Even after just a few days of being sober I started to remember the person I use to be before I started trying to escape reality. It was as if I had ran into an old friend from my youth, the same person I had left behind but callused by the experience that comes with adulthood. I spent the last 13 years hiding from that person. Hiding behind this other person I had created under a veil of drugs and alcohol. I hid for so long that I had completely forgotten what that person had been like and assumed that, regardless of the drugs and alcohol, I would have ended up the same person. It only took three days of sobriety to realize how wrong I had been.
I began to wonder, how did I possibly make it this far in a career, this far in my life with such an amazing partner and friends? How could people stand to be around me? I had become so selfish when I was once so patient, open-minded and caring. I was embarrassed for myself and sad for the time I had lost getting to be me. I always thought I was living my life to the fullest when really I was the one just going through the motions. This grief of time lost was so intense that the first several days were full of remorse and depression and some days still are. I felt like I must be an impossible human to be around, and that I was probably better off going back to my old habits. But that was exactly it. It had become a habit for me to escape any kind of real emotion that I started to feel because it just became too much. If I felt anxiety, there’s a pill for that. Any sort of pain? There’s a pill for that too. You name it I can medicate it. Can’t get the medication? Self-medicate.
When I realized it wasn’t just an addiction I had to recover from but a bad habit I needed to break, the cravings became more manageable. That and having someone in my corner reassuring me that no matter how terrible I may seem or feel while I’m sober, I’m much better to be around than the shell of a person I was before.
The more experiences I have to go through, the more I feel like a teenager experiencing complex emotions for the first time. I started using when I was a teenager so I learned to escape instead of cope. I feel like I’m a kid again. Throwing temper tantrums one minute and then blissfully happy to be sober the next. I can’t say this process is particularly enjoyable but I am grateful to have it.
I keep wondering who would I have been without all of this. Would I have taken more strategic life risks? Would I have more long-lasting relationships? I have to remind myself that I can “what if” the rest of my life but it won’t change anything, nor should it. I truly believe everything happens for a reason. I am exactly where I should be at this moment, and without these experiences I would be somewhere completely different. So, I am grateful for my experiences, grateful for my ability to share, and grateful for another day sober.