There is this thing when you are sober, a celebration of sorts, called a recovery birthday (think cake and laughter and a new shiny chip). They can be a big deal to those of us living in Recovery. It is a milestone reached, a celebration of the life we are currently living, an acknowledgment of the journey we have embarked upon and continue to walk everyday despite the difficulties. A reminder that we are still alive and not just surviving anymore, but thriving. But these birthdays aren’t always easy, or happy and that can be confusing.
I just celebrated 5 years of continued sobriety. 5 years of not a single mind-altering substance. 5 blessed years of clear cognitive ability. 5 years of waking up remembering having gone to bed. 5 years of dreaming. Yet, I held back tears all day. My loved ones were a tad confused by this, they think I should be so proud of my accomplishments, so happy about all that I have done in “just” 5 years. Don’t get me wrong, I am in a profoundly different place. I am blessed to have been given the option to recover and I am so very pleased with the action I have taken to walk the road of recovery.
But there is something still so raw about it all. It is a stark reminder of how I used to be before I got sober. It is a reminder of all of my friends that have lost the battle and are no longer with us on this earth. It is a reminder of the shame that I still carry, and that weight is heavy. To celebrate the day I started to get my act together and the day that I decided it was time to face the music and grow up is not one I relish in celebrating. I was 38 years old when I made this move. A late bloomer to the story of a fulfilled life. The day that I embarked on this road, was not the best day of my life. I didn’t feel so hot. My body still reeling from the effects of daily drinking and ingesting as many drugs as I could. I could barely walk much less speak coherently. Suffice it to say, it was NOT a good day, and I remember this all vividly.
This year was a little different though. I felt all of this, in my bones, in my heart and in my head. I was acutely aware of the emotional rollercoaster I was on, all day. By the end of the day, I came to a few conclusions that may help others that struggle with this day in their own story.
- This is not just a celebration, it is a recognition. That doesn’t mean I have to feel any sort of way. I get to simply feel how I feel, whether that is happy or sad or perplexed or forlorn or lonely or ecstatic or elated. Its my day. No one gets to tell me how I should feel. I am letting that go.
- Crying is ok. Let the emotions go. Let it out. Stop stopping. That isn’t the life I want to live any more. I want to feel things, all of them. Whenever they present themselves.
- Keep dreaming. Dream as big as you possibly can. I never thought I would be sitting here writing this post about a 5 year recovery birthday. I never thought every word of it would be true.
- This is just the beginning.
One day at a time. You got this! And remember to celebrate you, all along the way even when it is hard, and especially when you reach important milestones in your recovery.