Currently in my fifth year of sobriety and rapidly closing in on the sixth, Iíve learned quite a few things along this journey, which for me hasnít been an easy one. There were many bumps on the road, some of them forcing my ďrecovery mobileĒ to lose a wheel and return to the ďshopĒ for repairs, but eventually I reached my destination.
The late or advanced sobriety
Based on the number of years of remaining on the straight and narrow path, Iím now in whatís referred to as late or advanced sobriety. I donít want to deny that itís much easier for me to stay clean than, for instance, during the hectic first couple of years when my life was just getting back on track. However, Iím also aware that I can never get too cocky. In support groups, Iíd often hear about fellow former alcoholics that went five or more years without touching the stuff only to one day fall off the wagon when everyone least expected it. Me… Iíd rather play it safe than end up regretting it.
Are there any risks now?
Boy, are there ever! If you get too comfortable in your dependency-free shoes, you might wake up one day with the idea that you could try drinking in moderation because hey, youíre a big boy now, you can handle your liquor. Worse, you could end up believing that youíve somehow graduated from The Sobriety Academy and your troubles are behind you, so thereís no need to remain vigilant. False!
You see, along with the marching of time, we tend to forget about the past experiences and, those of us who do, are bound to repeat the very same mistakes and fall into the exact same pits as before. Whenever I feel that Iíve lost contact with my past, I browse my old gratitude journal to remember just how much of a struggle getting free from the bonds of alcohol was. That usually sobers me up, so to speak.
Serenity and late sobriety
The thing that most recovery programs aspire to do is to guide former alcoholics on how to reach a state of serenity. Serenity isnít the same concept as the Buddhist state of Nirvana, for instance, but it does have some congruent elements.
Among them, there is the tranquility of the mind and the ability to accept that there are always elements beyond our control that we should not try to change. However, itís not the same thing with allowing life to pass us by while weíre crippled into inaction. In essence, serenity implies earning the wisdom necessary to differentiate between what we can and what we canít change. Achieving serenity does not happen overnight, but rather it is a goal that you actively have to work towards.
Look back at how far you have come
Reaching the later stages of sobriety and remaining there, there is a lot of work and requires a great deal of willpower, but in the end youíll be happy you did. There is a certain clarity that can only be attained after youíve put a few years between you and the bottle and a sense of happiness whenever you look back on your life and see how far youíve come.