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A Look at My First Year Sober

Like many others battling substance abuse, I was once a “chronic relapser.” I would get a few weeks of sobriety under my belt and become restless. I was stuck in a revolving door – detox, inpatient rehab, halfway house. Rinse. Repeat.

Most of us get to the point in active addiction where we don’t care if we live or die. We’re not necessarily suicidal, we’re just indifferent to the whole “life” concept. Personally, I believed I’d dug a hole so deep that I couldn’t even picture myself sleeping under a roof again.

The Turning Point

But in a rare moment of clarity, something finally clicked. I was over being in the hospital, sleeping under a bridge, even not having a job. I realized I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.

The hardest part was behind me. I “gave up the fight.” I couldn’t be a “normie.” I can’t have a beer after work or a mimosa with brunch. This was the first time I was truly sincere about wanting to get and stay sober. I wasn’t getting clean for the 18th time for my mom, my sister, or my grandma. I wasn’t doing it to try and mend strained friendships. I realized not only did I need it, but I wanted it for myself. I craved a life – a real one.

So it was back to detox, back to treatment, and back to a halfway house. This particular rehab saw my drive and determination to maintain my sobriety, so they awarded me a six-week scholarship to a sober-living home to help me get back on my feet. I had no money, my family had no money – and if it weren’t for this opportunity, I couldn’t tell you where I’d be today.

Refusing to Just “Go Through the Motions”

While most of my housemates were spending their days at the beach, I was taking action and making moves. Employers noticed my ambition, and I got a pretty decent full-time job on my first day out. Thankfully, because I had no time to waste; I only had six weeks to save up for an apartment.

Spoiler Alert: I did it! It might have had bugs, appliances from the 1900s, and only about 400 square feet of living space, but it was mine. Additionally, it may have been a “God moment,” but my next door neighbor happened to have two years in recovery and ultimately became my sponsor. I did absolutely everything it took to keep that home, improve my life, and stay off the streets.

A taste of my routine went something like:

  • Walk to the local Fellowship Hall to hit a noon meeting.
  • Attend all kinds of support groups, none in particular besides my homegroup, which happened to be AA
  • Ride the bus two hours to work, and two hours home from work
  • Spend time doing something fun, like playing video games (I didn’t get sober to be bored and miserable!)
  • Have “Step Work Sundays” with my sponsor
  • Go thrifting as often as I could, since I lost everything to my substance abuse
  • Do some bare-bones grocery shopping using my food stamp card
  • Make regular payments on past-due court fees and restitution

Before my one-year anniversary, I was off probation, owed Palm Beach County $0.00, received a promotion at work, replaced my materialistic possessions, and got a kitten!

The first year of sobriety is hard; there’s no sugar-coating it. But if you can wake up under a bridge feeling worthless, own nothing but the clothes on your back, and have drugs and alcohol before noon, you officially meet the requirements to enroll in Early Recovery.

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