The first time I tried to get sober, the biggest obstacle to my recovery was the fact that I would get so overwhelmed thinking about how I’d never be able to drink again. I’d never be able to enjoy a beer with my friends. I’d never be able to enjoy a glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve or at a wedding. I’d never be able to have a cocktail at a work event. Every time I thought about sobriety like this–focusing on everything I’d be giving up–my sobriety did not last long.
I have been sober for almost five years now. Going to rehab was definitely the thing that changed my life and made recovery possible for me. But one of the things I learned at rehab that has really made sobriety possible for me is to take things one day at a time. I started thinking about my sobriety in terms of today. “All I have to do is get through the day without drinking.” When I began each day that way, it became a lot more manageable.
For the first year or so of sobriety, I did have to think about life one day at a time like this. Going 24 hours without drinking felt like a huge accomplishment for me. When I made that the goal, I could easily achieve it. And then soon, enough days had gone by where I didn’t have to think about it anymore. I just didn’t ever drink. It was that simple.
As I focused more on my health and spirituality, it got to the point where I no longer even had the urge to drink. When you substitute unhealthy activities like drinking and using drugs for healthy activities like going for a run, learning to play an instrument, or being in positive relationships, miracles will occur.
I am 35 years old. I have been sober for almost 5 years. The first time I tried to get sober was when I was 27 years old. Between the ages of 27 and 30 years old, I must have relapsed at least 20 times. I picked up enough white chips at AA meetings to tile my bathroom. I was a chronic relapser. Why wasn’t I able to get sober?
It wasn’t until I completed a rehabilitation program that I understood why I kept relapsing. I had never sought treatment or help outside of myself. I had never really committed to recovery. Sure, I went to a few meetings here and there. But I never got a sponsor. I never tried to do the twelve steps. I never went to a rehabilitation program. I never got counseling or therapy. I tried to get sober on my own each time, and each time, I failed.
It wasn’t until I got into a rehab program that I was able to really even do the first step: admit that I was powerless over alcohol. I always had the idea that I was in control of my drinking. It was okay because I was choosing to drink. I didn’t realize how wrong I had been until about the second week of rehabilitation when I finally stopped trying to resist sobriety and surrendered to the path my life had to take for me to get better.
And I can tell you, since that shift, my life has gotten 800 times better. I have a great job now. I live in an amazing house. I have a beautiful wife who is pregnant with our first child. I have great friends, and I have a much closer relationship with my family. My life is so much better than it ever was when I was drinking.
So if you are a chronic relapser, I encourage you to get involved and commit to your sobriety. Do a rehabilitation program. Get a sponsor. Work the steps. Put some work into your sobriety, and I promise you, you will see results.