On March 23, 2022, I celebrated 19 years sober. This anniversary was the first I’ve stopped to realize how far I’ve come since my time at Mountainside in 2001. It took me a little longer to fully accept my life had become unmanageable; I fell down a few times more after leaving. The important thing in my recovery is that I kept getting up and trying again.
Since becoming sober, I have built myself a new life from the ground up. I have learned over the years that I need a therapist, and psychiatric care, at times. Mountainside gave me the knowledge and tools to ask for help and receive it. That lesson has continued to apply to my life, for both myself and my little one. There is no shame in seeking support – that’s why it’s there.
The 12 steps taught me how to live again, and I needed those steps to learn how to be a functioning, whole person. I have continued to try to improve my life by working on emotional regulation, finding anxiety relief, and setting healthy boundaries. I have learned it’s a balancing act, and the acronym HALT still applies daily. I try to travel prepared: snacks, journal, headphones, and sneakers on my feet. I use walking as my meditation because it centers me and gets me out of my head.
I was able to return to school after Mountainside, at the local community college, to improve my grades. My goal was to become a mental health counselor, hopefully finding some role in a dual diagnosis center. Shortly before graduation, I realized I wasn’t a good fit, and applied to my dream private communications college. To my surprise, I was accepted into their writing program. I was able to achieve this in less than two years of sobriety.
I married my high school sweetheart in 2005, who has also been my biggest supporter throughout this journey. We built our life in a rented cottage by the sea. We welcomed our son in 2012, and our cat, Tipsy, who completed our family. We grow flowers and vegetables in our yard and will be experiencing our first trip as a family on our new boat this summer. Hopefully we will catch some of our famous sunsets from the water this year.
The sober life may be uncomfortable at times, but I’ve learned I can handle it. We all have only today, so future tripping or getting stuck in the past is a waste of time. Avoiding uncomfortable situations only increases anxiety and worsens my fear. I don’t accept living like that anymore. I’ve even started forgiving myself, giving myself the grace I so freely gave to others throughout my life. That has been the hardest learned lesson throughout my sober journey. I am so grateful to finally be at this place.