10 Things I Have Learned In 10 Years Of Sobriety

On Thursday 02 August 2018 it was my 10 years sobriety birthday and I honestly can’t believe I have made it so far. Here’s the truth – the thought of living without drugs or alcohol has always been too scary for me. The thought that I am “not allowed” to do something is not good for me. I have a defiant personality – nobody must tell me I can’t because I will go and do it.

Yes I know not exactly mature, but its the truth and I can say it. Instead I have always told myself if I want to use drugs or drink I am allowed to. Instead right now I choose not to. You see if its my choice its ok.

When I’ve had hard days and was tempted I told myself yes I can use and if I still feel this bad tomorrow I can do it, but for this moment I choose sobriety.

I have now chosen sobriety every single day for 10 days and it is incredible. On my 10th sober birthday I was overcome with emotion, I was teary all day. I didn’t expect that.

Hello, I’ve had 9 other big milestones, so what is so special about my first double digit birthday? Honestly I don’t know, but for some reason this one really got the tears going in a big way.

So I guess that this is a big recovery milestone, and in celebration I will share some of the things I have learned in last 10 years.

10 Things I've Learned In 10 Years Of Sobriety

Addiction Has Very Little To Do With Drugs or Alcohol

Yes I know, it sounds crazy right. We all picture addicts as lying in the gutter and not being able to say no to drugs. It’s the alcoholic that cannot stay away from the drink and he drinks until he pukes and passes out.

No, not really this is not true at all. There are so many things that people believe to be true when it comes to addiction.

Addiction is something else entirely, it is actually not centered whatever it is that you are addicted to whether it be street drugs, prescription medication, alcohol, sex, gambling, eating, not eating, exercise, work, internet…

It is about the person.

It is about why I used, what I was trying to escape from. It was about who became when I used drugs and drank. It was not about how much I used, when or how. It wasn’t about drugs, it was about me and the black hole I was trying to fill.

When the drugs and alcohol were gone I had to face myself and I was one messed up person.

Many people assume that the most part of addiction therapy is focused on keeping the addict away from their drug of choice, when in fact it is focused around working through past trauma, changing negative behavioral patterns and providing the addict with tools to cope with their emotions and with every day life.

Recovery Takes Time and Work

There is no such thing as recovered, I have said it over and I over. I am an addict. I am in recovery. I am not recovered. That would imply that I am cured and I am fixed. That will mean I can use again.

I know I can’t use.

It is so interesting to look back on how I have changed and matured over the years. When I was one year clean in my mind I was really working recovery and I was as close to “fixed” as an addict can get. Oh my word no, I was still so messed up then.

I look at even the first 2, 3 or even 4 years of recovery and I was like an emotionally immature child.

Recovery is not going to rehab, it is not going to meetings or doing step work. It is about living recovery, working recovery every day. Being a recovering addict is part of me and something that is part of everything I do. I am always conscious of it and know that I must evaluate every decision I make to see if I am slipping into old behavior. Yes even now 10 years down the line, in fact especially now, so I don’t slip into complacency.

Water lotus flower

Labels Suck

Addict, alcoholic, sex and love addict, codependent, bipolar disorder, nicotine addict, compulsive spender…. oh my word so many labels and so little time. I used to get so stuck on all the labels.

I am who I am and yes maybe those things are part of me, but they do not define me. I am also a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother and many more things.

When I was first diagnosed as bipolar it felt like my world was crashing and I had this huge label on my forehead telling everyone how damaged I was.

If you are in early recovery, let them slap labels on you and just relax. You are still the same person you were yesterday before you got the label. Learn about it, figure out how to manage it and find some coping skills, but don’t get too stuck on it.

There’s More Than One Way

Yes I got clean in rehab and I am part of the 12 step program but that is not the only way. There are people that get clean through their church, youth programs, SMART recovery and cognitive behavioral therapy and they are just fine.

When I got clean it was hammered into me that the 12 steps is THE way. It is a way and it is the way I did it but I now have a much more open mind and yes I attend meetings every now and then but I have a wide circle of recovery friends and lots of them do things differently. That’s ok.

I still do some 12 step meetings, but I mostly have formed my own support network of recovering addicts, other mothers and people with mental health issues. I’ve joined online support groups and I take part in online coaching which I find very beneficial.

