I really can’t believe it, 18 months ago I got sober. It has been like belly-crawling up the face of a mountain but worth every bit of the pain. In reality, I’m just an infant at the start of a new life and eager for the journey.
I’ve read that it takes 18 months for your brain to start re-wiring itself after the throws of addiction. Can I tell a difference? Yes and no–that keeps me humble as I’ve come to understand that there isn’t a cure, just a daily reprieve if I keep myself within the boundaries of sober living.
Today I am sober. This fact swells my heart with gratitude for the protective diligence of my Higher Power. In gaining sobriety, I have made the personal commitment to be transparent about my recovery wherever possible. No, I don’t want attention but I do want to reach a fellow sufferer, lend a hand where needed, and help others know they aren’t alone.
There isn’t enough words or actions to express my gratitude to everyone who has supported me through my years of suffering and early months of recovery. I wrote down a few thoughts for the night that I collected my chip and am leaving them here in the hopes to share the gratitude that fills my heart with those who deserve it…
I had a conversation with a student this week about adversity and following your dreams. As we talked this fifteen-year-old kid said something that really made me think, he said, “When I face challenges I just keep telling myself that my dreams are valid and that I’m doing what’s right for me.”
Out of the mouth of babes, right?
28 months ago and one relapse later I’m here collecting my 18-month chip because a force outside of myself spoke similar words to my heart. My Higher Power breathed into me saying, “JoAnna, your life is valid. You’ve got to start doing what’s right for you.”
I didn’t want to believe it, I couldn’t believe it. Despite my lack of faith, my Higher Power had a plan. He sent me a group of women who bound themselves to me and very slowly walked me back from the cliff of despair. These women kept me alive for ten months.
Then the relapse came. I can now see that my Higher Power used that experience to teach me that I could not gain sobriety alone. I need Him, His plan for me, and all the angels He sends me.
Shortly after the relapse, my Higher Power provided me with intensive therapy for a sickness in my mind. My doctor’s first words to me as she told me that my mind was broken by what they call complex-PTSD was, “You really should be dead, why do you think you’re not?” I answered her with the only two things I could think of. First, my obligation to my children and second, my girlfriends refused to let me die. She said we’d start with that, and so we did.
Once I learned that it was okay to be alive, I then had to figure out how to live and beat back my obsession for addictive substances. Again, my Higher Power already knew what I needed and had something in mind. Through a loved-one, I came to the rooms of a 12-step program kicking and screaming. I didn’t want to add an “-ism” to the already long list of self-hatred and things to “fix”.
As I started attending meetings, I tried to stay invisible by never hitting the same meeting more than twice in a row. My philosophy was to get in, get whatever my Higher Power is giving me, and get out. That worked until one group decided not to let it.
You see, I wanted to stay invisible because I believed I was invisible, I believed I didn’t matter, that I wasn’t t good enough. I struggled with abandonment, self-loathing, this disease (addiction), and probably what’s screamingly apparent by now, my inflated and imploded ego.
I’m not going to name names, but I wasn’t allowed to remain invisible at this particular group and before I knew it, I was showing up regularly. I was still scared, still feral, still living in my head but they kept saying, “Keep coming back, it works if you work it,” so I did.
Before long, a woman presented herself at the precise moment that I needed her. My Higher Power is GOOD! His timing is perfect and He picked for me the perfect mentor. Along with this woman came several other amazing women-warriors who brought me into their circle with open arms. Their love and acceptance have sent me to my knees in gratitude and humility many times.
In this small victory of gaining 18 months of sobriety, my Higher Power gets all the glory. He has removed from me not only the desire for addictive substances but also the wreckage of my past and my awful obsession with death. I am alive today and happy to be here because of His all-knowing power, love, and the value that He sees in me. His plan was simply to bring me home and that home is in the rooms of a 12-step recovery program!
To those still suffering or to the families and friends of any addict, there is hope! It’s my daily prayer that you find it and a Higher Power that is eager to embrace you.