I have been asked two questions a lot lately, so I thought I would take some time to answer them. The questions are:
- How long did it take before you stopped wanting to drink/use?
- What did you do to make that happen?
Well, here’s my answer.
I don’t remember exactly how long I had been sober, but at around six months or so, I had a very important, spiritual realization – I had not thought about getting loaded in a long time.
I was sitting at home one evening after a long and strenuous day at work. At the time, I was working in retail management and was working 50 plus hour weeks. Might sound crazy for someone in early sobriety but honestly, it was a godsend. The one thing that usually sent me into thinking about drinking was boredom. Idle time is the devil’s playground, as they say, and in early recovery, it wasn’t a good idea for me to stay inside my head for too long.
That being said, on that particular night, I was beat. I had worked a 12-hour-day and was exhausted. My then husband was back in what would be his sixth treatment center for his own substance abuse problem, which left me alone in our teeny tiny apartment. On that fateful evening, it was me, a plate full of nachos, and my three cats.
I was grateful for a lot during that early time, but would also get smacked in the face with depression every so often. It was on those evenings after work, that I would often get into my head and start thinking about how much wreckage still needed to be cleaned up from the past. I was grateful, but I was also lonely at times and sometimes even still afraid of the future. I didn’t sit in that too long before calling my sponsor that evening.
After letting me vent, she asked the same question that she always asked me when I was struggling with something.
“Did you talk to God today?” she asked.
“Yeah,” I replied.
She continued with her questions. “Well, what did you talk to Him about?”
I laughed. “I don’t know. I mean I’m grateful for a lot right now, but sometimes, like tonight, I just feel sad. I feel like there are certain things in my life that are just never going to get better – so I asked God to “wow” me with something.”
She laughed. “Wow you?”
Great, now she’s laughing at my prayers, I thought.
“When you woke up this morning, did your first thoughts involve how you were going to get loaded enough to start your day?”
“No,” I said.
“Did you wake up hungover or sick?” she asked.
Then she hit me with it. “Now, isn’t THAT a pretty big “wow”?!
I call that moment one of my spiritual sucker-punches. As our conversation continued that evening, I realized that it had been months since I had thought about drinking or taking any pills. When we hung up the phone that evening, I sat stunned. I never thought that would be something that could happen for me. So many years and so much of my life had revolved around my drinking and drug use. It was all I could EVER think about. The fact that I was no longer a slave to that was – well – a freaking miracle!!
So that answers the first question. Now onto the second. How did that happen for me? Well for one, let me clarify that I wholeheartedly believe that something much bigger than me took away my obsession to drink. For me, that was God. I still meet people that respond to that with an eye roll, and you know what? I totally get that. The last thing I wanted to hear about when I started to try and get sober was God. I had no desire to get involved in some hokey-pokey, spiritual solution because, in my mind, I had already tried that. My experience has been much different than anything that I could have imagined, and it’s a journey that is personal to me and is my own – but that’s for another blog.
While I do believe that God removed my obsession to drink, there was plenty of action that I had to take to get there. Here are the things I did within the first six months:
I Stayed Connected to My Recovery Community
This means that I introduced myself to people when I didn’t want to, called people when I rather wouldn’t, and volunteered for things that I normally wouldn’t. Over time, these things became habit, and I began to enjoy being a part of instead of being apart from.
I Worked the Twelve Steps
I have met more and more people lately that are anti twelve steps. To each their own, and I’m not going to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t do – ever. I am only going to tell you what worked for me. The steps helped me deal with the wreckage of my past, right the wrongs I had made, and learn the root cause of why I drank and used drugs the way that I did. I firmly believe that nothing else would have kept me sober and changed my life the way the steps have, but some prefer other methods. That’s okay. I think that as long as a person’s recovery isn’t only about abstaining, we’re on the right path. There needs to be growth.
I Helped Others Still Suffering From Addiction
It was explained to me very early on that my long-term sobriety would be insured by two things: spiritual growth and helping another drunk/addict. So far, I have found that to be completely true. In fact, there have been times in my sobriety where helping someone else was maybe the only thing that kept me from losing my mind. I firmly believe that a person getting out of one’s self will always lead to better things and a better life.
I Stayed Busy
I stayed busy doing mostly the first few things I listed above, but I also worked a lot. Like I said, the work thing was just something that benefited my recovery. I know for some, taking on large responsibilities too soon can be harmful, but that wasn’t the case for me. My first year sober was solely spent working, going to meetings, and being involved in recovery-based activities. I am very grateful to have had that structure.
Recovery is a daily and continuous decision that I will have to make over and over again for the rest of my life, but that doesn’t mean that I have to be enslaved to always wanting to resort to a chemical solution. I hope that whoever reads this knows that it doesn’t have to be that way for them either. Just because we quit drinking or using, doesn’t mean that we’re doomed to a lifetime of still wanting to. I am living proof of that.