What life looks like after years of sobriety and frugal living.

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Getting sober and getting out of debt are two of the hardest things I have ever done in my life.  They were also the most empowering things I’ve every done.  The hardship of both tasks was so worth it in the end.  Today life is a far different picture than it was pre-sobriety and debt.

I struggled with both items for years and years before I had victory.  I truly began living once these obstacles were conquered and overcome.  I love reminiscing over my last 8 years.  I can’t stand thinking about the years prior to sobriety.  There is such a darkness, shame, and gloom to all the previous years that I shudder to even go back in my mind.  Then I fast forward to the “golden years” and I smile to myself.  I love thinking about all my sober years.  They have been happy, fulfilling, and amazing.  They have been loaded with blessings and miracles.

In AA meetings I found that the people that would speak about their lives in sobriety loved to talk about the drunk years.  We called it drunk-a-logs.  They would tell their stories and go on and on about the using years, their years out there drinking and drugging, and then spend a couple minutes on how life is for them now.  It used to make me crazy.  How does that inspire anyone?  You need mass amounts of motivation and to be inspired almost daily in the beginning.  You are giving up a way of life and everything you know.  The AA joke is “All you have to change is everything!”  It’s not really that funny because it is completely true.  You give up old stomping grounds, vices, friends, even crazy things you wouldn’t think of like songs and foods…a whole world.

Getting sober is a struggle for the first year and sometimes more.  You have to replace those habits and addictions, you have to build a new life, a new world, new friendships.  Then there is all the healing work, mental, physical, and emotional, the making of amends, the long process of retying severed bonds of friendships and family relationships you have destroyed during the wild years.  There is probably debt and some court or legal issues.  It’s hard, hard, hard. That is why you need a big community to get through it all.  You will need a sponsor to talk you off the ledge several times and new friends to replace the ones that still want you to go to the bar. You will need to be surrounded by people who are changing their lives too or have already done it all and can advise and guide you through the process.

I do not go to AA anymore.  I went for two decades with the last two of those years being truly sober.  I have no desire to return, however, I do love going to a meeting now and then with a friend when visiting out of town.  It is filled with newcomers making their way on the first wobbly legs of a rigorous journey.  You don’t see many of the old timers because they have gone on to careers, family life, and different ways of living a wholesome life.  However, not many of us would have made it without an AA fellowship to get through the beginning.

But what is life like afterward?  It can be great or it can continual suck.  To be blunt.  It all depends on what you do with the first year.  I’ll go with the bright side because I know how it was and is for me.

I fought fully committing to AA for years.  I denied I had an issue for years.  I knew I did but then I’d get sober and get bored and miss my “life” and decide that I didn’t have an issue after all.  I was continually fascinated with others who got sober and turned their lives around and that is what kept me trying.  I tried on my own and I tried every way possible.  Nothing worked.  I tried going to church, meditation,  changing jobs, homes, towns, friends, lovers, exercising more, going back to college, getting 3 jobs.  Nothing worked.  Like the Big Book says, “we tried an easier and softer way to no avail”.  It might not say that exactly, I haven’t opened mine for a time. The point being that there is no “easy” way out of this pit of addiction and alcoholism no matter how mild your case seems to be.

It was when I was really done and couldn’t, wouldn’t, and didn’t want to live in the manner I was living that I finally gave in and surrendered completely.  I showed up to an AA meeting after calling a woman who had been my sponsor previously.  I ask her to take me back and she said to meet her at the women’s meeting that night.  I will never forget that night because I went in knowing I was done for good and I would do anything and everything to change my life.  I felt a huge burden lift as I walked in the doors to that meeting and I knew I would never suffer again.  My sponsor then is my accountant today some 8 years later.  You keep people when you’re sober.

So, my journey began.  I moved to the coast and they had a big fellowship with an adorable and cozy meeting hall in the harbor.  I immersed myself.  I became completely humble.  I had a sponsor, I made new friends, I went to meetings daily, I showed up early, left late, washed coffee mugs, shared, helped others, read the Big Book, I went to every single event and potluck, I volunteered, I did all my 12 steps deeply and completely, I cleaned up the past, I finished paying off debt, got healthy physically and mentally, I did every single dingle thing I was told to do to get sober.  And beyond.  I even did research on the effects of marijuana and alcohol on the body and mind.  I read other books and stories from fellow sober people.  I changed my music, where I hung out, my friends.  I even watched sober movies (yes, there are many).

The first few years I did all these amazing things I would never have done while using alcohol and pot. The first year I got involved with the theater company doing light and sound and acting in a play.  I wrote my first of many books.  I took on a rescue dog and I changed careers.  Moved to the ocean, made new and wonderful friends I am close to still.  That was my first year.  My second year I married and took on another rescue dog.  I became a mother and homemaker (my favorite career change.  The third year I had another healthy and adorable son and now I have written something like 14 books.  I even write fiction under a pen name.  Now I’m starting to have some success with my writing career.  I make enough from my royalties for my coffee habit and to pay for book covers and an editor that has been one of my sober friends from all those years back.

Now, I will be completely honest in saying that in the 8 years I have slipped up and smoked pot a few times.  But here’s the catch.  I enjoyed it for a brief moment and then I couldn’t wait to get back to my normal and healthy life.  I really can’t stand being under the influence of anything.  I used to love, LOVE smoking pot.  I can’t stand it now.  I have a life that is so wholesome, so normal, so full and so good that it is actually depressing being stoned.  It is creepy and exhausting to alter my state of mind and being.

If you really fix your life, clean it up, heal it, learn a new way, build a new life, you will never want to go back.  You may slip one day but you won’t go out for long.  You will have such a great life and so much to lose it won’t taste good.  It won’t feel good. Freedom comes in the form of a life free of addictions and debt.

Today we are looking to buy a house.  We aren’t working with a lot of money but we can afford it today and that is a miracle.  Today I wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed (maybe not every day) and I have a house filled with pets and children and life.  I pay my bills with ease and have some money left over.  I never worry about money.  I am trying to master saving more.  We have a big, fat savings that will be used for house buying and emergencies.  My family, and I, are in great health.  I have reunited with and healed old friendships and family ties.  I have cleaned out the ones that are not healthy.  I spend my weekends at home with popcorn and movie nights and two yummy boys.  I haven’t had a hangover in years and years.  I never have a reason to be ashamed or regret what I did the night before.

Today I laugh a lot and my drama level is about a .05 instead of a constant 10.  I get excited about going to the movies (happened once in 4 years) and my coffee in the morning, especially if I’m trying a new brand.  My biggest addiction is cake and I think it’s more the idea of it than actually having it.  I love my life, my sons, and basically all four seasons.  I have a normal, kind, strong, grounded husband.  All these things are miracles.  I didn’t get married until I was almost 41 years old and my children came along at 41 and 43 years old.  I had once thought I would be a spinster for life.

I have a reunion/funeral this weekend and I’m thrilled.  I don’t have to dread it because I have a great life, I have an adorable family, and I’ve made amends and renewed all the friendships and family I will be seeing this Sunday.  I’m plump as ever but who cares?!  I’m healthy!  I’m jolly!  I’m a happy, sober housewife and mother with a writing career!

Do it.  If you question your usage, if you question your partying in any way…you have an issue, trust me.  Don’t intellectualize it and explore it for the next 20 years like I did.  Get sober, do everything and anything to get and stay sober.  Work on your mind health, get physically healthy.  Build a brand new life.  I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful and fun and great it is after you get through the hell of the beginning.

Good luck.

Queen of Sober: Getting Through the First Year by [Singh, Kate]

 

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