“The gift of sobriety is clarity and a sense of connection” J Maarten Troost As I sit here I am full of gratitude, I am looking out of the window and I can see Sydney harbour bridge and the city, something I once visualised as a ‘dream’ of mine. Although I have the life I once dreamed of, I know deep down in the core of my being that there is something holding me back, and that is myself and my own limiting self belief. For as long as I can remember I have had a vice, a way of numbing reality and ignoring my mental health, through previous blogs I have shared my struggles with addiction and how ART has also been a vice of mine helping me create a mask of ‘I Am strong’ that I could use to show the world. Since moving away from home, my main vice on a daily basis has been alcohol, over the years I have had times where I drank knowingly to numb the reality I was living and other times because well ‘I like it’. However, since seeking support for my own mental health, by seeking therapy, I have been faced with these coping strategies of mine and confronted with the reality of my unhealthy relationship with alcohol. This realisation led to many emotions, as my therapist says “We make change either when the problem is too big, or the opportunity is too important” and of course it gets harder before it gets easier. Throughout my journey of recovery I have gone through the stages of change in regards to my behaviour, starting with stage one ‘The precontemplation stage’. The cycle of change which is a model implemented by James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente, its used as a model that looks at behaviour change and assesses individuals willingness to begin a journey of new healthier behaviours. This model looks at individuals as unique, and understands that people may be in different stages in their readiness to change, it takes away presumptions that change is the same for everyone and means that you can identify the right interventions and steps to making change.
For myself when the first hard truth was discussed it revolved around me going into rehab, this was a wake up call that changed the stage I was at in regards to stages of change, as I had been for a very long time in the precontemplation stage. At this stage I did not take my relationship with alcohol seriously, and I didn't really think or even consider changing my behaviour with drinking, I would justify why it was ‘normal’ to have a drink or get drunk with friends, I wanted a drink so I would have a drink or three. For I truly believed I did not have a problem with alcohol, regardless of the blackouts, adverse risky behaviour whilst intoxicated and inability to stop drinking once I started.
Throughout my journey from where I was to where I am today, one week sober, I have moved through many of the stages of change and back again. When I decided to take action on my drinking I was firstly doing so to prove I didn't really have a problem that I could stop for a certain amount of time and that it would be easy. This was the contemplation stage, where I considered quitting for a certain time frame but not really committing to sobriety, first I went 14 days and then the next goal was 21 days, this is when I actually moved into the preparation stage of change and actually achieved 50 days sober. Now I am not saying that the 50 days were easy, but it got easier, the first social event where I would usually consume alcohol I felt extremely anxious, frustrated and angry, but each social event sober got easier and easier and I actually gained a sense of pride in my ability of being able to resist even ‘just one drink’.
There I had proved to myself I can live sober, I don't need alcohol, and therefore I have no problem. I had taken ACTION and was living sober, my mental health improved, I felt more joy, more connected to myself and overall more content. During the action stage, individuals take steps to change their behaviour, which I had done, and begin making steps towards significant change, however during this stage is when individuals, like myself also, are at greatest risk of relapse. Relapse is an important part of recovery.
So relapse for me at first was my basic self talking, it's just one drink I want, I don't have a problem so therefore I can have one drink. Reflecting back to that ‘one’ drink, I know it was more like three, and you are probably like that's not bad, and no it is not bad however this triggered me to believe I didn't need this change in lifestyle, that I could just continue to drink how I wish because ‘I don't have a problem’. The next month or so would show that is not the case, as I drank more and more, my mental health deteriorated and so did my motivation, I was just waiting for when it was acceptable to have another drink.
Relapse is a part of recovery and the reason I say this is because of my own experience of relapse, of course each human is unique and different, but for me I learnt in my relapse that I have no reason to continue drinking, and the negatives of drinking outweigh the positives. For me relapse gave me awareness of the problem I have, and gave me insight to how the problem I have with alcohol is bigger than me, it's out of my control.
So fast forward to today, I am one week sober, 30 years old and ready to live my life with positive sobriety. Currently I would say this is easy, I don’t need alcohol, but I know that is not the case and I know that relapse is likely, I also know I may not be able to do this alone and that its okay to not always be okay. I have my support system, and I am willing to seek support through AA and any other options that are available to me to support me this year. 2021 I am ready for the first year of my life.