Better Navigating Bumps in the Road

“Just because you have a few years of sobriety, it doesn’t mean you have dealt with all of your stuff,” my sponsor said to me recently. I tend to still think I am the master of my domain, even after working the steps a few times through. I usually realize pretty quickly, however (sometimes with a little nudge from my sponsor or others), that I need to make my ego “right-sized” in order to maintain my sobriety and, frankly, my sanity. 
In sobriety I have had as many life pitfalls as I had when I was actively drinking. I have dealt with divorce, IRS and financial issues, and the death of my mother. Prior to sobriety I would self-medicate my issues away. Of course, they didn’t really go away, I just numbed myself to the effects of these situations. I never really dealt with my problems or with my feelings about them. I always tried to drink my problems away, and that only served to exacerbate my already growing list of issues.
Now, in sobriety, I find I am encountering a lot of the same stuff. Life happens. I still have bad things and good things occur. I have feelings about those things. Although I am not drinking, life is still full of bumps in the road. The difference is that now I find I have the tools and resources to deal with life. I realize that my mental health needs as much work as does my sobriety. I know I need to reach out and ask for help from friends, family, and professionals. Isolating in a bottle is no remedy. When I isolated in the past, I found myself going to a very dark place regardless of whether I was drinking. I have always struggled with depression and drinking (putting a depressant substance in my body) certainly did not help. But I found that drinking insulated me—temporarily—from dealing with the realities of life. I know I am still prone to that same anxiety and depression, on the wagon or not.
My mother passed away recently and instead of isolating and compartmentalizing or denying my feelings, I have been actively working through my grief in a healthy manner. It hurts, but I am working through it, raw feelings and all. 

I find now that working the steps can be helpful with more than just maintaining my sobriety. My health—both physical and mental—is dependent on a firm foundation of sobriety. I also need to keep my other tools handy. For me, these tools include utilizing AA meetings and my LAP group as forums to open up and share my struggles as well as my experience, strength, and hope. I know I am not alone with my travails, and perhaps I can help provide some small bit of assistance to others who might travel down the rabbit hole of isolation and depression. I also advocate the use of licensed therapists to help those like me deal with our demons.  My therapist has been invaluable in my journey. I know now that it is okay to have emotions like sadness and anger as long as I process these emotions in a healthy manner.  It is okay to “feel,” and this is something that was truly a foreign concept to me before sobriety.

My goal is “progress not perfection,” and, as my sponsor so eloquently articulated, I still have a lot of work left to do.

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