For the last few days, I have been thinking about this day. Tomorrow is the fifth year that I have traveled down the sober road. Five years. The words keep playing over and over in my head. "Five years ago, I......." Part of me wants to shout it out and the other part wants to run far away.

But, as I do every year, I resolve to sit down and reflect on where I am in my sobriety. This year, I find that I have become a tad more vocal about my place in sober world and the sober world in general.

One aspect in sober world I have noticed this year is the amount of press and publicity sobriety has gotten. On one hand, any kind of recognition for de-stigmatizing being sober is fabulous. We deserve to be here too.

On the other, I have noticed quite a few nuances in "recovery", thanks to the ever increasing role the media plays:

Spouses cheat, blame addiction.
Inappropriate remarks made, blame addiction.
Intolerable actions, blame addiction.
Accidents, blame addiction.
The world falling apart, blame addiction.

And, it's true that when we are bombed, wasted, drunk, addicted, etc. there is a tendency to engage in questionable behavior, we cannot look to quitting said addiction to automatically solve the problem.

From a personal standpoint, I remember when I first became sober, I had a tendency to blame all of my shortcomings on drinking. My behavior was because I drank too much. My irresponsibility was because I was an addict of alcohol. My bad moods were directly related to my drinking past. I blamed and blamed for much of my early sobriety.

I was so busy blaming all of my bad behaviors on my being drunk for those years, I was denying the underlying problems that were there all along, drinking or not drinking. My attitude became, "now that I'm not drinking, I will....." or "since I stopped drinking, I can...." Even worse, "you should have seen my when I was drinking" has been a common mantra. I spoke of resolution and intent, but found myself stuck once I needed to really act upon my words.

Simply put, there comes a time when being truly in recovery needs to spill over into other aspects of life. There is this point where you simply cannot pin everything on your drunk days of yore. It becomes another method of escaping our own personal truth and responsibility to ourselves. Thinking about this stage, I've named my 5th as the OWN IT year.

The OWN IT stage is not the pink cloud of early sobriety. When we first stop drinking, this becomes a monumental feat in and of itself. As it should. I still wake up at times in my life and cannot believe that I ever made the decision to actually stop.

The OWN IT stage is not glamorous. It's likely one the most difficult in our recovery because the crutch is gone. We now stand on our own two sober excuses.

The OWN IT stage is so important because, I believe, it paves the way to our future emotional happiness.

The OWN IT stage is where we begin to act on all the promises we have made to ourselves when we decided to become sober. We've accepted the fact that our life was not going the way we wanted, and now we must own all the good and the bad.

This OWN IT stage has really been a doozie in terms of realizing how necessary it is to be emotionally responsible. I feel at times, particularly in the last few months, that being sober is no longer good enough. That really owning my actions and emotions is the key to growth. That accepting myself and who I am will only enhance the choice I made five years ago.

For example:

Now that I am sober, I still struggle to get myself to the point of total financial responsibility. Before, I blamed my inability to balance my checkbook on being a barfly. Today, I have to force myself to really look at my spending habits and the reasons behind them. It's not pretty, but I've denied it for so long that getting to the root of the problem is less stressful than continuing my struggle.

Now that I am sober, I can no longer deny those elements in my life that are harmful to myself and my well being. Before, I accepted blame and believed that I was the cause of many things beyond my control. Now, I find that I have to accept other people for who they are and what they can or cannot provide. This has caused me great sadness to realize and then some kind of emotional release when I realize that I cannot control everyone around me.

Now that I am sober, I understand that not everyone will believe me until my actions defer the belief. Before, I thought I was smarter than everyone. I truly believed that my intentions would suffice over actions. Now, I know that only actions can prove what I've long intended. This was a big one for me this year as I had people still believe I was the same person from years ago. Instead of vying for their approval, I've moved on and refocused on my own approval.

Now that I am sober, I have to take one step further. Before, I was sober and that was a great feat. Now, I realize that if I intend to graduate from the emotional responsibility academy, I have to take all the courses.

Today, as sobriety becomes more and more mainstreamed, I worry that it will become a quick fix. I worry that people will use it as an excuse for inexcusable behavior. I did for a long time in my sobriety. In reality, one can only focus on that euphoric feeling of doing good for ourselves for so long before reality sets back in. A reality that causes many people to go back to their old habits and life.

Becoming sober is the first step. Recovery is the process in which we heal. In which we learn to love ourselves again. Where we own up to our demons and resolve to be the person we've intended to be all along.

And in the last five years, I face this challenge every second of my life. I still battle between the person I was and the person I intend to be. I reach so high and sometimes I falter. I question my decision. I get angry at my past. It has become considerably more difficult this year...because I am suddenly faced with the reality that if I don't act on what I truly believe, my decision is for naught.

Yet, if I had to do it all again, I wouldn't change one aspect of my life. I am blown away that I have followed this path over the last five years. I am humbled by the people I meet and the inspiration I have seen. I am grateful for my life in every form, the good and the bad.

And I realize that denying myself the ability to really live life would be detrimental. I deserve all the wonderful and amazing things that have happened, because I am making them happen. I look at this stage of my recovery as a milestone in my emotional schooling. I am so eager to move on to the next grade level, but have to constantly remind myself to listen and pay attention to those elements that will allow me to fully appreciate the life that I am building.

So, another year, another stage. I have a strange sense of happiness underneath my cloak of questionability. I really am proud of where I am, but I am really excited to keep moving forward.

It's all a path.....and the flowers are just starting to bloom along the way.

Author's Bio: 

Author of SobrietyGirl blog, creator of Creative Recovery, artist and published columnist. Featured in Glamour Magazine, Marie Claire. Also widely recognized in the world of recovery on-line and off. Judge of the New York State Annual Recovery Arts Festival.