The Lessons I Learned in 9 Years of Sobriety – Money & Otherwise

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By the A M A Z I N G grace of God I celebrated 9 years of sobriety on Friday, February 1, 2019. Oh my! I can remember it like it was yesterday and yet it feels like a lifetime ago. I feel like I’ve got some serious time under my belt and yet I really only have today. Anyway, today’s post is a reflection on the lessons I’ve learned over 9 years of being sober.

How Does One Get 9 Years of Sobriety?

It may sound cliche but, trust me, it’s done one day at a time!! I grappled early in sobriety with the thought of never drinking again. Others told me, “just don’t drink today.” I have a friend who used to tell herself that she wouldn’t drink today but she might drink tomorrow. Then when tomorrow came, she’d tell herself the same thing. She really thought she might drink tomorrow but then when she made it one day, she wanted to try another…and so on.

So technically it was August of 2009 where I had that vision of seeing three paths:

  1. Myself rocking back and forth in an insane asylum
  2. Complete blackness
  3. A glimmer of light

I got down on my knees, prayed, and asked for help. It was another week and one more vision before I left the abusive relationship. I got up in the middle of the night, took my dog, and my stuff and fled. Fortunate for me, I still had a house in another town. I had a safe place to run to but if you don’t and you need to get out of something similar, know there are options:

  1. Sober living
  2. Women’s shelter
  3. Rehab

Just make the call. Additionally, you can check out my recovery resources page.

Denial Runs Deep

When I got away from the relationship, I quit everything else – drinking, drugging, smoking, cursing, and crappy relationships. I was 100% spent and had nothing left to give.

My sanity came from telling others the truth about what I had been doing. I was urged to get into recovery programs,  but, I am strong willed and thought I could do it alone.

Additionally, I wasn’t sure I wanted to give up drinking. Sure the drugs were illegal and things were bad…really bad, but couldn’t I still drink? I didn’t understand why, but my psychiatrist kept telling me to go to Alcoholics Anonymous.

I wasn’t yet willing to look at my past. If I did, I would have recognized that when I first turned to substances outside myself to feel secure, it was alcohol. Once I started I couldn’t stop.

So while I quit everything, I still tested the waters with alcohol. I was afraid of drinking, I was afraid of not drinking. Ultimately, it became clear that I was the problem and if I kept hiding in things that took away the pain, I’d never get to root of my issues.

So I made the best decision of my life and that was to commit to full sobriety and set myself out on a journey. I still cry when I think about these first steps. This recovery journey has proven to be the best use of my time…ever. I’d like to share what I’ve learned and to commemorate my 9th year of sobriety, here are 9 lessons.

Lesson #1 – We don’t have to react out of the wounds of our past

Sure this may be more prominent for some people than others but I think most people have been scarred in life by experiences or people. When this happens in the formative years, thought patterns emerge. The stories we tell ourselves may be skewed and tainted from these experiences. They were for me.

Additionally, no matter how much recovery work I’ve done, it can still happen today. Occasionally, something someone says will trigger me and my reaction to them is not deserving. The important thing is to recognize it, apologize, and move on. It’s only a shadow of what it used to be and I marvel at the progress I’ve made. #Intentionality

So I say, take the time to reconcile with your past, clean off your lenses every day, and live in the world with clarity.

Lesson # 2 – People are basically forgiving

I reviewed my part in the relationships I’ve been in over my lifetime. Furthermore, I identified my character defects in an effort to change. Additionally, I identified the people I had hurt. I had to muster up the courage to meet with each of these people and make an honest amends for my wrongs.

When making an amends the goal is to go in without any expectation of what the other person may say or do. Basically, I needed to clean up my side of the street. I needed to proceed for my healing and growth regardless if other person received my apology or not.

Everyone I made an amends to received me with open arms and offered forgiveness. Sometimes time is the ultimate healer but in this, I learned that most people innately want to give/receive second chances.

Lesson #3 – Learn to forgive even when they don’t deserve it

“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”  ~ Mark Twain

This Mark Twain quote is my all time favorite. In my recovery, I discovered that by holding onto resentment, I’m mostly hurting myself. Others may not deserve my forgiveness, but I choose to forgive and the reasons are twofold:

  1. The Bible tells me to
  2. I walk a freer person

Resentments are the number one reason alcoholics/addicts relapse. I’m not taking that chance. This is certainly not an easy one to do but I can attest that it’s definitely worth going after. Anyway, some beautiful things have occurred in my life in my ability to forgive others…and that includes forgiving myself. 🙂

Lesson #4 – It’s never too late to start over

I think I may be the poster child for this truth. And notice that I did call it a truth. Seriously, if you are still breathing there is a chance to start over.

