What Does Long Term Recovery Look Like
When I started my journey to recovery I never imagined that I would be sober this long. I was literally just hoping to get through the day, the week, and maybe the month. As they days added up I waited… impatiently, and with the excitement of a little kid waiting for the Santa Clause… I was hoping for my life to quickly get amazingly better.
What I didn’t realize in those early days, was that just putting down the drink was not going to be enough. To find my real happiness I needed to continuously work on my recovery and learn how to adapt to life on life’s terms without booze – and that would take some time.
The greatest gift of the long term sobriety is that things have definitely become amazingly better; I no longer obsess about my drinking and how to drink responsibly. I no longer ponder about how I will go through my entire life without ever drinking again – I just don’t drink. I no longer wonder what people think about me not drinking, I know this is the right path for me. I no longer question if I am or I am not an alcoholic – I am and I am OK with that. Yet, today I continue my recovery in the very same ways as I did early on.
I was recently asked this question: After all of these years being sober, do you ever have strong urges to drink?
Yes! I do. They are rare, but they come sort of out of nowhere. I wrote about one I had this summer, you can read about it HERE.
They also feel much different. I remember having cravings in the beginning, they felt like I was going to die if I didn’t have a drink right away – my hands would start sweating and I felt the craving deep down in my belly, almost like a bad hunger pain. My body craved it and I could almost taste it! In my mind the thoughts ran a-mile-a-minute, as I was trying to figure out if I should drink. The reasons to drink were always same: to feel better, or not to feel at all. Today when I have a craving, I get that feeling again, I want the escape, but I don’t have the physical part with it. It’s more of a mind game that I create, rather than an actual physical reaction.
In early recovery I learned how to deal with the cravings by running the “tape” all the way through. To do this you recollect you’re last drinking experience or your worst drinking experience and you imagine that if you drank this time the same, exact thing would happen! So playing the tape all the way through is visualizing in your head the outcome of your decision to drink. You play the scenario through, then you continue imagining what would happen if you don’t quit after this one glass, or that one night of drinking.
For me, playing the tape through, would mean maybe starting with a bottle of wine but ending by getting boxes of wine and being in a blackout for days. Then waking up on the kitchen floor, some random day, then having missed work, and getting fired. I am not sure even how my kids would fit into this scenario… but I am sure they would be taken way to somewhere safe. Then, because I would be feeling so guilty and shameful about getting drunk, I would continue drinking. Once again, I would become obsessed with drinking and eventually, I would lose everything that I have worked so very hard for. I would again end up alone, depressed and suicidal. This is not the path that I want to be on ever again.
Another question that someone asked was: Do you still go to meetings?
Yes! I do. I go at least once a week and more if I am struggling with life or just need a better connection. Meetings and support network are crucial and help me stay grounded. There is something about one alcoholic talking to another that is so very amazing – I am always reminded that I am not alone! It is also a great place to reach out to newcomers. A huge part of my recovery is reaching out to others. I probably talk to a person in recovery at least once a day. I also read sober blogs, I connect to the recovery community on Twitter and Facebook, and I maintain this recovery blog. You may think that this is lots to do but in reality it is not. It has all just become a part of my life that I don’t even see as different – it’s like taking a shower and brushing my teeth – I just do it every day!
So you see, there is no magic cure available that will make it easy for us to quit our addictions and bam! have a wonderful life. It takes much effort and work after we stop using to clean out the years of destructive behavior – this may require some help from a professional or a recovery support program. And even then the work has to continue if we want to continue to be happy. My alcoholism does not go away just because I got rid of the alcohol. There is a huge part of the -ism that I need to continue working on, and for me that means relapse prevention, meetings and support network.
Sobriety is a Process and Not an Event
The idea that people just give up their addiction, and automatically live happily ever after, is a myth. This is because there will have been a reason why the individual fell into addiction in the first place; that reason will probably still be there when they get sober. The usual motivation for why people turn to substance abuse is an inability to cope with life– they will have been relying on ineffective coping strategies. If this individual just gives up alcohol or drugs without making any other changes, then they will just be back where they started. More work is needed so that this person is not only able to escape their addiction but also build a good life. This is why it is sometimes said that recovery is a process and not an event.
Getting sober is only the beginning. But if you continue on this path, you will find true happiness and be finally OK with just YOU. Your recovery and being part of a recovery community will become a second nature. You will have many amazing memories to last a lifetime. You will learn how to appreciate the simple things in life and embrace them. You will create lasting relationships and find real friends. You will see gifts in any situation no matter how difficult they may seem. You will be able to truly see all of the amazing gifts that sobriety can bring! You will not be able to imagine your life any other way.
Yes, this is all possible.
If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with alcohol addiction, please click the Find Support link for an extensive list of support groups. Also please check out the links to many useful resources in the sidebar, and always feel free to contact me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may also find some great inspiration and support from all the awesome sober bloggers listed in the side bar under POSTS I LIKE and RECOVERY BLOGGERS, as well as Sober Courage page on Facebook and Sober Courage on Twitter.