Sometimes I take a few moments out of the day to look at what I’ve gained in my life since I have been sober. I’ll look back 21 months ago and visualize my life the way it used to be. If it wasn’t for my recovery community, I don’t think things would be as different as they are.
I have heard from people with a lot of time sober that if you forget where you came from, your destined to go back. So, it’s important for me to at least try to remember as much as possible every so often so I can’t forget. When I try to think about what I looked like, or the changes I’ve made, the most important things that comes to my head are the experiences I have had along the way. Almost all of these experiences I can name include other people. That’s why I wrote this article. Because, without the recovery community I have gained, and the people I have met, I definitely wouldn’t have made it this far.
My sobriety began when I reached New Life East (we used to call it Reality House). I entered the house with long greasy hair, a goatee, and grey skin. I looked absolutely terrible, but when I was greeted by the members of the house there, it was pretty hard to feel judged.
Everyone was very welcoming, and seemed excited to have me there. But, no matter how accepting everyone there was, I still found a way to judge everyone else. I definitely recall saying it was too structured, how everyone was bigger than me, had short hair and how “no one gets me”. But, the only thing people there did when I was new was ask me about my experience, and try to relate. It certainly helped that within a week or so I got to know a couple of people there that are still great friends of mine to this day.
The conversations started off with one of them saying, “Yeah… I had long hair when I came in as well. Do you listen to metal music?” That’s when I knew I wasn’t too different. It might have seemed like a very superficial bond, but it felt great to share an interest with someone there. Little did I know that I would find hundreds more of those little bonds with the other house members as time went on. That was great, but the real personal growth happened when I chose to get past the surface conversations and friendships and focused more on the fact that we were all recovering alcoholics that needed to work together to make it.
I started to notice that people in my recovery community looked like they were on the right path, and they seemed happy. I stopped focusing on who had long hair, or what music they listened to, and started paying more attention to who seemed comfortable in their own skin. The people there that seemed the most happy were the ones who I saw praying at night to the Higher Power they had found. They were the ones who spent the most time with me when I was new, and unhappy. They certainly weren’t the ones who were playing into the same defects they had when they were new in the house… I on the other hand was still doing the same things I did when I first set foot in New Life House.
It was pretty easy from that point on to see that what I was doing wasn’t working. If I ever wanted to be as comfortable with myself as they were, I would have to do something different and take the suggestion that had been given to me since I was new. Everyone that I saw as an inspiration there had been through the same thing I was going through, and they followed the path that was set before them to get where they are now.
From that point on I started to change. It was an extremely slow process for me, (some get it faster than others), but I learned more about myself bit by bit, and gradually I became the person I am today. I can honestly say that today I am proud of everything I have been through, both in the house and out of it. But, as much as I pride myself on the work I put in, it is extremely important for me to realize that it wasn’t all me.
Without the examples that were set before me by the senior house members, and the graduates of the program, I wouldn’t have known what I was working towards. I needed a goal to work towards, or else staying through the process wouldn’t have mattered. If it wasn’t for my friends in the house that sat and talked with me through the hard times, I wouldn’t have made it through the struggles of early sobriety. And without friends that understood what I was going through, and what sobriety truly meant, I DEFINITELY wouldn’t have felt like I fit in. I needed a recovery community made up of sober alcoholics to become the man I am today.
Now that I am an alumni of New Life House, I live with two roommates that are alumni as well. They are like a second family to me. We have fun, cook food together, hit Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and live our own seperate lives with different schedules. But, no matter what, I know that when I stop doing the things that I know make me happy, they’ll be there to straighten me out. They know as well as I do that working a solid program is what keeps us sober, and we won’t let each other slip back into our old defects and habits.
No matter how busy our lives get, we will still always be there for each other. I owe my sobriety, and the life I have today to the people that still show up for me through everything we’ve been through. I have my family, my recovery community, and an amazing life. For that I am extremely grateful.