Yesterday, I picked up my 4 year chip at my AA meeting. If you aren’t familiar with AA, you get a token (or “chip”) to help mark your time in sobriety. The first chip you pick up is the white chip – it’s the international sign of surrender and meant for anyone who has a desire to stop drinking. In my home group, you get to pick up a chip for every month you stay sober in your first year. Then you get a 1 year chip, 18 month chip, and a chip for each additional year. On August 1st, I celebrated 4 years of sobriety. That means no alcohol or drugs for 4 consecutive years! That’s a pretty big deal… Especially when you’re in your mid-twenties and all of your friends are drinking. 

Every time you pick up a chip, the group asks “How’d ya do it?”

I always go into the meeting with this great response, but I usually forget it by the time I pick up my chip. So my typical answer ends up being, “Meetings, my higher power, and all the wonderful women in the program.” 

How did I make it to four years sober? Do you want the real answer?

Being four years sober at 28 years old is HARD. It’s hard because I lost almost all of my friends when I got sober. They’re all having a great time at vineyards and breweries without me. It’s hard to make new friends because as soon as they find out I don’t drink, they quit inviting me out too. Being sober when your friends aren’t is like being the elephant in the room. Now, theoretically, you would make friends with other people in the program to hang out with. However, most people in the program who are my age don’t stay sober for long. The majority of the women I’ve met in AA are a good 10-20 years older than I am (and then some). There’s nothing wrong with this, but we don’t have a ton in common. 

When you come into the rooms of AA for the first time, and you get a few months of sobriety under your belt, you realize that in doing that, you’ve lost a piece of yourself (or maybe all of yourself – depending on the severity of your drinking). In a lot of cases, you have to totally rebuild your life and your character.

For me, staying sober and getting to four years looked like:

  • Service Work. In the beginning, I signed up for weekly AA service work so that I wouldn’t skip meetings and it made me feel useful.
  • Sponsorship. “Sponsorship is a vital part of staying sober; our sobriety depends on it.” Enough said. I’ve had awesome sponsors over the last four years. And they put up with my craziness quite well. I’ve also had the opportunity to sponsor a few younger girls and while they didn’t always stay sober, many of them have reached out to me in the past year thanking me and letting me know that I planted the seed that resulted in their present-day sobriety. How incredible is that?!?!
  • Meetings. Meetings can make a huge difference in my mood. They also teach me tools for getting through stressful situations. I’ve also learned tolerance and the Tradition “Principles before personalities.” 🙂
  • One Day At A Time. This sounds so corny. I know. But really, all you have to do is don’t drink today. It does help.
  • The Twelve Traditions. I LOVE the traditions. They keep AA running smoothly, but they also can be applied quite nicely in everyday life.
  • My Higher Power. This one is a bit touch-and-go for me. I definitely believe there’s a higher power, and I refer to that as God. However, I probably don’t utilize this resource for my sobriety nearly as much as some others in the program. 

Getting through my fourth year was a challenge because I started my trauma work shortly after celebrating my third year. It was also a challenge because I went to fewer meeting and reached out to others in the program less. It is by the grace of God that I got through Year Four without drinking. And, for most of the past year, I wasn’t cutting either. I feel like most things in life happen for a reason. I’m not sure why I picked Year Four to go through my memories of childhood sexual abuse, but I know that God put people in my life this past year to help me through it. And those people, those friends (both in and out of AA), those therapists, those co-workers, those amazing people are how I did it. Without them, I would not have gotten through it without a drink.