When Recovery Isn’t The Most Important Thing

Sometimes I just forget. I honestly just forget that I’m sober. To some people, this may sound dangerous, almost like I’ve let my focus slip. But to me it’s a good thing. It means I’ve come far enough in the past 4.5 years that being sober isn’t always at the forefront of my mind. It isn’t what defines me. It doesn’t consume me. It isn’t my Most Important Thing. It’s just a part of who I am: I’m a writer. I’m a daughter, sister, girlfriend. I’m a Crossfitter. And oh yeah, I almost forgot: I’m a person in recovery. I’m sober.

When my world was turned upside down on May 7, 2013, I didn’t imagine I would ever reach this point. In the months following that day, being sober was all I thought about. I hated the sound of that word—sober. It sounded so lifeless and boring. Up until that point, being sober just meant I didn’t have alcohol in my system at that time. It didn’t sound like something I would ever truly be, not in a permanent way at least.

But today I am. I’m sober. I’m 25 years old and I haven’t had a sip of alcohol in nearly five years. That’s not something I realize too often, but when I put it down on paper, it nearly brings me to tears.

I often think back to that hopeless, emotionless, empty, shell of a person I felt like in the few months after I stopped drinking. Though I remember how she felt on a surface level, I wish so deeply I could still relate to her and connect to her and really feel how she felt. I feel like if only I could do that, then I could be a better writer. I could help more people.

Here’s the thing—early on, recovery was my Most Important Thing. It was what I needed to give energy to, what I needed to write about, what I needed to focus on. I still do, but not to the same extent. And honestly, now that recovery isn’t my Most Important Thing, I feel like my ability to write about it is slipping away.

It’s tough to admit, but sometimes I get really burnt out on writing about recovery from an advice standpoint. It gets to the point that I dread writing assignments I’ve agreed to write because I feel like my heart isn’t in them. I feel disconnected from the person I was in early recovery. I feel like I am going through the motions because I want to be done with writing an assignment, not because I’m writing about something I care about.

Sometimes writing about recovery feels more like a job than it does a passion. And that scares me. It scares me because in a way I’ve always wondered, “How long? How long can I write about being sober? How much do I possibly have to say?” I’ve always worried that I would run out of things to write because my drinking career was as short-lived as it was. In truth, that’s why I haven’t started a book. I mean, two years really isn’t that much time. There’s only so much I can write, especially when I don’t remember half the time spent drinking. 

I often think, “What if I’ve written all of the things I can write and said all of the things I can say? Then what? What’s next?” And the truth is that I don’t know. I don’t know where else my words are needed or who needs to hear them or what they need to be about. All I know is that I need to try to get back to writing because I love it, not because I need to pay the bills.

Writing about recovery is something I will always hold near to me. I don’t think it’s something I will ever stop doing. It’s what got me started in the freelance world. It’s what got my bylines on some of my dream websites and gave me confidence in my abilities. It’s what pulled me through some of the darkest periods of my life. It’s what made me realize I could write words worth reading. But most importantly, it’s what jolted me to the realization that I could help people through my experiences.

But I think I need to figure out if I can do that through writing about my other Most Important Things, too. And I need to realize that that’s OK, that I won’t be letting people down, that it’s understandable. I need to accept that it’s OK that recovery isn’t my Most Important Thing anymore because I have let so many other important things into my life. And that’s good. It’s so good. Those things fill me up and bring me joy.

And really, shouldn’t a life in recovery lead you to just that?