I’m coming up on one year of sobriety. Here are some of my thoughts (in no particular order).
Like many folks do, I chose New Year’s Day as my starting date.
While I did fuck up my clean streak this summer (and it was a welcome reminder of what I was trying to avoid), I don’t carry guilt about it. The relapse has been part of my recovery process. Like most lessons in life, sometimes we require multiple learning moments. It would serve me no purpose to beat myself up about it; instead, I just move on while attempting to create the life that I want. I allow myself to take comfort in the fact that I cared enough this time to stop. I cared enough to avoid specific substances because I’m incapable of moderation. That is self-love.
I’ve learned so much about myself this year. My therapist was able to verbalize a belief I’ve had about myself for years: “I’ve got five garbage cans and four lids.” One garbage can might be filled with drugs; another could be full of romantic obsession, food, sleep, exercise, or feeling sorry for myself. If you can name it, I can get addicted to it. I need to live my life with an always-present awareness of this; otherwise, I risk falling into habits that keep me stagnant and empty. I know what my life looks like when I attempt to fill the void with “things,” and it isn’t a good look on me.
I’ve also realized that I crave chaos, because that is what I grew up with. (After the shit-show of a childhood I was dealt, don’t I deserve a chance at a healthy adulthood? I think so.) I know how to thrive when things are hectic and exciting. I am also attracted to people who perpetuate chaos in my life. The personified version of cocaine. I claim it is “chemistry,” but it really is just my attempt to create familiar patterns because they’re comforting.
A wise friend of mine once said, “There is no ‘head-over-heels’ in love when you are mentally well,” and though that might not be a fun opinion, it’s true. Adjusting to calmness has been a process. I’ve had to learn about setting boundaries, for myself and others. I’ve had to learn how to exist with calmness (even boredom). Did you know that you can be bored without dying? It was quite the shock to me, as a former Borderline Personality Disorder patient, that I can exist without extremes. I can choose to fill my life with people and activities that don’t completely shake up my world.
Do I miss getting fucked up? Absolutely. It was a decision that I had to make, a trade-off I had to be willing to accept, only when I was ready. I miss partying. I miss feeling like I’m part of a community, like I’m fun. I miss experiencing the magic of dancing all night with the people I love. I see old friends forgetting about me because I’m not there to enable their behaviour anymore. But I no longer have evenings full of embarrassment and regret. My medications actually work, because I’ve given them the opportunity to. I have authentic relationships. I’ve saved money. Most importantly, I’ve proven to myself that I have enough self-love to avoid things that harm me. No more softboys, no more cocaine, no more filling the void with trash.
I can’t say that I won’t use drugs again (that feels unreasonable and I hate disappointing myself). Maybe one day I will be able to use substances in a way that feels responsible and healthy to me. But I’m not living for that moment anymore. I have so much else to live for first.
I’ve felt deep loss and grief about saying goodbye to my old life. I’ve had to replace it with new activities, new friends. But it also isn’t up to others to save me or keep me sober. I am the only person who will love me enough to make that happen. I have to wake up every day and make a decision to choose a life full of emptiness or genuine joy. Going into 2019, I am excited about what my life will look like as I continue trying to thrive instead of just existing.
For those folks interested in getting sober, here are a few tips:
- Connect with a therapist or sobriety group that makes you feel heard, validated and supported. I won’t lie and pretend it’s easy to find the right fit, but it’s so worth it once you do. I’m queer and trans and have found some incredible sobriety resources that are specific to folks like me.
- There is no shame in seeking support, I absolutely couldn’t have done this on my own. In fact, people pay therapists to help them work through these issues because our friends, family and partners aren’t equipped to do so. Expecting otherwise isn’t fair and can border on abuse. Addiction is about working through the issues under the surface. It’s sad, dirty work. Past trauma’s are going to come up, and the only way we move on is by working through that stuff.
- Make new friends. I’m not recommending that you ditch old ones, but you may lose a few who are heavy into using. Finding new people to do things with helps me avoid old patterns.
- Stop giving your FOMO power. You’re not missing out. Everyone is doing the same drugs in the same places with the same people. Everyone is still trying to mask their social anxiety.
- Start taking care of yourself as if you were taking care of ten-year-old you. Give the little person inside you all the care and comfort they need. Feed them, make time for them to have fun, and move their body. Give them uninterrupted restful nights. Speak to them kindly (no negative self-talk and lots of patience).