From time to time, I like to reflect on the changes I have made to myself that have made my sobriety so much more rewarding. When I was in my addiction, I did not practice honesty or integrity, and I had been unknowingly very close minded.
I thought open mindedness had to do with not being homophobic or racist and accepting climate change and evolution, but there’s so much more to it. Every time I shut myself out to an idea that wasn’t mine, I was being close minded – my feelings on organized religion are a perfect example. Every time I looked for differences between myself and those around me as an excuse not to accept those people, I was being close minded. I still don’t practice organized religion, but I have learned to at least try to keep my mind open. Ideas can change, but yours never will if you refuse to listen to anyone other than yourself.
Honesty is a big one for me. My father once told me that I’d rather climb a tree and tell a lie than stand on the ground and tell the truth. That really hit home for me, because he was right. The way I was living was so shameful to me, that I lied all the time, even when the truth would do just fine. I lived a double life for most of my addiction, eventually I couldn’t hide it anymore, but I would still lie when everyone around me knew the truth. I do not lie today, I do not lie by omission, I just don’t have to. I no longer need to tell lies involving where I am or what I am doing, but I also do not cancel plans because I say I’m sick when I’m not, I can be counted on when I make a commitment, I can be trusted at work and around other people’s wallets. Not only am I doing a service to those around me by being honest, I’m doing a service to myself. Lies are heavy, carrying them around hurts. I am much happier being able to live without hiding.
Integrity was something I lost and didn’t even realize it. I’ll never try the hard stuff, I’ll never use needles, I’ll never steal, I’ll never do that, I’ll never be like them. With addiction, you learn to stop saying never. Dependence upon drugs and alcohol takes you places you never thought you’d go or you even knew existed. Morals are smashed, promises are broken, and lies to yourself become more and more frequent. Being able to live with integrity today feels so, so good. Having boundaries, having the ability to say no, knowing the difference between right and wrong and always being able to choose the right thing is an amazing feeling.
Another new ability I have begun to acquire is prioritization. I got an oil change yesterday and I was proud of myself. I’m sure for the average human being, getting an oil change is not something to be proud of, it’s just something you do. For me, it was a pretty big deal that I got up hours before I had to be at work and paid $50 for someone to perform 20 minutes worth of maintenance on my car. I’ve gotten up early to go give a guy $50 for routine maintenance before, but that maintenance was for me, along with everything else I did at that time.
Sobriety is a gift, and it’s a gift so many people, including my past self, take for granted. There is no quality of life when a substance controls everything you do. I get to get up every morning feeling normal, not like I’ve been hit by a train. I get to go be of service to others at my job. I get to have a job! I get to drive there, legally! I have a bank account, I have health insurance, I take showers! Twice a month, money I worked for is deposited into my checking account and I have something to show for it when I spend that money. I answer the phone when it rings, I can’t remember the last time I nodded out and burned a hole in my clothes, or the last time I had to beg someone for money. I get to feel good today. I get to be alive today.
I want people to know that I know how painful it is to give up the only way of life you know and to have to take a look in the mirror and realize that the problem is with you, not with everyone around you, and you need to change everything about yourself. That pain is the gateway to a life worth living. Do you know what you like to do in your spare time? What your favorite color is? Where you would go if you could go anywhere in the world? I didn’t have answers to those questions before I got sober, my whole identity was my addiction. I don’t have to live like that anymore, and neither do you.
If I could go back in time, I would probably make a few changes, but I’m lucky enough to have made it through all my struggles and come out on the other side as a better person than I was before my struggles began. I hope that if you’re reading this and you’re struggling, you reach out for help. You deserve to be the best version of yourself you can be, there is a better life waiting for you.