It’s been 5 years since my last hangover, 5 years since my last blackout, 5 years since I’ve added to my long list of remorseful drinking behaviors. Drinking alcohol wasn’t just a problem in my life, it was destroying me from the inside out. It’s been a long haul, but worth every discomfort, every challenge and every revelation to have the chance to really say, without a shadow of a doubt, that I’m truly living my best life.
Since stepping into sobriety, each year has been better than the last. Year one forced me to face my vulnerabilities, and wake up to the fact that YES, I could in fact live without alcohol (and even have FUN doing it!). Year two took the obsession to drink away and gave me a new purpose in life. Year three proved that the promises of the program really do come true. Year four allowed space for all the dreams my husband and I had for our lives to come to fruition. Year five has allowed me to let go and let God.
I can’t tell you what it was exactly that changed me. Which person, which meeting, which step, which meditation, which reading, which day… I don’t know. It’s a wild combination of God’s grace, and the people he put in my path to help me along the way. All I know is that AA works. Prayer and meditation work. I wouldn’t have made it this far without the program. I consider myself one of the “lucky ones” to have kept my faith in the process, and not left before the miracle happened.
Sobriety is so much more than just living without drinking or using. It’s taking responsibility, being accountable and being willing to get uncomfortable, so healing can take place. Healing can’t occur by hanging onto our baggage. And we most certainly need help from others to sort through all the years of baggage we’ve picked up along the way. Hanging onto baggage is like piling boulders into a backpack. At some point, you just have to lay ’em down. You have to lighten the load before it breaks you.
One of the main cornerstones of sobriety is about being willing to squash your ego and pride enough in order to see what your part is in all the baggage you carry around. This is difficult for a lot of people because they don’t know how to see their part. But YES, we all have a part to play in all the experiences of our lives.
Sometimes it’s not your fault that something went wrong, but you have to open up and look at it with unbiased eyes. This is part of letting go. And letting go frees up room in your heart for all the beauty and peace that is waiting to lovingly hold you.
I tried to “let go” decade after decade, essentially on my own. All that happened was I dove deeper into my addiction. It wasn’t until I made the choice to have faith in a power greater than myself that things turned around. Sobriety is like gutting out your insides, and refilling them with hope and love.
You don’t have to carry around all your shit for the rest of your life. Unless you like doing that, than by all means… But eventually your shit will kill your spirit, and prevent you from any chance of really being happy. There is a solution.
In the last 5 years, I’ve also learned a lot about suffering. All of us suffer. Addict or not. Every human being suffers. Bad things happen that are out of our control. But it is what you do with that suffering that will determine your level of contentment in life.
Many people choose to focus on all the bad stuff that happened to them, the bad stuff they did, and how they wish they could change it. Or they focus on how horrible other people are and how they wish they could change them. Either way, this thinking keeps them stuck. This thinking stays in a loop on replay, keeping the focus on anything other than fixing themselves. Thus they stay victims, and I believe at the root of all suffering is hanging on to this victim mentality.
To let go, to heal, to finally be free, is a choice. It is a choice to give up the idea that you are a victim. The world is not a bad place. The world doesn’t owe you anything. Everyone makes mistakes. There are miracles and love and joy everywhere. The problem might just be what you choose to see and what you choose to focus on. This is everything. The last 5 years of my sobriety summed up.
Of course, I have to catch myself sometimes, when I start to crawl down the rabbit hole. My life experience hasn’t always been rosy, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. And I know today that it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was, while I was living out my addiction. The old stinking thinking tries to pop up every now and then, and my mind likes to challenge me. But after 5 years of continuous sobriety, I can spot it clearly now, and I have the tools to get back on the right track.
Today, for the most part, my life is a lovely mixture of wild joy and peace, because I’ve chosen to make it so. Because I’ve chosen to open up, forgive myself and others, and let the light of the spirit in. I’ve worked hard to kill the hateful addict I used to be, and in doing so I’ve rediscovered who I always was and who I’m meant to be. All I hope for my life is that I can be a positive example for my boy. If this is all I ever do, I’d call it a success.