On February 20, 2017, I celebrated thirty-months of sobriety and my commitment to the daily, life-long process of active recovery from addiction.
Since being in Colombia, I’ve received questions from people from all over the world about my journey: “What are you addicted to?” “What are you recovering from?” ” When will you consider yourself recovered?”
It’s within these questions, ones I continue to ask myself, that I am reminded of how my sobriety unfolded in phases, and the phase I find myself in now.
On the day I decided to abstain from alcohol, I had to convince myself that the decision at hand was a static one – “just don’t drink” – rather than a commitment to a daily, dynamic process. I was so overwhelmed by thoughts of not having champagne at my wedding or falling in love with wine in Bordeaux, that this seemingly simple promise was all I was able to surrender to.
Having experienced my parents’ addiction journeys, I knew that abstaining from substance did not mean that I was sober, let alone in active recovery. But at that time, a decision to abstain was all I could manage, and thus, the first year of my sobriety, The Year of Abstinence and Isolation, was born.
In those first twelve months, I couldn’t see past the daily commitment to not drink. It was consuming and overwhelmingly isolating. Every minute of each day was scanned for possible temptation. Seemingly compromising situations, even those as unthreatening as coffee with a friend, were swore off, almost entirely.
It was staggering how little I felt comfortable doing without the cloak of substance – dancing, meeting people, sharing space with friends. I was paralyzed by insecurity and drowning in my own discomfort.
I realized how heavily alcohol had influenced my decision-making and dictated sensate experiences of my physical body – sex, intimacy, laughter, sadness.
And without it, I didn’t know what to do except to shut down.
And away from it, I didn’t know how to handle discomfort other than to switch-off.
In retrospect, I’m shocked that I stayed sober over the course of my first year. I got sober in Turkey, in isolation, which is never recommended. Something higher was watching over me – I’m grateful for it, every day.
I had just under a year of sobriety when I moved back to D.C. I knew that to stay sober I needed help. I knew that to start recovering rather than surviving, I needed support. I knew that to relieve my mind, I needed to become comfortable inside of my body.
I recommitted to my yoga community and became a yoga teacher. I left a career in Turkish policy for an endeavor in entrepreneurship. I restored a social network and sought fulfilling ways to fill my time.
From the outside looking in, I was navigating the current of sobriety with ease and rebuilding my life genuinely and successfully.
But from the inside looking in, despite everything I did to fill myself up, I had never been more hollow.
Rather than focusing my energy on rebuilding a sustainable recovery framework that addressed my suffering from the disease of addiction, my addiction unknowingly manifested anywhere it could get it’s hands on.
And so began my second year of sobriety, The Year of Manifestation.
In this year, my disease grew legs and ran. I was so entangled in the cycles of my addictive, compulsive thinking, that I behaved obsessively and without moderation – over-working, binge-eating, exhaustive yoga, being a “social butterfly.”
Abstaining from alcohol shifted into my rear view mirror because my addiction had found exciting and infinite ways to be satisfied. I was so entranced that I was helpless under the spell.
Somewhere around my twentieth month of sobriety, I began meeting sober people who held themselves completely differently than I did. I was anxious and obsessive, they were calm and at peace.
While we were all “sober,” our cardinal difference was that they were also in the process of active recovery. Active recovery – the choice to live each day in service of rebuilding foundation, discovering your highest self, and healing, unabashedly, from the disease of addiction.
Had I not woken up from my trance, I would have relapsed. Had I not surrendered to the process of life-long recovery, I would not be here, let alone thirty-months sober.
Surrender to process invited the 12-steps into my life. Surrender to process suggested that I begin each morning with the sunrise, meditation, and journaling. Surrender to process offered the space and safety I need to truly heal.
I’m half-way through my third year of sobriety, and it’s the year I’m Falling in Love with Recovery.
The process of recovery is a daily opportunity for discovery. It means uncovering and working through personal polarities, no matter how challenging – strengths and weaknesses, lightness and darkness, truth and fiction.
The process of recovery is a journey that is introducing me to genuine peace. A journey that is allowing me to feel whole, despite all the holes it uncovers. A journey that encourages me to fall in love with myself, flaws and all, over and over again.
I don’t think the process will ever get easier, but my ability to trust myself inside of it, has.
I trust myself to continue surrendering. I trust myself to live every day in service of my highest self. I trust myself to continue embodying and sharing my truth.
As a great woman and a dear friend once said, “Nothing around here is ever easy,” – and while recovery is certainly no exception, I look forward to falling deeper in love with this process, each and every day.