This month, Beth Leipholtz celebrated 7 years in recovery. She is here to share 7 misconceptions about recovery.
When I think back to early recovery, the thought of reaching a month, 6 months, a year seemed insurmountable. I had so many images in my head of what recovery was sure to look like, and why I would definitely hate it.
But over the past 7 years, it’s become obvious that many of those images in my mind were misconceptions. Here are a few of the biggest ones.
Misconception #1: People who are sober don’t have a social life.
I, like many in early recovery, feared for my social life. I was sure no one would want to spend time with the sober version of me. But in reality, it was the other way around. Most people liked the sober version of me much better than the intoxicated version, and for good reason. It was me that had to learn to like that version. As I became more comfortable without alcohol in my life, I realized two important things: 1) I was more of an introvert than I thought and 2) I could be around alcohol without wanting it. Being an introvert meant I was more than okay with a limited social life by my choosing. But at the same time, when I chose to go out, I was okay with being around people who drank.
Misconception #2: You have to be religious to get sober.
This one had me hung up for a long time. I was so hellbent on the idea that the 12 steps were centered around God and I wasn’t necessarily religious. For a very long time, I couldn’t move past that fact. But eventually, one of my counselors told me that as long as I didn’t believe I was the center of the universe, as long as I believed there was something more powerful than me, that it was time to move through the steps with that in mind. Over the past 7 years, I’ve come to realize that I’m a spiritual person, and that means that certain things look different for me than they do for religious people. And that’s okay. My sobriety isn’t lessened because of that.
Misconception #3: You won’t ever repair the relationships you ruined.
In my mind, some of my friendships were just goners based on what I had done or said while intoxicated. For a while, it didn’t even occur to me that some of them could be repaired. But today, some of the most tumultuous relationships from when I was drinking are the strongest ones. In fact, one of the bridges I was sure I had burned is now an incredibly close friend and was even my midwife through my recent pregnancy. Changing your own behavior is all you can control, and if you’re lucky, many people will meet you there.
Misconception #4: No one will truly understand what you’re going through.
When you’re in the thick of it all, it’s easy to see yourself as the victim or be sure you’re the only one who has ever been in such a difficult position. But when you give into the process and allow yourself to make connections with peers, you’ll come to realize that there are so many people out there who truly do understand the turmoil and frustrations that come along with recovery, as well as the celebrations. No matter how alone you may feel in a specific moment, there is always someone who has been in a similar position. You just have to be willing to make those connections with other people and not hold back out of fear.
Misconception #5: You have to identify as an alcoholic.
To this day, I hate the word alcoholic. To me, it carries so much stigma. People have a very specific idea of what an alcoholic is, but many people who are in recovery don’t fit that image. You don’t have to have lost everything and be homeless in order to seek help for your relationship with alcohol. You just have to have lost enough that you know it’s time to surrender and seek a fuller life. This point is different for everyone and there is no one size fits all.
Misconception #6: You’ll be looked down upon.
Early on, I was so worried what people would think about me if I told the truth about getting sober. But on the flip side, I hadn’t worried what they thought when I was making a fool of myself while intoxicated. It’s funny how that works. When I finally came up with the courage to admit that I was sober and in treatment, I was met with so much kindness and encouragement. No one made me feel like less of a person or like I had something to be ashamed of. Instead, they made me feel proud of the steps I was taking to better my life, and that’s continued to be the case over the past 7 years.
Misconception #7: You will always miss alcohol and wish you could drink.
I was so, so sure that I would spend every day for the rest of my life wishing I could drink like a “normal” person. And for a while that was true. But when you do something long enough, it becomes normal. Today, I can go days without even remembering that I don’t drink. It doesn’t occur to me on a daily basis anymore because I am so content with where my life is today, and it is where it is in part because I don’t drink anymore. I am able to be a better version of myself without alcohol and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.