Earlier this month, I celebrated 12 years sober. Celebrating my sober birthday is special every year, and this one was no different. I think of the blessings I’ve been given with my family, friends and in my ability to work in this field helping others find recovery at Common Ground.
It’s milestones like these that create the space to reflect on all recovery has given me, and for that I am incredibly grateful. But this year as I reflected on this milestone, I couldn’t help but think of the lessons I’ve learned along the way and wanted to share them with you.
Here are 12 lessons I’ve learned in my 12 years of life in recovery:
Recovery is fun and I’m fun in it!
At first, I thought recovery was going to be boring. I think this is something a lot of people struggle with. I’m sure I could make it boring if I wanted to, but why would I? I’m choosing to have fun in recovery. I go bowling, go to dinner with friends, see live music, go to game nights — except now, I wake up without a hangover.
Don’t worry what other people think of you.
What matters is what I think of myself. And even when this can be hard to put into practice, over time, it will get easier to believe and to let go of the opinions of others.
Celebrate the fight.
Recovery isn’t easy. Doing life sober can be hard early on and even now. But it will get easier. In the struggle, remember you’re doing something important, something that is bettering you, your life, and everyone in it. So celebrate it...because it’s a worthy cause.
Healing takes time. If you don’t feel like you’ve got it all figured out today, that’s okay, because you probably never will. Learning patience will help you weather any storm, learning to be present in the journey, not the destination.
Love yourself (and others).
Imperfections and all. Every day, do one thing to remind yourself that loving yourself comes first, and is the most important. Loving yourself creates the foundation for serving others and giving back.
Recovery is not accomplished in isolation.
This one’s important. Invest in community. Find sober friends, go to meetings, join a group that will put you in friendship with people who share the same values as you. Recovery isn’t easy, and you need people to lean on along the way. (And they probably need you, too!)
Get out and enjoy life!
What are the dreams you’ve always had? The good news is that in recovery, you can go after them. Enjoying life now means you’re fully present to live, dream and reach after the goals you want to accomplish. And that’s amazing.
Sobriety will give you the biggest gifts.
In the past, many of us chased after the instant gratification of the moment. All of these promises were never fulfilling. In recovery, you’ll realize the biggest gifts are clarity of mind, deep friendships, rewarding careers and healthy, loving families. And now, you can be present for the gifts that last.
Have an attitude of gratitude.
You’ll hear this over and over in recovery, and that’s a good thing. I don’t know of any better mindset to be in than a grateful one — so keep focusing on it, and use it to reframe any difficult situation or moment you have. Grateful minds can get through anything.
Always have a positive outlook.
Along with gratitude is positivity. No matter what struggle or road bump you’re experiencing in recovery, remember, things could be so much worse. You’re here, you’re alive, you’re sober. Because of those things, you have what you need to take on the next step, whatever it may be. Stay optimistic.
Embrace the past.
The promises of AA states, “We won’t regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” And this is so true. Don’t regret the past, because it played an important part in getting you here. In recovery, you can redeem yourself. Just keep doing the next right thing and in time, you’ll be grateful for the ins and outs of your journey.
Learn to let go.
Sometimes you’ll have to let go of seasons, material things, and even people. But it’s important to remember that some things aren’t meant to be in your life forever (or at all). It’s okay to let people go and move forward. Just think, if you don’t, it could turn into a toxic relationship or situation. This can happen often in early recovery (it did for me too!), but the more stable and healthy you become, the more unhealthy people will fall away and you’ll move on to a better place. People change, people grow, and it’s all okay.
I’m grateful for the last 12 years being clean and serene. It’s a journey worth fighting for, and I can’t wait to see what the next year has in store. Keep after it!