How I Stay Accoutable: Robert
While we all have different journeys in recovery, most will agree that accountability is a crucial component when it comes to staying clean and sober. Once we admit we want to rebuild our lives—whether it’s to a close friend, a family member or all our followers on Instagram—it becomes a lot harder to just pick up a drink or pop a pill. After all, who wants to risk having to come clean and admit we lost focus for a sec—or, er, three years? Accountability is how we stay on track and we all have people, places and things that have helped us reach our recovery goals. This is how accountability has worked for Robert.
What does accountability mean to you?
When I think of accountability as it pertains to sobriety, I think of myself. I realize conventional thinking here would be to say I am accountable to my family, children, friends and society in general. The truth about us as individuals is we are responsible for our participation in this world. Being drunk and irresponsible is not doing my part any justice. When I think back to all the people (family and friends), who took time out of their lives to come to my aid, it bothers me to the core. I wasted so much of their precious time on earth with my self-indulgence. To me, accountability begins and ends with each person, if we aren’t accountable to ourselves, we can’t be accountable to any person, place or thing.
Does the fact that people know about your recovery play into you staying sober? How?
I would say yes, people having knowledge of my recovery played a huge part in my ability to remain sober. Once I became sober, I realized I am an example of recovery. I relish this role as an ambassador for sobriety and make life choices accordingly. I care about my health and appearance because I know I am being judged. Yes, the stigma of addiction is real. I take every opportunity I can to dispel this stigma. I eat healthily and go to the gym five days a week to keep myself in good physical shape. This fight to dispel the stigma of addiction keeps me motivated and sober. I can see the surprise on people’s faces when I disclose to them I don’t drink because I am a recovered alcoholic. Presenting yourself well in public is one of the best ways to stop the stigma of addiction.
Who or what are you accountable to in your recovery?
I am accountable to myself first and my family second; third would be society and the recovery community. Early in recovery I felt compelled to give back, so I chaired meetings and was secretary of two meetings a week. Later I volunteered to manage the sober living home I was staying at. I was there over two years and helped people as much as I could. I was retired and didn’t need to work so helping others made sense to me.
How important is having a community to your staying sober? Why?
Early in my sobriety, I was engaged with the community of recovery; Alcoholics Anonymous and online groups were very helpful for me. Addiction is a lonely solitary existence, being surrounded by others is paramount to recovery. I had sequestered myself away from almost all people in my life (sans the guy at the liquor store), so for me, re-connecting was essential. My partners and I started a business, which helps families and individuals find three vital components of recovery: rehab, sober living homes, and counseling. My business keeps me connected to those seeking help. I also write blogs to assist those who come to our site understand how recovery is achieved. Now I have the best of both worlds, I am giving back while remaining connected to the recovery community.
Have you ever relapsed? Is there anything you could have done that might have prevented that?
I have been sober for over three years now but before that, I relapsed many times. Looking back, had I been completely honest with myself I could have prevented relapsing after my first stint in rehab. I didn’t want to admit I was an alcoholic. Alcohol was my buddy, it helped me through tough times without fail. Alcohol was my quick fix for anxiety and feelings of self-doubt. Had I been entirely honest with myself I would have recognized I had personal problems that needed my attention. Instead, I used alcohol to quell my troubled soul. Later, I saw the truth about alcohol; it is not my buddy. I let my ego prevent me from listening and examining myself while in rehab. Dropping my ego would also have made a huge difference. My pride would not allow me to connect with the others in treatment. When I went to my last treatment center there was no doubt about who I was, an alcoholic.
What advice do you give someone who wants to get or stay sober?
What advice to give is such a hard question to answer because all my experience in helping people has shown me no two people recover the in the same way. With so many influences and personality traits to consider, it’s hard to give universal advice. As humans, we aren’t one in a million or billion; we are one only ever on this earth. The fact that we are unique is the reason there are so many different programs out there. Many share some common traits but each treatment program, sober home and counselor is slightly different. My advice for anyone looking to get sober would be to go through a progression of treatment. First, I would go to rehab and learn the tools of recovery. Second, I would commit to going to IOP (intensive outpatient program) for group counseling. At the same time, enter a sober living home and stay at least six months (a year would be optimal). Lastly, get some counseling to address the issues that led you to escape life with drugs and alcohol. If you follow all of these steps in progression, your chances of remaining sober are greatly enhanced.
How important do you think transparency is in your recovery?
I will share my personal experience with transparency. My first attempts at sobriety failed because I had walls up around me. I didn’t want anyone to see the real me. I was ashamed of my actions and worried about how I was perceived by others (all this ego from a guy who fell into the bottles at his local liquor store at noon!). Once I tore down my walls and admitted (to myself and others) that I was struggling with personal problems as well as addiction, sobriety became easier. Without transparency, sobriety doesn’t stand a chance.
How does it feel to earn people’s trust back now that you’re sober?
In short, like a million bucks! There is no greater thing to a recovering addict than to have the trust of those around you. The whole world starts to open up like springtime. Every part of your personality begins to blossom again. You become more creative, introspective and productive. Your self-esteem, which was dormant for so long, comes alive. You can look people in the eye and speak with confidence and integrity. Trust, there is nothing like it baby!
Robert is the founder of Sober Worx, a resource for addicts and their families to help them locate rehabs, sober living homes and counseling services. Follow Robert on his blog, Sober Apple, Facebook and Twitter.