What to Expect in Your First Year of Recovery
When I was getting sober there was no manual on “What to expect when you are getting sober” as much as I’d like to think there was. Instead, my new life came with a Fellowship, a blue book and a new way to live my life without drugs and alcohol. For me, during my first year of recovery, I really had to rely on others around me to help navigate this newfangled existence – Sober Living. Thankfully for me, I got sober through AA and I got a sponsor and made new friends with women that were also getting sober. The Fellowship and these gal pals were, and continue to be my support system.
In all actuality, I didn’t know any different. I was nudged by my attorney to get a court card signed after my second DUI, so off I went. Looking back now, I’m glad I got sober the way I did and I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s what worked for me then and it’s what works for me now.
In my first year – it was all about learning who I was, taking it easy on myself and trying to feel normal in my own skin. The steps and meetings literally saved me during my first year (and continue to). I kept busy in the Fellowship and I did what I was told to do because I didn’t know any different.
For my first year of recovery I took a lot of the suggestions that were offered to me:
- I didn’t get into a relationship (however, I had an imaginary boyfriend in AA because that made sense, right?)
- I got a sponsor and worked the steps
- I took commitments at meetings and was of service to others
- I got close to other women in AA
- I did 90 meetings in 90 days (I actually did more than that)
- No major changes in my first year
- I didn’t pick up – no matter what! (Even though I wanted to!)
- And I came to believe……that I could stay sober if I just followed these simple suggestions!
Following these suggestions were of paramount importance to me and my recovery during that first year. For me the first year of recovery was all about Firsts: First sober summer, First Thanksgiving, First Christmas, First New Years, First Birthday, you get the gist. These were all huge life changers for me and I had to re-learn how to celebrate Holidays and Life – Sober. Being around like-minded sober folks during the year of First’s was a game changer for me as I wasn’t alone. Knowing I could bring a friend or call my sponsor or run to a meeting, those things saved me.
One of the biggest changes I experienced in my first year was how fantastically different my life was because I wasn’t drinking or drugging. I was a full blown alcoholic, and also a cocaine addict and I soon found myself not relying on booze or blow to make me happy anymore. I didn’t need to run to that to fix me. This was such a ginormous shift and one that I had to let sink in organically. I was a bundle of nerves and emotions those early years of recovery. I cried a lot, I slept a lot, I didn’t sleep, I was foggy and robotic, and my short-term memory seemed shot. However, one of the best things was that I was fully aware of my life and my surroundings. I learned how bad of an alcoholic I truly was. I was worse than I had ever imagined and in going through the 12 steps, I started to see just how F&*ked up I was living. Luckily though I was on a pink cloud, mainly because I was so happy that I didn’t have to drink anymore. I experienced many spiritual experiences early on and it was fairly easy for me to connect with that Universal Power. Albeit, I got sober along the beaches of sunny Encinitas – and it was a magical environment with surfers, yogini’s and spiritual beings littered along my landscape. Additionally, I only hung out with other sober people, so for me, it was truly a We program.
During that first year, I was astounded that each and every day I wasn’t drinking and I was finally finding out who I was. I was forging relationships with other people that truly mattered and I was so happy that I wasn’t hungover and that I had some money in my pocket. I very soon realized that getting and staying sober was (and still is) my top priority.
Recovery is different for everyone. Everyone has a different story in what got them clean and sober and in your first year you forge new morals, ideals and daily routines in what keeps you staying on the beam. Not everyone gets sober through AA, there are other programs out there, and AA is just what landed at my feet at the right time. Find your voice, find your power, find your new way of life and have that life-changing first year of recovery – because the rest of the ride will lead you into a new way of living that you will embrace. A life that you can be proud of. Not all days are going to be easy, but if you surround yourself with support, a daily spiritual practice, and tolerance of being able to co-exist with others – and yourself – you will find the life you so desperately wanted before you got sober.