Today is a great day to be sober. Yesterday was as well, but many prefer to focus on living in the present rather than the past. I remember when I first got sober, I felt a renewed energy and sensed the beginning of a new way of life. I felt a benevolent presence was with me, guiding me through the first couple of weeks, pulling me away from temptation and keeping me on the correct path.
After a few months, I began doing what I needed to do to stay sober and it became a regular routine for me. I knew all of the positive things that could come from being sober and I was slowly learning how to deal with the negatives, such as peer pressure and environmental changes. During that time, I got a lot out of group therapy. However, one thing I never learned in group therapy was how to deal with the negative emotions that an addict has to face during recovery.
An Explosion of Emotions
Like everyone, I am consciously aware that emotions are a natural part of being human being. I understand that there are days when I may feel more emotional than others, especially because I am a female. The main thing I learned when I was using was that drugs and alcohol masked any emotions or feelings that I didn’t want to feel. If something tragic occurred in my life, I just got high. It was as simple as that, or so it seemed.
When I got sober, I was informed that my feelings would slowly begin to show themselves once again, but I was never taught that it could be like an explosion of emotions. Even today, some days are worse than others. One minute I am crying over the ending of a sad movie and the next minute I'm experiencing uncontrollable laughter.
As I got sober, I began to notice that I was no longer the firecracker I once was. Instead of verbally attacking someone who had insulted me, as I might have done before I got sober, I started sulking and apologizing for whatever I might have done wrong. During the early days of my recovery, I was extremely terrified of confrontation. I almost felt as if I didn’t deserve to stick up for myself.
Today, I have finally realized that dealing with your emotions can be overwhelming, but it is important to not change your personality. Even though recovering addicts have to radically change the choices we make, we don’t have to stop being the people we once were. Even as you get sober, you have to accept and be confident in who you are. Standing up for yourself and your feelings does not make you a bad person, and it may actually spark positive emotions rather than negative ones.
The issue of weight gain during sober recovery may be an issue more pertinent to women, but many men in recovery suffer from weight issues as well. When we stop using drugs or drinking heavily, we’re left to deal with the consequences of the things we have done to our bodies. For me, it didn’t begin immediately, but once I entered recovery I slowly began to put on weight like I had never seen before. Up to that point, I had been the same size since the eighth grade.
When I first noticed that my pants didn’t fit, I started to become depressed. I tried everything I could, from dieting to exercise, but nothing seemed fast or effective enough. Struggling with weight can lead to a whole list of other diseases, such as anorexia or bulimia. Weight issues and eating disorders can be detrimental to your sobriety, especially if you feel you have nowhere left to turn but back to drugs to take off the weight.
Though I had received many compliments about how good I looked once I got sober, I had never really considered any of them positive until I saw my uncle around Christmas. “You look great,” he said to me. “You put on some weight.” I immediately defended myself in horror—he had embarrassed me in front of my entire family. Then my uncle added one more statement. “The heroin-chic look is not in,” he said. Now, this wasn’t necessarily the compliment of a lifetime, but I suddenly realized what he meant. There is a difference between looking thin and looking unhealthily underweight. Being underweight had not made me feel better about myself; it had just been what I was used to. That incident with my uncle made me realize that if I continue to take care of my body by staying sober, eating healthy and exercising, I can be proud of how I look and who I am.
Scars That Tell a Story
Something that really bothered me when I first became sober were the scars on my body. Unfortunately, these weren’t only scars from my intravenous drug use. These were scars from falling onto the pavement after a drunken evening or burning myself with a cigarette after I had passed out. They were embarrassing. While many people say that scars tell a story, I knew that my scars and my appearance told a story that I wasn't proud of. My scars from the needles have slowly healed over, but my other scars are still apparent. I was fortunate enough not to get any diseases from needle use, such as HIV or Hepatitis. Others have not been as fortunate.
I've learned that it’s important that we look at our body scars and consequences as lessons. I call them ‘battle wounds,’ because I beat addiction and am alive and sober to tell the story. If you have suffered worse, your story can still be told and can help save the lives of others. Your story is the only one you’ve got—share it with the world. Someone will love you for it. In fact, there is a whole fellowship who loves you already.
While we must realize there are negative aspects of sobriety, that isn’t all there is to this journey. The good things definitely outweigh the bad things. As the saying goes: your worst day sober is still better than your best day high or drunk.