When I was new in sobriety, I had the idea that life would become exponentially easier the longer I stayed sober. In many ways that is true. But one of the biggest things I had to learn is that just because I chose to work on myself, doesn’t mean that life will stop moving around me. I quickly started to realize how many things I missed, and how much growth I avoided while I was drinking and using. The truth is that I never allowed myself to become an adult until I went to sober living.
I was 20 years old when I first entered New Life House. When I first arrived, I was caught off guard by how happy and inviting everyone seemed. Later on I was able to meet some of the graduates of the program. I was blown away by how put together they all seemed. They had a weird sense of pride, and peace within themselves that I didn’t understand at all. As well as the fact that they had all of the material items and responsibilities that people my age found attractive. Until sobriety I had never achieved any of those things. I had the belief that I was meant to spend the rest of my life drowning, and that I would never achieve peace, or even happiness for that matter. Seeing those guys gave me hope that if I followed in their footsteps, I could at least achieve the happiness they had. But in my eyes, the material items and responsibilities would still be impossible for me to gain.
Before I got sober I never had a car. I was afraid to learn, because I was afraid of crashing while under the influence (which I always was). I had never lived alone, and I certainly had never paid bills. By that time I had the experience of working, and I even entered the house with a job that I put on “temporary absence status”. Even though I worked, I still hadn’t done a single tax return, and never even understood what taxes were. All of the time that normal kids spent asking questions and discovering life through experience, I spent drinking and using mind numbing substances. I missed out on what it was like to be 20 years old. I blamed all of this on the public school system, saying that they were teaching me meaningless facts when they could have been teaching me about banking, bills, careers, and the like. The funny thing about all of that is that they might have already done that! I was way too focused on drinking, drugs, girls, and doodling to ever pay attention to anything my teachers said. If I hadn’t been introduced to drugs and alcohol, I may have had a shot at becoming a man of my age. I have been told in sobriety that we stop maturing as soon as we start drinking and using… if that is true then I was a 14 year old in the body of a 20 year old when I arrived at sober living.
I spent a long time wondering what life would be like in the graduate’s shoes. Eventually I decided to stop being a dreamer, and knew it was time to start doing all of the things that I saw the graduates do. I began to take suggestion from people that had a lot of time in the program. My step-work became a much bigger part of my life, and I focused a lot of time and energy on the other alcoholics around me. And I started seeing the true benefits of the program. The happiness and inner peace started to become real to me, and it was looking like the next thing on my list to achieve was the material objects. From that point on I started asking graduates to take me out driving, so I could finally learn. After a few sessions, and a couple attempts at the test, I finally got a car. By that point I had graduated the sober living and moved out of New Life House. I had a job to afford the gas for the tank, and I had a driveway to put my car in. All of those things I thought were impossible became more than a dream, and I was ecstatic. Soon though, I had my next set of growing experiences.
It wasn’t long before I started struggling with money. No matter how hard I tried I would always make a bad decision or spend money on frivolous things and I didn’t understand why my bank account always looked smaller than I remembered it being. All of the important things that I never put in effort to do really came back to haunt me. I started to have that same hopeless feeling again, and I was afraid to ask for help. I pretty much felt just like I did when I was new, where everyone else had something that was unachievable to me.
Eventually it got to a point where I was either going to sink or swim. I had been hanging out with some people who had a lot of time sober at the time, and they had everything I wanted. Basically they were graduates who “leveled up”, and AA kids who became men. They had families, had their own businesses, 401k’s and plans for the future. In the program I had always been taught that fear is one of the things that will make you pick up a drink. So, I decided that it was time to swallow my pride and ask for help. They helped me through it. They held me accountable with my money, and weren’t afraid to let me know when I made a foolish mistake. But, more than that, they were quick to remind me that by focusing on all of my own problems it just forces me to sit in them. When I put my energy into showing up for the people around me, all of my problems seemed a lot less significant. I was finally able to look at the solution and not hide in the problem. Taking suggestion and accepting when I was wrong turned out to be the savior again.
What I finally realized is that to keep what I had gained, I needed to keep progressing. All of the sayings and phrases I had learned in Alcoholics Anonymous were actually the things that got me out of the hole that I had dug for myself. Sometimes its best to just admit that I don’t have everything figured out, and be grateful for the many blessings that I have been given. I have a community of people to hold me accountable and teach me things that I can’t teach myself. I have the program of Alcoholics Anonymous to inspire me, and a whole life ahead of me to trudge through. As long as I stay open, and remain humble, I can handle any of the obstacles life can throw at me.