This week I will celebrate 20 YEARS of sobriety. Honestly, I didn’t know this was humanly possible.
I was born an addict from a long line of alcohol loving people. Around the same time I found alcohol at the ripe old age of 13, I discovered drugs and was immediately hooked. Those little substances took me out of the crazy world surrounding me and helped control all related emotions.
For the next 17 years, I lived under a dark, heavy cloud of alcohol and drugs. Finally, after my 100th rock bottom, 20 long years ago, I sobered up. Here are 5 important lessons I’ve learned since that life changing day…
1. Not drinking or using drugs does not equal sobriety.
Sobriety is a beautiful space to live, but it takes more than just staying clean from drugs and alcohol. There’s a concept called a Dry Drunk. I’ve been there.
When I first quit using those crutches, I had to deal with all the emotions that led me to my addictions. Instead of facing those painful truths, I held on to the anger, depression… that made me want to pollute my body, mind, and soul for the majority of my life.
This is dry drunk syndrome and it’s not a pretty place to reside.
One of my favorite writers, Mary Karr, so adequately stated, There are women succeeding beyond their wildest dreams because of their sobriety.
The key word in her well crafted statement is sobriety. I’m now living beyond my wildest dreams from putting in the years of work it took to move from a dry drunk to the strong, sober woman I am today. For me, that meant lots of therapy, starting this online space to share my story, and marrying an amazing man who loves me exactly as I am, dark past and all.
2. It’s too easy to find a replacement drug.
I did this with many things over the years, but mostly food. No matter how acceptable, these replacement drugs can also keep us stuck in a dry drunk lifestyle.
I share a lot about my food addiction struggles around here. Alcoholics Anonymous rooms across the country are filled with donuts and other sweet treats to replace the wet bars in non-sober social gatherings. Sugar and food seem to be a safer addiction for those of us who steer clear of drugs and alcohol.
But as with all addictions, these things can quickly get out of control and cause unwanted issues as well. My weight is not in a healthy range. Sugar struggles over the years have horribly influenced my kids’ unhealthy habits.
Yes, I will absolutely take this food addiction over the bondage drugs and alcohol had over me. But cross addiction is something all of us serenity seekers must watch out for.
3. When you get sober, you’re stuck at the age you started the addiction.
I’ve been forced to grow up quite a bit in the past 20 years. I was 13 when I started my addiction journey, which unfortunately means at the actual age of 30 when I got sober, I was stuck in teenage purgatory until I developed the skills necessary to mature.
This makes sobriety far more difficult when you’re suddenly trying to adult with only the capacity a teenager can muster up. Thankfully, I’m living proof this is definitely possible.
There are a variety of ways to reach the growth and maturity we need in sobriety. I’m a huge fan of self-help books, finding forgiveness for myself and others, and making a point to reach out to a trusted confidant (usually my husband) instead of my old pattern of isolating.
You may need therapy, a 12-step group or rehabilitation center, or even a whole new set of friends, which leads me to my next important lesson…
4. New friends and big changes may be necessary to escape addiction.
This may not be true for all people, but I had to get away from those surrounding me who loved drugs and alcohol as much as I did. We were living in a fog 24/7 under the influence of some type of mind altering substance.
Unfortunately, even moving across the entire country at one point didn’t save me. Drugs can find us wherever we go, especially if we are even slightly looking for them. It’s far too easy to slip back into bad habits no matter the geographical location.
It’s important to find people who will influence us in a positive way, but we can’t count on them to keep us sober. My husband has never consumed a sip of alcohol (I know! I didn’t know this was possible either), but that’s not what kept me sober. Although his example fully supported me, I was the only person on this earth who could keep drugs and alcohol out of my system for the past 20 years.
Thankfully, I found something not of this world to help. Up next, my final and biggest lesson in sobriety…
5. I need a Higher Power.
We need to believe in something outside of ourselves to find true sobriety. For me, that higher power is God. For others, it could be AA meetings or simply nature.
Understanding my need for God is by far the most important lesson I’ve learned throughout sobriety. Faith was always a huge struggle for me over the years. My alcoholic and very angry dad made any thoughts of a loving father in Heaven impossible.
It took a lot of growth, studying, and loving Christian friendships to find the beautiful faith I have now. Today, I credit God for every single moment of freedom over the past 20 years. I’m so incredibly thankful for this mind shift and what it has brought to my life.
There are so many more lessons this crazy, rewarding journey has taught me. Far too many to share here as this is quickly turning into a book…
I would love to hear about anything you’ve learned in your own life. Please feel free to chat with me in the comments!
As always, thank you for being on this journey with me. If you’re new here, please subscribe to my free newsletter so we can get to know each other better!