Peace and harmony

An Addict Will Do It When Ready

When I sponsored addicts I would get so hung up on them staying clean – if an addict is ready he will find the way. He will find recovery and he will get clean. If he is not ready it will not happen. Yes things that I say or do can perhaps make a difference but it is out of my hands.

Now I don’t get too involved, I take a step back and I guide where needed. I am happier for it.

Happiness Is A Choice

Yes I know there are people with clinical depression that need counseling and possibly medication but I am no talking about those people. I am talking about me.

When I decided to be happy I became happy. When I decided to love myself I started to love myself. When I decided to love my life I started to love my life.

A lot of our mindset is a choice. Often we choose to be stuck. I unstuck myself and I am so grateful I did. I was stuck long into my recovery journey and it is only quite recently that I feel well and truly unstuck.

Finally I feel at one with myself and with my life. Everything feels right and I feel a peace. This is for the first time in my life.

Love Is Not A Feeling

Being a sex and love addict I was always searching for this feeling of love, for this high that comes with it. It does not exist, ok maybe he first time you fall in love with someone you get that giddy feeling but that fades away and reality sets in. After that love is a choice and it is work.

Love is a doing thing, it is not a feeling. Except when it comes to my kids… then it is an overwhelming feeling of love and loads of doing… doing washing, doing dishes, doing homework, wiping little noses…

But when it comes to my marriage there has been a lot of learning. I’ve had to grow up and learn how to truly love someone and be committed.

And love is not only about other people, it is also for myself. I need to look after myself and love myself, this too takes work.

Ashtray cigarattes

Nicotine Addiction Is HECTIC

I started smoking when I was 14 years old and I smoked for 22 years – for more than half my life. Two years ago I quit smoking and it was harder than quitting drugs and alcohol. It knocked me for a sixer, but I did it and I am proud.

I’ve started to wonder what the gateway drug really is. Some people call it marijuana but I wonder if it isn’t actually cigarettes and then alcohol? Both are more “socially acceptable” than street drugs and they are a huge problem.

I bet most people that try marijuana for the first time have smoked a cigarette first.

Active Addiction Is Harder Than Recovery

Everyone tells me “Oh it must have been so hard to get clean!” and yes it was hard. However when I really started to work on my recovery I quickly realized that is was much easier than using. I only put a fraction of the effort into my recovery that I put into using and I flew.

Being in active addiction is so much work! It is hard and it is draining. All that scheming to get money to get drugs, all that scheming to get hold of the drugs, then covering up doing the drugs and lying to people. Then lying to people to cover up the lies that you told other people. Then not remembering what lies you told to each person. All the ducking and diving and worrying.

It was awful. Being in recovery is easier, it is lighter on the soul. Yes you have to start cleaning up the messes you made but you are not living in the mess and drama anymore.

I Detest Drama

Early recovery felt strange, it always felt like something was about to happen, like something should happen. Things were so calm and smooth. It felt uncomfortable and I was always on edge.

Over time this feeling became normal. It is the absence of drama.

My life used to be constant drama and now I detest drama. When things go pear shaped now I get this awful feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach.

I like the quiet and the calm of being at home. I like routine and family life. This is what life is about.

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12 comments

  1. joe rice says:

    Hey Lynne,
    Congratulations, Congratulations, Congratulations on your 10 years clean. Being in recovery myself for many years I know what an accomplishment 10 years are. You are right about smoking a very hard addiction to kick. But I have finally done it after lots of failed attempts. I am 19 days smoke-free as of 8-16-18. feeling good and confident about being smoke-free. My quitting smoking is what led me back to your website. Thanks for sharing.

    • Lynne says:

      Thanks Joe – its been an experience of note 🙂 Congrats on quitting smoking, that is amazing. It is such a hard addiction to overcome. I do believe that being a fellow addict in recovery you have the tools to overcome it.

  2. Kenny says:

    Hi and thank you so much for sharing your heartwarming and brutally honest story with us. First congratulations on your amazing achievement of staying sober and drug free fro 10 years. Your look like you are happy and healthy. I can imagine that if you can light a fire in me to be proud of you, you can certainly inspire many others who could be struggling with addiction in their life. I have not experienced the challenge of addiction but I know a few poeple that have. I will sent them to your site if they have a low moment. Be proud and stay strong. Thanks, Kenny 

  3. Emmanuel Buysse says:

    First of all let me congratulate you for your ten years of sobriety, we know that in this type of situations, recoveries are not easy.

