When I stopped drinking, I DID stop pouring gasoline on my life’s drama, but the issues were still there. The proverbial fire was still there. The REASONS I drank were STILL THERE. So, because I totally realize that I’m not a unique snowflake, I assume there are people out there toying with the idea that sobriety and recovery will solve all their life’s issues to some degree or another.
These people, you perhaps, think that the simple act of not drinking or drugging will free you from the heartaches and troubles in your life. I don’t want to stop you from getting sober. I don’t want to be the rain on your parade and make you think that recovery isn’t worth it … because IT IS!
What I do want to do is help you shift your perspective on what recovery and sobriety will really do for you and your life. See, I spent years in my first round of recovery being miserable because I thought there was something wrong with me because life was still hard, full of drama, anxiety and depression. My mantra used to be “people don’t sober up to feel like this.”
Do you find yourself thinking this to yourself as well?
Looking back, I now realize the source of my misery was because I had too high of expectations of what sobriety was supposed to mean for me. Please, allow me to explain.
I was sober.
I was doing service work and helping others.
I was working a solid recovery program.
I was going to meetings on a regular and frequent basis.
I was still miserable more days than not.
I was so hyperfocused on the one-liners I heard in recovery meetings, such as “my worst day sober is better than my best day drunk” (which is not always true by the way. I’ve had some pretty shitty ass sober days! I’ve had damn good drunk days too if we’re being honest.) and too busy comparing the beginning of my recovery journey to the decades-long recovery of others, that I was missing the bigger picture.
Will sobriety take away life’s issues and make it smooth sailing? Absolutely not!
Will sobriety make navigating life’s problems easier? Kind of.
Will sobriety clear your head and stop adding more unnecessary problems because of booze? ABSOLUTELY!
You see, recovery is the starting point to fixing your life. It’s where you begin to make changes and improvements. Let me reiterate: It’s not the be-all and end-all. It’s the first step.
My expectations of sobriety were WAY too high because I thought recovery in and of itself would solve all my problems. What I know now is that recovery is a lifestyle of personal development and that personal development is what will improve my life.
Sobriety clears the fog and shows you where the improvements need to be made. For me, this was a hell of a lot of work on mental health, mindset, self-esteem, self-love, and self-worth.
Even though I was doing all the things I was “supposed” to be doing to stay sober, I wasn’t specifically and directly working on the above-mentioned aspects of myself and that’s why I wasn’t thriving in my recovery. That’s why I was still having a butt load of craptastic days.
After YEARS of not working on myself and my mental health in my sobriety, I relapsed … more than once. It took me well over a decade of on and off recovery to realize what the missing piece was.
Perhaps you have trauma that needs to be addressed. Perhaps getting sober reveals the underlying mental health issue that you were attempting to self medicate, either consciously or unconsciously.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “multiple national population surveys have found that about half of those who experience a mental illness during their lives will also experience a substance use disorder and vice versa.” (Here’s me citing my source.)
Perhaps you’re like me and have a whole mess of self-sabotage going on and need to learn to love yourself and that you’re worthy of a better life and sobriety. Whatever your story is, let go of the notion that sobriety will fix everything. Please don’t set yourself up for that expectation just to be let down like I was.
Adjust your thinking to view recovery as the springboard. It’s the jumping-off point. It’s the place where it all begins. The place where life starts to take on new meaning because you’re putting in the work to change your lifestyle, the relationship with yourself, and putting in the work on your mental health.
There’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears that go into recovery and staying sober. Believe me when I say it’s worth every bit of trouble. Yes, there are some shitty days! However, being sober during those bad days helps you to tackle the problems with a clear head while using new healthy coping skills that you’re learning along the way. Going through these terrible days (or weeks or months) makes you stronger and teaches you what you’re capable of.
Learning what I’m capable of has been a huge gift in my recovery! I’ve learned how resilient I am. I’ve learned how courageous I am. I’ve learned how absolutely tenacious and unstoppable I am because I kept falling down, relapsing, yet I would eventually get back up and try again, and again, and again … and again!
Sobriety is a lifestyle that YOU choose in order to fix your life. It’s a lifestyle of self-discovery, self-improvement, personal development, and healing. It takes time, perseverance, and dedication. It’s worth every bit of it.
Now go out there and fix your life.
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