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When I Got Sober, All I Wanted Was to Stay Alive. Now I Want MORE.

I have a friend in long-term recovery who often says, “If I got exactly what I wanted when I first got sober, I would have sold myself so incredibly short.” At the time, I was very confused—to me, this person had it all. Good job, happily married, homeowner, cute kids and more—what on earth could he mean?

Since then, I’ve examined what I wanted at the beginning of my recovery journey and decided my friend was right. At the time, literally all I wanted from recovery was to stay sober and alive and to ensure that my newborn son (born drug dependent) did not die and DCF would not take him away. I had zero aspirations beyond that. Friends, school, getting my drivers license back, none of that was on my radar.

All I wanted was for my child and myself to be safe and alive.

Noble as that is, staying alive is the most basic of human needs. I had been broken by addiction to a point where that need was my only concern.

I think that because I started out with zero expectations, I indirectly placed limits on myself, my family and my future. Being fearful to dream or hope kept me trapped in my small, world. For me, the absence of aspiration was a safer bet than failure. If I didn’t try, I couldn’t be disappointed in myself. Gratefully, my attitude slowly evolved and now, I am far more confident because thankfully, the longer I stayed in recovery, the bigger my world got. At first, I was at least willing to see that other people could achieve goals and dreams, even if I didn’t think I could do it.

And then I started doing it.

I met a great guy, we had another baby, I got my license back, I went on a vacation…

All of these would have been unattainable with my previous tiny worldview.

Without realizing it, I was growing and achieving a better life than I had ever allowed myself to believe was possible.

Of course, my gratitude for just being alive waned, and at times, I was unhappy with how slowly my life was progressing. There were times that I felt very stuck as a stay-at-home-mom with newborn and special needs toddler, isolated in the New England winter without a car. There were times when I was resentful of my spouse (who was attending college and working two jobs to support all of us)—just because he got to leave the house!!

I had to remind myself how little I had originally wanted out of life and how much wonderfulness I had now. My older son was getting healthier and my younger son was the easiest baby. I had a wonderful spouse. And after a couple of years sober, I was finally really looking to the future.

I searched for jobs, took job training and updated my resume. It took over a year for me to find a job and childcare that worked for us. My progress was slow and frustrating and I was a raving lunatic half the time—but I finally landed an amazing job at a wonderful agency that I love. My kids go to preschool and daycare and I love their teachers. And all of these were things I had previously thought were out of my grasp entirely.

In the early stages of recovery, I believed I had missed the boat on getting an education. Now, I’m so grateful I took the chance— I started college classes two weeks ago.

I know what I want to get my degree in, and I’m taking a one-year certificate program in that field to start. I’m so confident, I’ve already signed up for fall courses…and I got 100 on my first assignment.

Thank goodness I am doing so much more than my original need to just stay alive. I was truly selling myself incredibly short. Now, I have such a different attitude than I did then…and I’m beginning to believe that the sky’s the limit!!!

Nicole is an East Coast mama in long-term recovery. A survivor of all the things, she is a fierce advocate for women, loves the “f-word,” practices kindness, and loves patchwork. Nicole is a newly single mom living north of Boston with her two sons.

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