This week I celebrate two years since I gave up alcohol.
Two years since my life drastically changed for the better.
On my one year sobriety birthday I wrote this and it still very much holds true today. I wanted to share it again for anyone debating making a big change in their life. For anyone that has every asked me, "How did you do it?" For that person who hasn't reached out but is secretly following this journey and looking for direction.
This is for you.
Sobriety comes in stages.
The first stage is the escape.The realization that one must retreat into invisibility in order to survive. You can’t just keep living the way you once did and expect to fix what ails you. And you’re still new at this so you don’t know what else to do other than run. Because running you are good at. You’ve been running from your problems for so long that someone could give you a medal. Only this time you’re looking at your problems differently. Now you’re looking at where they originate from. Friends. Places. That damn bottle.
So you go into hiding. And it’s there, in that first stage that you face the problem head on. The one looking back at you in the mirror. In this stage you don’t like that person very much. But don’t worry, that changes soon.
Stage two will happen suddenly.
It’s like finally finding the switch to turn on that lamp you thought had the burned out bulb. Only it was never broken, you just weren’t using it correctly. It’s an awakening of sorts. You’ve spent so much time in hiding that you’ve been forced to face your emotions. Those things that led you to your vices in the first place. The loneliness you felt in stage one has subsided a bit. You’re starting to enjoy being in the company of yourself. And that person in the mirror. They are starting to grow on you a bit. You can look them in the eyes now. In fact, you talk to that person a lot more now. People would probably think you’re crazy carrying on a conversation with a reflection. But that person is all you have at the moment and honestly, they make for great company.
Once you reach stage three you will start to recognize something outside of the bubble you’ve created for yourself.
The way others are responding to your sobriety. Some are supportive. They’ve given you your space and have vowed to be there when you land back on earth. But most have started to fade. Just like most of the drunken memories you created with them. Some of these people may even voice their disapproval of your journey. They speak ill of you to those who will listen. They doubt your progress. They will call you a sell-out and a fraud. And this will hurt. This will make you want to please them. But the only way you know how to do that is by being the old you. And you aren’t willing to go back to that place. So, like a bad breakup, you let them feel the way they feel and do your best to let them go.
Stage four is where this finally happens. You just. Let. Go.
Call it another awakening if you must. You release all of that anger. The concern for others opinions. Your bitterness subsides. And you let go of that which no longer serves you. You’ve stopped playing the victim and have started to truly own up to what brought you on this journey in the first place. And you practice honesty. It’s terrifying telling your story. But for the first time in your life you don’t care what they say about it. It’s YOUR story after all. And it will inspire others. You know that now. So you start living authentically. Unapologetically you. You can almost feel wings start to sprout between your shoulder blades as the weight of the world leaves your back. It’s time to take flight.
And in stage five you fly.
You’ve learned to love that person in the mirror. And their company is truly all you need. You’re no longer lonely. In fact you crave your alone time. You’ve found peace in your silence. You’ve pinpointed each emotion and are starting to recognize the fire before it can become fueled. You’re finally living. With nobody to rely on but yourself. You are finally responsible for your own life. You are in control. And it feels like you’ve been reborn.
Stage six brings an odd onset of loneliness that you didn’t see coming.
Because you are finally ready. Ready to leave the comfort of the nest you’ve created. You’ve become strong enough to face the demons beyond these walls. You crave social interaction. It’s been far too long. So you dip your toes in to test the water. And you realize it just doesn’t feel the same. These people. These places. The comforts of the past no longer have the same sparkle. In fact you aren’t sure how they ever did. So you call it a night. And they don’t even notice you went home.
Stage seven. The patient have been waiting.
They’ve been watching from the sidelines. Cheering on your journey. Giving you the space you need to grow. To breath. They can see you’re ready. You jump head first into their open arms. And they catch you. Just like they did when you’re pain was so much to bear. When you didn’t appreciate their love. That’s what changes in stage seven. Appreciation. Gratitude. These are the people you keep. And you allow yourself to trust them.
In stage eight you have the talk with the person in the mirror.
You’ve become quite fond of them. They don’t care what others think after all which may have translated into a somewhat lackadaisical appearance. If you feel this good looking this way, what if...just what if you started taking care of that outward appearance as much as you’ve worked on the inside. So you start trying. Not for anyone else this time. Now you’re working out and doing your hair for you. And as your outward appearance improves, so does your confidence. Confidence. What you were lacking all along that brought you to the bottle in the first place. A temporary fix for what you had originally assumed was a permanent problem. You could never learn to love yourself. But you did. Somehow, someway as the stages of sobriety passed you learned to love yourself. To take care of yourself. Starting with the deepest, darkest depths of pain that you didn’t even know you could access and ending with a happy outward glow. You have been transformed.
In stage nine life starts to become normal again.
Sobriety has become habitual. You may even find yourself ready to start loving someone other than yourself. You dream again. About relationships, adventures, children, career, home...about all the things you’d set aside like an old toy tossed back into a toy box. Those dreams can be displayed on the shelf again.
Which is where the final stage comes to play.
This is where you make those dreams a reality. And in order to do so, one must keep learning. Keep their eyes open to the world. To the magic that makes this life so incredible. Don’t lose that wonder. That curiosity. You must stay kind. You must spread the love you have found. Spread it like a god damn disease. But while you are doing this...don’t ever falter on giving that love to the one that matters most. In order to grow, you must keep your own garden watered. Fertilized. Groomed. Keep your cup full in order to fill those of the ones around you. And don’t ever look back.
This is your life now.
This is a life you should be proud of.