What I Learned My First Year Sober… The Second Time Around
“I had to go through hell to prove I’m not insane had to meet the devil just to know his name”
I made it to a year sober again and what a journey it has been.
This past week I have been full of gratitude and full of anxiety all at the same time. So many changes are happening right now, my kids are home full time and sleeping in their own beds every night. It’s a good feeling to look back and see how far I have come from where I was a year ago. It seemed the closer I got to a year the more emotional and anxious I became. Reflecting back to where I was a year ago has really brought up so many emotions. These feelings will pass, they always do.
When I look back to a year ago it feels so far away almost as if I’m looking at a completely different person with a completely different life, I want to hug the girl I was a year ago. She was mentally and emotionally exhausted, she was lost and alone, she was struggling and couldn't see a way out. She was spiraling out of control and when she finally hit the wall she she went plunging down into deep despair. I cant believe that girl is me. I’m in a totally different place than I was a year ago but yet all the feelings I felt at the time came rushing back, I kept replaying in my mind the events that lead up to the relapse and the removal of my children from my home. I play it over and over in my head, me standing on the sidewalk, drunk and hysterical, watching them be taken away in a police car, my daughter unaware that it would be months before she would sleep in her own bed, my son angry at the world.
I have no doubt in my mind that those events had to happen in order for me to become the person I am today and continue to become everyday. It was the most painful experience imaginable, but yet I don't regret anything that happened. I have learned and grown more this past year than I could have imagined. It’s hard to believe that from so much pain could come so much growth and peace of mind. It’s been a difficult year, I wanted to give up multiple times. I didn't want to drink, the craving for alcohol has been removed, but I did want to walk away from it all. I doubted myself and my ability to walk through the pain, the judgment, the consequences of my actions, and the knowing that people were doubting me the whole way.
I’m beyond grateful for the ones that said keep going when I wanted to crawl in a whole and hide forever from the world. I’m grateful for the ones that were cheering me along. I’m grateful that I was shown that I can stand up for myself and my kids. I’m grateful for my friends who showed me just what I’m capable of.
May 18th, 2015. A day I will never forget and a day I hope to never repeat. The day my life changed forever. The day I watched my kids belongings being packed up by police officers. May 19th, 2015, my sobriety date. That was the beginning of a new way of life. One day at a time I will never have to feel that way again. I’ve learned so much this past year I feel I could write a book about it and I will someday, but for today I’ll share just a few lessons I’ve learned.
Find Your Tribe
Love them hard. I have connected with so many amazing people in recovery this past year. I feel like I have friends all over the world cheering me on as I do the same for them. I know that if I needed to call and talk to someone I could call any of these people at anytime of the day and they would “get it”. Doesn’t matter if I’ve never even met them, they would be willing to put everything down to talk. I would absolutely do the same for them. There is an online recovery community full of some really wonderful men and women that I follow, many of them are parents in recovery also. I get encouraging emails and text messages on a daily basis from people that are following me on my journey.
These people have helped me get through some of the most difficult days this past year. Not everyone will understand my journey and that’s ok, because for every one person that doesn’t understand, there are two people that have been there and know what I’m going through. Maybe they haven't been in the exact same situation that I have been in but they know the feelings of hopelessness I once felt. I am a blessed girl to have so many people in my life near and far that are there for me. I am never alone on this path and that keeps me going. One day at a time.
Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway
I have come to realize that I am full of fear all of the time. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of what others think of me. Fear of not being liked. Fear of intimacy. Fear of disappointment. Fear of disappointing. You name it, I’m afraid of it. This fear of everything under the sun has kept me stuck for so long, until this past year. I’m to the point that I’m tired of being stuck and I want to take chances, I want to move forward. Maybe I will fail miserably but I want to at least know I tried.
Coming out and telling my story has been one of the most terrifying things I have ever done but I feel deep down in my soul that this is what I’m supposed to be doing. Why? I have no clue. I don't know where this road is taking me and that scares me more than anything. I like to know what’s happening at all times, it gives me a sense of control. In the past, if I thought that I would fail then I wouldn't even try, now, I feel the fear and the anxiety and I do it anyway. I am walking through fear everyday that I put it out there that I am in recovery. I am walking through fear every time I let someone see the REAL me, I know there is a chance that I will be judged or disliked, but I let myself be vulnerable anyway. I’m finding there is great freedom in feeling the fear and moving forward anyway.
