Recovery. Recovered. In Recovery. Sober. All words used to describe those of us who have escaped the grip that our addiction had on us for so long. For most of us, it’s not just a word or simply an adjective. It’s a verb. A way of life that encompasses so many things beyond simply abstaining from whatever chemical had ahold of us and almost took our lives. But what does it mean to be sober, really? Does one person’s sobriety have to look like another’s? Does “being sober” come with a list of dos and don’ts that allow you that membership card to enter the “sobriety club?” Are there a list of rules we must follow in order to really be considered sober? Is sobriety a one size fits all?
I can only talk about myself and my own experiences. If you relate to them, awesome. If not, then take what you need and leave the rest. Let me start with what sobriety looks like for me today at over 8 years sober.
I don’t drink alcohol…ever. Today, I know that I am an alcoholic and that alcohol is basically poison to me. If I had a nut allergy, I would not consume nuts because of the horrific reaction that would most likely occur. For me, it’s the same with alcohol. I consider myself allergic it.
In the end, it was really opioids (prescription pain medications) that ended up bringing me to my knees. When it comes to my relationship with any doctor, I make sure they know up front what I am and what my history is. There is a lengthy list of “nopes” when it comes to any medications that I will take. Obviously, any opioid pain medication is off the list, but I also will not take any other controlled substances. This includes benzodiazepines, sleeping pills, or amphetamine-based medications. I’ve had a history of abusing all of those too. The bottom line is that if it is going to immediately and drastically change the way I feel, and taking more will immediately increase that effect, I don’t take it. Period, end of story. Now, if I was run over by a semi-truck tomorrow and in severe pain would I turn down pain medication? Probably not, but hopefully that never happens. During sobriety I have dealt with panic attacks, general anxiety, severe back pain, and I have even passed about six kidney stones (ouch, ouch, ouch). I never took any of the above-mentioned medications during all that. I usually ask myself two questions. One, do I REALLY need it, and two, what are my alternative options? Once again, I consider myself allergic and treat it as such.
I don’t smoke marijuana. This seems to be a big one in the recovery community lately. I’m not here to bash it. You do you, however, I have actually had people come onto my Instagram and slam me for saying that I wouldn’t consider myself sober if I smoked pot.
For me, marijuana was a choice drug that I often combined with other things. If I were to smoke it or consume it on any level today, there would only be one reason why; to escape something. If I want to be the best version of myself, those methods of escape are very dangerous for me. I just can’t do it. If marijuana is something that you feel improves your quality of life and doesn’t jeopardize or influence you going back to your other choice drugs, then more power to you. For me, it’s just a no-go. Plain and simple. When I smoke pot, I become numb and unmotivated. I don’t want to numb myself anymore. I did that for years, and it didn’t end well.
So what does it mean to be in recovery, really? Do we have to practice entire abstinence? For me, it means abstaining from anything that could serve as a means to escape or try and fill that “hole.” Historically, when I have tried to replace one chemical with another, I end up going back to my choice chemical anyway. I truly believe that my brain does not function like other people’s, and that I just cannot handle things that immediately change the chemicals in my brain.
What are some other elements of my recovery? I am involved in recovery groups and try to help others who still suffer. For me, I have found that my writing has been the best way of doing that. If I am called to do something else, however, I don’t say no. I never want to forget all the people that took the time to help me and reach out in the beginning. I probably wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for them.
There are twelve-step groups, teetotalers, SmartRecovery, and more. There are so many paths to sobriety now, which I think is absolutely freaking awesome.
So no…I don’t think it’s a one size fits all, but I do think there are some basic principles that anyone with long-term sobriety seems to have. For one, they believe in growing along spiritual lines. Secondly, they believe in helping others. Thirdly, they worry about keeping their own side of the street clean and not judge others.
What does recovery mean to you today?