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My journey of recovery began when I was around sixteen-years-old. I had begun my downward spiral, which is an integral piece of my recovery, because without that bottom I would never have found the willingness to change. I began suffering consequences of my addiction at that time: strained relationships, lowered self-esteem from my actions not fitting into my moral code, leaving things that were important to me on the back-burner, and realizing I did not have control over substances once I ingested them. My mother felt no choice left but to kick me out after all of the events, so I lived on my own. (When I got sober a few years later, this was the part of my addiction that hurt the most. I couldn’t fathom that I pushed my mother to that point; how absolutely heart-wrenching that had to be for her.)
My parents had tried everything: forcing me to go to meetings, grounding me, putting a GPS tracker on my phone, monitoring my friends, etc. Unfortunately, I couldn’t conceptualize how to live a sober life in my mind nor could I go on using substances the way that I had been, mostly because they had stopped working for me. At 21, I was involuntarily placed in a facility where I detoxed. At that moment, I didn’t think I could live a sober life, I didn’t know how. The idea of going back to college and not being able to party didn’t seem rational. I listened to those experiences of people that had done it before me and I decided that I would do what they suggested to the best of my ability (and my ability at first was not that great).
The Journey Continues
Over six years later, I can tell you that all of the things I wished for have happened, and many more. Yes, I got all the “stuff” that I wanted. I graduated with a master’s degree, bought a house, bought a newer car, got a great job, etc., but the most important things that came from my sobriety were the relationships I held with others and especially myself. I now had self-esteem. I obtained the ability to sit alone in a room, not doing anything, and feel totally peaceful. Every year that I celebrate another anniversary, my parents celebrate with me. If I don’t answer a call from them their minds don’t race to all of the possibilities that come with active addiction when their loved one isn’t responding. They know that if I say that I’ll be somewhere or that I’ll do something, I’ll be there (and mostly on time).
Through this journey I have learned so much about myself. I have learned that I have the tenacity to go after things, no matter how difficult the journey seems, and achieve these goals.
I’ve learned that so many of my positive traits were things that I was not born with, they were things that I had to work for and practice daily to be able to have. In early recovery I used to wonder when things would “happen” for me or when I would “arrive,” because things seemed like they were taking forever. In reality, my life was improving every single day, but I couldn’t see it until I looked back. People always told me that I had a “daily reprieve based on my spiritual condition” and this reprieve wasn’t just from the substances, but also from who I used to be. Every day that I practiced the traits that I wanted to have, the more those traits would materialize. Every time I didn’t act on anger, I would become more patient and things would negatively affect me less. Every time I helped others, I would become less selfish. Every time I realized my wrongdoings and made amends for them, I would engage in them less, some never again. All of this created serenity in my life.
The Balance Between Motherhood and Recovery
Balancing recovery, what’s called “a selfish program,” and becoming a sober mom, which is considered the most selfless act, isn’t easy. My son is a little over a year old, and I remember the times that he was too little to bring out in public, the times when he was able to be brought to meetings and not make a peep, and now when he’ll walk all around the meeting if I bring him, being a huge distraction. All stages of his life, I have attended meetings and kept recovery first in my life. I have to be selfish with my recovery because without it I would not be a mother (in active addiction I couldn’t even keep a plant alive).
Attending meetings to share my experience, strength, and hope with others while also maintaining my own spiritual condition is mandatory for me being the best mom to my son that I can be. I remember times right after maternity leave when I would have to head straight to a meeting after work and go over ten hours without seeing my baby, but I knew that if I didn’t put my recovery first, I wouldn’t have it much longer. It was important for me to see all of my home-group members, be held accountable, and keep my head in a spiritual space. Not to mention, I always feel rejuvenated, energized, and peaceful after a meeting.
With long-term sobriety, it’s no longer about fighting the substances; that’s not why I attend meetings anymore. People always joke with me and ask if I don’t get to a certain number of meetings a week if I’ll go back to my old lifestyle of drinking and using and that’s just not what it’s about. Meetings are a place that I can hear something that revs up the fire I have for my recovery, that can remind me where I came from and where I am today thanks to the daily work I’ve done, that I can give back by sharing my wisdom (if I want to go as far as to call it wisdom), and that I can see where I want to go in the future. As long as I keep doing the things that got me sober, my son will never know any different kind of mom. As long as I keep doing the next right thing, I can practice love and tolerance with not only people that are easy to love, like my son, but even the people that I don’t like. I can become the best version of myself and keep getting better every day, not only benefiting my family and myself, but everyone that I come into contact with.