I don’t know where to start with this one. A year ago I was drunk and hopeless, a victim. My life was dedicated to drinking and trying to cure my hangovers. I used to vomit 3-4 times a day. It is kind of hard to believe that I’ve made it a year because of how badly I wanted this, and now here it is. It felt so unreachable to me. I feel this small freedom now from the obsession of wanting to drink. At the beginning there used to be at least a hundred thoughts a day about it. Needless to mention, I am the only one of my 6 roommates from rehab that made his first year. I know it is not appropriate to say this, but the odds of making it the first year are about 2 people out of 20+. Shitload of people didn’t make it. I was very aware of the odds all the time, trying to make sure that this time I would not be a fucking loser. I needed this win. I remember quietly watching those who were so sure they would make it a year, so confident. They built these personas of leadership but as always they forgot one quiet guy in the room who barely talked, who was barely visible. Even counselors couldn’t figure out how much self-reflecting I was doing, which led me to being extremely quiet. They would push me to socialize. For the first time I stopped wasting my energy on pretending to be someone. I was focused on me. The information kept flooding me and my brain started overheating. There is so much to quitting your addiction. So many ways to go, and good ones as well. Even though Alcoholics Anonymous still rules the field, there are other options available now. With this drug epidemic going on there is no better time to quit than now. As information was reaching my ears, I suddenly started feeling hopeful. Scared, unsure, but hopeful…

My experience of being seven months sober and an attempt to find reasons to what led me to drinking.

Why it is super sweet to reach a year of sobriety

Painting by Thomas Saliot

Because sobriety made me fucking cry, and I hate crying. I had to be out of my comfort zone a lot. I had to live with strangers in rehab and have zero hours of alone time. Anyone who tells you that the first year of sobriety is easy is lying. I went through hell. A week after leaving rehab and starting intensive outpatient program, post-acute withdrawals started hitting me hard (I was a month into my sobriety). I was sick almost every day. My anxiety made me want to jump out of my body and I felt like acid reflux was going to melt me from the inside out. There were times when I could barely keep standing on my feet at work. This one particular time, I was so low that I felt that every drop of serotonin, one of the good feeling and relaxation inducing chemicals, was completely dried out in my brain. I felt like my brain had become a pure desert, yearning for water. I wanted to drop to the floor at that moment and never get up. My motivation was in high negative numbers, but yet again, just like every other fucking day for almost a year, I put up a fight. That was the craziest low and the most numbness that I have ever experienced in my life. It made me question, will I live another day?

Overwhelming feelings during early days of sobriety and search for meaning

Overcoming loneliness in early recovery. Its a challenge.

Taking time to reflect on reasons why I quit drinking. It helped a lot that I wrote down benefits and downfalls of drinking (See smart recovery handbook).

Who can forget my mind splitting in half. Thank you cravings and urges!

First cravings are a bitch and they make you feel scared and freaked out. I guess the hardest part is that I couldn’t see myself sober long term and even now I don’t think that one year is a long time to be sober. I am lucky because I really want my sobriety and am willing to do anything it takes. I am scared to go back to the insanity of drinking. It violates me. Addiction abuses you and makes you feel like a worthless piece of shit with 0% of dignity left. It gets to the point where you don’t feel like a human anymore, and the pleasure that you get from drinking shrinks to such a short moment that life becomes pure pain and misery. It is obsession that makes you want to continue drinking, not pleasure.

