19 Lessons in 19 years
On May 2nd, 2019, I celebrate 19 years of continuous sobriety. This did not come easy. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I made some big mistakes along the way. But through these mistakes, I learned some vital lessons that have helped me stay sober and become the best version of myself that I'm capable of being.
Long-term recovery means you never stop learning and growing. Here are the things that have helped me learn and grow the most....
1. Just when you think you’ve nailed it…..
More than once I’ve thought “I’ve got this!” “I know everything there is to know about recovery and addiction.” “I’ve dealt with all my issues … I don’t really need to do any more work on myself.” Yep, that usually happens right before I fall flat on my arse.
2. The growth never stops.
Ever. I mean, like never, ever stops. It smoothes out a lot and things are definitely less bumpy. But there is always more to know, and if you think you know all there is to know, then see above.
3. We teach other people how to treat us.
My behavior will instruct you on whether you can walk all over me, abuse me, or hurt me. Instead, I can teach you how to treat me, with the boundaries I protect and by saying what I mean.
4. Say what you mean, mean what you say.
People do not need to hear me waffling on about my story, they do not need excuses, they generally just need a truthful yes or no. My life became so much calmer when I learned how to do this.
5. I have to take responsibility for the experience I want to have.
I may not choose what happens to me or events or circumstances may be out of my control, but I always get to choose my response. Therefore, I am responsible for my experience, in all circumstances, without fail.
6. If you don’t do the work, the shine will go off your recovery.
Being sober is just not enough. I need more than that. If I don’t put the work in, I may stay sober, but I’ll stop feeling comfortable in my own skin. I’ll drift back to being discontented and fearful. That means I have to keep being accountable to myself and reflecting on my behavior.
7. Give it away to keep it.
When my life came together in sobriety and my career and personal life went well, I forgot to work with newcomers (for free). Don’t do that. Giving of yourself is actually what fills your tank.
8. Does it always need to be said, and does it need to be said by you?
Not usually, I have discovered. Only give your opinion if explicitly asked. Trust me, it saves a lot of time and trouble.
Out of everything I have just told you, this is the most important one. The benefits exercising has on your emotional well-being outweigh anything else you can possibly do.
10. Practice listening.
None of us listen well. Quiet the noise in your head and really focus on what people are saying. You will be amazed at what you hear.
11. It was never about you.
OMG! The relief! It was never about me anyway. What YOU did or said, had bollocks-all to do with my life. Everyone else is wrapped up in their own stuff too! Now I can stop worrying what other people think and get on with it!
12. Nothing is ever personal.
See above. What other people do, say or think is always about them, not me. Even when it seems like it is, what other people do or say, always without fail, comes through the filters of their own experience, values, and judgment. Therefore it is not personal to me but a simple expression of how they feel at that particular time. Took me a while to get that one.
13. The journey is joyous …
It was never the destination. We are always in a state of becoming the best version of ourselves. Uncovering who we really are is the point of it all. All I ever had to do was just keep moving.
14. Be still.
I am a human “being,” not a human “doing.” Life is not a never-ending to-do list. Sometimes it is in the stillness or the quiet moments that we feel the most alive.
15. Love well.
There was always much love here for me; I just refused to see it for a while. Always choose love, The choices I have made in my life based on fear have never worked out. If I choose love, things may always work out the way I want or planned, but man, is the adventure a good one!
16. Friendships above all else.
At some point, you will have cause to regret not making more of an effort to see your friends. We get busy, life gets in the way. But friendship is the soil your spirit needs to grow in. Good friends are hard to find, which is why treasuring the ones you have is more important than anything.
17. Ask for help.
You will always need others to help you, friends (see above), or professionals. No matter how many years of sobriety you have, life will throw you a curve ball and it will be more than you can handle. Asking for help is a skill that you can never forget — no matter how old you are.
18. Don't give your power away.
It's so easy to see what others are doing and compare yourself. But when we compare ourselves to others and find lack, we are actually giving our power away. Claim your place and own your power. The solution to everything has always come from that.
19. What will matter more in 10 years?
This question slices through the small stuff. It’s so easy to get caught up in the details of life and then miss the main event. You are the main event. Ask yourself this question and your actions become clear.