When a struggling alcoholic or drug addict gets into recovery and they actually work a program with honest enthusiasm, they will eventually reach this point that can only be described as an amazing moment of gratitude.
I reached this point myself somewhere around the 3 to 6 month point in my sobriety. I can remember the emotional component of that moment very clearly, because it struck me in a very profound way when I experienced it.
Here is what I am talking about:
When the struggling alcoholic or drug addict first surrenders and gets into recovery, they go through a feeling of loss for their drug of choice. I know that probably sounds ridiculous to the “normal people” of the world, but the addict or alcoholic treated their drug of choice as if it were their best friend. And so at the point of surrender there is definitely some “mourning” happening in this regard.
In addition to this feeling of loss that occurs, you have to keep in mind that the struggling alcoholic or drug addict has been deriving all of their happiness from their drug of choice for the last few months, years, or decades.
All of their happiness was based on being drunk or high. If they were not properly medicated during their addiction, then they did not count that time as being “happy.” The lack of a buzz killed any chance of happiness for them.
So you have to remember that when the addict or alcoholic is attempting to get clean and sober, that person does not necessarily have any great hope that they will one day be happy again.
I know this because I can remember it from it my own recovery journey: I had no real hope that I would one day be happy in sobriety. I honestly did not believe it to be possible. I just assumed that I would be miserable forever if I could no longer get drunk or high, because that was what I had been basing my happiness on for the last decade of my life or so.
So you can imagine my surprise when, less than six months after my moment of surrender, I had this moment of gratitude in which I realized that I was not actually miserable in my sobriety.
But this moment of intense gratitude went beyond my own somewhat selfish happiness.
In fact, that moment was brought on by the fact that I had just had a fairly major realization about myself and my sobriety, which was this:
I had just gone through an entire day in the life of my sobriety in which I never had any cravings for drugs or alcohol. I had gone through an entire day and I had never even thought about getting drunk or high that day. Not once! And that was an amazing revelation for me.
The reason that this was amazing was because of the obsessive nature of addiction. When I was attempting to sober up, I argued that I would always be obsessed, that I would always have cravings, that this issue was never going to go away. And the truth was that I was stuck in that reality at the time, and I had obsessive thoughts of drinking and taking drugs all day long at that time, and so I that was the only reality that I really knew. I did not believe it was possible to be free of that mental obsession to want drugs and booze. I could not picture my life free from that obsession when I was struggling to get sober.
So this freedom from the obsession was also a big part of that moment of gratitude.
Now there were actually 3 parts to this amazing level of gratitude. The first part was in realizing that I was not miserable in my recovery.
The second part was in realizing that the mental obsession of wanting drugs and booze all day long had been completely lifted from me.
The third part was the realization that I could accomplish and achieve just about any single goal that I put my mind to.
Again, this realization hit me like a smack in the face, and even though it felt like a lame cliche from an after-school special on television (“You can do anything you put your mind to!”), it rang true for me.
I had been working a program of recovery for a few years now, and I had been following the suggestions of my sponsor, my therapist, and my peers in recovery. They had told me what to–such as going to AA and NA meetings–and I had been doing it.
As I progressed in my recovery, I started to gain some confidence back very slowly. I was extremely cautious with this because I watched a lot of my peers gain too much confidence in early recovery and end up relapsing as a result. So I was very cautious at first when it came to setting my own goals in recovery.
But eventually I started to figure out what I wanted to accomplish now that I was sober, and I started pushing myself to do it.
So one of my goals was to get into shape, and I eventually ran a few marathons.
Another goal was to go back to school, and I eventually earned my 4 year degree.
I started to realize at some point that I could pretty much tackle any single goal and achieve it, if that was what I really wanted to focus on.
Again, this was a revelation, a huge smack in the face for me: I could design my own reality at will. While I could not do everything in the world, I could do just about any single goal that was reasonable. And my definition of “reasonable” was expanding every day.
This was because of a few factors that I had not counted on when I was very early in recovery. One, I could reach out for help and advice from a fairly incredible network of support. In other words, people would help me to achieve my goals in recovery so long as I was doing the right things.
Second, I had not anticipated how my life would evolve if I was stacking up positive habits and consistently following through with positive action. This was based on all of those suggestions that I got in early recovery that eventually turned into lifestyle changes: Going to meetings, seeking advice from a sponsor, pushing myself to grow with a therapist, writing in a journal every day, physical exercise, quitting smoking, helping others in recovery, meditation, and so on.
As I stacked up more and more positive habits, they turned into drivers of my new lifestyle, and eventually the positive benefits of those habits began to interact with each other in ways that I had not anticipated.
In other words, if you are continuously improving different areas of your life, over time the combined effects of all that personal growth is going to surprise and delight you. Instead of 1 plus 1 equaling 2 you are going to experience 1 plus 1 equaling 5 or 6. This is because the positive benefits begin to overlap and enhance each other, stimulating even more and more growth for the future.