5 Things I Learned In The 1st Year of My Sober Journey

August 19, 2017 I reached the one year mark since I fully committed to my sobriety. I had been trying ruthlessly since May 2016 and it took me another few months to admit total defeat. Below you will find 5 things I learned in my first year along with a book or podcast I can associate to the subject.

Today, I am 15 months into this journey and I am still learning new things about myself, about addiction, and about the sober community.

 

ONE | Progress not Perfection. This is a term you will hear often in the community. Practice makes perfect. I call my first year my “Sober Journey” because that’s exactly what it is, a journey to sobriety. My first year included relapses, or what they call “Going back out” in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Here are a few pieces of advice I received from some of my Sober Sisters (See #3)

  • “You are not defined by your relapses, but your decision to remain in recovery despite them.”
  • “It’s not about the number of days in a row. It’s about surrendering, committing, falling, and getting right back up until one day we don’t fall anymore.”
  • “Don’t let your relapses erase your successes.”
  • “Every part of our recovery journey is something to learn from and grow from.”

Book- ” The Easy Way to Control Alcohol” by Allen Carr

 

TWO | AA is not the answer for everyone. I went back and forth with this one, I have successfully fired 4 sponsors. I have committed fully to AA, then I backed out looking for alternatives to AA and the traditional 12-Step programs, then I returned to AA, stopped going again, and now I go a few times a week. For me, the meetings work and I choose to go on without a sponsor for now, but I have incorporated other means of getting my Sober Journey on (See #4)

  • Celebrate Recovery. A-Christ Centered Recovery Program.
  • Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART Recovery). I was introduced to this program in Detox and followed this in my 6 weeks of Intensive Outpatient Program, I still have my relapse prevention plan and workbooks from these and I reference back to them often.
  • HIP SOBRIETY (hipsobriety.com | @hipsobriety on Instagram) Holly Glenn Whitaker created her own modern self-directed recovery program and now offers classes, blogs, programs, and more. She’s pretty awesome.

Book- ” Undrunk: A Skeptics Guide to AA” by A.J. Adam

 

THREE | Sober Sisters. I remember walking into my first AA meeting absolutely terrified. Palms sweating, heart racing, bouncing my feet, wanting to jump from my seat and fly out the door immediately. Then something happened after I picked up my first white chip. Women of all ages came up to me, introduced themselves, hugged me, gave me their phone number and ended the conversation with, “I am happy you are here, keep coming back.”

For some reason, I️ find mostly women in a lot of my meetings and did not realize how much we hid our problems. Today my sobriety community extends outside of the 4 walls of AA. I still keep in touch with some of the girls I met in detox and the biggest surprise was on an app I use every single day…Instagram. There is a massive community of people in recovery on Instagram. I follow so many women’s journeys, they follow mine, we share funny recovery memes, we admit when we need help, we encourage each other, and we relate on so many levels. I have a recovery-only Instagram, follow me @chicsobrietist.

Book- “Her Best-Kept Secret: Why Women Drink and How They Can Regain Control” by Gabrielle Glaser

FOUR | Complete Immersion. The addictive personality in me extends into my recovery. I obsess everyday and have an insatiable hunger to learn more about addiction and sobriety. I want to learn WHY I am the way I am, what caused it, what are the statistics behind it?

I’m what they call “Dual Diagnosis” or “co-occurring disorders”- which means I experience mental illness and a substance abuse disorder simultaneously. According To The National Alliance on Mental Illness, people experiencing a mental health condition may turn to alcohol as a form of self medication to try to improve their condition, which is what I did. It wasn’t until my mid 20’s I started seeing a doctor for my mental illness, and it wasn’t even until last year I was Dual Diagnosed.

I read books, research articles, listen to podcasts, and talk to others about their journey. I have immersed myself into my sobriety. I wake up and read the AA Daily Devotions book, meditate and pray, listen to sobriety podcasts in the car or while I am working. I engage with my Instagram community every single day and try to post daily. I keep a gratitude journal, reference The Big Book (AA), and check in on my sober family by picking up the phone.

I keep a running list of new sober-related things I want to do. Because of this, I have found transcendental meditation classes, sober yoga, weekend sobriety retreats, and NETFLIX even has documentaries on sobriety, addiction, alcohol, and prohibition.

Sobriety is the #1 priority in my life because without it, everything else falls apart.

Podcast: HOME by Holly Glenn Whitaker on SoundCloud and The Recovery Elevator by Paul Churchill on iTunes, SoundCloud and Stitcher 

FIVE | The best apology is changed behavior. If you’re like me, you spent a lot of time being in denial, hiding things, being dishonest, doing uncharacteristic things to keep everyone from knowing what you thought was a secret. Before I even decided to go to treatment I always said, “I’ll do better, drink less, party less, moderate myself.” I failed each time, so when I committed myself fully my family and friends were still weary to trust me and believe I was serious.

