Another Year in Reality: Commemorating 14 Consecutive Years

There’s so much more to sobriety than just quitting. I’ve learned that – and continue to do so – over the years since putting down my last drink. What alcohol allowed me to do was to sustain a number of delusions that I used to have about my life – that’s what substances do to someone prone to using them; drugs allow fantasies to work… until they stop working. By then it is usually too late to simply jump off that speeding train – the body and mind become so dependent on using that it’s impossible to distinguish truth from untruth.

Photo by Nicolas Weldingh on Unsplash

While staying in my addiction, I’d lived in a story my perceptions concocted for myself for most of my life, until 14 years ago. Today, I believe, I’ve fully recovered from those delusions and, I’d like to think, I live full-throttle in reality. I work hard to make deliberate choices that allow me to continue to grow, heal, and apply my life’s philosophy on a daily basis.

But having said I’ve recovered from substance use doesn’t mean that I am fully healed, and I don’t take my sobriety for granted, ever. There were so many environmental factors that contributed to my addiction that it might take me the rest of my days to mend. Maybe I never will, fully. The trauma of my relinquishment, the insanity of my drinking, the shame that has plagued me since childhood, my more-than-occasional self-doubting… those are serious issues that still come up for me. Getting sober allowed me to face those issues and work on them, but I am not completely cured. That’s ok too. It’s okay because today, sober, I feel strong. I feel human.

And I know there’s a lot of triumph in quitting and staying quit because if it wasn’t for that, I would never get an opportunity to even attempt my recovery from relinquishment and shame. Sober and clear-headed, I’m way ahead of the drunk and delusional me, and I am able to evolve. I don’t have a lot to cloud my judgment, and I can stay curious and compassionate and be a loving father, husband and a friend. Sober, I am simply more human than I ever was before.

I don’t expect sobriety to make all the negative experiences to go away. But sobriety allows me to continue to grow and, fundamentally, it allows me to be alive. At the rate I was going, I’m not sure I’d be here if it wasn’t for abstinence. However, I have to do more than just stay sober in order to heal. I have to continue to see reality as a driving force in my life and I have to work really hard at never again finding myself manipulated by the unhealthy environments that could trigger me to drink. That means evaluating my perceptions, living in integrity, and surrounding myself with supportive, intelligent people. It also means staying healthy (I quit smoking 10 years ago) and positive and open, but with active, robust boundaries.

My reality also means that I am aware of not living in a vacuum, and I know that negative experiences will still happen or that I might still react to something that brings back a bad memory. But I will not drink over it because in my reality I never, again, pick up a drink. So as I mark another anniversary without the substance that almost killed me, I can say that I am now recovered from alcoholism but I am still recovering as a human being.

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