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What It’s Really Like To Have Been Sober For 10 Years

My bad thoughts and feelings are real, and they consume me.

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When I walk by cases of beer in the grocery store, I can taste the Bud Light. My imagination runs wild with thoughts of Friday night happy hours filled with friends, laughter and a hard-earned buzz.

I see an advertisement for white wine in a glass held by the well-manicured hand of a sophisticated woman at a high-end restaurant and I immediately taste the Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc I once loved so much.

I am drowning in life — responsibilities that I can’t meet, bills that I am struggling to pay, a house that requires more upkeep than I have time for and a job that causes way too much stress for way too little pay. I dream of an escape and alcohol used to be my favorite one.

My mind goes to every worst-case scenario and my anxiety kicks into high gear. It convinces me that I am getting fired tomorrow, I won’t be able to pay my rent, nobody loves me. I am certain I am nothing but a heavy burden to everyone I love. I isolate. I turn my phone off. I respond to others with one-word answers, if at all. I stop calling friends and family and curl up on the couch while the disease of alcoholism speaks to me non-stop. I don’t always recognize it, either. The thoughts and feelings are real, and they consume me.

I want to escape. Or my disease wants me to, anyway.

Alcoholism is insidious. It controls your mind before it takes control of your body. That’s how it works. Although I have been sober for 10 years, the disease is not cured. It is still part of me, “waiting in the parking lot doing push-ups,” as they say in AA. It is always there, getting stronger, ready to convince me that I can have just one. That I deserve just one (or two). That it will be better (for myself and everyone else) if I take the edge off and become the fun, light-hearted version of myself that a few drinks create.

People understand the physical aspect of alcoholism. They know that an alcoholic’s body needs alcohol and that we get physically sick without it. Some also understand the diseased thinking —that we alcoholics and addicts don’t see our addiction or the damage it causes.

What many don’t understand is that even after years of sobriety, alcoholism is a daily battle. It rears its ugly head over and over and over again. I am, and always will be, an alcoholic. Many look at me and think I am cured, that there is no risk that I will drink again. I honestly don’t think I will, either. But the truth is, I could.

My daily reprieve from the disease of alcoholism is contingent on my choices, behaviors and commitment to recovery. And that is all I have — a reprieve that must be renewed over and over again each day. It is a lifestyle. It is hard work. And every day for nearly 10 years, I have chosen it. On some days, it’s harder to choose than others. And while I never want to drink, I do want to escape. There are times when I entertain the diseased thinking, when I take the easy way out and skip the hard work. That puts me in the danger zone.

This disease will always find ways to tempt me, and I always have to fight them. The good news is that I know how to fight. I have this foolproof toolbox that guarantees success: go to AA meetings, call my sponsor, help other alcoholics, tell someone immediately when that glass of wine looks more glamorous than poisonous and never forget my last drink. I start and end each day with a prayer and gratitude list. I live the 12 steps in every area of my life. I’m honest and I say I’m sorry when I’m wrong. I have to not drink and be a good person.

It’s a small price to pay for the miracle of sobriety, and it’s on me to remember that every second of every day. Many alcoholics don’t make it. They die an early death or end up in jail or on the streets completely alone. That could have been — maybe should have been — me.

Getting sober was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Staying sober is pretty damn hard, too. But my God, it’s worth it. I love my sober life. As long as I do the work, nothing will take it away from me.

Just for today, I choose sobriety.

Have any of you struggled with sobriety? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Health