One Day At A Time… five small words that mean so much to me today, yet five small words I couldn’t grasp the meaning of for so long. How was I supposed to stay sober One Day at A Time when I couldn’t stay sober for one hour at a time?
For close to 10 years, slowly and deceptively, alcohol had taken total control of my life. All my thoughts and decisions centered around when I could have that next drink. When could I get rid of this fear and self-hate inside? Or that awful feeling of not being good enough despite all my personal and professional accomplishments. Everything on the outside – my career, beautiful home, wife, and children looked normal, yet it was quite the opposite. Driven by ego, self-centered fear, and denial, I was the only one who couldn’t see it. I was blind and felt entitled to drink due to long hours, travel, and a lot of responsibility at work. I call alcohol “The Big Lie” because that’s what it did, it lied to me. It was nothing more than a thief. It stole years from life, time from my children and family.
Thankfully, the day finally arrived. Through a series of circumstances I can only attribute to the help of some higher power, I let go and decided to get help with my alcoholism. So after all my scorecards had just about reached zero, and I had hit both a physical and emotional bottom, I put myself into treatment at Mountainside – scared, lonely, lost, and unsure what the future held. I had experienced brief periods of sobriety through A.A. in the past, but would always get complacent and end up relapsing, having to start over again, broken and defeated.
My first two weeks at Mountainside were hard, as my entire world outside of the facility was blowing up. I wanted to fix it all immediately but knew I was powerless. I couldn’t do a damn thing. My only hope was to stop fighting, surrender, and recover – and that I did. I let go and asked a god of my understanding for help. I was told to “put the bat down” and stop beating myself up, that I was a good guy with an insidious disease. Thankfully, due to a lot of guidance from the staff, I was able to let go of my past and slowly start to recover. I took advantage of everything that was offered – yoga, meditation, acupuncture, ABC, and recovery coaching. Most of all, I learned it’s okay to share my feelings, be vulnerable, and ask for help. It’s okay to not be this perfect, flawless person that I was trying to be for so many years. I was given the tools to find out who I was and who I wasn’t, and eventually, I found my authentic self.
It’s been a while since my last drink, and for that, I am forever grateful. While my life is good, it has had its ups and downs. In just this last year, I’ve faced and continue to face challenges and trials that have rocked me to the core. Challenges that had me wondering why and why now? Well, why not now and why not me? I’m not unique or special, and I’m not the only one who has gone through similar trials. I’ve been blessed with an amazing sponsor and people I can reach out to and tell them how I’m feeling and ask for guidance. I can trail run, do yoga, meditate, listen to music, write, and watch my children play sports. I have so many healthy choices at my disposal today where at one point my only choice was to go to the liquor store or local bar. I was told by a certain staff member years ago, “Matt, remember to always make self-loving choices.” And today, that’s what I do.
Today, I know I am more than worth it, and recovery is a daily reprieve and gift as long as I put in the work. I have a life today second to none. Is it perfect? No, but I like the man looking back at me in the mirror, and I’ve learned to open my heart and accept love. In sobriety, I took the opportunity to go back to school and get my counseling and mental health degree, thus launching into a new career where I am fortunate to work with people struggling with addiction and mental health issues. I can give back now what was so freely given to me. The reward of helping another start their journey in recovery is a blessing. I also have four loving and supportive children who see me now as an example of power in their lives as opposed to just “dad.”
We live with a disease of progression. I strongly believe our recovery is progressive too. The more we put into it, the more we get out. During times of ease or times that challenge me, my sponsor always says, “Matt, you’re right where you’re supposed to be, don’t forget where you were.”
As long as I put my recovery first, I know and have proof of it in my life that everything will work the way it’s supposed to. Not on my terms but life’s terms. I don’t need to know or try to control what the future holds; that’s what makes the journey of recovery so magical. All we have is today; make the most of it.