The Gifts of Sobriety

A Letter to Those Still Suffering from Addiction

When I look at my life today, I am often amazed at how it has unfolded. Everything I ever needed and dreamed of came true—only it is better than what I thought, because my imagination was not capable of thinking this deeply.

My life is not perfect, but really, who wants a perfect life where everything comes easily? I know this may sound appealing at times, but if you have not struggled and fought to receive what you want, it is just not as meaningful.

This is exactly how I feel about my recovery.

When I think back to my addiction, I am reminded of desperation, constant fear, self-hatred, and hopelessness.

I am thankful that I can still remember this time in detail. Why? Because not only has it kept me humble and grateful, it also inspires me to want to help those who are still struggling.

The stigma of addiction causes constant feelings of guilt and shame. You may want to stop, but it might seem impossible to do so. I understand all of this. And I know how hard it is to take that first step.

This is where the work comes in. Getting sober is not easy.

You have likely been numbing your feelings for a long time. Not only do you have to sit with those feelings when you get sober, but they are 10 times more intense without the crutch of substances you used to avoid the pain in the past.

While trying to handle all of this, you most likely also have friends—and even family members—who do not understand why you cannot drink anymore. You start to question why you are going through all of this when you do not have the support.

The most important thing you have to remember is that this is your life.

People will always have their opinions, and some people may be uncomfortable being around you when you are in recovery. It spurs them to think about their own drinking or other vices that they may use.

You cannot take this all on. You have to keep fighting for yourself.

If you continue to fight and you work your hardest, I promise that your future self will thank you one day. During future difficult times, you will think back on the time you were getting sober, and it will inspire you to always continue to fight.

You will become someone who never gives up on what you want because you will know in your heart that you were able to overcome one of the most challenging things anyone could go through, and you won the battle.

It will be different than other victories because you will not become boastful or conceited about your success. Instead, you will begin a path of self-love.

This will feel strange at first. In our addictions, most of us are incapable of even looking at ourselves in the mirror. Over time, though, you will know that everything you went through, all of the struggle and hurt, was for a reason. Having gone through all of this, you will now be able to help others who are still stuck in their addictions. You will be the one who inspires others to want to be in recovery.

When the drugs are gone, you will also get a chance to know the real you. You may have been told you were a bad person in the past due to what you did during your addiction. You may have even believed it, but your true self is the one who is sober. You may be amazed at how good of a person you truly are. I have seen many people who thought the worst of themselves, and then once they got sober they were shocked at how much they wanted to help others. This is when you know that you have tapped into the gifts of sobriety.

It only gets better. You will still have bad days, sadness, and pain, but the longer you are in recovery, the more confidence you will have that you can get through all of this sober. You do not need to rely on a substance—you have yourself to rely on, and that will become more than enough.

Katherine McGovern is a person in long-term recovery and works as an addiction technician at Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation's Tribeca Twelve facility in New York City. She has a bachelor's degree in behavioral science and is currently in a master's program for mental health counseling at NYU. She has worked with in addiction treatment since 2012.

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