When I first got sober a little over five years ago, I couldn’t imagine a time when sobriety wouldn’t be front and center in my life. The beginning of sobriety felt so all-consuming. It came into play in every aspect of my life and dictated what I chose to do and who I chose to do it with. It was the first thing I thought about when I woke up and the last thing I thought about before going to bed. I thought it would always be that way.
But now, five years later, sobriety is just a part of who I am. The role it plays in my life, as well as its prominence, has changed. I no longer think about it every single day. I no longer wonder how I will manage at a social gathering. I no longer worry about what people will think.
People so often talk about how sobriety has changed their life, but they rarely talk about how their sobriety itself has changed. As with most things in life, it doesn’t stay the same forever. Here are just a few ways I’ve noticed my recovery change as time has passed.
- It becomes freeing rather than limiting. Five years ago, I viewed sobriety as something restrictive, something that was going to make my life smaller. I thought it would keep me from doing things like going out with friends, traveling, celebrating special occasions. I had no idea that over time, it would actually prove to be the opposite. Over the years, my sobriety has morphed into something that makes my life bigger. It allows me to take chances with confidence I’ve built, not confidence that comes from alcohol. It gives me the opportunity be fully present for every single moment, which is especially rewarding when it comes to traveling.
- It fades from the foreground of your life.Maybe this isn’t the case for everyone, but for me it has been. Early on in sobriety, I thought about it all the time. I planned my days around treatment and 12-step meetings. I talked about recovery often, and about the milestones along the way. Now this isn’t really the case. It isn’t that these things aren’t still important to me, because they are. It’s just that they have become normal parts of life to an extent. Sometimes days can pass and I realize I haven’t even thought about the fact that I am sober. Today it’s just part of who I am at the core and that is something I have become comfortable with.
- The motivating factors change and evolve. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still glad I’m sober for many of the same reasons I had when I initially stopped drinking. I’m glad I don’t wake up having to apologize. I’m glad I know what I did the night before. I’m glad I get to skip over the whole hangover thing. But it’s more than all that now. Now, my motivation has deeper roots. Much of the time I’ve been sober, I’ve spent sharing my story and hoping to help others. Over the past few years, that has become my biggest motivator to stay sober. I want to be able to use my story to let people know that getting and staying sober at a young age is possible and even enjoyable. In early sobriety, that was far from a motivation for me because I didn’t think anyone would care what I had to say. Today, I know they do.
- It becomes less taboo of a topic.Early on in sobriety, I often felt like people were tiptoeing around the topic of my sobriety. I’m not sure whether they didn’t know what to say or were just scared to bring it up. Either way, it felt like it was off limits for some people. As time passed, friends and acquaintances seemed to become more comfortable asking me questions, like if I minded if they drank around me, or how sobriety as a whole was going. I know my own comfort level played a role in other’s feeling comfortable speaking about it, but I think some of it was just a natural progression as well. When you stick with something for a long time, it becomes part of who you are and people seem to be more open to discussing it, which I’ve found to be beneficial for both myself and them.
- It becomes a source of pride rather than insecurity.It took me awhile, but today I can say I do not have a single ounce of insecurity about my sobriety. I no longer wonder what people will think or whether I should even tell them I am sober. I no longer worry that their opinion of me will change drastically. I’ve realized that it’s on them and not me if they have an issue with the way I choose to live. Today I get to be comfortable in who I am and how I choose to lead my life. Today my sobriety is something I am beyond proud of. I am 26 years old and I have been sober for more than five years. That’s pretty damn neat if you ask me, and I’ve learned that anyone who thinks otherwise isn’t someone I need in my life.
In writing this, I fully realize these are my own experiences. No one person’s sobriety and recovery is the same as another person’s. As such, the way sobriety grows and evolves will vary. But no matter what, I think it’s important to stop every so often and evaluate how your sobriety is different now compared to early on, and whether those changes are positive ones. It’s so vital to stay in touch with yourself and know what is going on inside, and that is often tied into recovery.
By Beth Leipholtz 08/10/18