    The fact that you have shared your experience with us demonstrates great strength within you, as well as helping other people see what is waiting for them if they continue on the wrong path.

    I hope with all my heart that more years of sobriety will continue but above all that you enjoy life very much and have beautiful experiences every day.

  4. Jill says:

    Congratulations,  Lynne. I salute you for your bravery and determination to remain “clean”.  It isn’t easy to overcome any addiction and you have done so much good coming forward and speaking about this subject that so many steer clear of.

    In our family the addiction was smoking and for years my Dad was a very heavy smoker, my eldest sister a complete chain smoker. She lit one cigarette from the previous one. My brother smoked. I smoked, the second thing I reached for in the morning (the first were my specs as I can’t see without them), were my cigarettes. I always felt so grown up with a cigarette in my hands. My second son smoked heavily.  I can’t explain why, but each one of us just decided to stop (not on the same day, obviously) and we didn’t smoke again. 

    To keep my hands busy I would chop green beans with a razor blade, I had the best chopped beans around. My son just said I am not a smoker, at no time did any of say I am trying to quit. We just quit.  

    I think we are just an odd family for it to work out like that for us. Speaking for myself, I can honestly say, that the craving didn’t leave me for many years. If I smelled a match being lit it would spark (excuse the pun) a feeling of craving in me. I am pleased to say that after all these many years that has gone away.

    May you always be the shining beacon of light and hope to others who need counsel.

    • Lynne says:

      Jill yes I also crave cigarettes often and I haven’t smoked for over 3 years! It’s insane. When I see someone lighting up in a movie I get a craving every single time. My husband quit with me but he unfortunately turned to vaping and now he is back smoking cigarettes again which is really a shame. I hope he manages to quit one day. 

      Congrats on you and your family managing to quit. I come from a family of smokers on my mom’s side. My mother smoked, both her parents and all her siblings smoked except one and she has 8 siblings! 

      One by one every one of them quit smoking, I think now there are only 2 of my aunts that smoke out now.

  5. Kayd Mob says:

    Hey Lynne,

    Congratulation on getting rid of drugs, I know is not an easy decision but we both know it is better to be clean. Honestly, I am thinking of stopping to drink as well, any time I decide to not drink something pushes me back and I end up taking alcohol, is it because people surround me they all drink? Do you think I should change the environment? I currently do not drink that much as before, but I am willing to stop at all, however, your post just motivated me and I am so happy I stumbled on your site. Now everything depends on me if I want to “YES I CAN”.Thanks!

    • Lynne says:

      Hi Kayd

      Many people drink regularly and sometimes in quite large amounts, however it does not mean those people are all alcoholics. Why do you want to stop drinking? Is it because it is causing problems in your life? If you think you may be an alcoholic then I would highly recommend trying to get sober. 

  6. lesabre says:

    Hi Lynne, first of all congratulations on 10 years of being sober. My gosh you are so right. If someone tells me that I can not do, I would go out of my way to prove them wrong. In my attempts at quitting alcohol, I relapsed so many times. Michael you know you can’t drink any alcohol. Oh, yes I can it is the easiest thing I can do. You are so right in your descriptive positive words. I love the way you have incorporated different links and sites through out your page. Right now CAMH in Toronto is the place every psychiatrist refers you too. But you are so right, it does not matter where or how many treatment center you go to, it may not change your addiction. I was sent to a place in Huston Texas called Bowling Green but like every other treatment center I was sent to did not work. Through the grace of God I’am six years sober. For some reason the first site I got to was your’s. I guess I needed a remember when. There is something here I can not define. Why your site? Addiction is not a choice for me, my brother is an alcoholic now 12 years sober. I have lost a few Uncles due to alcoholism.

    Thank you Lynne.

    All the best, Michael / lesabre     

    • Lynne says:

      So I am not alone with that mentality! Congrats on your clean time Michael that is amazing 🙂 I’ve also lost many people to addiction – 2 uncles, my sponsor, a sponsee…. and some friends too. It is heartbreaking. 

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