On April 16, 2021, I celebrated being alcohol-free for seven years! As I move forward on this journey, I continue to grow and flourish in many ways. It’s definitely not easy but it’s worth it. This article is about what I learned after seven years of sobriety.
Prior to becoming sober, alcohol ruled my life in many ways. I started drinking as a teenager. After finding that alcohol made me feel confident, invincible, and more accepting of myself, my 20’s became a blur.
I drank to celebrate, to drown out feelings, to ease boredom, to work, and then to sleep. Although there were some successes in those years, my life became a destructive force, following me wherever I went.
If I moved and tried to run away from my problems, that destructive force came with me. If I broke up a relationship thinking the next one would be better, the destructive force simply followed me to the next relationship. It was a neverending cycle.
When I started to hit bottom after bottom in my late 20s, I looked back at my life and found that the one thread weaving together all the pain and suffering was alcohol. Plain and simple.
The thought never occurred to me that I could stop drinking, or that it was possible. Prior to quitting, alcohol was my only confidante and best friend. I was steeped in alcoholism.
Quitting alcohol is one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life but one that I am most grateful for. These are the lessons I learned after seven years of sobriety.
Alcohol is but a symptom
Alcohol was my cover story. When I was drinking, nothing else mattered.
I found that alcohol was simply a symptom of my disease of alcoholism. When I stopped drinking, it wasn’t all unicorns and rainbows. I had to face and walk through the issues in my life that caused me to drink in the first place.
About a year into sobriety, I felt stuck and didn’t know how to heal on my own. So, I started therapy for the first time in my life to start uncovering the issues that made me drink. It was life changing.
Humans are meant to feel emotions
I come from a childhood of emotional neglect, so I’ve been stuffing my emotions for as long as I can remember. When I found out that drinking alcohol was a way to quell any bubbling emotions, I chose to drink than to deal with my feelings. That was my way of handling life.
In sobriety, feelings came out, whether I liked it or not. It could be a slow trickle of emotion or an all-out shift where I would cry uncontrollably. The first couple of years were pretty wild. I found myself feeling everything, from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs. It was like a rollercoaster.
I now understand that humans are meant to feel a lot of this stuff over a long span of time. Since I stuffed so much, I felt a lot in the first couple years of sobriety.
After seven years of sobriety, I have finally come to a place where I can welcome and accept the feelings that I have, good or bad. If I’m afraid, that’s okay. If I’m angry, that’s fine as well. It’s a part of the human experience, part of my experience.
Change requires work and time
Getting sober and starting to live an emotionally healthy lifestyle is not an overnight job. It’s not even a year-long job. Change requires a lot of work, time, and continued effort.
When I was newly sober, I moved to a new town with a new job and I was fresh out of a horrible relationship. In many respects, it was a brand new beginning.
In my first year of sobriety, my major focus was not picking up a drink. For an alcoholic, that’s a big deal. Once that desire to drink diminished, I could start to focus on other aspects of my life that I wanted to change or improve.
Change is a work in progress. I had to be willing to try out new things, open myself to a healthy support network of other sober women, and explore my spirituality.
I started to navigate a world that I had never fully participated in. At times, it was new, strange, and scary, but I kept going.
There are still struggles in life
Even though I was sober and living life with a clear mind, I wasn’t exempt from the struggles that life can throw at us.
Throughout my seven years of sobriety, I’ve struggled with the same things a lot of people struggle with, from career-related issues to the death of loved ones to postpartum anxiety and fear that I was not a good parent.
- Related reading: Living and coping with anxiety for attorneys
My old way of dealing with life’s problems was to drink them away and forget about them. In early sobriety, I still wanted to run away from problems even though I was sober. In the beginning, I didn’t have the tools that I have today.
Today, I have tools to work through issues and I use them on a pretty regular basis in relationships, in my career, and now as a parent to my toddler. After seven years of sobriety, I wouldn’t say that I openly welcome adversity but I can usually find the silver lining.
Miracles will happen in sobriety
This is one of the things that I was very skeptical about when I was new in sobriety. Since I got sober after reaching many bottoms, I had the mindset that nothing good would ever happen to me. And worse, that I wasn’t worthy of good things.
I’m happy to say that I was wrong. After staying sober one day at a time, I slowly started to make better decisions for myself. I hung around people who wanted to be sober and who wanted to try new things.
Since I developed a change in mindset over time, the miracles have not stopped. Being in a loving, stable relationship and having a child are huge miracles for me. Trust me, I was not marriage or parent material when I got sober. I met my husband around 3 years of sobriety and had my daughter a few weeks before my 5th sobriety birthday.
- Related reading: 100 things to be grateful for in life today
There are other less tangible miracles as well. Recently, I’ve grown an interest in landscaping and tending to things that grow around my house. It’s been an amazing experience to be in touch with nature.
The miracles do come and I see them as cherished gifts in my journey of sobriety.
The road to continued sobriety is a journey
Although I stay sober one day at a time, this is a lifetime journey for me. Knowing the type of alcoholic I am, to drink again is to die, so I don’t take that first drink.
I’ve gone through a lot of change and growth in the past year. A lot of my journey is a healing journey and healing can be painful at times.
Within the past year, I’ve gone to therapy surrounding issues related to my mother and childhood emotional neglect. Facing this has not been easy at all and I’m still doing the recovery work as I write this article.
I’ve started to embrace new modalities of healing, including acupuncture, which has been absolutely incredible for anxiety, and sound healing. Journaling and writing have always been healing tools for me, so writing on Native Mommy Lawyer is part of the journey as well.
Final thoughts on seven years of sobriety
I’m often surprised by the miracles and revelations in sobriety. If you’re a believer in the 7 year life cycle, meaning every cell in our being is renewed every 7 years, then seven years of sobriety would mean that I’m a completely different person! (Source)
My life experiences largely shape who I am as a person and being sober has been a large part of my life in the last seven years. So I did want to share that as part of this lifestyle blog.