By the A M A Z I N G grace of God I celebrated 9 years of sobriety on Friday, February 1, 2019. Oh my! I can remember it like it was yesterday and yet it feels like a lifetime ago. I feel like I’ve got some serious time under my belt and yet I really only have today. Anyway, today’s post is a reflection on the lessons I’ve learned over 9 years of being sober.
How Does One Get 9 Years of Sobriety?
It may sound cliche but, trust me, it’s done one day at a time!! I grappled early in sobriety with the thought of never drinking again. Others told me, “just don’t drink today.” I have a friend who used to tell herself that she wouldn’t drink today but she might drink tomorrow. Then when tomorrow came, she’d tell herself the same thing. She really thought she might drink tomorrow but then when she made it one day, she wanted to try another…and so on.
So technically it was August of 2009 where I had that vision of seeing three paths:
- Myself rocking back and forth in an insane asylum
- Complete blackness
- A glimmer of light
I got down on my knees, prayed, and asked for help. It was another week and one more vision before I left the abusive relationship. I got up in the middle of the night, took my dog, and my stuff and fled. Fortunate for me, I still had a house in another town. I had a safe place to run to but if you don’t and you need to get out of something similar, know there are options:
- Sober living
- Women’s shelter
Just make the call. Additionally, you can check out my recovery resources page.
Denial Runs Deep
When I got away from the relationship, I quit everything else – drinking, drugging, smoking, cursing, and crappy relationships. I was 100% spent and had nothing left to give.
My sanity came from telling others the truth about what I had been doing. I was urged to get into recovery programs, but, I am strong willed and thought I could do it alone.
Additionally, I wasn’t sure I wanted to give up drinking. Sure the drugs were illegal and things were bad…really bad, but couldn’t I still drink? I didn’t understand why, but my psychiatrist kept telling me to go to Alcoholics Anonymous.
I wasn’t yet willing to look at my past. If I did, I would have recognized that when I first turned to substances outside myself to feel secure, it was alcohol. Once I started I couldn’t stop.
So while I quit everything, I still tested the waters with alcohol. I was afraid of drinking, I was afraid of not drinking. Ultimately, it became clear that I was the problem and if I kept hiding in things that took away the pain, I’d never get to root of my issues.
So I made the best decision of my life and that was to commit to full sobriety and set myself out on a journey. I still cry when I think about these first steps. This recovery journey has proven to be the best use of my time…ever. I’d like to share what I’ve learned and to commemorate my 9th year of sobriety, here are 9 lessons.
Lesson #1 – We don’t have to react out of the wounds of our past
Sure this may be more prominent for some people than others but I think most people have been scarred in life by experiences or people. When this happens in the formative years, thought patterns emerge. The stories we tell ourselves may be skewed and tainted from these experiences. They were for me.
Additionally, no matter how much recovery work I’ve done, it can still happen today. Occasionally, something someone says will trigger me and my reaction to them is not deserving. The important thing is to recognize it, apologize, and move on. It’s only a shadow of what it used to be and I marvel at the progress I’ve made. #Intentionality
So I say, take the time to reconcile with your past, clean off your lenses every day, and live in the world with clarity.
Lesson # 2 – People are basically forgiving
I reviewed my part in the relationships I’ve been in over my lifetime. Furthermore, I identified my character defects in an effort to change. Additionally, I identified the people I had hurt. I had to muster up the courage to meet with each of these people and make an honest amends for my wrongs.
When making an amends the goal is to go in without any expectation of what the other person may say or do. Basically, I needed to clean up my side of the street. I needed to proceed for my healing and growth regardless if other person received my apology or not.
Everyone I made an amends to received me with open arms and offered forgiveness. Sometimes time is the ultimate healer but in this, I learned that most people innately want to give/receive second chances.
Lesson #3 – Learn to forgive even when they don’t deserve it
“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” ~ Mark Twain
This Mark Twain quote is my all time favorite. In my recovery, I discovered that by holding onto resentment, I’m mostly hurting myself. Others may not deserve my forgiveness, but I choose to forgive and the reasons are twofold:
- The Bible tells me to
- I walk a freer person
Resentments are the number one reason alcoholics/addicts relapse. I’m not taking that chance. This is certainly not an easy one to do but I can attest that it’s definitely worth going after. Anyway, some beautiful things have occurred in my life in my ability to forgive others…and that includes forgiving myself. 🙂
Lesson #4 – It’s never too late to start over
I think I may be the poster child for this truth. And notice that I did call it a truth. Seriously, if you are still breathing there is a chance to start over.
