Learning to Live

First steps:

            Like most people, I couldn’t get sober on my own. I had to get help, and that meant treatment. While I’m not proud of it, the truth is I didn’t get it on the first try. For years, I was in and out of programs, staying sober for a little while and then relapsing and going back to exactly where I was before, just a little bit more miserable and broken each time. Eventually, something stuck, and I’ve managed to stay sober since.

            I believed drugs and alcohol were my problem, and I thought life would be simple and easy once I removed them from the equation. While things definitely got easier, I wouldn’t say that anything was easy. I suddenly had to face the consequences of all the bad choices I had made, instead of using substances to just blot them out like I had been before. I had to learn how to live everyday life—and stay sober. Turns out, it’s not as easy as it sounds.

           

Feeling all the feelings:

            One thing I never expected about getting sober was all the feelings that came along with it. Anxiety, depression, frustration, anger, boredom, you name it. For years I had been so intoxicated I barely felt a thing, and then everything hit me at once. Learning to deal with the way I felt was like being a child again, but I had to do it. The stakes were too high for me to go back to my old ways.

            Over time, I did learn to deal with negative feelings, and I discovered something amazing along the way. I could feel the positive emotions again too. I could spend time with my family (they started talking to me again), and experience love. I could exercise and feel the thrill and rush of endorphins. I could experience the beauty of nature. For the first time in many years, I experienced real, natural happiness instead of the artificial good feelings drugs and alcohol gave me. It made everything worth it.

 

Learning to be normal:

            Even though I had a somewhat normal childhood, somewhere during the years of drinking and getting high I forgot how to be a normal adult. Or maybe I never learned. I’m not really sure. Either way, I didn’t know how to socialize like a regular person or keep my living area clean. I hadn’t even been able to hold down a job for more than a few months in several years. Unlike dealing with my emotions, these things turned out to be a lot easier than they sounded.

            What helped me the most was building habits. When I was in sober living, we had to keep the house clean, and I got used to doing my assigned chore every day. This carried over when I got my own apartment. I kept things clean and I even felt proud of the way it looked. Feeling proud of anything was a new experience for me. As I got into the habit of simply doing what I was supposed to do, it all started feeling a lot easier. I don’t know when it happened, but life stopped being a daily struggle. Instead, it was just life. It may have its ups and downs, but I always manage to come out okay on the other side.

            Turns out, sobriety is kind of like a habit too. With enough practice, I got used to dealing with my problems in healthy ways. It’s not like I’m gripping the steering wheel with white knuckles, desperately trying to stay sober every time I hit a roadblock. I stay calm, so my life stays calm. For a long time, I missed the feeling of being high, but I rarely feel that way anymore. I’m in the habit of enjoying a good life, and I have no plans to go back.