Eight Things That Kept Me Sober, Inspired, And Evolving For Eight Years

Eight Things That Kept Me Sober, Inspired, And Evolving For Eight Years - by Jen Yockey, #VoicesProject

March 6, 2009. Eight years ago. I finally had enough. I finally decided that the life that I was living was not the one I wanted. So what did I do?

I asked for help. I surrendered. I listened when I didn’t want to. I followed suggestions that I didn’t want to. I showed up when I didn’t want to. I changed almost everything in my life, even though I didn’t want to. I stayed the course even when it got hard, uncomfortable, and exhausting.

I faced self-imposed shame and guilt. I set boundaries. I stopped filling the empty hole inside of me with all things toxic. I stopped running away. I made amends. I faced consequences. I forgave myself and others. I allowed myself to feel every one of the emotions, without judgment or analysis. I was honest with others and myself. I made mistakes. I got hurt, disappointed, betrayed, manipulated, and knocked down.

I stayed the course. I chose to not bury, hide, ignore, and deny. After 25 years of doing it my way, I chose another way. It was hard. But my life before March 6, 2009 was harder.

Over the years, the things that kept me sober have changed. I have evolved and so has my recovery. This is a list of my most current eight. Some may resonate with you now and some might serve you later. Take what you need and leave the rest.

  1. Stay Grounded. Yoga, meditation, and staying connected to my community are the ways I stay grounded today. Some days, I need all three. Some days, it is just one. And by yoga, I mean easy poses: I sit crisscross applesauce with one hand on the ground and one on my heart, for five minutes. I sometimes sit quietly. Sometimes, I repeat the mantra, “Everything, at this very moment, is okay.” It’s not elaborate. It’s not lengthy. It’s doable and simple.
  2. Acknowledge What I Need. This doesn’t mean I always get what I need. More often than not, I don’t. But I acknowledge my needs anyway. This is important for me. When I do this, I feel heard. Sometimes what I need is voiced to a person, written down or just shouted really loudly as I am driving in the car. This has not always been easy. I feel vulnerable when I admit that I need something. But I have found that the alternative—stuffing it down—causes a lot of problems.
  3. Trust the Process. I played competitive golf for many years. When I made a swing change and had to play in a tournament, it was important that I trusted that what I was working on was the correct change. It was important that I didn’t abandon my training before this new skill was mastered. This same process is integral for me today. I do the footwork, make the best decisions I can with the information I have, and then trust the outcome. It may not go as quickly or exactly how I want it, but I continue to trust the process and the path.
  4. Live Open Heartedly. Ahh, vulnerability. It’s not easy. Living with an open heart doesn’t mean I am a doormat. I live open heartedly—with boundaries. I do this mostly because I want to feel all the love in my life. When my heart is open, I feel the love from my family, my sweet little boy, and my friends. I am completely willing to feel hurt and the pain of loss, disappointment, and betrayal in exchange. This has not always been the case. For many years, I lived very shut down and closed off. I am not longer “afraid” of my emotions. I’ve embraced them. They are part of being a human and experiencing my human-ness. And feeling the full range of emotions actually widens and deepens my ability to feel love.
  5. Tell the Truth. The truth always seems simple. We learn this as five-year-olds. But for many years, I didn’t. I didn’t tell myself the truth, or anyone else. I didn’t tell the truth because I was afraid—avoiding pain, heartbreak, consequence, and disappointment. Today, it is a pillar of my recovery. Mostly, I focus on getting the truth straight for myself. When I live in the truth, I’m living in reality rather than fantasy.
  6. Trust My Instincts and My Soul Voice. I denied the little voice for many years, thinking I knew better or that what it told me was wrong. The voice is my connection to something bigger than me. And that something bigger definitely knows better. I have to get quiet to hear that voice. In the past, I would do everything to drown it voice out. I would stuff that voice down with food, booze, shopping, television—whatever worked. Acknowledging my soul voice doesn’t mean I have to do anything. It doesn’t require me to act. I just listen.
  7. God, Buddha, Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah, The Ocean, Higher Power. I found a connection to something bigger than myself. This used to be a very difficult concept for me; to actually think that something other than me was in charge. Early on in my recovery, a good friend asked me, “Do you believe that I believe?” I replied, “Yes.” She said, “That’s good enough.”
  8. Stay Willing, Open and Teachable. That’s quite a task! I have learned so much over the last eight years. I remain a student in all things. This can be exhilarating and terrifying all at once. But I wouldn’t have what I have, or experienced all that I have, without being willing, open, and teachable. I don’t know everything. I don’t want to. But I do want to be open to new ideas and information that allow my life to grow and blossom, rather than become stagnant and withered.

I am beyond grateful for the past eight years. I don’t want you to think that any of it was easy. It was not. Nothing that I have attained in my life was easily achieved—but it was worth the effort I put in, each and every time.

Eight Things That Kept Me Sober, Inspired, And Evolving For Eight Years - by Jen Yockey, #VoicesProject

Patterns can change. People can change. Neuroscience says that it is so and I am living proof that it is possible. I am a miracle and so are you. So, if you are reading this wondering how the hell are you going to survive the next twenty-four hours, much less eight years, you can do it. Take it one moment at a time. I am not an anomaly: there are over 23 million people doing recovery.

Today, I celebrate. I celebrate family, relationships, lessons learned, and lessons that still await me. I stand with an open heart, willing, and teachable. I am present. I acknowledge that the only thing that is certain is change. So, I am flexible. Long term recovery is built one moment at a time. Living long term recovery out loud begins when we stop doing what doesn’t work and commit to working on what does.