My heart was stabbed multiple times

Cravings hurt. Being depressed on Friday nights isn’t fun. At the beginning I used to be very jealous of other people drinking; after all it was my life for a long time. People buying beer at the store, movies full of drug scenes, passing bars while driving and seeing people outside smoking, co-workers rushing at the end of the workday Friday night to a party. I had nothing to look forward to. Well, I’m lying. I did. My cravings, when my mind would split in half, meaning part of me wanted to drink and the other part didn’t. Worst experience ever to be torn in half and just stand there without knowing what to do. Even if I hated crying at those moments I wished I would just so I could relieve the pain. I kept on taking this pain. I didn’t wish for it to end because I didn’t believe it ever would. Wanting for it to end would have complicated things. It would have meant that I had an excuse to relapse. There is no excuse to drink. So I opened my heart and let it be stabbed to the point where numbness took all the pain away

To those close ones when I was about to get drunk

They are unavoidable in early sobriety. I had a few close ones, and I think it all comes down to luck, whether or not you give in. They can either teach you so much, if you take time to reflect after not giving in, or they can break you and complicate your recovery. What has helped me to withstand them is that I was putting in a lot of work before they happened to me. They will happen. 100% for sure.  Sobriety is a huge personal investment that requires constant maintenance. I used my future guilt and regret to motivate myself to stay put. The beautiful thing about cravings is that I know I will be okay as long as I don’t do anything. If I don’t physically go to the liquor store or pick up that drink I will never get drunk. Ability to separate emotions from physical action is the key. Just because you feel something, that doesn’t mean that you have to act on it. What is that famous quote?

This too shall pass…

I have experienced a lot of cravings/urges to drink during my first year of sobriety. It helped a lot that I wrote down most of them in my journal:

Having a clarity moment in the midst of insane craving

When it comes to cravings most of the time I was scared to let myself feel them all the way. I was trying to block them. What if they take control of me and I fuck up my sobriety? What if the craving will feel insanely good that it will seduce me? Well most of the time it did  feel insanely good. Every time I was on the verge of relapsing I would just think, think, think. How does it make me feel? How things work out if I say fuck it? With what story can I justify my relapse? Biggest question that would come up was “Whats next after I drink and satisfy the urge?” -This lead me to realization that even if I drink it is not enough. Satisfying my urge will not solve the problem of what I am feeling at the moment. It is easy to go insane at this point. Drinking is not enough no matter how much I wish it would be and deep down I know that my body doesn’t have the capability to keep on fighting every time I am poisoning myself. I have failed my duty to take care of my body to my best abilities. How selfish of me. While my body works day and night to keep me alive I do just the opposite. I put ethanol in me.

The name of the game is PAIN not benefits

Author AyyaSap

While in 28-day in-patient rehab, every morning in check-in someone would read the passage of the promises from one of the Alcoholics Anonymous book. I thought that was foolish. Getting sold on the benefits of sobriety. It is dangerous to be a hopeful fool. Fools get killed because they become so hopeful that as soon reality starts to kick in they fail. Of course there is a stage of confusion for them before imminent relapse. They start asking, how come even though they do everything, things are still shitty. It’s like they block the pain out of the picture and focus solely on the benefits: “Oh how amazing is to be sober!” They expect sobriety to have the same kick as using drugs, minus all the pain that addiction has. Even further, they think that just because they are sober they will get this incredible secret prize that is only reserved for recovering addicts. Come on, even I at some point expected a secret prize.

Sobriety is

  • Boring
  • Challenging
  • Painful
  • Itchy
  • Not fun
  • Sad
  • Being angry
  • Feeling jealous at times
  • Learning to live with your feelings
  • Wishing for that hit of pleasure
  • Being uncomfortable in your skin
  • Going through amazing post acute withdrawal symptoms
  • Facing your failures
  • Living with metal illness if there is one
  • And all too many other things
Overcoming challenges during first year of sobriety. Mindfulness. Relapses. Recovery meetings. Gratitude and taking yourself out of victims role

Innocence of addiction

For me, it started with one tall beer can at the age of 21. I actually did follow the laws. I was always extremely against alcohol. I had a deep hate for drunk people. Just the way they act, and there is a long story behind it that I don’t feel comfortable sharing at this point. All I know is that alcohol was affecting me before I was even drinking it and I kind of swore to never go that route. Maybe that’s what kept me away till I reached 21. Deep deep hate for drunk people, experiencing embarrassment and shame.

