I Got Sober Today
I got sober today.
Sixteen years ago today, I held up the white flag of surrender. I admitted that my addiction was beating the shit out of me, and I wanted out of the ring.
I left my daughter, whom I hadn’t really seen in about a year, to escape my empty existence and check into rehab for 30 days. I didn’t have a choice after telling the emergency room physician I tried to kill myself. I just couldn’t handle life anymore the way I had been living it. It was too painful and I just couldn’t stop hurting people. I had successfully placed a safe distance between myself and anyone who actually cared about me, and I was lonely.
That first day of detox I told the truth about my use for the very first time ever. I remember thinking I should have been embarrassed, but I was far too defeated for pride. It was during those 30 days that I learned about addiction and why my life was such a mess. I made a few friendships based in truth, without the armor of substance, and was reminded what actual connection feels like.
For the first time ever, after that first drunken night at 15, I was told that use was a choice. After cleansing my body of the substances that were running and ruining my life, I could decide not to allow it any more destruction. I could choose differently. I could have the life I wanted.
BUT… It would not be easy.
There would be many things I would have to do, on a daily basis, if I wanted to remain free. I would have to decide every single day. I would get to decide every single day to participate in my recovery and change the girl that walked into that ER on May 2, 2000.
I got sober today so I could become the woman I am today.
Some days that decision would be a no-brainer, and other days it wouldn’t. Life would still be life, and there would still be horrible days. I would still have to live with the realities of my past, and there would be days it would feel like the guilt and shame might swallow me up. The depression would get worse, and the list of diagnoses would get longer.
I got sober today so I could heal.
It would be vital to my recovery on many days to lean on and trust others with my truth. Sometimes that truth would feel ugly and isolating, but most of the time it would be met with identification and encouragement. I would collect and learn to use new coping skills and tools in order to make the right choices for me. I would find these tools in other people, healthy and unhealthy relationships, and the lessons that resulted from making the same mistakes over and over and then once more for good measure.
I would lean on the wrong people.
I would rely on the right ones too much.
I would stumble and I would fall.
I would learn much about myself during those really low points; whether I believed it or not. Those low points would bring me closer to God, and allow me the opportunity to see the incredible strength inside of me.
As long as I kept moving my feet – putting one in front of the other – and stayed on the path I chose, I would continue to grow and change. Some of those changes would terrify me, but that would be okay, because change is sometimes terrifying.
I got sober today so I could learn how to show up.
I would be tempted to stray from my path, and the pull would sometimes seem like the easier, softer way. I would need to rest, but never settle, if I wished to continue the journey.
I would tire.
I would doubt myself, and my abilities.
I would want to give up.
It would be those times I would have to trust in the universe that I was where I was meant to be for reasons I would not always understand. I would have to learn how to trust in the process and in myself.
I got sober today, so I could learn how to fight for my life instead of through it.
And one day, the fight wouldn’t feel so much like a fight. I would find that the life I wanted had surrounded me, and the past had worked its way out. I would find peace.
BUT…It would always be a choice.
As hours turned into days, days into weeks, months and years, it would still be in that one day that I would get to decide if I wanted to keep it. If I wanted to keep it, I would have to share it.
I got sober today so I could help other women find their own freedom.
It wouldn’t make sense at first, but I would understand the first time I saw the eyes of another woman light up with excitement while I told her the details of my journey. When I told her where I used to live and I how moved into a bigger, brighter space. She would trust my process until she was ready to begin her own. And when she decided she was, I would get the incredible honor of walking beside her – pulling from my experience – as living proof that she could find peace, too.
I got sober today so I could be a better mother.
Not only would I get the opportunity to mend the bond with my little girl, but I would also be blessed with two little boys. I would learn what it means to be a good wife, and provide stability for my children in a home of my own. I would be there for the moments in their lives that they would need me, and I would be 100% present. My daughter’s graduation would prove to be one of the most gratifying days of my life, because it was on the list that saved my life.
Recovery would allow me the opportunity to cross off all the things. It would give me a second chance at life and the opportunity to really live it.
I got sober today so I could live.
Julie Maida lives in Massachusetts with her amazing husband and three children. She has been in abstinence-based recovery since May 2, 2000.
Julie is eternally grateful for all the gifts of recovery and fiercely determined to advocate for, and connect ALL women with the appropriate support and resources necessary to achieve their personal recovery goals. She writes about mothering with mental illness at juliemaida.me.