It’s true, at one year sober, you’re a miracle. And life is whole lot better now than it was at the end of active addiction. But, easy does it, being one year sober is really just the beginning of the road ahead. Here are 10 things I should have known at one year sober.
#1. Helping others is what keeps us sober
It’s the 12th Step of the Twelve Steps and probably the most: “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” This is the heart and soul of the program and what you’ll often hear is that we can’t keep what we have without giving it away. By sponsoring other alcoholics and addicts, we are also helping our own recovery.
#2. Marijuana maintenance doesn’t work
Once we get clean and sober, we’re feeling better – a lot better. Sometimes, people think that they can smoke marijuana – known as doing the marijuana maintenance program, as long as they’re not drinking or using other drugs. The problem with this thinking is that marijuana still IS a drug. And so, it’s not being clean and sober if you’re smoking pot. Some may argue that marijuana is a natural substance – a plant – but, so is alcohol (hops is also a plant), cocaine (plant), heroin (plant)…see where I’m going with this?
#3. Alcohol IS a drug
For some reason, once people clean up, they start to think that they can drink successfully – like “normal” people can. Just like with marijuana maintenance, drinking is not being clean and sober and will eventually lead you right back to where you were when you decided you had had enough and wanted to get clean.
#4. Kava IS a drug
…or anything else mood or mind-altering even if it wasn’t your drug of choice when you were using. So many times, I have heard people share that they went to treatment in the past for one substance and, when they got clean, started using something else because it wasn’t there original DOC. Guess what happened? They ended up in treatment again. But not for their so-called DOC; for this other thing that they didn’t think they had a problem with. Listen up: being an alcoholic/addict means that we have to stay away from all substances.
#5. That we’re still a little crazy
One year sounds like a long time but, really it’s just a drop in the bucket. Think of it this way: when you first get sober, that’s like being born again so, just like a newborn, there is a lot of growth in the first year but, after a year, that baby is still only one year old. At one year sober, all the substances are out of our system – yes, but we are still re-learning everything – how to live without substances. Oftentimes, we are still working through issues and emotions. So be patient and be gentle with yourself.
#6. That Life on Life’s terms applies to everyone
Basically, that pink cloud WILL dissipate at some point – so be prepared. That is, life in sobriety is awesome and stuff still happens – sometimes good sometimes bad. Learning to cope with what shows up without turning to a drink or a drug is what’s important – and it’s totally possible.
#7. That we’re not perfect
At one year sober, you will find that you still have some bad habits – “addict behaviors.” That’s because being an addict or alcoholic really has nothing to do with drugs and alcohol. It’s about behaviors and a a thought process that something external will bring us internal happiness. So, be careful with acting out – through sex, relationships, gambling, gaming, being online all the time – basically, behaviors that you can take to the extreme and use in order to avoid your feelings.
#8. That we’re still broke
Even though we’re no longer spending money on drugs and alcohol, at one year sober, oftentimes we’re struggling with money. Maybe it’s because we have debts and fines to pay off or it’s because we’re starting over and working a job that pays very little. many times, it’s also because we’re doing everything by-the-book this time which means we’re stealing and scheming; we’re making an honest day’s living and paying our bills like adults. This brings me to the next thing I should have known at one year sober…
#9. Working an honest program has its drawbacks
Basically, everything I said before. And also being able to be honest with ourselves and with others. Where we were once used to lying and cheating, we are now being open and honest. And sometimes that’s really hard and sometimes it even sucks. And it’s the little things like, grocery shopping and the cashier forgets to ring up an expensive item or gives us too much change back – when this sort of thing happened in the past, we thought: “score!” Now, we feel a moral obligation to open our mouths and point out the error. As much as it stings, you’ll actually be glad you did. If you keep your mouth shut, and walk away, your conscience will start to weigh on you…heavily. Believe me.
#10. That you might still be suffering consequences
Oftentimes in our active addiction, we broke laws and ruined relationships. When we got clean and sober, things got a lot better but, in the first year of sobriety, we’re still often dealing with the fallout of our addiction – legal issues, mending relationships, and so on. So again, be patient and be compassionate with yourself. It gets better, one day at a time.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.