Yeah I was drunk after one tall can and it wasn’t a big deal at all. It was kind of funny actually because not many people can get drunk with that little. I loved the down feeling. It was like whooa! I think that escape part played a huge part in my liking. I was too young to understand. It soothed me and I was able to bypass all my depression and my enormous loneliness, and just have fun. The best part was that I didn’t need anyone or anything to have fun besides beer. Looking back, I was very problematic, full of issues, but I kept them to myself. Like a lot of fucking issues. I am so glad that I will never have to be that age again, it truly sucks not having the capability to solve your own sensitive problems. In a way, besides drunk driving, which I loved, drinking alcohol kept me from going insane while staying very much within the law. I didn’t have to do any crazy things, and I was very focused. It was one solution that solved everything and gave me so much needed relief. And you know what? I actually don’t blame myself for that. I was literally trying to survive. The only thing that was there for me was an empty space.

Eventually I made progress and was drinking two beers. It was still humorous. After that I got lost in the benefits of drinking, and quantities. Every time I would look at myself in the mirror I would still see someone who was drinking funny amounts. I was so blind to what was going on as well as not wanting to admit that I have a problem because admitting that meant that I would need to do something about it.

 

My last night of drinking. It was over the top bender

I thought to myself after waking up all dehydrated, eyes full of pus, unimaginable headache, “I wonder if I can just drink a bit more to the point where I can get that hangover hit and hopefully never wake up.” I wasn’t planning on having any more plans after that one. Talking about being hopelessly drunk and drunk to the point where you are thinking that you can easily check out by using your own thoughts. Isn’t that like telepathy?

Nope. After walking to the liquor store and buying more beer, that last relaxation plan wasn’t happening. I was fucked. My body told me that I couldn’t make it drunk anymore. Full blown attack next. I guess I was fucking with myself and playing the victim in regards to trying to check out. I desperately tried saving myself, and this thought came to me, that my desire to feel drunk all the time was unrealistic. I either go all the way in and poison myself for the sake of pleasure or I need to stop because I will regret everything…

Working on my denial that I dont have any power to quit drinking therefore I am hopeless victim

List of mindful ways to help yourself in recovery

How mindfulness coloring has helped me in early recovery to overcome anxiety, frustration and overwhelming feelings

Finding that one reason that will carry you through the first year of hell and beyond

Mine was that I was coming very close to damaging myself to the point of no return. Soon, one day, I will regret it, but the worst thing will be that I won’t be able to do anything about it. I was scared that when I looked back at my life there would be nothing. No fight attempted. The down side of choosing the easy way out is that it only brings regrets. Is that what my life will be? Complete failure? But…I can’t even attempt to try doing anything when drinking locks every door of opportunity, starting with making me not care about anything. I was deeply done with this…

When drinking I always imagined that one day I would get sober; but when? I didn’t know this was it.

My detox started in the emergency room

After silently surrendering and making it to the E.R. all drunk I had just one goal in mind: I need to stop. This is just too insane and I am tired of going through the same patterns over and over again. Inside I was an emotional wreck, and alcohol did one last good favor for me. It helped me to cross that line of sharing my biggest fear of all, showing my true self to someone.

My headache was unbelievable and the rest involved tears. I was just so tired.

Psych ward?- talking about being scared shitless

Author Pekthong

I still feel uncomfortable talking about this part. Even more than telling someone about the reasons behind stopping drinking. The psych ward changed my view about mental health. Yes, they enforce strict rules like keeping the doors locked and no pencils at night. I assume so you can’t stab someone else or yourself. They take all your things away too and you have no freedom. I wasn’t locked in the room but I had to attend the meetings that they had inside all day long. I shared the room with someone else, and the first night sleeping there was scary to be honest. I was in shock that I had signed my rights off and this was happening to me. From two beers to here. But I went with it because I was hopeless. I was open to taking any help I could get. I felt insane, maybe from outside I was still able to pretend and act normal but inside I just knew I was fucked. Addiction totally fucked up my feelings and I couldn’t trust them, plus I always had to go against ignoring my body telling me: “What the fuck are you doing?!” For me feeling hangovers every other day was normal, and being drunk was sober me. I would go into panic if I wasn’t feeling crippling anxiety. I would think, what’s wrong with me?

