When I got clean and sober there was something that came along with completing 12 steps and living a life in recovery. Like a prize at the end of the game or a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. They told me I would get “a life beyond my wildest dreams.”
I am here to tell you this is not true. If you are a drug addict like me, I have some pretty WILD dreams. If it was up to me I would be living in a tiny house right now with my husband, 2 daughters, more than one dog and my daily activities would include driving to different states jumping out of planes daily and cliff diving. Then we would sell our tiny house, board a plane to some island, rent out jet skis for a living, live off coconuts, some day win the lottery, buy the island, then go take a boat to some other country. I can come up with some pretty wild and crazy ideas on a daily basis.
You know when you go on vacation and you see those ridiculous people that wear shirts that say “I went (insert random place) and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.” I believe my life in recovery is somewhere in the middle of those two scenarios. I am far from living this wild child, gypsy life style that I always envisioned and I am doing a little better than a lousy t-shirt. My life is pretty much, shall I dare use the word, normal.
Yesterday I celebrated 9 years clean and sober. I have been removed from drugs and alcohol for 9 whole years. The truth is I was a normal kid, with a normal childhood, sent to above average schools, had a pretty above average family, and was supposed to live out the normal northeast future. And by that, I mean graduate high school, go to a great college, get a great education, get a career, find a husband, get a white picket fence and have some kids. I think those ideas of a normal future crashed and burned when I took my first trip to rehab. At some point my life went from “be normal” to “please don’t die.”
By age 20 I was a full-blown heroin addict. We aren’t supposed to actually talk about that because kids like me aren’t supposed to do things like heroin. Over the years, I have come in contact with a lot of heroin addicts and I am here to tell you, kids like me are exactly who we are treating for heroin addiction. Good kids from the burbs who have good parents and went to good schools and are supposed to have great futures. That’s who is dying. They didn’t choose this life anymore then you choose to get the flu. Have we made some bad choices? Of course, I am the queen of bad decision making. But I am here to tell you no one would pick this life. Have you ever looked into the eyes of a drug addict who is in active addiction? There is not a look more sad, hopeless, spiritless, or helpless then those eyes. And how does drug addiction end? Well for some they die or you deal with being a stigma for the rest of your life and things hopefully will come full circle back to “normal.”
So, what is normal? The hell if I know. What I do know is at 9 years clean and sober I am a wife, mother, college graduate, daughter, sister, and friend. My friends and I still joke that we found men to marry us. Not only that but I have a relationship with my husband that is well healthy. We respect each other, we communicate (some days better than others), we parent together, we have fun together, we try to be better people together. We most likely have no idea what we are doing and have had very few examples of healthy relationships in our lives but we have made a commitment to each other. We put our relationship before our children. Why? Because without two parents that love each other all those little girls are going to have is a broken home.
The real zinger here: God gave me two beautiful little girls and put me in charge of raising them. Think about that for a second. God looked at me and said yea you can handle these two little miracles and make them productive members of society. What a gift. Now that I am a productive member of society, I get to help two little princesses grow up to be little ladies. I have a relationship with my family that was nonexistent for some time. Typically, families frown upon the addict nodding off in the mashed potatoes during Thanksgiving dinner. I get to be present now, physically and emotionally present. As for friends, mine are definitely better than yours. I am blessed to have the best friends anyone could ever ask for. Having true girlfriends in your life is something every women, not just ones in recovery, but every single woman should look to gain.
So, am I living this life beyond my wildest dreams? No. Every day I wake up with my husband, get one daughter ready for school, breast feed the other one, work, write, make dinner, go to bed, and do it all over again the next day. We aren’t rich, we don’t own a home, we rarely vacation but we are truly blessed. There is no reason to flash around some wild dream of sobriety. If you were desperate enough like me, just being able to LIVE was the real dream. It doesn’t have to be miserable.
If you go to a meeting or speak to someone who has multiple years and they talk about how hard staying clean and sober is every single day and relate their recovery to a lousy t-shirt, I suggest talking to someone else. Life in recovery is not supposed to be hard. Sure, we struggle with life things like every other single person in the world. Some days are harder the others. But overall, I wake up happy, not white knuckling sobriety every single day. My life sober is not beyond my wildest dreams – but my life is living. Living was something I never even dreamed of.