On December 31st, I celebrated 5 years of continuous sobriety. 5 years of freedom from the drugs and alcohol, freedom from the bondage of self. In those 5 years, a lot has happened and a lot has changed. I have changed friends, apartments, jobs and directions. I have set goals for myself and achieved things I never knew possible. I have fallen flat on my face and failed in epic proportions. I have fallen in love with my life and all the beauty and pain that comprise it. I have done a lot of things right, but I’ve also done a lot of things wrong. And I have learned more about myself in the past 5 years than I did in the 25 years prior to that.
It would be impossible for me to sum up everything that I have learned in the past 5 years, but I thought it would be helpful to share with you 5 important lessons I’ve learned in my first 5 years of sobriety.
- Do the work
At points in my sobriety, I have been diligent in my commitment to my program of recovery. And at points in my sobriety, I have become complacent. I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that my life is significantly better when I do the work. While it can feel tedious to go to meetings, reach out to others in the program, do step work, make gratitude lists, pause when agitated and all of the other things they suggested to me when I first got sober, it has become clear over the past 5 years that they are suggested for a reason. They work. When I stopped doing all of the things that got me into recovery, I (thankfully) didn’t drink. But I was definitely not happy, joyous and free. And, for me, that’s a huge part of being sober. Today, I do the work – even when I don’t want to. It’s worth it.
- The people who love you will support you no matter what
Over the past 5 years of my sobriety, a lot of my relationships have changed. Some have gotten stronger and some have fallen by the wayside. People have come and people have gone. But I have learned that the people who truly love you will be there to support you no matter what. I have gone through some very trying times in my sobriety, and a handful of people (some sober, others not) have stood by my side through it all. And I have done the same for them. Knowing that the people in my life will love and support me no matter what was a pretty incredible thing to learn.
- Your Higher Power can really be whatever you want Him/Her/It to be
I was raised in a religion (which I will choose not to name here as not to offend anyone), and I had some definite ideas about “God” and what that word meant. When I heard in the program that we develop a higher power of our own understanding, it was hard to wrap my head around. To me, God had always been judgmental and something to be feared. In the past 5 years of my sobriety, I have been able to explore my spirituality and figure out what a Higher Power means to me, separate from any religion or dogma. This process has brought me more peace, solace, love and freedom than anything I have experienced in my life. It is truly one of the most precious gifts of my sobriety.
- Good or bad, it will change
I have learned that the only constant in life is that it will inevitably change. Whether things are good or things are bad, they most definitely will not stay that way. I have learned to appreciate every moment for exactly what it is, because I realize how fleeting these moments are.
- It may not be easy, but its worth it
Recovery is not always easy. There are days that I wish that I was different, that I wish that things were easier, that I wish I had a “better” past or that I wasn’t an alcoholic. But no one ever said that recovery would be easy; they only said that it would be worth it. And they were right. While my life isn’t always easy, it is beautiful. I have a life full of joy, love, purpose and contentment. Recovery has given me the chance to dream bigger than I ever thought possible, to see the world, to truly open myself up to others, to love and be loved in return. Recovery may not be easy, but it is worth it.
I have learned so much in the past 5 years of my sobriety, and I continue to learn more every day. I am grateful for every morning that I get to wake up and be on this journey. It’s been an amazing 5 years – here’s to many more.