One of the biggest issues I always struggled with when I tried to get sober was remaining humble. I either wanted to completely erase my past and move on, or I had so many regrets that I fell back into the cycle of addiction. I never felt strong enough to look forward. These hangups continuously presented a roadblock for me. I would never deal with them or wait for my feelings of regret to pass. Instead, I would just turn around and go back to doing what I knew. It took a long time to understand that there is no way to magically erase or change your past—that you have to embrace it and use it to move forward.
The Value of Flashbacks
While flashbacks may seem intimidating, they can be extremely helpful when you’re in recovery. When the road to sobriety gets strenuous, I find that looking back to the day before I chose to get sober can be the key to success for me. An important thing to remember is not to dwell on your past to criticize it or feel sad, or to worry about the last mistake you made that was the reason you chose to get sober. Instead, look back in order to see the kind of life that you never want to return to.
I rewind my mind to the past not to torture myself; not to make me feel bad about the poor choices I made, but to refresh in my mind the reasons that I never want to fall into that cycle again. Flashbacks give me a reason to remember that, while I had some good days when I was using, the good days and positive feelings were outweighed by the negative feelings and the bad days when I was sick, dishonest and selfish.
Remembering My Last High
I remember that the summer was winding down into fall, and the weather was starting to get chilly again. I left my bicycle at a friend’s, since I was technically homeless, and had to walk a good ten miles to get where I was going. I took the bus downtown to meet with my dealer, but he never showed, so I had to walk back to meet a different dealer in another area.
Unfortunately, I had missed the bus for the evening schedule, so walking was my only option. The previous day I'd had drugs waiting for me, but had relied on a friend to pick them up for me, and the drugs had magically ‘disappeared.’ It was a shameful walk, in the dark, alone. I wasn’t sure where I was going to sleep that night, since I was out so late. It was nearly too late to call anyone who could offer me a couch as they were all in for the night because they all had to work in the morning. I started to feel chills and sweats; though it had only been a couple of hours since my last high, it felt more like a couple of days. I had visited my parents the previous weekend and stolen the last of their gold jewelry. My next high was going to take the last of my money for the week. I hadn’t eaten for two days, but I had returned some cans I'd found on the corner for a tea from the liquor store.
The long walks through town always gave me a chance to reflect on the things I had done, and also on the things I had lost. A short time before, I would have been working on the third shift at my old job, with my car in the parking lot and an apartment to go home to. I remembered being able to visit my parents every weekend before they became concerned about me taking belongings. Now I was supervised during visits when I decided to show up.
That last cold walk through town was the night that I realized that I was going to die if I didn’t get sober. I was going to die on the streets, and the only way I would stay sober was to leave everything I knew behind and move forward to a new kind of life. It was that night that I got high for the last time and realized that I needed to quit cold turkey and undergo the difficult withdrawal process, or I would never remember the pain that comes with drug use.
Remembering your last high can feel like pure torture, especially when you know that the things you did while you were using are not things you would ever do while sober. It is important to remember where you came from and what you came from. Things can always go back to the way they were, but they don’t have to. As long as we continue to work through our sober recovery programs and stay away from things that are unhealthy for our sobriety, there is nowhere to look but forward. There were a lot of external factors that influenced my choice to get sober, but in the end, it was my personal choice. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired and I finally took positive action.
Though it may seem meaningless to get sober when you’re at the bottom of the bottom, eventually, the only way to go is up. I was fortunate enough to make it to the end of the addiction cycle and get out of it, but I chose to get sober. I never forget where I came from and what I can go back to if I choose to pick up again.