Today I reached a milestone; I have one year sober. I’m sure I should feel some kind of way but, surprisingly, I don’t. Instead of feeling totally celebratory I feel quite introspective on this day. I’ve spent the entire week leading up to this day thinking about the journey I’ve been on to get to this point. I remember when it all started.
I was active in my addiction to alcohol and powder cocaine and not taking any medication for my bipolar disorder. I was a walking train wreck and a health hazard to myself to the nth degree but I refused to believe or accept it. I didn’t know whether I was coming or going and my body was beginning to cry out that something was wrong but I just kept abusing alcohol and drugs; I’d added pain killers to my repertoire of addiction at this point. I was staying up days on end, playing my music louder than I would normally be able to stand, rambling on with my grandiose ideas, going from one thing to another never finishing anything, etc., etc., etc. I was a classic bipolar addict mess and I’d been that way for several months. I thought I was living the good life being drunk and high and all over the place but I couldn’t have been further from the truth. I was on a fast track to destruction. I’d chosen to deceive myself into believing that I had it all under control.
When I’m active in my addiction I’m what I like to call ‘functional’. I’m still able to do normal things without much difficulty. I fool myself into believing that I’m not some run-of-the-mill addict; I tell myself that I’m better than other addicts who use alcohol and drugs and neglect life altogether. How ignorant does that sound? This couldn’t be further from the truth. An addict is an addict regardless of how the addiction may manifest itself in a person. One day something hit me and I realized that I was living a life of complete insanity. I knew that I was out of control in my addiction and my mental health was at an all-time low and my health was truly suffering.
I don’t know exactly what happened but something deep inside of me wanted a change. I was ready to get help and, truthfully, as much as I loved my addiction I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I sat down and made the call to a local mental health facility and went for an intake interview. That same day began my journey down the road to healing. I remember the seven days I spent at an in-patient hospital detoxing and starting the process of getting regulated and back on my bipolar medications.
The beginning was hell. I had trouble sleeping, I had the shakes; I was hot then cold then back again, I was extremely irritable and my skin felt like it was crawling with bugs. I felt like I was losing my mind. These things are a normal part of getting clean but I’d forgotten about them and I didn’t like it one bit. I spent most of those seven days thinking I must have been crazy to have wanted to clean up my act but I was determined to stick it out. Getting sober isn’t easy and don’t let anyone tell you it is. It’s hard and it requires a lot of will and determination. I had to constantly remind myself why it would benefit me to be sober and why I needed to have my bipolar disorder under control. Trust and believe addiction wreaks havoc on mental illness. As much as I kept telling myself I was okay, I was not okay.
At first I would count my sober time by the days, then I was elated to be able to count the weeks but the real victory started to show when I could start counting months. Still, I had to put in work. I was in therapy several days a week and I had to learn to change how I thought about addiction and mental illness. I had to see a psychiatrist on a regular basis and I had to stay committed to staying sober. That is the hardest part of the journey; commitment. Today I’m committed to staying committed about staying sober.
When I got to six months sober I began to see so many positive changes in my life. My complexion was better, I was learning to eat healthier, my mental faculties were getting back into alignment and my sleep was more productive. My favorite part of being sober was, and is, the fact that I was regaining my artistic self. I used to believe that I had to be under the influence and off medication to be creative. Wrong! Addiction is a full time job and a jealous lover and it robs you of everything, even who you really are. I learned this the hard way and I’m glad I know better now.
As I got more together I started looking forward to my sober anniversaries; nine months, ten months, eleven months, until finally today’s big event…one year sober.
Like I said to start, I’m not quite sure how I feel today. I am happy and proud of myself and I feel so very accomplished but the day is a bittersweet one for good reason; I’m also mourning the loss of my addiction. This may sound strange but it is a very real part of getting sober. My addiction was such a big part of my life and letting it go was hard, my addiction was my friend. Who wants to let go of a faithful friend who’s been there throughout the years, through thick and thin and good or bad? Certainly not me but I had to come to the realization that sometimes we have to let things go out of our lives so that we can grow.
These are the struggles and triumphs that got me where I am, and for it all I can say I’m truly grateful.