Recovery is different for everyone. At first, I did everything by the book. I got a sponsor. I worked the steps. I made recovery the central focus of my life. And it worked – until it didn’t.
You’re surrounded by a community of others who have been where you are. But the wonderful people you get to know are not trained professionals and sometimes they don’t give the best advice.
There is a pervasive belief that if you use any mind-altering medications — even those that treat depression, anxiety, or addiction — you are not in recovery. Because I received a monthly injection of Vivitrol, a medication for addiction treatment, I heard many times that I wasn’t truly sober, even though I was.
My sponsor and I weren’t a good fit. When she encouraged me to make amends with a boy who had assaulted me when I was a teenager, I realized for the first time that I had a choice about my recovery. Would doing what she asked help or hurt? I trusted my intuition and we parted ways. Though I never finished the 12 steps, I continued marching forward.
There, I learned that recovering from trauma and addiction requires a lifelong commitment. I found out about self-compassion and acceptance. And I realized I was worth the effort.
That first year, I felt conspicuous in a way I never had before. Every holiday or special occasion was a minefield. I thought everyone would notice I wasn’t drinking beer on St. Patrick’s Day. At a wedding, I didn’t toast the bride and groom with champagne, and I was convinced everyone knew my secret. But over time I realized that no one was paying as much attention to my drinking as I was. And it didn’t matter anyway.
If I could stay sober for a year, I could make it another year, and then another. Early in recovery, I heard one of the speakers at a meeting say, “You will set goals for yourself now, but a year or two down the road you will be astounded to discover that those goals were nothing compared to all the things recovery will make it possible for you to do.” She was right. My life started changing in ways that I never could have imagined.
My husband and I moved from Arizona back to Washington, DC and I landed a job at a museum where I had always dreamed of working. I learned to advocate for myself instead of always doing what was expected of me and that helped me to address long-term issues in my relationship with my parents in a healthy way. Sustaining positive change is a lifelong process, but even after just one year in recovery, my life was more fulfilling than I could ever have imagined.
Throughout my addiction and recovery journey, he has been my greatest support. Our relationship deepened as we learned that in recovery, all the things we wanted for our lives were possible.
I am in long-term recovery now with seven years of sobriety. I have a wonderful job, a loving marriage, and I live in a city and home I adore. I still don’t go to meetings, but I do go to counseling, and I’ve found the courage to confide in some of my friends and family members about my struggle with addiction. No recovery journey is perfect but I’m living the life I was meant to live. I am grateful for my recovery every single day.