December 7th, 2010 was the last time that any mood altering substance entered my body. Prior to that, I had been a slave to the disease of addiction since the age of 21. I took my first drink at the age of 13. I had no idea what the future held from that first drink on.
I have heard many people in early recovery say that the first year is the hardest. While I don’t disagree, it seems like the first 3 months are even harder. This was the case for me, and I am often asked how I got through that first year and especially those first 90 days.
On December 7th, 2010 I found myself at the turning point. I had first tried to get sober in 2008 and had failed over and over again. I was broken, empty, and defeated. I didn’t want to drink but didn’t know how not to. I sat in a situation that I was all too familiar with that evening. I sat with the mental obsession to drink. I had done everything I was told to do – or so I thought. I had gone to a meeting earlier that day and admitted that I had relapsed again. I made that firm resolution to myself and to the group that this time was going to be different. I knew even in that moment that I didn’t know how.
Here I was just a few hours later, and all I could think about was how I wanted to drink. I didn’t have a car at the time, but there was a gas station down the road that I could easily walk to. No liquor there, but I could at least get some beer and cleanse away the anxiety.
My heart raced. My palms were sweating. The battle inside began and I didn’t know what to do. I got up and walked to the door to walk to the gas station. My hand touched the doorknob and then I stopped. I walked away and sat down on the couch. I stood up once again and walked to the door to leave but my hand only touched the doorknob without turning it. I turned around again. In tears, I literally repeated this sequence about 5 more times, until I collapsed to the floor and began to sob.
I laid flat on my back and stared up at the ceiling.
“God,” I said. It was the first time I had called out for God in a long time. I wasn’t even sure if I believed in God anymore, but what did I have to lose at this point?
“God, I need your help here. I am going to lie on this floor until you do something to help me because the moment I get up – the next time my hand hits the doorknob, I will be turning it and I will go get a drink…and I REALLY don’t want to,” I cried.
I don’t remember how much time passed. A few seconds or maybe minutes, but not long after my plea, my phone rang. It was someone from the AA meeting that I had attended hours before calling to check on me. I admitted that I was not doing well, and we talked for awhile. Before I could realize how much better I felt afterward, my phone rang again. It was a gentleman from the company I had interviewed with about a week prior and he was offering me a job. I had been searching for months, with no success. I accepted.
In that moment, the obsession to drink was gone. I knew, however, that it could come back at any time. I made a deal with God that night. I know that many would say that you can’t bargain with God, but I verbalized an agreement.
“Ok. Here’s the deal,” I said aloud. I am going to give this thing one year – just one year. If at the end of that year of being sober I am miserable, I am going to go back to how I was living before….until I die.”
Seven years later, I still have not taken that drink or used any drugs. That night was only the very beginning of what would be an extremely life-changing year. I went through a lot that year – but all of that is for a different blog post. What happened over the next 90 days?
- I went to a lot of meetings and I worked the steps with a sponsor. I realize that 12-step programs are not for everyone, and it’s not my goal of this blog to push it on anyone. I will strongly recommend that you find a group of people to become accountable to that you can see on a regular basis. Not only does it create accountability, but being with others that are like you helps you feel less alone.
- I prayed – a lot. I am not saying this to push any religious beliefs on anyone, but only to stress how spiritual growth has been the key element for me to maintain any sobriety. Find something bigger than yourself to grab onto. I had to realize that my way of trying to do it alone had failed miserably.
- I kept busy. For me, this meant working a lot and going to meetings. There really wasn’t much else that I did during that first 90 days. I know that sounds sad, but honestly, it was the best thing for me. I needed structure and I needed to stay out of my head.
- I began to learn how to play the tape all the way through. In other words, all I had ever done in the past was think about the instant gratification that getting loaded could bring me. I didn’t fast forward to the next day where the regret, hangover, and misery would be waiting for me. I began to play the tape forward and place myself in the aftermath. I didn’t want to feel like that anymore.
I hope maybe this post has helped someone – anyone. If you’re just getting sober, hang on and take it one day at a time. If what you have done in the past isn’t working, maybe it is time to try something different….even if it seems stupid, scary, or pointless.
Follow the Bread Crumbs – you never know where they might lead you.