How I’ve Stayed Sober Despite Obstacles

Close up of barbed wire

My second year of sobriety has been mostly rougher than my first year.  Not in terms of urges and resisting a drink or pill, but in terms of life.  I have stayed on the sober track through perseverance, accountability, and by using the tools that I had already put in place.

In year two, I have really gotten into the roots of my problems and learning how to deal with them or change them without a substance.  In year one, it was just enough for me to stay sober.  But recovery is so much more than not using a substance.  We eventually need to start dealing with all of the reasons and situations that made us use alcohol or drugs.  If you follow me and this blog, you know that I have had to deal with a gambling problem this year.  It damn near cost me my sobriety.  I wasn’t prepared to take on another addiction after putting so much work into getting over the alcohol and benzos.  I didn’t want to put in the effort to overcome it.  I fought the idea and the addiction got stronger.  It became clear that I had no choice but to start working on it.

Year two has been a continuous process of finding myself and working on my flaws.  Once I decided to start taking the gambling addiction seriously, I realized that I already knew how to deal with it.  While in the addiction, I hated when people told me that since I had so much time in recovery that I already knew what to do.  I tried telling them that it wasn’t the same and it wasn’t that easy.  But the truth was, I did know what to do.  The same tools and methods that I used to overcome alcohol and benzo addiction could be applied to gambling.  The process was similar, though not exactly the same.  I had to start by giving it a voice and putting it out there that I was struggling with it.  I thought I was ready to change, but it would be a few months before things clicked.  I relied heavily on SMART Recovery and my one-on-one therapist to help me get through.  The tools of SMART Recovery allowed me to dissect the underlying causes of my gambling and to redirect my thoughts.  My therapist helped by listening to my problems and encouraging me to take small steps to put myself in a better position to deal with them.  She holds me accountable.  What I love about my therapist is that she never gives advice or tells me what to do.  We have clicked from the beginning and she has been a HUGE reason for my success.  Finding a good therapist that you click within invaluable in recovery.

I have also suffered from a lot more depression in year two.  I think part of that is the euphoria from being newly sober has worn off and the realization of having to deal with my problems head-on has set it.  Part of it is expectations.  I often expect to be further along with fixing my problems and situations than I am.  In the beginning, you think you’ll be able to accomplish all of your goals and dreams in a year or two if you stay sober.  But things take time and life moves slower than you anticipate sometimes.  It can be hard to accept that but once you do, you become happier.  Sobriety is hard.  Rebuilding your life is really hard.  We make it even harder by putting unrealistic expectations on it.  I have come to adopt the mindset that as long as I’m moving forward to the best of my abilities, then I am doing just fine.  Wherever I am in my process of recovery, I am doing great as long as I am trying.  We have this idea of perfection and that if we no longer have an addiction to hide behind then we must be doing everything perfectly.  That’s not how it works.  If you were anywhere near as broken as I was, then it is going to take years to fix it.   And just forget about everything being perfect.  It never will be.

Another thing that has eluded me in my second year of recovery, has been finding things to do that I truly enjoy.  I no longer have a way to mask misery.  I no longer find a lot of things enjoyable.  I have had to rediscover what it is that makes me happy and what activities I can do to fill my time that I actually enjoy.  This is a common obstacle that I hear from a lot of people in recovery.  We have so much more time and clarity on our hands that we struggle to fill it with things we enjoy.  It’s a process of discovery.  We have to be willing to actually try new things.  That can be daunting.  The way I flip this mindset is to view it as an adventure.  I can get excited about going on an adventure.  So, I go on an adventure of discovering happiness.  I find things that I enjoy doing and make them part of my routine.  Even it’s just baby steps and doing something for 5 or 10 minutes, I make time to add it into my routine.  If things become part of your routine, you will be willing to do them when you are feeling great.

Then, there are times when you just have to push through.  Perseverance can turn into happiness.  Eventually, the negative feelings subside and you get through to the other side.  This is one of the most difficult concepts for me to understand because when you’re in the bad feelings you just want out.  But if I keep pushing through and do what I know that I am supposed to be doing, things have a way of working out for the positive.  Over time, you develop a trust in yourself, that if you stay true to yourself and your mission, you will come out the other side better and happier.  It’s all about making sure your goals and values are aligned in the first place.  Goals and dreams change, that is okay.  Don’t let it derail your mission if you find something isn’t as enjoyable as you had thought.  We are different people coming out of addiction and it takes time, trial and error to discover things that make who we are now happy.  There’s a lot of power in keeping trying.

So, the key for me staying on track through obstacles has been to keep pushing through, being held accountable, and relying on the tools that I’ve worked so hard to make part of my routine.  I do the things I do for my recovery so that they are there when I need them.  It’s really hard to just pick up a new tool or habit when you are struggling.  We do them repeatedly through the good times so that they are there for us during the hard times.  Then, we must maintain the faith that they will work for us to get us through.  Once you get through a rough patch, the feeling is amazing.  Don’t overcompensate.  Make small, calculated, and gradual changes to your routine as needed.  Have someone to help guide you and hold you accountable.  Always go back to basics when in doubt.

I wrote this post because I feel like I am coming out of a two-plus month rough patch. I had to humble myself and listen t what people were telling me. I have realized over the past couple of days that I am happy again. Not everything is perfect but I have no huge complaints right now. I am feeling great mentally and physically. All of my basic needs are met and I feel like I’m in a really good routine. The SMART Recovery meeting that I am facilitating is going well, school is going well, life is going well. It’s a testament to the perseverance, accountability, and tools that I have.

What has helped you through tough times in recovery?  What are your words of wisdom for anyone struggling?  As always, comment or send me a message to let me hear your input.  Please don’t forget to like, comment, and share my posts if you can relate or find them helpful.  Thank you for all of your support!

Love Y’all,
Mike

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