Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
My First Clean And Sober Christmas
— Our Christmas tree blinked green, red and blue, as the little star above bathed the room in its golden glow. Silent Night played on the radio. The smell of shortbread cookies wafted in the air. My children sat cross-legged on the floor in front of the tree looking at the beautifully wrapped presents and trying to guess what was inside of them. I wanted to pinch myself or cry. My skin broke out in goosebumps at the profound change of it all. Last year at this time my life was a complete mess. I was hopeless and on a suicide mission. My addiction called all the shots and I’d just sunk to a new all-time low. I’d pawned my children’s Christmas gifts to buy more dope. When the dope was gone, hell opened its gates and sucked me in. There is no greater misery than that of a dope-sick and hopeless addict. The physical withdrawal is awful. The mental anguish is heavy and suffocating. In this dark place, my mind spoke: “you’re a loser, a failure, a piece of shit.” To get through the shame I’d felt at pawning my kid’s presents, I crawled into a bottle of vodka and drank myself into unconsciousness. But this year everything had changed. [lorelie-callout] I am a completely different person than the one I was last year. This year, there were presents under the tree and joy for all. It would be my first Christmas in many years where instead of making Santa’s naughty list, I was on his nice one. The energy and utter joy I woke up with every day was delicious. My head was still reeling. I couldn’t believe my life in recovery was this good. The newly sober me was profoundly moved by this miraculous transformation. There wasn’t a single day that I didn’t give thanks for the opportunity to go to treatment and get the help I so desperately needed, but didn’t want. Looking back I shake my head. I can’t believe how I was okay living in despair, shame and misery and hurting the most important people in the world – my family. Admitting defeat and going to treatment didn’t just change my life, it saved it. I learned healthier ways to deal with my stress and anxiety and to identify self-sabotaging behaviors and thinking. Through lectures, I learned why I had no control over using and what happened in my brain when I ingested substances. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) taught me how to manage my problems by changing the way I thought and behaved. Best of all, my family was involved. Through counseling and therapy sessions we were able to talk openly and honestly. We had the opportunity to share our feelings and were given guidance when we got off track. These counseling sessions went a long way towards healing our relationship and showing us how to go forward in ways that were healthy and productive- not dysfunctional. In the very early days without drugs and alcohol, I felt raw, vulnerable and afraid. I was super-sensitive as if my skin had been rubbed off. Without guidance and professional help, I would have run back to what I was comfortable with- avoidance, numbing out the pain and escaping through getting high. In rehab, that wasn’t an option. Instead, people stayed by my side and walked me through those strange new days. With each day that passed, I felt more hopeful. I learned not to complicate matters by stepping out into the future but to stay in today and do the next right thing. If this is your first clean and sober holiday season, surround yourself with safe, supportive and sober people. It’s important to be in a drug and alcohol-free environment. Become aware of your triggers. A trigger is any form of stimuli that creates the desire to engage in mood-altering substances or behaviors. A trigger can be using friends and places such as bars, or social gatherings where alcohol is being served. Triggers can also be family members, weekends, paydays or anything that creates a physical, emotional or physiological craving. Even if alcohol wasn’t your thing, just being around it in early sobriety can start cravings. Your family can support your recovery by omitting alcohol this year. If you absolutely must be in the presence of alcohol, bring your sponsor or another support person with you. Manging your first Christmas sober can be challenging. Be honest about how you’re feeling and thinking. Your support network will help you by giving advice or feedback. To be successful in your new life, you must take suggestions. Surrendering self-will is crucial when recovering from addiction. It helped me to remember my best thinking almost killed me. I steered the bus and crashed it. In the early days of recovery, it’s best to let someone else do the driving. Sobriety is a precious gift. It requires honesty, hard work and commitment. But the freedom and joy I experience, far outweigh the work that’s involved. Choose recovery and your best years haven’t even happened yet. Your body and mind will feel alive in a way you’ve never felt before. You’ll be able to solve problems without turning to substance. Your relationships will improve. You will actually do all the things you’ve talked about doing, and more. This Christmas, give yourself the best gift of all- the gift of a new life. I used to feel better, but instead, I felt worse. I used to feel free, but instead, I got trapped. Turns out, true freedom isn’t found in a bottle, pill, pipe or powder. Freedom is found when the chains of addiction are broken and you live a life in recovery that’s so amazing, you can’t wait to tell people about it. If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance. 844-451-0263.