Before venturing down the road to recovery, my daily routine consisted of one primary focus: consuming the next drink. I was submissive to one master, and I had no real sense of stability, discipline, or structure. My drinking and drugging lead to a life filled with chaos and a no real sense of identity.
Fortunately, my addiction beat me into a state of utter submission. It wasn’t long before I educated myself on the disease of addiction and the vital importance of being willing to abandon myself entirely to a new way of living. You see, self-medicating was my solution for a long time — until I could no longer satisfy the gaping hole within myself with drugs and alcohol.
Abstinent from other mood/mind-altering substances, I began to understand the stark nature of my disease truly. My life was undoubtedly unmanageable while I was abusing drugs and alcohol, but my life did not become entirely manageable once I got sober. This is still one of the most important factors that I must keep in the forefront of my mind, even today. I had no idea how to live a balanced or disciplined life. I had no idea how to live life as a functioning, respectful, and productive member of society.
After I began to admit to my innermost self that I am the real alcoholic, I was able to start understanding how powerless I truly am. I came into the rooms of recovery and saw many people with substantial sobriety live prosperous and fulfilling lives. I felt like these people were experiencing the promises of a sober life, but I would never quite measure up. It wasn’t until I started taking a look within myself, implementing discipline, and indulging in new hobbies that I truly began experiencing the freedom of recovery.
Nutrition: You are what you eat.
First and foremost, it was so important for me to prioritize a healthy diet in recovery. While I was in treatment, I gained a healthy 20 pounds. This was not a difficult task with an on-site chef doing all of the cooking. However, I was put to the test when I was left to cook for myself. Studies have proven that nutritional deficiencies can play a direct role in the onset of depression.
For an addict, such as myself, implementing structure in a task as simple as my diet was monumental for me. After all, our food is the fuel for our bodies. I began to create a weekly meal plan and committed to maintaining a healthy weight and taking care of myself entirely. Recovery is all about balance and taking care of the mind, body, and soul.
Sleep is NOT for the weak.
During the many years of my ravishing addiction, I lived by the mantra, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Back then, I was malnourished, sleep-deprived, and certifiably insane. Sleep deprivation is directly correlated with high blood pressure, kidney disease, depression, stroke, and many other chronic health issues. Sleep is essential to maintaining a high quality of life, as well as regulating physical, mental and emotional health.
Implementing a responsible bedtime was crucial to my overall mental wellbeing. Before bed, I made it a priority to spend some quiet time reviewing my day, taking inventory, and meditating. Immediately, I began to notice a shift in my quality of sleep, as well as my overall emotional state in the morning. I was no longer dreading waking up in the morning, and the irritability, discontentment, and restlessness continued to slip away.
Meditation: Quieting the static noise
Before ever picking up a drink or a drug, I would describe a consistent static sound flooding my head at all times. Once I consumed my first sip of alcohol — immediately, the noise was silenced. When I first got sober, I can remember the sound returning. My head was flooded with racing thoughts and anxieties, and I had no idea how to silence the noise without the aid of another substance.
I heard many people talk about meditation, and instantly I’d picture Buddha in the lotus position chanting weird “OHM’s.” I was filled with contempt before investigation. I remember walking into a Twelve-Step meeting, and it was a meditation meeting. For the first 15 minutes, the entire room was silent. I decided to free myself of judgments and allow myself to sit quietly. The imagery of a calming mountain stream filled my head, and warmth of an imaginary sun covered my skin. I found my anxieties calmed, as the static noise escaping me. I was present in the moment.
Meditation has become a part of my daily routine. When I take the time to quiet the noise in my head and reflect on the things I’m most grateful for, I ask for help from a Power greater than myself, and my day seems to go much smoother. This practice sets a tone of serenity and clarity throughout the rest of my day.
Discipline does not equate punishment.
One of the most important aspects of my life today is implementing discipline into my everyday affairs. Before getting sober, I believed that discipline was synonymous with punishment. Picture a little girl cowering in the corner – that was the image that came to mind when I heard sober men and women talk about discipline. Coming from a traumatic past, I could not fathom this idea of positive discipline.
After I experienced a year of pain and chaos, I began to look at where and how I lacked discipline in my life. Recovering addicts and alcoholics are accustomed to running the show – playing the Director. I ran my life the way I wanted to run my life, and I rebelled against structure and discipline. Working with my sponsor, I started doing the things that she did. I came up with a weekly schedule filled with to-do’s that were listed by order of priority. The more I follow suit and stay on track, the smoother my week carries out.
Service: It’s not about me, it’s about you.
The most critical piece of my sobriety today is making myself available to be of maximum service to my fellows. Before I got sober, my life was all about me. I lived in utter victimization, and self-centeredness was the root of all of my problems. I didn’t engage in helping others unless there was a direct benefit for myself. This contributed to my utter misery for as long as I can remember.
“Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail.” Big Book Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 89
I was told at the very beginning of my journey to sobriety that my primary purpose was to help other alcoholics and addicts. This concept sounded great, but implementation is key. Full of ego and self-centeredness, it took some severe pain and absence from the Fellowship before I truly understood the vitality of service.
Today, I center my life around service. If another woman calls and asks for help, I put my “needs” aside and make myself available. No matter how irritable or busy I am – service is my primary purpose. There is absolutely nothing else in my life that gives me a greater sense of purpose an identity than sitting down with another woman and watching the sparkle return to her eyes as she finds a glimmer of hope in the promises of sobriety. I have finally discovered an entirely new sense of self, and my life finally has a purpose. The purpose I have found today far surpasses filling my insatiable spiritual malady with other substances.