I have been sober for over four years. I am in amazement as I type that, but I also reflect on the terribly long and hard road it took me to get to where I am today.

I used to be known as a “chronic relapser.” In other words, I was constantly on and off the wagon. It is an absolute soul-draining, lonely way to live. However, I am grateful for my experiences, as the hardship finally brought me to a place of humility and allowed me finally to surrender. It was through surrendering that I saw what was truly key to me getting and staying sober: finding the right support system, feeling fulfilled, and being kind to myself.

Finding the Right Support System

The number one problem I see people have in recovery is that they try to do it alone. Trying to get sober on your own means that you yourself have all the answers on what it takes to get sober. I always ask people, “If you knew how to get sober, wouldn’t you have done it already?” The absolute first thing you need to open your mind to is that you need to reach out for help. Not just anybody but others who are sober and have been where you are at and made it out successfully. Finding others you trust, because you do get to choose who you surround yourself with, and asking them for their support is the most simple and effective way to change your life and truly enter recovery. Meeting these potential people for your support network is very easy, many facilities these days have programs for alumni, which include meetings and events for people who have completed treatment and want to still be involved. It is a fantastic way to meet and bond with people.

Feeling Fulfilled

When entering recovery, we are basically asked to create a new life, which is quite a tall order but also entirely possible. Between getting a sponsor, going to meetings, working through steps, finding or going back to a job, taking better care of your body, working on how you treat others, and so on (I could increase the list by many more things). The point I want to get across is that there is always something to be working on in early recovery. I have found from my experience that it is very easy to feel content with just not using and excuse yourself from taking much other action, but it is a recipe for disaster and has led me back to relapse many times. While the idea of taking action can be overwhelming and stressful, the actual act of doing things feels fantastic. My first year sober this time was so amazing because of how active I was. It’s because of the fulfillment I got those first few months of taking major steps forward rather than hiding in fear that really recharged me and made me believe it’s possible to never pick up again.

Being Kind to Yourself

Let’s face it, we are our own worst critics. A tough part of getting sober is reflecting on the past few years and feeling genuine shame about our past. Shame and guilt can really hold us back and keep us in fear and make us tell ourselves horrible things. Things you wouldn’t even say to your worst enemy, yet you say them to yourself. When we have those days, it is important to reach out to someone to talk to (support network!). Additionally, taking pen to paper has helped me a ton as well on those funky days. Writing down a list of positive affirmations or a list of things you are grateful for may sound dumb in theory, but I promise it can help you tremendously. You can also try to add meditation to your morning routine. Our mind can be a hideous place if we stay inside it.

With these keys I laid out, you can hit the ground running and discover your own path. There are still many times when I need to simplify, and I continue to return to these principles: meet some great people, find fulfillment in your everyday, and love yourself.

*Daniel is a writer in recovery from New Jersey and has been sober for over 4 years. He truly believes absolutely anyone can get and stay sober provided they are ready to take action.