The Three Challenges of Sobriety
BY: TAMI HARPER WINN
If you have been sober for any length of time, then what I am about to share with you is pretty common knowledge. However, if you have not been sober for any extended period of time then I propose you stick around and finish reading this article. I don’t want to put a pin in your pretty pink balloon of new recovery, but there are some truths that are a given and you should probably be aware of. There are some challenges that are ongoing throughout the course of sobriety – in fact, ones that don’t go away. I can list three very prominent ones that recur consistently at any given point in my sobriety. They are what I like to call the three challenges of sobriety.
The first challenge - KEEPING RECOVERY FIRST
As the moments turn into days and then years, we soon forget the obsession to use or drink. Once it’s lifted our lives begin to change, which results in what most people call a “life”. Regular people (what we refer to as “normies”) have them every day. We get our families back, jobs established, financial freedom begins to return, relationships mend, and suddenly we are able to begin having fun again. Our lives soon become so busy and full that what was once a matter of life or death, (staying sober), becomes just another commitment on our to-do list.
Often times, because the obsession and chaos have been removed we place our recovery on the back burner. Slowly but surely we let it slip away. We forget that the life we have today is only possible because we made our recovery the most important thing. Which brings me to the next challenge we are confronted with in long term sobriety.
The second challenge - BALANCING RECOVERY WITH OUR NEW LIFE
The feat of balancing anything can be daunting to just about anyone, in recovery or not. It is not uncommon for people to have to battle the challenge of balancing their lives. But for those of us in recovery this becomes even more tricky. It can even prove deadly to some of us if we get to far off balance. Making our recovery important enough to fit it in to already hectic lives becomes more and more difficult as time goes on.
We now are balancing kids, relationships, jobs, education, finances, hobbies, fun - an endless list of things we are now responsible for. Leaning any one way more heavily can have serious consequences for those of us in recovery – sometimes deadly ones.
My sponsor once said the balancing act first looks like a newcomer going down the hall slamming from one wall to the other trying to make their way down it. The act itself can become pretty annoying, difficult, and result in frustration and even some bruises. The object of the balancing act is to try not to bounce against the wall so many times even if it looks like we are walking a sobriety check point line like a drunk person. We will never master it - just try to stay in the center of the hall.
So, going back to the basics and keeping it simple is what worked then, and what still works. Pausing before making any big decisions, perhaps even running our great ideas past another first worked then, and again still does. What worked in the beginning got us to where we are, so roots must not be forgotten. Which brings me to the final challenge that most of us face with extended sobriety.
The third challenge – REMEMBERING WHERE WE CAME FROM
Now, given all that I have shared up to this point, it only goes without saying that in the natural progression of our recovery we might (over time) begin to forget what brought us to our knees in the first place. We unintentionally forget what robbed us of everything that ever mattered to us including our freedom sometimes, our families, and for some of us almost our lives. But some may ask, why would we do that? How could we forget? Trust me, it’s not on purpose. It’s the disease. Remember, it is still growing and silently redesigning itself. It is eloquently waiting for that moment it can spring up and attack us unsuspectingly and take it all this time. Its patience is infinite.
The tiger, they say in meetings, that waits outside the door for us patiently doing push ups, is the very core of this disease – our minds. Our mind is dangerous place; left to our own devices it is literally out to kill us. So, when we get busy with our new found lives and we start forgetting to go to meetings or make our recovery a top priority then our pendulum swings out of control and we forget the pain of those first moments – he attacks. Life blinds us and we don’t catch what is in our peripheral vision – the disease. It will wait for the end of time for that one chink in the armor of our recovery and strike. It’s been waiting for that very moment since the day we first put down that drink or drug. In the moment it lunges it graciously helps us to remember what we forgot and strips away all the frills of our new lives that got in the way of the big picture. It makes us beg for recovery once again – if we are lucky.
If we get to smart for our own good then King Alcohol (insert your drug of choice) will certainly humble us or kill us, whichever comes first. Time does not equal safety. It does not put some invisible force field around us nor does it eradicate the disease. In fact, time makes us forget the chains we are bound by much like forgetting we are wearing shoes even though we put them on. The disease is there; it just can’t be felt – that is until it wants to be felt.
Keeping vigilance over our recovery and remembering the three challenges of sobriety can help keep us right-sized – possibly even save our lives. So tighten up the belt, look the beast in the eye, and get back into the gym of recovery no matter what length of time you have. Because if we aren’t sober then nothing else matters.
~ Tami Harper Winn ~
The story written here is solely the work of the author’s. Any use or reproduction of this article is prohibited without written consent of the author or credit to the author through works cited.