I realized that I am not so different from these other crazy people, and they are not crazy. These people are unfortunate for having these illnesses. I liked being able to spend some time with the most depressed people in the world who didn’t give a shit about all the fake values like new cars, homes, fame, money. In a way it helped me to look at myself, how my desire for pleasure led me to the bottom. This insane need of: I must, I deserve, I need, to have more, and the never ending chase.

Next stop 30 day rehab

Unlike being in the psych ward, I was excited that I was getting an opportunity to go to rehab. It was a dream come true. I needed an official start. I was ready to do anything and everything it might take. I think I had this deep need of putting all the past away. I needed to hear that cravings aren’t the big deal, I am not a complete failure, and all that recovery talk. There was so much inspiration. All the meaningful talk about life and addiction was helping me to get in touch with myself. For 6 years the only person I was talking and listening to was me. During my stay I completely bypassed all the rehab drama and focused on the things that would help me stay sober.

One crazy day in recovery. Doctors appointment and refusing to use mind altering medication

Future plans in self development

Changing my mindset. Instead of drinking when frustrated I try to use frustration as inspiration

First months in recovery are about having million thoughts of not drinking

Setting my first boundaries in early recovery. I felt guilty

Not being scared to change ways how to stay sober. Sometimes new is good!

 

I have exhausted all the help to become sober

  • Hospital
  • Rehab
  • Intensive outpatient program
  • Basic intensive outpatient program
  • Smart recovery meetings
  • Alcoholics anonymous
  • Practicing mindfulness by myself
  • Talking to someone like therapist (only in rehab but I feel it would be very helpful for me to find someone so I can work on some things)

These are just mainstream options. I haven’t explored all the possibilities. I would still like to attend refugee recovery meetings, sos and life rig meetings and learn what they all about. Oh and I haven’t tried agnostic version of alcoholics anonymous neither.

My single biggest mistake in recovery was not asking for help

I could have avoided a lot of unnecessary pain if I had only had the guts to be bold and ask for help. I was very lucky that I was guided through all of these options in reha

b. That’s why I think rehab works. For me, asking for help was 25% of work in becoming sober. Yes, there are cravings and all other things but asking for help was mission impossible. Main reasons that prevented me from taking that step were:

Author CrisvectorStigma

  • Shame
  • Addiction made me feel insane
  • I didn’t think that getting help would work. How can words make you stop?
  • I was scared of talking about my drinking problem
  • I didn’t know if this would be on my record
  • It was a new territory that made me extremely uncomfortable
  • Admitting that I had a problem meant that I am an alcoholic, and I hate that word as much as the smell of booze
  • If I got help and failed, I was scared to look weak. I didn’t want to be one of those people who kept on relapsing.
  • I couldn’t imagine my life without alcohol

Shall we talk about the benefits and achievements of being one year sober?

I have addressed a lot of drawbacks of becoming sober, and I am sure I haven’t covered them all, but let’s look at the benefits. These are mine. It should give you a broad idea of what to expect in your first year of sobriety if you are thinking about stopping the insanity of addiction or already taking those steps and making your first days or even months sober.

Weight loss. About 30lb

Yes, I am that guy. Although I wasn’t fat when I was drinking, I went from a large to a medium (being 6 ft. tall). I used to drink beer mostly, so those calories racked up. Did you know that in liquid form our body has a hard time recognizing the calorie intake? I made the mistake of buying new clothes right after rehab. Now they are a bit too big for me. All the weight loss happened in a span of a few months. No work required. Although I still want to lose some more, just for health reasons.

