This has come to be one of my favorite posts to write every year.
Today, I have 10 years clean and sober.
So much has changed, so much time has passed, yet it honestly feels like yesterday when I think back to the way I used to live. I can still feel the feelings, I can still smell the smells, and I can still hear the constant struggle in my head. I suppose the difference is that the voice is quieter these days.
I’ve learned a lot in these 10 years, mainly about myself and how to successfully coexist with others. You can read about what I’ve learned in previous posts that I’ll link at the bottom, but I think it’s important for me to emphasize how life has been recently as someone in recovery who is also coping with a new pandemic quarantine way of life.
Being isolated is something that drove my addiction. There was no one to monitor me, to tell me that what I was doing needed to stop. I’m thankful that I’ve been quarantined with my family so there’s a level of accountability, but I know that many who share these same struggles aren’t so lucky.
So far, in only a few short months, I’ve lost four people that I’ve known in these 10 years. Addiction is serious, and sometimes it takes those we least expect.
Honestly, sometimes I’ve missed it. When life gets too hard or too painful, I understand the relief that comes with choosing the easier way out — the numb, warm embrace of letting all of it slip from your mind. To just have the anxiety and constant emotional floods subside. I’ve wanted to smoke cigarettes and get blind drunk more during this pandemic than I have in years. I’ve wanted to watch movies and shows about drug use because it’s a way for me to live vicariously and step into a life I’m no longer allowed in.
You know that feeling when you really don’t want to do something or go somewhere, and you make the decision to cancel? That overwhelming sense of relief that now you can slip into your coziest clothes, pull up your coziest blanket on the couch, and just melt away? That’s the decision to use. To drink. It’s so welcoming, so inviting, that it’s almost common sense.
Except it isn’t. For me, I’d wake up somewhere that wasn’t the couch. Maybe the shower. Maybe outside. My clothes aren’t as cozy anymore. I’m sweating. I’m dizzy. I try and piece together what happened since I made the decision to avoid my plans, my responsibilities, and my feelings.
The avoidance decision is easy, yes, but it kills me. Some days, recovery means keeping the plans that make me uncomfortable, the things I don’t want to do. It’s talking to someone. It’s sitting in those uncomfortable feelings. It’s understanding that I can’t escape life with bottles and pills. And as I stay longer in this life of recovery, those days are fewer and farther between.
Recovery is not a linear process. You don’t stop using or drinking and then follow a continuous incline to an amazing life. There are ups and downs, progressions and regressions. As long as you understand this, the path doesn’t have to be so scary. You just have to keep walking it.
I’ve done a lot in 10 years — a lot that I’m proud of. I don’t mean this post to come off as negative, but I do want to emphasize that life still happens when we stop. It’s how we deal with it that determines if we stay in a life of recovery or return to one of easy escapes.
Life is beautiful.
Life is hard.
Without those dichotomies, we would never be able to appreciate what we have. Without experiencing the fear I had over my inability to stop drinking, I wouldn’t be able to appreciate how absolutely amazing it is that I now have a son who was born healthy. Without losing almost a year of my life to jail, I’d never be able to understand how important my freedom is. How little material possessions matter over people and relationships.
Without watching me slowly kill myself, I’d never appreciate watching me live.
Here’s to 10 more hard, beautiful years.
Previous recovery year posts