Take a listen to my ChooseFI interview to hear what I’ve overcome.

Do you remember the movie Dead Poets Society? Well, that is where I first heard the phrase tabula rasa which is Latin for a blank slate. This is what all people need in order to reinvent themselves.

Lesson #5 – Change takes intentionality

Anything good in my life has come from hard work and intentionality. God was ready to help me, but I had to surrender and ask for that help. Moreover, each step I took required action on my behalf. We are all given free will in this life. Whether or not we are cognizant of the choices we make every day, we still make them.

Prior to getting sober, I made choices based on:

  • Selfish motives
  • Hedonism
  • The wounds of my past

I wasn’t really self-aware but none the less, I made choices and I suffered the consequences. Upon getting sober, I realized that I was the maker of the chaos in my life. Furthermore, with God’s help, I was ready to change my thought processes, habits, and lifestyle. It took work and effort and most of all, intentionality.

Lesson #6 Everything affects our finances

I’ve discovered that drinking and drugging were crutches I used to cope with life. I was running from and escaping some demons I didn’t want to face. Once I put down the crutches, I was able to slay some dragons head on.

Moreover, I think money can be a crutch for many people. With money, we can shop and buy experiences which is great. However, if you are doing it to escape some bigger issue, it’s not so great. Additionally, when money is being used as a crutch, things like spending can become an addiction; hence, the astounding amount of debt in this country.

My finances were negatively affected by my lifestyle prior to getting sober. And yes, I’m happy to report that my finances are positively affected by my intentional lifestyle in sobriety.

Lesson #7 – Debt is Stifling

Unsurprisingly, I had a mountain of debt to tackle when I got sober. At first, I made some minimal changes to keep my head above water and stopped adding to that mountain.

As I gained more and more peace about who I was and how I lived life, I realized I wanted to gain full financial peace. I distinctly remember my debt feeling like an albatross around my neck. Initially, I didn’t see a way out so I erroneously thought the debt would always be there.

However, about four years into recovery, I became ready to really tackle my debt. I sought out resources and learned of the Dave Ramsey snowball method. Dave Ramsey was the first person to say to me (over the airways) that I did not need to keep my debt around like a pet. Additionally, he told me that I could get intense, make sacrifices, increase my income, and pay it off quickly.

I believed him. After all, what did I have to lose? Again, this took hard work and intentionality. Are you sensing a theme here?

I’m proud to say on December 29, 2017, I paid off my debt and became debt free for the first time in 23 years. It’s easier to breathe clearly with debt freedom.

Lesson # 8 – Truth never goes out of fashion

I was able to meet Dave Ramsey and share my testimony while doing a debt free scream in June of 2018.  In my application process, I lied about something. Ugh. Recently I was deeply convicted about this. As a result, I’ve made confessions and apologies.

In the process of this, I was shown how much people appreciate the truth. Furthermore, people were incredibly gracious to me.

Since then, I’ve declared that my word for 2019 is truth and I’m reminded daily by my Todoist app to keep this at the forefront of my day.

Lesson #9 – Financial independence is for everyone

Yes, that means you too! Who doesn’t want to be financially independent and able to make choices for their life based on purpose and calling rather than having to pay bills?

Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

Yeah, I hope thousands of hands are going up in answer to that question.

When I first learned about the concept of financial independence from a little podcast called ChooseFI, I was blown away at people’s audacity to save 50% or more of their income in an effort of building a perpetual money-making machine.

I saw that achieving financial independence, while a lofty goal, was one that would further support my ability to live my purpose and calling. Currently, I enjoy my career and am living on purpose but that doesn’t preclude me from wanting to achieve financial independence. One never knows where life will take you and it’ll be nice to have the money to go there.

I am willing to be so bold to say that everyone should work to obtain financial independence. It doesn’t mean you have to retire early.  However, it does mean you should save, invest, and work to have the freedom of choice in your life. Additionally, it does mean that when you are ready to retire, you can. The math is not hard to figure it out, but it will require you to make deliberate choices. I use OnTrajectory to track my progress towards financial independence.