Saved money. 3-5K

That’s just purely on purchasing cheap alcohol without drinking at any bars. Plus it doesn’t include any drunk reckless spending. My DUI cost me 10k plus all the blown tires and car damages. Not to mention hospital bills.

Found a job 3 miles from my house

And I make $1 more. If I was still drinking I wouldn’t have lasted in this particular job since it requires constant interaction with people. It is a bit harder then my previous ones but what I like about it is that there is an opportunity to make more as I learn. At my old jobs I reached the hourly wage cap. As my post withdrawal symptoms subside and I hopefully regain my energy, I will/am becoming more valuable at my job.

Got rid of the old car-new car

It was my first car. I had lots of fun, but it was starting to fall apart. I used to have a lot of problems and crazy repair costs that just wouldn’t stop. I know this isn’t exactly an achievement, more like a liability, but now I have piece of mind after getting a new car. It isn’t used, and the best part is it will drive for years. Plus the price won’t keep me in debt forever. I will pay it off in no longer than two years.

Read 26+ books

And I liked it! They have inspired me. I have learned a lot and they are helping me to make new changes. I am getting in touch with myself.

Colored 36 mindfulness pictures

It helped me to stay relaxed during the times of anxiety. Kept my mind off cravings and gave me the buzz of pleasure. Idk I guess brain loves colors

I quit coffee

My acid reflux and anxiety led me to doing this. I don’t have crashes and am much less crazy. I don’t get overstimulated, which is my biggest trigger for seeking alcohol since it slows things down.

I quit soda

I am sure it will have a positive effect on my future health. I used to drink a lot of soda. Talking about future diabetes and calories of fat plus heart disease.

I quit energy drinks

These got me in a lot of trouble including irregular heart beat and all that. If I am quitting why not quit energy drinks too? Its not like they provide any real benefit. It feels good not to buy into a false advertisement and I am sure there are a lot of benefits of abstaining.

Finding inner peace

This has been one of the single coolest benefits for me. I am learning how to make myself peacefully relaxed without a hangover the next morning. I never knew that was possible without alcohol.

I don’t have to run, hide, and spend all my time managing my addiction. I can open my heart when I am alone and experience the peacefulness.

There are moments when I am completely free of the obsession to drink. The obsession has subsided so much compared to the first months of being sober. I am finding that happiness doesn’t require the feel of pleasure.

Regaining self esteem

From being a victim floor mat to doing one of the hardest things in my life. The boost to my self-esteem is unbelievable. My plan is to multiply the experience of becoming sober to all the other areas of my life. Sobriety isn’t just stopping, it has become self-development, a hobby, and a new obsession with attacking all of my fears. I want to explore facing the pain much deeper.

My senses are opening up

I am starting to care, feel, and find deeper meaning in things. I am no longer constantly in hangover pain. I have a better capacity to understand people and if needed connect with them. One thing about having your senses open up is a bigger enjoyment in small things, sometimes even useless things.

No more red puffy face

Red face brings a lot of shame and makes me look unattractive. It has dramatically subsided. Thank god!

Wait I have a personality? Being more social

I used to have a hard time talking to people and alcohol would make me keep things even more to myself. When I am drunk I could just stare at the wall forever and play with the same thought over and over. When it came to people I had a serious problem with finding things to talk about and being myself. Although I am quiet (that doesn’t mean that anyone can roll over me, I will stand up when needed or if it’s important) but I have my moments of loosening up and being my true self around people.

Volunteered

I wanted to volunteer for so long I cant even remember. So instead of drinking on friday night I volunteered and it will probably be ongoing. It was a homeless shelter. Check mark

There will be a future

As longest I dont die before achieving some of my other desired goals

And much more that I forgot to mention…

Thats what is like to be a year sober for me

December 15, 2016

 

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