On May 2nd, 2023, I celebrated 23 years of continuous sobriety. I worked hard for this, and I made a lot of mistakes along the way. But through these mistakes, I learned some vital lessons that have helped me stay sober and grow into the person I always dreamed of being.
Here are the ones that helped me the most.
1. Just when you think you’ve nailed it…..
More than once, I’ve thought, ‘I’ve got this!’ ‘I know everything there is to know about recovery and addiction’, ‘I’ve dealt with all my issues…. I don’t need to do any more work on myself’. Yep, that usually happens right before I fall flat on my arse.
2. The growth never stops…
Ever. I mean, like never, ever stops. It smoothes out a lot, and things are less bumpy. But there is always more to know; if you think you know, all there is to know, then see above.
3. We teach other people how to treat us.
It’s my behaviour that teaches you what is acceptable to me and what isn’t. Instead, I can teach you how to treat me by having boundaries, and valuing and respecting myself.
4. Say what you mean, mean what you say, don’t say mean
People do not need to hear me waffling on about my story, they do not need excuses; they generally just need a truthful ‘yes’ or a ‘no.’ my life became so much simpler and calmer when I learned how to do this.
5. I have to take responsibility for the experience I want to have.
By practicing the above, I become responsible for the experience I am having right now. If events or circumstances are out of my control, then I always get to choose my response. Therefore, I am responsible for my experience, in all circumstances, without fail.
6. If you don’t do the work, the shine will go off your recovery.
Being sober is just not enough. I need more than that. If I don’t put the work in, then I may stay sober, but I’ll stop feeling comfortable in my skin. I’ll drift back to being discontent and fearful. This means I have to keep being accountable and looking and reflecting on my behaviour.
7. Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?
Because sometimes being right won’t make me happy in the way I think it will. Discerning between the two is life-changing.
8. Does it always need to be said, does it need to be said now, and does it need to be said by you?
Not usually, I have discovered. Only give your opinion if explicitly asked; trust me, it saves a lot of time and trouble.
This is the most important of everything I have just told you. The benefits of exercising on your emotional well-being outweigh almost everything you can do.
10. Practice listening.
None of us listens well. Quiet the noise in your head and focus on what people are saying. You will be amazed at what you hear.
11. It was never about you
OMG! The relief! It was never about me anyway. What YOU did or said had bollocks-all to do with my life. Everyone else is wrapped up in their stuff too! Now I can stop worrying about what other people think and get on with it!
12. Nothing is ever personal
See above. What other people do, say or think is always about them, not me. Even when it seems like it is, what other people do or say, always without fail, comes through the filters of their own experience, values, and judgment. Therefore it is not personal to me but a simple expression of how they feel at that particular time. It took me a while to get that one.
13. The journey is joyous….
It was never the destination. We are always in a state of becoming the best version of ourselves. Uncovering who we are is the point of it all. All I ever had to do was just keep moving.
14. Be still.
I am a human ‘being’ not a human ‘doing.’ Life is not a never-ending ‘To-do’ list. Sometimes we feel the most alive in the stillness or the quiet moments.
15. Love well
There was always much love here for me; I just refused to see it for a while. Always choose love; the choices I have made in my life based on fear have never worked out. If I choose love, then things don’t always work out the way I want or plan, but man, is the adventure a good one!
16. Friendships above all else.
At some point, you will have cause to regret not making more effort to see your friends. We get busy, and life gets in the way. But friendship is the soil your spirit needs to grow in. Good friends are hard to find, which is why treasuring the ones you have is more important than anything.
17. Ask for help
You will always need others to help you, friends (see above) or professionals. No matter how many years sober you have, life will throw you a curveball, and it will be more than you can handle. Asking for help is a skill that you can never forget. No matter how old you are.
18. Don’t give your power away
It’s so easy to see what others are doing and compare yourself. But when we compare ourselves to others and find lack, we are giving our power away. The solution to everything has always come from that. Claim your place and own your power.
19. What will matter more in 10 years?
This question slices through the small stuff. It’s so easy to get caught up in the details of life and then miss the main event. You are the main event; ask yourself this, and your actions become clear.
20. Change is the only certainty in life.
The only constant in our lives is that everything will change; nothing will ever stay the same. You will be able to adapt and deal with whatever changes better than you think you can.
21. If I’m ok with me, I don’t have to make you wrong
This stops me in my tracks. When I start getting angry and upset at the world and everyone in it, I know the problem is with me, and there is something I have to look at. Because when I am comfortable in my own skin, I don’t have to make you wrong. Being upset and angry at others is just my invitation to grow.
22. Give people the dignity to be who they are – everyone is in a process of growth and becoming. Allow everyone space to learn and grow from their mistakes. We all need grace when we behave in ways we regret. Especially me, I need a lot of grace.
23. Keep to your side of the street
A lesson that, after all this time, I still need to learn. Your side of the street is not my business. I have enough to occupy me on my side of the street.
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