Take a listen to my ChooseFI interview to hear what I’ve overcome.
Do you remember the movie Dead Poets Society? Well, that is where I first heard the phrase tabula rasa which is Latin for a blank slate. This is what all people need in order to reinvent themselves.
Lesson #5 – Change takes intentionality
Anything good in my life has come from hard work and intentionality. God was ready to help me, but I had to surrender and ask for that help. Moreover, each step I took required action on my behalf. We are all given free will in this life. Whether or not we are cognizant of the choices we make every day, we still make them.
Prior to getting sober, I made choices based on:
- Selfish motives
- The wounds of my past
I wasn’t really self-aware but none the less, I made choices and I suffered the consequences. Upon getting sober, I realized that I was the maker of the chaos in my life. Furthermore, with God’s help, I was ready to change my thought processes, habits, and lifestyle. It took work and effort and most of all, intentionality.
Lesson #6 Everything affects our finances
I’ve discovered that drinking and drugging were crutches I used to cope with life. I was running from and escaping some demons I didn’t want to face. Once I put down the crutches, I was able to slay some dragons head on.
Moreover, I think money can be a crutch for many people. With money, we can shop and buy experiences which is great. However, if you are doing it to escape some bigger issue, it’s not so great. Additionally, when money is being used as a crutch, things like spending can become an addiction; hence, the astounding amount of debt in this country.
My finances were negatively affected by my lifestyle prior to getting sober. And yes, I’m happy to report that my finances are positively affected by my intentional lifestyle in sobriety.
Lesson #7 – Debt is Stifling
Unsurprisingly, I had a mountain of debt to tackle when I got sober. At first, I made some minimal changes to keep my head above water and stopped adding to that mountain.
As I gained more and more peace about who I was and how I lived life, I realized I wanted to gain full financial peace. I distinctly remember my debt feeling like an albatross around my neck. Initially, I didn’t see a way out so I erroneously thought the debt would always be there.
However, about four years into recovery, I became ready to really tackle my debt. I sought out resources and learned of the Dave Ramsey snowball method. Dave Ramsey was the first person to say to me (over the airways) that I did not need to keep my debt around like a pet. Additionally, he told me that I could get intense, make sacrifices, increase my income, and pay it off quickly.
I believed him. After all, what did I have to lose? Again, this took hard work and intentionality. Are you sensing a theme here?
I’m proud to say on December 29, 2017, I paid off my debt and became debt free for the first time in 23 years. It’s easier to breathe clearly with debt freedom.
Lesson # 8 – Truth never goes out of fashion
I was able to meet Dave Ramsey and share my testimony while doing a debt free scream in June of 2018. In my application process, I lied about something. Ugh. Recently I was deeply convicted about this. As a result, I’ve made confessions and apologies.
In the process of this, I was shown how much people appreciate the truth. Furthermore, people were incredibly gracious to me.
Lesson #9 – Financial independence is for everyone
Yes, that means you too! Who doesn’t want to be financially independent and able to make choices for their life based on purpose and calling rather than having to pay bills?
Yeah, I hope thousands of hands are going up in answer to that question.
When I first learned about the concept of financial independence from a little podcast called ChooseFI, I was blown away at people’s audacity to save 50% or more of their income in an effort of building a perpetual money-making machine.
I saw that achieving financial independence, while a lofty goal, was one that would further support my ability to live my purpose and calling. Currently, I enjoy my career and am living on purpose but that doesn’t preclude me from wanting to achieve financial independence. One never knows where life will take you and it’ll be nice to have the money to go there.
I am willing to be so bold to say that everyone should work to obtain financial independence. It doesn’t mean you have to retire early. However, it does mean you should save, invest, and work to have the freedom of choice in your life. Additionally, it does mean that when you are ready to retire, you can. The math is not hard to figure it out, but it will require you to make deliberate choices. I use OnTrajectory to track my progress towards financial independence.
Every lesson I learned resulted from one simple choice – the choice to commit to a life of sobriety. Moreover, this choice has produced an outflowing of blessings. The obstacles which were preventing me from walking in my God-given purpose have been removed. And now I’m freely roaming this life in my calling and destiny.
So now it’s your turn…what’s blocking you? Perhaps nothing or perhaps you’ve already overcome some stuff and if so, I’d love to hear how. If you do identify something(s) that are preventing you from being on purpose, I’d say it’s time to face them.