reach out to my family because I told myself that I wasn’t worthy of their love.
Fortunately, I was wrong. My family always loved me and they always wanted the best for me. They wanted me to call and they wanted me to be present at family gatherings. One of the biggest blessings I attained in sobriety was realizing that my family did forgive me for the things I had done.
Before I got sober, I didn’t have real relationships with any of my family members. Developing these relationships and attaining forgiveness didn’t happen overnight—it was a slow, gradual process, but it happened nonetheless. Today I have a relationship with my nieces who were once not allowed to speak to me. I am a daughter, a granddaughter, a sister, and an aunt, who never misses a holiday, birthday, or family event.
It's okay to be vulnerable.
I was raised to hide my emotions to appear strong and resilient. Whenever I felt sad or angry, I was great at hiding it with a smile and a laugh. These feelings would bottle up deep inside of me until it was too much to bear and I would end up having extreme depressive episodes. I was warned early on in recovery by a therapist in treatment that if I didn’t identify and express my emotions, it would catch up with me sooner or later—and it did.
I was ready to give up on sobriety because I couldn’t control my emotional nature. I didn’t want to express myself to others and be seen as weak. It took me several years to learn that vulnerability is a strength. It’s easy to bottle emotions up, but it's difficult to be completely transparent and expressive. Being vulnerable takes strength, and that gives me the resilience to progress in life and grow as a woman in recovery.
Not only is it okay to be vulnerable, but it is a necessity in sobriety. Being vulnerable with others is the only way to foster deep bonds between friends and to maintain healthy relationships. If I’m not vulnerable with my support group our relationship will remain on the surface. Instead, being vulnerable with others allows them to really know and care about me. It allows for real relationships to grow. It allows me to be held accountable by others.
Your failures are opportunities for growth.
I have always been the type of person who strives for perfection. When I make a mistake, I tend to beat myself up. I did this a lot in early sobriety because I didn’t want to be seen as a failure, and I thought I had to do everything the right way to stay sober. Thankfully, that was far from the truth.
Over time I learned that the only thing that mattered when it came to my choices was my motives. I was certainly going to make mistakes, I’m human. However, if I set out to correct my mistakes and learn from the past, I am enabled to grow, emotionally and spiritually.
Instead of beating myself up when I make a mistake, I look at my thoughts, behaviors, and actions and see what I could have done differently. Then, I accept the past for what it is, set out to correct the things I can, and learn from my mistakes to make better choices in the future. Failure doesn’t mean I am going to relapse—it means I’m a work in progress.
You have a purpose.
I came into recovery feeling like a worthless waste of flesh. I had destroyed relationships, lied to the people I loved, dropped out of college, and burned bridges all around me. I didn’t see a purpose for life, even after I put the drugs and alcohol down.
Slowly but surely, I trusted in the process that those who got sober before me had taken, and I managed to find my purpose. I started to go out of my way to help other people who were struggling—even if it was a gesture as small as picking up the phone and asking somebody how their day was. I began to watch the women who I supported and gave advice to start to heal from their past. I was able to see the light return to their eyes as they began to live sober, healthy lives. I saw exactly how my experiences could benefit the lives of others.
The greatest blessing that sobriety gave me is the ability to help others recover from addiction. There is no greater feeling than watching a woman who is so full of potential, yet so broken, begin to heal and help others.