I’m A Recovering People Pleaser
In my mind I’ve always done what I wanted and said what I wanted but, the truth is, I said what I thought you wanted to hear. I did what I thought would make me more likable, I did what I thought you wanted me to do. I can change my personality to fit who I am with at the moment. but the more I aimed to please others, the less I liked myself. When I made a statement, it was immediately followed by “right?” or “huh?” I was in constant need of your approval. It finally clicked when a coworker mocked my “huh? and “right?” I was disgusted with the sound of me needing to hear them say “yes Melissa, you’re right” in order to be ok. This is a tough habit to break, but the more I like myself the less I need your approval. I still want to be liked, don't get me wrong, but I don't NEED you to like me in order to feel complete now. I have found that I can say NO and I won’t fall over dead. Neither will the other person! Crazy how that works! No more saying yes when I want to say no and then sitting in the resentment towards that person. Resentment can kill me! I’ll stick to saying yes, when I want to say yes, and no, when I want to say no. It saves me from a lot of unwanted stress and over commitment.
I Don’t Have To Be Ashamed Of My Story
For so long I thought there was something wrong with me. I had come to believe that I was a hopeless cause, that I would forever be this shell of a person drowning her sorrows in alcohol. I had no idea who I was without the alcohol and I was afraid to find out. I was scared to let anyone see the real me, I felt unlovable. If “they” only knew all the things I had done no one would ever love or accept me. It was difficult to look at myself in the mirror at the person looking back, bloated, dehydrated, and miserable. Today, I can actually say that I am learning to fully accept and love myself, mistakes and all. Working with my life coach has showed me that my story can help so many mothers out there that feel the same way I did for so long. I see now that I don't have to be ashamed. I am now embracing my truth and sharing with the world in hopes of helping others. I have received many emails from women all over the world, thanking me for sharing my story. It is so hard to wrap my brain around the fact that all these struggles I have gone through are now helping others to have hope. The part of me that I felt I had to hide for so long is now the part I want to shine. It’s an incredible feeling when a women I’ve never met tells me my story has helped her to have some hope for her and her children. I could never have experienced that if shame was still in control.
I Am Good Enough
My past mistakes do not define me. I have learned that I will be judged by others no matter what I do. I will have others looking down on me regardless of the progress I have made. I will always have others doubting my decisions. What i have also learned is, I’m not “less than” because I sin differently than someone else. I’ve learned that I can stand on my own two feet and make decisions on my own. I’ve learned that others people’s opinion of me is NONE of my business. I am a good person that has made some poor choices. Poor choices does not mean that I am unloveable or unforgivable. This is a lesson that has taken a very long time to understand. I am totally lovable regardless of any mistake I’ve made, but, the love I deserve the most is my own. Today, I am grateful to be able to say I love myself and I forgive myself.
Recovery Is A Journey Not A Destination
The first time I celebrated a year I thought I had “arrived” I thought I that life would be all rainbows and unicorns from there on out. Truth is I will never “arrive”, I will never have it all figured out. If I ever think I have it all figured out, that’s when the trouble hits. What I have learned is life still happens, life is messy, but it is possible to stay sober even through the messiest times. I’ve seen it watching my best friend deal with the death of her son. Yet there she is fighting through it like the amazing woman she is.
Just for today I will only focus on today. I can stay sober for today. I’ll worry about tomorrow when it comes. I will continue to do that everyday for the rest of my life. Why? Because this is a journey not a destination. I will never be cured of this, or maybe I will, but I haven't been yet and I am not willing to test it ever again, I may not make it out alive next time.
Acceptance has been key this time around
without it I wouldn't be able to stay sober.Without acceptance I wouldn't be able to learn all these lessons I have over the past year. I finally get it!! Bad things happen when I drink. I hurt people when I drink. I cause damage when I drink. I don't drink like a “normal person” I accept that now and I’ve made peace with it.
So there ya have it! Just a few of the many lessons I learned this past year. I can NOT wait to see what the future holds. If you think you may have a problem with alcohol and feel there is no hope, please know you are not alone. There are many other women and men that have been in your shoes and know how you feel. Maybe the stories are different but I can guarantee the feeling are all the same. Hopeless? You never have to feel that way again. Reach out, it could change your life in ways you never imagined possible. I’m living proof of that!
Melissa Johnson, Tiger Mountain Recovery, Guest Blogger
Melissa Johnson is a dedicated member of the recovery community. She is a mother in recovery who is inspiring others with her personal accounts of addiction and recovery through blogging.
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