Closing Thoughts

Every lesson I learned resulted from one simple choice – the choice to commit to a life of sobriety. Moreover, this choice has produced an outflowing of blessings. The obstacles which were preventing me from walking in my God-given purpose have been removed. And now I’m freely roaming this life in my calling and destiny.

So now it’s your turn…what’s blocking you? Perhaps nothing or perhaps you’ve already overcome some stuff and if so, I’d love to hear how. If you do identify something(s) that are preventing you from being on purpose, I’d say it’s time to face them.

 

 

21 thoughts on “The Lessons I Learned in 9 Years of Sobriety – Money & Otherwise”

  1. I still struggle with stuff from my past with my dad. He’s out of my life but his impact lingers to this day when men raise their voices at me and I instantly start tearing up involuntarily. I don’t know that I can forgive him but I have at least gotten to the point that I feel a bit (not much but a bit) sorry for him because he’s a deeply unhappy man and it looks like that’s never going to change whereas in leading a good life now. I have to remember that my experiences made me who I am for better or worse so there’s no point in wishing them away. There’s only movin forward.

    1. Abigail, thanks for your transparent comment. I am so sorry that your Dad was harsh and hurt you. I know exactly what you say about things triggering you like men raising their voices. It does sound like you are in a much better place today. If you ever want to hop on the phone & chat, let me know. It sounds like we have some things in common. Keep on keeping on, girl.

  2. Congrats on 9 years sober! That’s not an easy task. My dad tried staying sober mutliple times and would relapse each time. Like you pointed out, his reasons were not being truthful with himself and not liking the person he was. Instead of working to change it (mistakenly thinking he couldn’t change himself) he just drank instead. We had mutliple late night talks about that.It was eye opening to me that’s for sure. Amazingly, the whole time we were growing up he never drank, no alcohol in the house or any of that. After the divorce, holy hell, it was on. So, again, congrats on achieving a big milestone and making it 9 years! It ain’t easy, that’s for sure!
    I found being truthful with myself has helped me a lot with my mental issues. Acknowledging I couldn’t fix it on my own and was powerless over my own brain, so to speak, opened up all kinds of things for me. I’d hit the point that I only saw 2 options — following my dad’s path or seeing a shrink. Looking back, I can’t believe that I still saw those 2 options as being equal. How messed up is that? eeesh… Fortunately I tried the shrink because, well the other option is always there.
    It’s amazing what an huge improvement it has been after getting on meds, and going to a depression bipolar support group once a week. I found the support group really helpful, because similar to AA meetings, I can be truthful about my thoughts and experiences, and at least 1 other person is nodding their head and adds how they’ve been thru the same thing or what they did when they were struggling with those thoughts and feelings. It’s so powerful and freeing to be able to be me with no mask on.
    Sorry for the long comment, and thanks for the inspiration to be better. Those lessons learned are spot on too. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Never apologize for a long comment! Thank you so much for the congrats and your transparency.

      I’m so sorry about your father. That makes me sad. Yeah, I truly believe to maintain sobriety, one must get to the root of the issues. I used to experience self-loathing and it’s an awful cycle of drinking to numb the pain and hating yourself for drinking. It is fascinating that he never drank while you were growing up but then the divorce set him in a tailspin.

      What is so beautiful about your comment and your story is that you are breaking the cycle and receiving help for your mental issues. Kudos on admitting powerlessness. That component is very similar to the first step in any recovery. Wow on seeing 2 paths! At my bottom, I saw 3 – insanity, death, and asking for help. I think when we hit the end of our road, we just need a way out. Any option which provides that can seem equal. Thank God we chose the better one! Kudos to you for getting out of your comfort zone and going to a support group. Getting truthful is so important. Peace to you brother!

  3. Sharing your honest story is so powerful and I hope helpful to others. I am particularly taken by the Mark Twain quote, which I’ve never heard. What a great image of forgiveness.

    When you say that prior to getting sober, you made choices based on selfish motives, hedonism, and wounds of your past, I believe you speak to everyone in a bigger sense. All of the greatness that lies within us is squashed by those. I love the way you’re highlighting the tabula rasa and the fact that it is never too late.

    That Dead Poet’s Society clip is also a great one. I sound my own barbaric YAWP over the rooftops of your world in congratulations. Happy 9th.

    1. Isn’t that Mark Twain quote beautiful?! I think of it often.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Susan. I too sense that many people struggle with similar motives in making life choices. The great news is that when we recognize it, we can choose a tabula rasa.

      Haha on sounding your barbaric YAWP!!! Thank you. 🙂

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