The Stages of Sobriety
Although I sometimes forget this important fact, I didn’t get better overnight! It took me exactly how long it took me to grow into a woman of grace and dignity. It took me six years.
Now don’t get me wrong, the obsession to drink and use drugs was lifted as soon as I did the work. I got a sponsor within my first few weeks sober. I started working the steps. I had a spiritual awakening and haven’t obsessed over chemicals in a long time. Emotional sobriety, though? That’s a whole other story.
I was a mess of character defects, insecurities, and selfish behaviors for my first year sober. Slowly, they began to fade away as I did more work on myself. I prayed, meditated, helped others, went to therapy, and completed therapy assignments. Through this process, I began to get better in all areas of my life.
So, how do women in early-recovery move from scared girls to women of grace and dignity? The answer is time, self-reflection, and fearless work on ourselves.
To help make sense of this process, I’ve outlined the different stages of sobriety. I hope you all find them helpful! Learn from my mistakes and lessons, so you don’t have to make the same ones!
This is the first step to a new life. We’re freshly sober and probably out of our minds with fear, resentment, ego, insecurity, and a hundred other worries.
Rehab is a place to physically separate us from drugs and alcohol. It’s a safe environment for us to reawaken to the world. It’s a home away from home. If those examples sound kind of corny, well, deal with it! They’re 100% true!
Not only does being in treatment keep us physically safe from booze and drugs, it also allows us to learn about ourselves. Treatment is a time for reflection and realization. It’s a safe place to face the demons that kept us drinking and drugging for years.
Of course, facing these demons isn’t enough. We have to overcome them. We’re introduced to the tools we use to accomplish this in rehab. We’re introduced to spiritual principles like honesty, faith, service, and communication in rehab.
I define early-sobriety as the time after rehab to three years. That’s a pretty long stretch of time! The important thing to remember is that the physical time doesn’t matter. Rather than quantity, we’re aiming for quality!
Early-sobriety is where the rubber meets the road. It’s where we reenter the world and put those spiritual principles into practice. It’s also where I made most of my mistakes.
I did a ton of stupid things in early-sobriety. I got involved with boys and took the focus off my Higher Power. I went to the casino and started compulsively gambling. I had more jobs than I can count on one hand, and maybe more than I can count on both hands. I practiced dishonesty instead of honesty.
There were a couple of things I did right though! I went to an all women’s halfway house. I was dating when I shouldn’t have, but I also had strong women surrounding me.
I was 100% honest with my sponsor. I told her everything good and bad I was doing. She chewed me out regularly and I deserved it!
Finally, even though my focus was often taken off my spiritual growth, I continued to work the steps. Within six months I’d completed them and began to reach out to others. Yeah, I was still full of character defects, but I was trying my best to help others.
The Danger Zone
The danger zone is my nickname for the period between three years and double-digit sobriety. I call it the danger zone because it seems like a lot of women relapse during this time.
I’m currently six and a half years sober. So, I’m smack in the middle of the danger zone! After making the same mistakes over and over during early-sobriety, I’ve started to really grow as a woman of grace and dignity.
I’m in the danger zone, but I’m doing well. I don’t enter romantic relationships, or any relationships for that matter, which aren’t healthy. I pray, meditate, and practice God-centered sponsorship. I stopped gambling! I put others’ needs before my own.
Through doing these simple (but not easy!) steps, I’m protected from drinking and selfish behavior. Of course, if I stop doing them, if I stop practicing these principles in all my affairs, I’m going to drink.
It’s that simple. If I stay balanced, I’ll stay healthy and sober. If I lose balance, I’ll end up drunk and selfish.
I think of long-term sobriety as having over ten years. It’s funny, though, I’ve heard countless old-timers refer to themselves as newcomers. Now that’s humility!
I’m not at this stage yet, so I’m not sure what it’s like. I bet it’s probably similar to where I’m at now. That’s one of the many wonderful things about recovery – if I do the same things at twenty years that I did at twenty days, I’ll stay sober.
One thing I’ve heard many people with long-term sobriety say is how simple their lives have become. While, in some ways, my life is simpler at six plus years sober, it’s also more complicated. I have more responsibility, accountability, and daily tasks than I did in early-sobriety.
I image I’ll have even more at fifteen or twenty years. I think old-timers are talking about their emotional health when they say their lives are simple. I hope that’s it anyway!
Want to know how to get to long-term sobriety? It’s simple, really. Find an old-timer and ask them how they did it. The answer won’t disappoint you, I promise!