Sixteen years ago, on 4/20/1999, as everyone was glued to their televisions watching the devastating aftermath of the Columbine shootings, my little world was changing forever as well. That day I awoke from what used to be called a “crank coma,” meaning a meth and alcohol withdrawal-induced, dead to the world sleep, in a jail cell. Yep, that’s where my addiction took me…locked up with the key thrown away for quite a while.
I share this now – right here on the internet, where I can never take it back, for all the world to read – to show you that no matter how hard you have fallen in your addiction, you can get back up and turn your life around. One thing I hear all the time, in the media and from drug addiction professionals, is that overcoming an addiction to methamphetamine is nearly impossible – the addiction to meth is irrecoverably detrimental. But that’s not true and I’m here to tell you it is so possible to recover and have a life beyond your wildest dreams! Is it hard? Yes! Is it worth all the hard work? Oh YES IT IS!
How did I do it you might ask now? How did I stop drinking and using drugs 16 years ago and recover from my addictions? I’ve compiled a list of the top things I’ve done over the years that have led to my long-term sobriety.
Don’t forget where you’ve come from…I never ever try to forget that feeling of waking up in that jail cell – helpless, hopeless and doomed – not knowing when I would get out. Why? Because if I do forget and think I’m cured of this insidious disease, I’m doomed to repeat the past.
Don’t let your past hold you back…As addicts and alcoholics, we can be our own worst enemy. Put yourself out there, apply for the jobs you want, go back to school, take chances, the worst that can happen is that you’ll get a no – but most of all, believe in yourself because you are truly worth it!
Work the 12 Steps more than once…Now I know this isn’t for everyone and I’m not saying you have to do this to get and stay sober, but I did and it worked for me. Working the steps enabled me to look at the things I had done or continue to do and take responsibility for my own actions and life. The process showed me the patterns of self-destructive actions I chose to do over and over that got me into trouble. I now know what I consider my character flaws and readily practice the opposite. For example, I realized lying came easily to me (and sometimes still does) and I used to lie when it was easier to tell the truth, always getting me into trouble or filling me with guilt. By recognizing this urge to lie, I consciously tell the truth instead. It’s hard and it takes practice but it gives me a freedom I didn’t know possible.
Be of service to others…When you help another person, you stop thinking about yourself and your problems seem less important. Reach out to that newly sober person or volunteer at a local charity you feel strongly about and you will feel like you are a part of something much bigger than yourself. It is ever so rewarding and the feeling is indescribably wonderful!
Stay grateful for what you do have…We always think about what we don’t have or didn’t get, instead of stopping and looking at how many wonderful things we have in our life. It’s noticing the little things – the smell of rain after a long drought, the birds chirping through the window on a relaxing morning or a cool breeze after a long hot day – that make a difference in our daily lives.
Eat real food…Stay away from highly processed, refined foods and eat quality meats, vegetables and healthy fats. Five years ago, real food wouldn’t have made the list but when I eliminated the junk; I was blown away by how my sobriety improved – I felt more balanced, stronger and definitely had fewer emotional meltdowns. An added bonus – the health benefits of eating a real food diet, coupled with enjoying meals with friends and family and the joy of cooking!
Develop a meditation practice…Also a new one to the list. Meditation equals exercise for your mind and a dedicated meditation practice, of just 10 minutes a day, took the balance I achieved from eating real food to entirely new level. Those crazy thoughts that used to sneakily make a home in my head and cause incessant resentment and discontent, are now easily caught by my meditative filter and released into the universe.
Learn the importance of accepting the things you can’t change and stop trying to control everything around you… I certainly tried to direct the people, places and things in my life to do precisely what I wanted, when I wanted. If things didn’t work out exactly as I planned, it gave me the excuse I needed to drink and get high. I always blamed the drinking and using on them for not doing whatever I thought best. Working the steps, coupled with my daily meditation, helped me let go of controlling everything around me and let me realize I don’t have to take on the director’s role in this play called life.
Don’t keep secrets…The guilt, shame and remorse of secrets will drive you to self-medicate with your addictions. Nothing you’ve done is as bad as it feels in your head – tell another human being; a priest, rabbi or pastor, a best friend, your spouse – just tell someone. By talking about it, you take the power away from the burden you carry and also gain an outside perspective on the situation you feel guilty about from someone you trust.
Trust that everything will be ok…because…I promise it really will! I have faith that nothing, absolutely nothing happens in this world by mistake. Whatever you have done or however bad your situation has become, you are still an extraordinary human being and I believe in you! Just put one foot in front of the other, do the next right thing, try your very hardest and you will be amazed at the changes you’ll achieve and how utterly wonderful your life will become!
I’ll leave you with this quote:
“The way to happiness: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry. Live simply, expect little, give much. Scatter sunshine, forget self, think of others.” – Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking.
What have been your keys to successful recovery from addiction? What advice do you have for someone seeking long-term sobriety? I’d love to hear your stories!