Keep On Truckin’

Today marks my 90th day of sobriety. A milestone I never in a million years thought I could achieve. But, I am here and I did it! And I have faith that you can do it too. I did not achieve this on my own. Although it was up to me to change my behavior, and change the way I think, and to stop drinking, I could not have done it without the love and support of my husband, my family and all of my counselors at rehab. I have already blogged about the safe coping strategy, “Attend treatment.” But I thought another good strategy that was appropriate for my 90 day anniversary of sobriety was:

Trust the process. Just keep moving forward, the only way out is through.

The first days, weeks and months of sobriety are difficult. I won’t sugar coat it for you. You are angry, you are sad, maybe even a little resentful. The idea of life without your substance of choice seems impossible. Absurd. Unbearable. I had to be away from my husband and children for 30 days. And I thought, my problem can’t possibly be bad enough to warrant this. I constantly yearned for home. But then when the day finally came, I wondered if I could manage away from rehab. If I could battle the constant triggers and stay strong. I left feeling accomplished and strong, but a little shaky.

And just when you think you might be starting to get the hang of the sober life, along comes a trigger so big and so scary, it sends you in a tailspin. At first it’s just one drink here, one drink there, but before you know it, you’re worse off than before. I’ve been told lapses and relapses are the rule, not the exception. It happens to the best of us. This is not to excuse the relapse, but only to let you know that you can pick yourself up again. You don’t need to, and shouldn’t, stay down. You can file it away in your “learning experiences” folder and use it to make you stronger, rather than let it keep you down.

And even if you don’t relapse (congratulations on persisting and staying strong), you must contend with an outside world that still sees you as an addict. You have changed, inside and out, but they are going to treat you as they did before, at least for a while. No one is throwing you a parade or awarding you a medal, which is what it feels like you deserve. They’re treating you the way they always treated you, and that can be extremely frustrating. It seems unfair at times, but you need to remember you’re earning back their trust. Trust is so easily lost, but so hard to get back. It takes a lot of time and patience. And, some people will treat you as if you are going to fail at some point, they’re just waiting for it. You’ll feel like a bird in a cage. But, you can use this to your advantage. Use it to fuel your desire to stay sober and get your life on track. Prove them wrong.

It’s important to persist. To trust the process you’re in. To keep putting one foot in front of the other and getting through each day feeling more positive than you did the day before. I’d not be the person I am proud to be today had I not gone through the whole process, up to this point. There’s still a lot of process ahead of me too. But, there’s no way I’d have made it to 90 days sober without just trusting that moving forward was the only way out. That not drinking was the only way to feel better. That counseling was the only way to identify my root triggers and problems, and deal with them accordingly.

The process is long, difficult and painful. And sometimes you wonder if anything’s really happening, if you’re really changing. At times you will wish for and try to find an easier, simpler way to feel better, to feel changed. But there just isn’t one. As it says, “the only way out is through.” Not over, not under, not around, but through. And through is hard, really hard.

But you must trust that if you keep going forward, stay on the right path, that eventually you will see the benefits. The fruits of your labor will be revealed to you: a healthy body, a prosperous career, mended relationships, a happy sober existence. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it does happen, if you do the work.

Progress in Recovery

My counselor recently asked me to give some thought to what progress really means to someone in recovery, and what it means to me. What does progress look like? What does progress feel like?

Progress is defined as “forward or onward movement toward a destination.” But, is there really a destination in recovery? Is there a final step we take, and then we are fully recovered? Of course, there is a goal: to maintain sobriety for the remainder of our lives. But, are we ever done making progress toward that goal? Or is it ongoing every day?

Consider progress as just “forward or onward movement,” and what that means to someone in recovery. Leave out the idea that there needs to be an end, a destination. The forward or onward movement is one of the most important parts of recovery. Forward movement is integral to our success. If we stop moving forward with our life, we fall back into old habits, or we get stagnant, both of which threaten our sobriety.

But a forward movement doesn’t have to be a big one to count toward recovery. Every small step we take, provided it’s taken in the right direction with the right intentions, moves us further along on our recovery journey. And the more road we put behind us, the better off we are.

That’s why the one-day-at-a-time method has helped so many people achieve sobriety. We focus on the littlest accomplishments, the smallest steps forward; even just one day sober is a reason to celebrate. And each day we get up and we do it again.

It takes time to get to a place where we can look back and see how far we’ve come. And that can be very frustrating. Many of us want to see all the progress happen all at once, for everything to just magically be better and for us to be cured of our disease overnight.

But, it doesn’t happen that way. It comes in small doses, over a long period of time. So, it’s important to set our sights on the future. What will we do with it? Who do we want to become? Where do we want our path to lead us? And when we find ourselves moving down that path, making the right strides to become who it is we want to be, that’s what we can call “progress” in our recovery.