What does it mean to be sober? Do you have to be serious all of the time? What about fun—can you have any fun? There is a stigma surrounding addiction, recovery, and sobriety that has not been fully dealt with in our society. If, as a society, we are unable to talk about something, then we cannot heal from it. And if we cannot heal from it, then there is no opportunity to move through it. And if we can’t move through it, we are essentially stuck.
Collectively, we would prefer not to talk about uncomfortable topics such as these; yet, in the age of authenticity, there is a shift happening towards a willingness to hear one another. We are growing closer to compassion for individuals experiencing addiction, recovery, and sobriety, and there are even places where talking about these topics are not only tolerated but celebrated.
I used to be an addict. I was not your textbook definition of addiction; I was a 17-18-year-old Caucasian female with a loving family and a strong support system. I had a good home, and a caring community. Inevitably, I made some life choices that led me down a narrow, winding road. I learned a lot of difficult lessons early on in life. These lessons were all part of my life equation, which has fortunately turned out some pretty decent results.
So, what took me so long to talk about addiction? For years, I wouldn’t bring up my adolescent addiction for fear of judgement from my friends and family. I didn’t know if my parents would still love me if they knew about the choices I had made prior to my frontal lobe being fully developed. (Spoiler alert: they still love me.)
I carried around this shame and guilt for years, not knowing how to process it.
From adolescence to adulthood, I was constantly living inside of my own thoughts. Even though, outwardly, I would appear pretty normal, inside I was overthinking pretty much everything. In my head, I was never good enough. These patterns of negative self-criticism kept me in a shame cycle and prevented me from showing up fully for myself and for others.
Eventually, as I got older, I grew to know that I was not my thoughts. I began to see the science behind the ways I was feeling.
Onto the Table
In August of 2017, my son Patch had a very serious virus-induced asthma attack that landed him in the hospital for four long days. My life as I knew it changed forever. It was after this life-altering event that I fell into sobriety. All of a sudden, I had to take life pretty seriously. I wanted to be prepared if something like that were to ever happen again, and I wanted to be secure, mentally, within my position as a mother. So, I made a commitment to myself to try something new.
In the beginning, everything was new. It was like relearning how to walk, talk, and visit places all over again.
I made choices to gradually change my social environment, which caused me to stay home a lot by myself. I learned quickly the difference between loneliness and being alone. I enjoyed being alone, for the most part.
Sobriety brought it all out onto the table. Without the typical numbing patterns, I was left to feel everything. I experienced a lot of anger that had been suppressed for years. There was sadness, and there was joy. The pendulum was swinging more fully than ever before. I now experience a new type of joy, one that was missing for over a decade. It’s an overwhelming, irreplaceable joy. It doesn’t often show up, but when it does, my heart is full.
I wake up sober every day, but I don’t wake up thinking about sobriety. I wake up thinking about kombucha, and black tea. I wake up thinking about my responsibilities for the day, including, most importantly, maintaining an overall stable mood for my children.
I still have my bad days, but they are not nearly as hard as they used to be. My mental illness game used to be strong. Anyone who is experiencing or has experienced depression understands the feeling of not being able to get up off the couch. I used to feel like that at least once a day, but now it’s more like once a month.
CBD helps me a lot. I take it for depression, mood swings, and as a sleep aid.
It took me about 6-8 months of toughing it out before I circled around to CBD. I had some resistance to it because I was afraid I would become dependent. Luckily, I feel supported by it. CBD helps to extinguish anxiety (as much as possible with kids), and plateaus anger and sadness to a manageable place.
Keep Showing Up
About a year into sobriety, one of my friends saw that I was struggling and reached out to help. They helped me to see my strengths, and they celebrated me. It was the first time I had allowed anybody to see me in my unique, “very Morgan-like” recovery.
Everybody’s journey of recovery looks and feels different. Mine is one of self-realization and self-nurturing. My recovery sometimes looks a lot like getting take-out from my favorite restaurant, or eating sweets.
In August 2019, I will be two-years sober.
My rewards are simple. I’m no longer stuck in the shame cycle anymore, and I feel extremely reliable and consistent as an individual. My negative self-talk is dwindling to an almost nonexistent voice, and I know that I am a good mother, daughter, sister, leader, wife. If someone needs me, or if I need myself, I do my best to show up. If something happens, I can drive.
Sobriety for me means being a present witness to life.
I am supported by my friends and family that acknowledge and honor my choice of sobriety the best way they know how.
Recently, I caught wind of the term “team recovery,” and I am still wrapping my head around what that means to me. What I do know is that it represents a beautiful message, one that can be replicated in our own circles to support all people at all stages of life. We are all in recovery from something. You don’t have to be sober; you just have to show up, and keep showing up. Eventually, the team is all there, and you welcome them, late or not.By: Morgan Sell