I’ve made exceptional progress even though I’ve relapsed. Not everyone is going to want to be along for the ride. I’ve had “friends” try to talk me into drinking again, I’ve had people tip toe around me like I am a fragile anomaly, and I’ve had people just blatantly walk away from me when I relapsed.

Some people will never understand the journey you are on and what it takes each and every day to overcome it. The only way you can prove yourself is to pick yourself up and keep going, keep persevering and working hard, keep going to your meetings, keep being honest, and keep “one day at a time” in your mind.

If someone loves you unconditionally they will meet you on your current level in your journey. Make amends, keep your promises, and keep the lines of communication wide open. I still have friends and family members say to me, ” you’re so different, we crave to be around you, you’re so calm, you’re such a positive person, we like the sober you better.” So I keep proving to them everyday that I am sorry for hurting them in the past but by continuing to stay in recovery and loving myself, it allows others to love me as well. To love the real me, as I am today.

Book: “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey I love how he covers the principles of character ethic.

MY FIRST YEAR WAS INCREDIBLY TOUGH BUT REWARDING, I’M SO EXCITED FOR MY SECOND YEAR.

The Dry Drunk

I knew I was an alcoholic for a few years before I accepted defeat on August 19, 2017. That was the day I landed myself in the hospital and eventually chose to willingly sign my rights over and enter into detox program followed by 4 weeks of an outpatient program. I vividly remember my hands shaking incessantly, the nurse had tears, and I signed my name on that line.

That was a life changing day.

Detox was overwhelming, from 6 am to 10 pm I was in classes to learn about addiction, healthy coping mechanisms, and meeting women on the same page as me. The Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) was where I spent 4 hours a day, 7 days a week and endured behavioral therapy. I learned about codependency, how to create a Relapse Plan, getting to the bottom of my addiction, the “Why.” I left outpatient with a new sense of being, a clear mind, nervous but so excited for my future with sobriety. I thought just attending AA would keep me on the straight and narrow and I couldn’t have been more wrong. My first thing I got wrong was failing to keep a sponsor.

I BECAME THE DRY DRUNK I was an alcoholic who was no longer drinking, but I wasn’t really working my recovery or the steps. I stopped going to meetings as often as I used to. I was just taking it day by day proud to be sober another day (Just for today), I had abandoned the search for the WHY. Without fail, when life started getting hard, I found myself with a bottle in hand. When I slipped and fell down the rabbit hole, I knew I had to get right back up and do things differently.

I started creating my Recovery Portfolio (as Paul Churchill from the Recovery Elevator Podcast says. I started keeping track of how many hours a week I am committing to my sobriety and what I have done for others in their journey.

– I got myself back into meetings, this was my first order of action.

– I started my Chic Sobrietist Blog and Instagram (@ChicSobrietist). I have connected with nearly 500 strangers who I can turn to daily and watch their progress. We exchange ideas, stories, recommend recovery/self help books & podcasts, positive affirmations, recovery humor, check on each other.

– Listening to podcasts in the car. My job requires a lot of time on the road, so I spend a lot of time listening to the Recovery Elevator & Home (from the women at Hip Sobriety)

– I revisited my IOP workbooks to remind myself of the WHY.

– I start my mornings with meditation. I use the Headspace App as I was a beginner.

– Reading Recovery/Self Help books.

A few I recommend:

Undrunk: A Skeptics Guide to AA by A.J. Adams- Allen Carr’s “Easy Way to Control Alcohol”

“Her Best-Kept Secret: Why Women Drink—And How They Regain Control” by Gabrielle Glaser

“Daily Reflections: A Book of Reflections by A.A. Members for A.A. Members” (I start each morning with this)

“This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol: Find Freedom, Rediscover Happiness, & Change Your Life” by Annie Grace

– Made a list of my “Recovery Team.” The important people who support my sobriety and I can call when in a time of need or in case of emergency.

– Recently joined a pilot sobriety program where I attend 3 weeks of webinars and group discussions. At the end of the 3rd week we ( test group of 35) are going to give our feedback to help this company create a program one can purchase that fits individual needs.

– I journal intensively. Each day I wake up and write down 5 things I am thankful for (Gratitude Journaling), I write down my thoughts on topics for my blog, interesting things I hear on podcasts that I want to research more, I scribble down titles of books, any thing that triggers me throughout the day, what I am feeling and how I can find a solution. I pour my raw emotions onto paper.

– Created a list of goals, 95% of people who do not physically put their goals into writing, do not reach them. I set my goals out in 30/60/90 day intervals and I revisit them weekly to make sure I am on track.

– I surround myself with people who support my cause.

I recently received a message on Instagram from ThriveSober which is a cause to, “Hoist a new flag for Sobriety & Build a Movement to raise humanity and serve those ready to THRIVE.”

The message: “Truly humble and grateful for the follow Lyss! We love what you are doing for the world! Welcome to the Tribe and a Thrive On”

I am hoping one one small voice my help change someone’s life that is battling addiction, for them to know there is a way out and it beyond the most amazing life you will ever discover when you recover!