‘Life Doesn’t Stop When You Get Sober. Life Begins’

September is National Recovery Month, a time to remember that miracles do happen. Just ask the millions of people once held captive by drugs and alcohol who are now living rich, rewarding lives in sobriety. Among them is Abby B., who started drinking at 13 and who remembers feeling so hopeless at the height of her addiction that she would fall asleep praying not to wake. The 25-year-old took a moment to reflect on those earlier, darker days when recovery seemed like an impossible dream and share what she’s learned along the way. “If I could go back in time and tell myself anything, it would be this: Don’t give up before the miracle happens. I know in that moment of despair life seems so small. I truly thought my life was over, and it was impossible to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I didn’t know how to live without using drugs and alcohol. All of my friendships were built around using. I felt lost, confused, hopeless, alone. If I could go back, I would tell myself that there is a way out to a truly great life full of happiness, love, genuine friendships, honesty — a life beyond my wildest dreams. You can have fun in sobriety, more fun than you’ve ever had before — the kind of fun where you laugh until your belly aches. Life doesn’t stop when you get sober. Life begins. I would tell myself you are not alone. Everything I felt coming into treatment, someone else has felt too. Though it may feel completely lonely, like no one understands you, the truth is we all feel the same hopelessness and emptiness at this point. Addiction doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care whether you’re black, white, rich, poor. You can come in with a mansion and money in the bank or living off the streets, and the feelings we feel are the same. Look for the similarities not the differences, identify with the feelings when connecting to one another. We didn’t land in treatment because we were winning at life. We needed help — help from someone who has gone before us, someone who has walked this path and came out the other end. Seeing the success of others around me and knowing that I’m not alone helped me a great deal. Change is possible. Recovery is possible. I was told many times, just give this program a shot, throw yourself in, work the steps, get a sponsor, be of service, be willing and open to the possibilities. What do you have to lose? Most of us have nothing to lose. By the end of it, if you want the life back that you had before then, you can go back to it, but first give this program all you’ve got. It’s scary to look inward, to examine your thoughts and behaviors, but I’ve found that it’s not as scary once you do it. When I’m in my head, alone with my thoughts, I’m full of fear. Once I can walk through that fear I always look back and think, that wasn’t that bad, but I made it much worse in my head. Stay connected, find friends, be of service, help someone else who is struggling, offer your experience. These things will help you get out of self and into love. Today I can honestly say that I am grateful I’m an alcoholic. I came to treatment to stop drinking and using. That was my only goal. However, what I’ve been given is so much more than that. I’m learning about myself, I’m learning how to love myself, have respect for myself and be useful to others. I believe many people go through their whole lives searching for happiness, searching for self-love, for healthy relationships, communication, honesty and never achieve those things. Many people are not awarded the opportunity that addicts have. I’ve seen lives transform. I see peace and serenity in the eyes of people before me. The light I see in others, something I cannot explain, gives me hope that a sober life is possible. For so long I pushed feeling after feeling deep inside of me, and now everything is starting to appear. That can be really overwhelming at times, but it’s a beautiful thing to be able to sit through uncomfortable feelings and let them pass. Feelings come and go. They will not kill you. Getting sober doesn’t miraculously turn you into a great person. I’ve lied. I’ve cheated. I haven’t been the best of friends. But today I have a life, I have people who love me, who care about me and push me to grow. I get to wake up in the morning with a clear head. That alone is a gift. I’m learning to love myself, heal myself and continue to evolve into the best version of me. Today I don’t have to compare myself to others. We are all on our own journey, and I’m learning to be gentle and practice self-care. I strive for progress, not perfection. I constantly remind myself that feelings are temporary, and I never want to make a permanent decision based on a temporary feeling. Life is too precious.”

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