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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

What no one told me about sobriety

BY Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash Mar 15, 2019

To all my sober warriors out there, I love you.

More than seven months ago, I was on a roll as I embarked on the wonderful journey of sobriety. I knew it would be hard at times and I expected the cravings that I had during the first few weeks. I went to Paris only one month into sobriety and I broke down in my hotel room because everyone was drinking Aperol Spritz.

The funny thing is that my phone heard me crying about it and the next following days, all the sponsored ads on my social medias were from Aperol. It drove me nuts.

Luckily, I had a sober friend with me on that trip and the cravings disappeared within a few weeks. In October, I also quit cigarettes. I thought the holidays would challenge my sobriety, but it turned out that watching my sibling smoking cigarettes after a food binge was way harder than not drinking.

More than half a year into sobriety, everything was going well. I had found a wonderful and supportive man who is also sober. I had some kind of stability for once in my life. I was spending quality time with my family. And I was enjoying waking up in the morning without a hangover. I really thought it would stay the same.

But then reality hit, and it hit me hard.

I was suddenly anxious and I felt everything so intensely. The feeling of knowing my true self after 12 years of using drugs and alcohol (and I’m only 23) was a beautiful but terrifying one. After six months of sobriety, I realized that all the actions I had taken while using had consequences and that I didn’t want to reach the goals I had set for myself in that period. I was going through an existential crisis and I felt so talentless.

I panicked and I reached out to my sober friends. Many told me: “Oh! You’re going through THAT phase.” I felt so angry at myself for wasting 12 years of my life, for engaging in self-destructive behaviours and not learning how to cope with trauma in a healthy way. I felt like I was 11 again trying to figure out what the hell life is.

My self-esteem was at its lowest in years, even though I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been. On top of all that, I realized I was not quite at peace with some of my past traumas. I cried myself to sleep many times. Throughout this dramatic episode, however, one thing remained – getting sober and finally facing my problems is the most punk-rock shit I’ve ever done and I’m so proud of myself for that. No one can take that away from me.

Sobriety put me in front of myself and forced me to reevaluate my life and my career. I had to look into what truly makes me happy and not to do what people want me to do. Healing is not linear. Even though I’m going through a rough patch, I have never regretted sobriety. This whole existential crisis was a necessary milestone towards happiness. Everything feels super real now and it freaks me out at times, but I embrace every moment.

Lesson learned: recovery is sometimes more about handling a tsunami of emotions than cravings, and you should prepare for it if you’re planning on getting sober.

To all my sober warriors out there, I love you.

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Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash is Cree from Waswanipi, and is the Nation’s newest columnist. She is an activist and writer who also has a regular column in Montreal’s French Metro Newspaper.