Today I’m six years sober! As someone who drank upwards of 15 drinks every night for a decade (and did whatever drugs came my way when I was drunk), I’m proof recovery is possible. Six years ago, I couldn’t fathom how life would look without alcohol. A month, a week, a day sober—these were huge milestones.
Now, I can’t imagine drinking the way I did. Recovery has brought so many wonderful things to my life. Below are six reflections on six years sober.
1. My self-confidence has never been better.
People often talk about their relationships changing for the better in sobriety, but relationship to self is often missing from these conversations. In the past, I spent so much time wondering if I “measured up” and questioning my decisions, it held me back.
In recovery, I’ve built trust in myself and my choices. I feel secure, strong, and capable. On the shallow side: I think I look a lot better when I’m not slowly killing myself with alcohol; that doesn’t hurt my confidence.
2. Life can still be hard, but it’ll never be the same type of hard it was when I was in active addiction.
Last year—with the backdrop of a global pandemic—I went through some of the worst things that had ever happened to me. But the skills I’ve picked up in sobriety are like a security blanket. I know I can go through something devastating, and I won’t crumble like I believed I would during active addiction. Alcohol and drugs were pretty much my only tool for coping with pain; now I have so many others.
3. As people in recovery (and maybe just people in general?), we may be working on similar issues our whole lives and still make tremendous progress.
I can’t begin to describe how much I’ve changed since being sober. The brain fogginess has long since cleared, allowing me to think completely differently. My relationships, presence, anxiety levels, ability to show up, and so much are a world’s away from where they were.
And yet, sometimes it feels like each week in therapy, I talk about different versions of the same thing. I realized you don’t have to “master” issues to grow from them. Just recognizing them—and responding differently—makes a huge difference.
4. Everyone’s recovery is so different.
I always knew this—especially because this time I got sober without AA, which I hadn’t previously realized was possible. However, in the past year as I’ve done the Sober Stories series—and more people I know have gotten sober in response to the pandemic—I believe this more than ever. For instance, if people consider harm reduction methods their recovery, that’s their recovery.
The more I’ve learned about others’ sobriety, the more I hope for a world where we truly support people doing what helps them thrive.
5. Being present is ongoing work/we should celebrate incremental progress.
I’m pretty sure that before I got sober, I thought it would be two, three years tops until I was a Buddha. That’s certainly not the case. Being in the moment is a challenge for me.
In December 2020, I started meditating (almost) every day. Recently, I’ve found that I notice a little more quickly when I’m lost in a story. My therapist points out when I’ve engaged in mindfulness without realizing it. These moments are subtle, but I’ve stopped expecting—or even hoping—to be the most present person on the planet. In sobriety, I’ve found that a lot of the joy is in the work itself.
6. I don’t think I’ll ever get bored—or stop being in awe—of sobriety.
At six years, recovery is not on my mind all of the time like it was in the beginning. But what it’s brought to my life is hard to forget. At six months sober, severe animal allergies I’d had during active addiction went away completely; now I have a cat that I love dearly.
It’s hard not to think of sobriety when I can only have a pet because of it, and this is the case for so many other aspects of my life: my relationship to my nieces, a not-toxic romantic relationship when all the others were unhealthy, my ability to be relied on, my self-trust, and so much more. There’s often an undercurrent of bafflement in my mind at making it this long, and the profound changes it’s brought to my life.
Six years feels like forever to some; others who have decades might think of six years as the beginning. Any amount of time doing something hard that you know you need—whether for a day or 20 years—is worth celebrating.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. Amatus Recovery Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you build a great sober life. To learn more, call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.