It’s a surreal feeling. It’s just another day really, but sobriety anniversaries offer recovering people a chance to reflect and celebrate a date in their lives that was a monumental start to changing their lives.
On December 31, 2009, I was struggling. I wanted to use, but I also didn’t want to live any more, didn’t want to deal with the guilt that I was already feeling from my relapses in the days prior, and certainly didn’t want to think about what was going to happen when I returned to my sober house the next day. Ultimately, I will never know why I chose not to use that New Year’s Eve, but I didn’t, thus my sobriety clock was reset. As the ball dropped in Times Square that midnight, I lay curled up in my bed with my mind running a race that I didn’t want to be a part of. Living with the shame of a relapse is one thing, but knowing the work that it takes to rid oneself of it is an emotional weight that I had never carried before.
Despite all this, I was able to swim out of my mental maelstrom by doing the one thing that had always terrified me. I got honest. With my family, the recovery community, and myself. That emotional weight that had so recently haunted me was instantly lifted, and replaced with what I can only describe as willingness.
My first year of sobriety was all about learning to live sober. This included everything from keeping a clean room, to getting a “sober job,” to forming relationships (and not forming certain other relationships). I succeeded at all of these objectives, most of the time, but found myself in a strange place at the end of that first year. Like many other recovering people (I have since learned), I received my one year medallion, and was left with a feeling of is that all? I didn’t want to be complacent. I didn’t want to be ungrateful. But after working a ‘program of recovery’ for a year, I did not see the person that I thought I wanted to see in the mirror. There I was, one year sober, and just as emotionally broken as I was the previous year.
It was strongly suggested that in my first year of sobriety I not get involved in any relationships of the romantic genre. However, since I had already accomplished this, I decided to turn my attention towards this unexplored realm in year two of sobriety. Within three weeks, I had met a girl. Within four, I was involved. Four months after we met, we moved in with each other. At around ten months together, we broke up.
This relationship, for the most part, defined my recovery for much of the past year. I became totally engulfed in a co-dependent struggle, and reverted back to my old habits, refusing to be honest with myself. It was the first time in recovery that I had shut myself off from the sober community, and what resulted was a lot of pain for a person that I actually cared about.
Going through this type of experience without drugs or alcohol has probably been one of the most profound experiences in my life. I saw firsthand how one of my core character defects hurt not just me, but someone else. I never wanted her to get caught up in the collateral damage of my selfish actions, but looking back, I didn’t really have a choice.
Since the end of the relationship, I have been faced with a lot of obstacles, ranging from emotional issues to financial insecurities, but the one saving grace has been the return of my willingness. I have thrown myself back into the recovery community and have never felt more at peace. There is no better way to build self-confidence than through honesty. This is a lesson that never gets old in my life, a fact for which I should probably be grateful.
One of the greatest gifts of sobriety is a new understanding of time. I can honestly look back on these past two years and view their passing with a totally new perspective. Perhaps it can be attributed to a heightened sense of compassion I have towards myself, but I simply don’t care to dwell on a lot of the intangibles that once plagued me. Sure I have my slip-ups (a lot of them recorded on blog posts here at open salon), but I have new ways of dealing with them; they surface, I become aware of whatever feeling it may be, and I use the tools at my disposal to let them go.
My life up until when I got sober was characterized by feeling like I was rushing to get nowhere as fast as possible. I viewed others’ happiness as something mystical, like a force that came naturally to them, with little regard for what events had occurred in their lives that made them who they were. My sobriety has de-mystified happiness. Happiness is a gift, a fleeting one at that, and something that should be relished, but never depended upon.
I turn my search now to finding contentment, through seeking out people and things in my life that contribute to my sense of purpose on this planet. I believe more strongly than ever that I am on the right path, and will continue to do my best not to stray too far.