Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Blogophilia 51.7 Lessons From The First Year

As of today, I have been clean and sober for one year.  

It's been a helluva year.  If you're a friend or have been reading me for awhile, you can understand the significance of this victory.  

What does the first year of sobriety look like from the inside?  

1.  Expect to cry.  A lot.  If you're a man and think crying is for wimps and women, take note:  crying is a human thing, not a gender or a strength thing.  Man up, and just let those sweet emotions fly.

2.  The world, and your life, does not get better or easier if you're sober.  What changes is your ability to navigate the shit and make it through to the other side without completely derailing.  A lot of addicts think that if they get sober, life will automatically be rainbows and unicorns.....and when rainbows and unicorns fail to materialize, they give up and pick back up.  What they don't realize is that the rainbows and unicorns take the shape of staying employed.  Not having to take constant piss tests.  Waking up not hungover or shaking in need of a fix.  Not having to wonder how you're going to rob Peter to pay Paul in order to buy drugs that day.  Seeing that you actually have $20 or $30 leftover from your paycheck after all your bills are paid, and you can use that extra to put away, or pay for something nice for yourself, instead of heading straight to your dealer.  

3.  This isn't just some quadragesimal vacation, this is for life.  Yeah, we say "one day at a time" and "just for today" because the thought of never taking another hit of your drug of choice for the rest of your life is way too much of a mind fuck to contemplate when newly sober.......but deep down, we know it has to be for life.  There is no such thing as a "time out" for your addiction.  I tried to play that game for 20 years.  I went back and forth, back and forth, endlessly trying to pretend that I could control it, jumping from sobriety to using, sobriety to using.  Where did it get me?  Twenty years older, in ill health, bad finances, and suicidal.  After hundreds of attempts at staying sober, I finally committed to the change that needed to come from inside.

4.  Your friends aren't really your friends.  Addicts don't like to be alone, they congregate towards each other like a moth to the flame.  They become your new family.  You laugh together, cry together, and weather the storm together......but try and leave the fold, and they'll turn on you like a pack of rabid dogs.  They don't want you to get well, they want you to stay there in the pit, with them, because they aren't ready to make that change themselves and they're too selfish to want to see you succeed without them.  Especially if you're romantically involved with an addict that doesn't want to get clean with you.  Expect much drama, tears, sleepless nights, broken car windows, and being on the edge of giving in and going back.  Sobriety can be a very lonely road, until you make new friends.

5.  You aren't immortal.  When you get sober, you'll have to face the sad fact that you have abused your physical body to the Nth degree, and maybe possibly, to the point of no return.  If you're lucky, you will have done nothing more than simple time, abstinence, and a healthy lifestyle can't fix.  If you're not so lucky, then you need to live with the consequences...and still make the commitment to staying sober.  This can sometimes be the "deal or no deal" moment for a lot of addicts.....I'm going to die anyway, so why not use?  Thankfully I'm not at that point, but it was very, very close.

I don't have any Eureka! moments of staying sober this first year.  Mostly, if I'm honest, it's been a tedious, emotional, tiring slog.  I've been to five funerals of friends this year, and lost my cat Max in September.  I'm tired of death and despair.  But I am at a point that I am grateful to not have to slog through the kind of life I lived as an active addict.  Because I wasn't throwing all my money up my nose or up my veins, I was able to save up and buy a new computer.  I moved out of the slummy trailer park I had lived in for years and am sharing a house with a (sober) roommate.  I'm gainfully employed.  And I'm slowly beginning to see glimmers of real hope and happiness.  

I have a lot of shit to wade through and sort out from my life, but it is becoming a tiny bit easier for me to see the forest for the trees.  Even after one year, it is still one day at a time, sometimes still one hour at a time.  But I'm still here, alive and kicking, and walking forward.

Submitted for:  Blogophilia 51.7  topic:  Time Out
bonus (hard, 2 pts): use the word quadragesimal
bonus (easy, 1 pt):  incorporate a line from an Aerosmith song (Sweet Emotion)