Strive to learn how to live a life in recovery, says Andy – nine years sober. He shares five key ways to do this.
The first thing you need to know about addiction is that it never really leaves you. There is no cure for addiction and that’s not what you strive for during recovery. Recovery is about learning how to live your life constantly making the choice to abstain from drugs and alcohol, which have caused so much damage in your life.
I still live with my addiction every day, despite the fact that I’ve been sober for almost a decade now. I know it’s always in the background, waiting for me to relapse, but I’ve grown stronger.
My addiction problems began when I was only 9 years old. I was a very curious kid and I had been wondering about alcohol for a while, but when I asked to have a sip, I got a lecture from my parents. So, one night at a family party, I snuck a bottle while the adults were busy, and a few sips later I was drunk. I had never felt anything like it. I loved it. A cousin of mine found out and made me promise I wouldn’t do it again, and to be honest, it took longer to make that promise than it did to break it.
As a teen, I started experimenting with marijuana, which quickly escalated to other stronger, more horrible substances. My family and friends recognized the signs of my addictive behavior. The problem was I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong. I used to tell them and myself that I could quit anytime I wanted to, even though deep down I knew it was a lie and they were right. As a result, I ended up alienating myself from them.
Flash forward to 23 and I’m sitting in a prison cell, serving a 2-year sentence for drug-related charges. Those were the hardest years of my life, but it was there where I made the decision to change my life and embarked on the road to recovery.
As soon as I got out of prison I checked into a rehab center. I learned there are 5 essential steps to recovery which need to be taken. Some of them continually repeated in order to ensure you won’t fall into addiction again. Today, I want to share these steps with you:
The first step towards recovery is admitting you are powerless over your addiction. As I mentioned earlier, I used to lie to myself and those around me saying that I was in control over my substance consumption and that I could stop using anytime I wanted to. If I had kept thinking like this, I would probably still be an addict. In order for a problem to be solved, it needs to be acknowledged and accepted.
Getting to this realization can be a different process for each addict. For me it was through a testimony I heard in prison. It was a middle-aged man who said he had lost his wife, his daughter, and everything he had ever cared about due to his drug problems. I could relate to this, it made me think about my family and how I didn’t want to lose them, which led me towards the path of sobriety.
2) Asking for help
Now that you’ve admitted your problem to yourself, it’s time to admit it to others. Your family, your friends, your doctor… anyone you consider should know in order to help you get better. I told my family first, I told them I wanted to get clean and that I would like them to support me during this process. They were so proud, so happy. They helped me find a great rehabilitation center and they were with me through it all. You are not alone in your recovery, getting help from others is fundamental in order for you to start changing your life for the better.
The next step is finding the right treatment. It is essential for you to explore the many options there are so you can choose the one that can help you the most according to your condition. There are many services available, such as residential rehab, out-patient treatments, and other medical services and therapy.
There are also meetings, like those provided by Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous, in which you can talk and listen to other addicts. Whichever treatment you choose, I would recommend it involves medical assistance and professional counseling and therapy.
You would think that treatment is the hardest part of recovery. It does implicate a lot of physical discomforts as well as mental and emotional changes, but, the real challenge comes after you’ve finished treatment and are left in the real world again. You need to rebuild your life from scratch, a life of abstinence. It will take a lot of strength, discipline, and willpower.
The good news is, you don’t have to do it alone. I kept attending AA and NA meetings regularly after getting out of rehab, as well as therapy sessions once a week. This really helped me be strong in moments I thought I would relapse -which were a lot-. Creating strong, healthy relationships is fundamental in this step too.
The way I see it, the more people there are that care about you and want to help you stay clean, the more chances you have to succeed.
As there is no real cure for addiction, there is no ultimate step in recovery. However, acknowledging how far you’ve come and celebrating it is what I consider the last of these 5 steps. Nothing compares to celebrating your first anniversary of sobriety, and each year you become more determined to continue.
Now you know what to expect before starting your journey to get clean. These are the 5 steps I took during my recovery process, which I consider were the key to my success. Admitting my problem, asking the people I loved the most to support me, getting treatment, committing everyday to staying clean and being able to celebrate my achievements are the steps that got me to where I am today.
As I said before, just because I’ve been sober for 9 years doesn’t mean I’m “cured”. Recovery is a lifetime process, and some of these steps will have to be taken every day.
I strongly encourage you to embark upon this journey. It may be hard, but it’s worth it. If you have an experience or a story about recovery you’d like to share, please leave a comment below.
Hi, I am Andy! I was born in Bogota, Colombia, but raised in Los Angeles, California. I have been clean for 9 years now! I spend my time helping others with their recovery and growing my online business.
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