5 Life Lessons I've Learned In My 5 Years Of Being Sober

by Deanna de Bara

Almost five years ago, I made the decision to stop drinking. Frankly, it was the only decision left to make.

I had tried to manage my drinking, control it and “drink like a lady” (whatever that means), but my efforts were to no avail. At my core, I was a blackout drunk; as soon as I took a sip, I couldn’t stop.

After many years of alcohol-induced pain, drama and insanity (both for myself and for the people unfortunate enough to have a front row seat to the circus), I was finally ready to admit that I needed to quit.

And quit I did. I am proud to say that I haven’t taken a drink (or a drug) in nearly five years. Life has been pretty awesome as a result.

When I stopped drinking, I hoped that my life would be different, but I didn’t quite grasp the journey I was about to embark on and how it would change me.

As I approach my five-year no-booze-iversary, I want to reflect on five major lessons I’ve learned along the my path to sobriety:

Pain Is The Catalyst For Growth

This was the first major lesson I learned and remains one of the most important. At the end of my drinking days, I was in an incredible amount of pain, and that pain was what ultimately enabled me to change my life.

I was so miserable and so uncomfortable; I had to do something differently. The pain forced me to look around, evaluate what was going wrong in my life and change my situation.

That lesson has come up again and again, not just in my sobriety, but also in all aspects of my life. The most profound and positive changes I have made over the last five years have all blossomed out of painful situations.

The Only Thing You Can Control Is Yourself

As much as we all like to pretend that we are the director of this grand play called life, in reality, we have little control of people, places, things and circumstances.

What I’ve learned is that the only thing I can control in any given situation is myself. At first, this drove me crazy; I wanted things the way I wanted them, and when that didn't happen, I quickly became frustrated, upset and angry.

But now, I actually find the lack of control over external circumstances liberating. No matter what is going on in my life, I know that all I have to worry about is my decisions and the way that I conduct myself.

As long as I keep my side of the street clean, whatever happens outside of that is all good.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

I am, by nature, a worrier. I used to spend an embarrassing amount of time worrying about the past, the future or the extra slice of pizza I ate for dinner.

But guess what? It never, not once, changed a single thing. Worry gets in the way of happiness, and letting go of excessive worrying has allowed me to lead a much happier life.

You Can’t Do It Alone

You’re not meant to. When I got sober, I was determined that I could pick myself up and get myself out of the mess that had become my life all by myself. Slowly I learned that not only could I not do it alone, I didn’t want to.

Learning to let my guard down and depend on others has been an invaluable lesson. I’m no longer afraid to ask for help, and having that openness and vulnerability with the people in my life has only brought us closer.

I now have a handful of amazing people that I rely on, who, in turn, rely on me and it makes life that much better.

The Most Important Relationship In Life Is The Relationship With Yourself

I have been single for most of my sobriety. Dating without the ease and comfort that develops over a glass of wine on the first date can be difficult and awkward, and I haven’t found the match I’ve been looking for.

I used to get frustrated over my chronic singleness, but now I don’t mind it. I came to the realization that the most important relationship I have is the relationship I have with myself.

Instead of focusing on finding a partner to love, respect and honor me, I’ve learned to do those things for myself, and I’ve become more comfortable with who I am as a result of it.

I’m sure that one day I will meet a guy who will be a great match for me, but in the meantime, it's nice to have the time and energy to really focus on me.

While I’ve learned a lot of life lessons over the past five years, perhaps the biggest, grandest thing I’ve learned is that there will always be more to learn.

Every day I am faced with people, situations, places and circumstances that teach me about what I want, where I want to go and who I want to be. Every day I stay sober is another opportunity to continue growing and learning, and that’s an opportunity I plan to seize.

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