Tuesday was technically my 7th Sobriety Anniversary but I will officially celebrate it today (with my sponsor at one of my weekly support-group meetings).
I am always conflicted about sobriety anniversaries because they can both inspire, trigger, and shame people who aren’t currently maintaining sobriety. So, in that spirit, here are seven things very positive things that I am thinking about today:
- I believe tokens are ONLY signs that achieving sobriety is possible. My long term sobriety doesn’t say anything bad about you and it isn’t a sign you are failing. All my sobriety means is that it is possible and that there is hope. I can’t tell you why I found sobriety after decades of failing. I am not talking about being unable to share the things that worked for me, I am talking about the magic alchemy that changed me from someone struggling to find sobriety to some one actively sober.
- Everyone is really only sober for 24 hours at a time. As I have mentioned before, the only token I carry is my 24-hour token (which I keep in my wallet). Every time I open my wallet I am reminded that I am in a 24-hour program and that my sobriety is a 24-hour proposition. The decisions I make today are what matters.
- My life sober is MUCH better than my life was when trapped in addiction. I had much more financial success when I was lost in addiction but I am much happier sober. I treat people better, I have more fun, and I enjoy life MUCH more than I did when I was seriously struggling.
- It Gets Easier. The neuroscience suggests that sobriety is about creating new pathways of behavior that compete with what were default pathways between our triggers and our acting out behaviors. The more I use the new pathways (calling my sponsor, exercising, engaging in pro-social behaviors etc.) instead of simply acting out it gets easier and easier to use those “good” pathways again. Sobriety, especially when you get past the white-knuckling, builds brain-muscle memory.
- I Am Not Cured. One reason I firmly believe I have stayed sober is because I do not believe I am cured. I have reactions to the same triggers that always bothered me before. The difference between being sober and relapsing for me is in how I respond to the triggers and not in believing that the triggers go away.
- Every day of sobriety is better than a day lost in “acting-out.” If I act out tomorrow (God Forbid), I would hope that I would realize that 2555 days of sobriety was a sign of my growth and progress and that one mistake is not a massive failure. I don’t believe it is ever possible to declare “total victory,” I care about progressive victory (not perfection). I also believe shame is a major part of the acting out cycle.
- Your Community Helped Keep You Sober So Enjoy The Party – I could NEVER have stayed sober without my recovery community so when I celebrate an anniversary, I try to remind them that every one of them had a role in helping me stay sober. Oh, and cake is delicious, so that is a pretty great part of anniversaries too
Okay, I guess that is all that I have to share today. If you are struggling, trust me, no matter how many times you “fail,” you can find a positive and joyful recovery where you are making real progress. I would strongly suggest looking at recovery as a process and failures in the context of the long-view.
I hope everyone is having an amazing week and I wish you much progress in your own recovery!