Things That Saved Me in My Second Year Sober
Author: Justin Mckibben
As of November 28th, 2015 it will officially be 2 years since my last drink.
That’s 730 days.
63,072,000 seconds… miracles!
I can’t even begin to imagine where the time went. Honestly when I break it down in numerical measurements it seems like such a tremendous thing, but when I look back at the last year from my perspective it was like just yesterday I was in detox, clueless on how to scrape together some semblance of a life. No idea how to stay sober a few hours… and now I can’t remember the last time I even considered a drink.
I remember talking about how they told me the “first year is a gift,” and how quickly I discovered it was true. Now the cliché I have slowly started to empathize with is,
“The longer you stick around, the less you feel like you know.”
When I first found a glimmer of clarity in early sobriety I started to get this senseless idea rattling around my hazy head that someday I will have it all figured out, preferably after 6 months sober- but I’ll settle for 9 months if there is a bonus, like a car or a girlfriend.
By the grace of God, it took me much longer than 9 months to even get close to having either one of those things, but what I did get was more clarity and more compassion from my peers as I came to the gradual realization that even with 1 year+ sobriety I didn’t know s***. The funny thing is today I’m grateful to know that I know even less than I thought I knew; about life and relationships, about what God and spirituality meant, and about how to truly serve others. Why grateful? Because it means I have so much more to grow from.
The second year for me wasn’t about my addiction, it was about understanding myself; my emotions and my actions. With sobriety came feelings I hadn’t felt in a long time that got sieved through a slightly sensible yet more sensitive perspective to the point of perforation, and these are a few things that saved me my second year sober.
As simple as it sounds and as easy as it is to forget, gratitude saved me a lot this past year. I’m not talking about just saying thank you or appreciating the things I have been blessed with, but actually taking action in response to the things I’ve been given in order to assure I can keep up my end of the deal.
Being grateful for me this year has meant being responsible for what is in my power. While I found it easy to be grateful the first year, I noticed it became easier my second year sober to forget about the things I should be most grateful for- especially the simple things like being alive and healthy enough to experience the world the way I do today.
I had to be reminded a lot by the people closest to me how amazing my life is compared to what it was drinking and using drugs. From that perspective I was able to be a more effective friend and take more responsibility for the direction my life was going now that drinking and drugs didn’t control my life.
We have all heard how “acceptance is the answer to all my problems,” but have we really taken the time to evaluate what we can and cannot accept?
I had to understand acceptance meant acknowledging the fact that, like I said earlier, I don’t know nearly as much about living a real life as I thought I did- and that’s OK.
I had to accept that things will be painful, people will hurt me and I will hurt people (even though I try not to more than ever); that sobriety has showed me how to begin having relationships, but it does not mean I will always know how to treat people.
I learned I had to accept the world as imperfect and still see how beautiful it was. I have to accept and understand my own ignorance to life at times, and I have to accept the responsibility to try and learn.
Knowing that I am allowed to believe in myself again was huge. Learning that I am not expected to be perfect but I am expected to be decent and align my integrity with my ambitions changed a lot for me. My second year sober showed me there is no shame in a desire to succeed if my labors are built on a foundation of humility.
Knowing that who I was and who I am are not the same gave me the confidence I needed to believe I could actually be a good, just and loving person. Not limiting myself to the standards of “addict behavior” as an excuse for failure or inconsiderate self-indulgence meant having the confidence to know what I would and would NOT accept for my future. I was put in a position this year when I had to make a decision that would hurt me one way or the other, but I had the confidence to believe my feelings DO matter, despite my desire to settle for saving face.
It’s not easy to trust for us. Yes, addicts and alcoholics… but realistically all human beings can have a tough time with it. My second year I learned how to trust- not just the people closest to me, but just my capacity to be happy.
If not for the spiritual element of the 12 Step Fellowship I wholeheartedly believe I never would have been gifted with the spiritual journey of evolution I have today that gave me trust. The second year was full of moments when I had to sit and question what it was that was working in my life, and I had to admit to myself I was still pretty oblivious, but I had trust in the process.
With the gratitude for what I had been given came acceptance of what work was still ahead of me; of what I had to deal with or without. With that acceptance of the things beyond my grasp or control came confidence in my ability to survive and stay sober regardless; to be better than I ever was. And with that confidence came the trust that living my life to the best of my ability with civility and compassion, while seeking spirituality, would underwrite new dimensions of freedom to my second year sober.
Emotional sobriety is still an abstract concept to me, and sometimes it seems pretty subjective, but all I have gathered so far is that it includes these 4 things.
A lot happened my second year sober; I bought a new car, I got my heart broken, I lost a few friends and I discovered new passions in my life. I look in the mirror most mornings and cannot even begin to imagine how different things are, and its inexplicable considering I still feel like I didn’t do much to deserve the unbelievable life I have now.
I don’t know much, sometimes I think I never will, but I know my heart has been rapt with the impact of these last 365 days, and the most incredible article is that I haven’t needed to drink through any of it. It is still amazing to me when I honestly think about it.
When I really look at where I was November 27th, 2013… I cannot express in any number of pretty and artsy words how quickly it all became so different… but I know it all came from one place- love.
While our lives should consist of the things we are passionate about, the things that we love and the people who love us, we are not the only ones in life that matter. Something I learned in my first year sober is that has not changed is that I need to help others find the kind of sobriety that saved me from myself. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. We want to help. You are not alone.