I have been in Grand Rapids for exactly six months. I arrived in the middle of a snow storm, like the girl in the opening act of a Broadway musical. 42nd Street or A Chorus Line – my suitcase full of sweaters, bauble hats and high hopes. The glove box free of screw top, wine shooters and Slim Jim wrappers. I’d left the bad stuff behind.
I’m not the first person in recovery to get a job in a treatment center. But after dusting off my skills as a marketing professional and honing my social media prowess for two years as a blogger, it felt like I was.
Six months: those of us in recovery are used to small, achievable benchmarks. We are often used to setbacks too. One of the things I love most about being sober, is meeting people who yank themselves out of the mire. People who rally when everyone else is inclined to sit down and ask for a latte grande. People who have made the decision that come hell or six-foot snow drifts, they will succeed.
The Steps of Change
I am new to my job, but three years into my recovery. And I am a bona fide “rallier”. There are moments when I crawl into bed with a party bag of Mallow Mars for company, but they are few and far between these days. I am resilient. And resourceful. My brain is repairing itself as we speak… Everyone is different, but “advanced recovery” usually begins after two years of sobriety or when a person is in the “maintenance phase”.
It is worth the wait.
You can’t really talk about the phases of recovery without talking about why people make the decision to quit drinking or using in the first place. Getting sober is a lifestyle change. The Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change lists the following steps one must go through to change effectively:
- Precontemplative – What? So I have a few drinks after work. Give me a break!
- Contemplative – I know, I know – I need to slow down on the booze…
- Preparation – I read this book called “Blackout” and boy does it sound like me. I am really thinking about quitting.
- Action – The AA meeting last night was great! I joined a gym. I am 30 days sober.
- Maintenance – I am three years sober and I have my tool box at the ready! Mallow Mars, cravings, nostalgia – bring it on. I am going to be sober for a lifetime.
- Termination – The concept of drinking is totally foreign to me now. I have completely changed my thinking about drinking…
What to Expect in Advanced Recovery
I think I will be in the maintenance phase of my lifestyle change forever. Does anyone truly have a paradigm shift where they never think, “Who would know if I just had a sip?” One thing I can report, is that after the two year mark and beyond, I am smarter. And when the inevitable, little devil sits on my shoulder and whispers sour nothings, it is second nature to protect myself. Here is what to expect:
- Cravings are rare
- Confidence comes with success
- The mood swings and ill effects of Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) lessen or disappear
- Stress – the bugaboo of addiction becomes easier to manage
- The focus shifts from staying sober to building a wonderful life
- Work, hobbies and personal goals come to the fore
- Character flaws are addressed (hate when that happens…)
- Helping others becomes a reality…
As I enter year three of my sobriety (and month seven of my fantastic job), I feel like my life is greening. I still want to mark the small milestones, but I’m looking broader. I’m thinking bigger. Sobriety widens the path – reclaims long-lost interests and claims new ones. It’s tough at first, but what endeavor worth doing, really worth doing, is not?