3/5/2015

Fourteen Years Sober

Ashley Neese by Anais + Dax

Yesterday was my sobriety anniversary. If had told me fourteen years ago I would have the life that I have today I would have never believed it. I wouldn’t have been able to believe it. My life at that point had nothing to do with living and everything to do with wanting to disappear.

In many ways this last year has been one of the most challenging since I stopped numbing my life with alcohol and drugs. It has also been the year that I have felt the most alive, the most like my life mattered, with all of the contradictions and twists that go along with that.

This last year has been far from perfect yet nothing short of a miracle. I have been asked so many times to step up, to reach for what I want and it has been incredibly exhilarating and  uncomfortable. There have been many nights I’ve cried my eyes out wondering if I would ever feel normal, that all elusive feeling I have been seeking my entire life. There have also been pure, raw moments of undeniable joy, bliss even, where I have felt so rooted, so loved and so like my life had true meaning.

If there is anything I have learned in these last fourteen years it is that everything and I mean EVERYTHING changes. More and more it becomes clear that in order to live in some sort of balance, harmony and inner peace I have to surrender to the present moment. THIS is where the real deal wading through mud, falling on your ass, getting back up, fumbling in the dark, crying like you’ve never cried before, this is where THAT surrender happens. And believe me when I say it’s worth it. Every ache, every negative thought, every loss. Because at the end of the day it’s up to us to suit up and show up with as much generosity and forgiveness as we can muster.

And some days that is really fucking hard.

And other days it feels like the most effortless, natural thing in the world. It feels so integrated into our being that there are no thoughts, only the happiness that comes from being 100% present.

Every month before my anniversary I feel waves of sadness. Waves of grief. Waves of wishing I had a different life growing up. The shift is that every year I feel all of this a bit little less. Yes there are parts of my story I am still trying to heal but today I believe in my core that healing is possible, that there is nothing too dark, too painful or too scary to heal. And in many ways this is the miracle.

At some point I’ll tell you my full story in a book but for know just know that I didn’t go to rehab at 21 years old because shit was good in my life. I was desperate, I was dying and there was a glimmer of hope when my parents sat me down in my Grandmothers living room and offered to send me to treatment.

For the first time in years I was able to exhale just a little.

And from that tiny exhale I began to bloom.

I’ve been blooming like a wild flower all these years and I feel truly blessed and grateful for all of them. My adventures in sobriety have been nothing short of real. And today I’ll take the full spectrum of feelings that are part of a real life over a life of trying to numb out all of the feelings.

Today I have been living sober longer than I lived in my addiction and that really blows my mind.

For so long a huge part of my life was devoted to my recovery. In those early years I learned some major life changing lessons and some of the biggest ones were that my story matters, I am a born leader and that I am here to guide people.

As I type this my heart is swelling with compassion and love. I am coming to understand in a deep way that I am at the beginning of a new chapter in my life. I am reaching not from a place of despair, loneliness and that scary underworld I was killing myself in all those years ago. That is part of my story but it doesn’t define who I am right now.

Today I am reaching from a place of wanting more, asking for the stuff I was incapable of asking for until now, committing to myself in ways that I couldn’t until I had taken all the steps that brought me to this moment. Today I am reaching for all the experiences, love, support and healing that I want because today I believe in my bones I am worth it.

xoa

Photo by Anaïs & Dax.

Comments

  • Maja

    Happy anniversary, if that is the right sentiment here!? But I definitely think it calls for a celebration of life and all things good. Hats off to opening up like this. Beautiful & brave!

    • ashley

      Hi Maja, thank you and yes it’s totally the right sentiment here ;) So grateful our paths crossed and that we are in community together. Lots of love! xoa

  • Briar

    You are amazing, sweet lady! Congratulations on this milestone – so thankful that you are here to share your light with the world!

    • ashley

      Thank you so much for the kind words Briar. I really appreciate them and you! Wishing you a beautiful weekend. xoa

  • Laura

    Love this! Thank you for your honesty and strength and vulnerability, Ashley.

    • ashley

      Hey Laura, thank you! I am so grateful for your thoughtful words and support. Lots of love. xoa

  • Marlon

    Congratulations Ashley!! What an incredible accomplishment and what an incredible story. And how lucky you are to have set yourself on your path early in life.. even if I imagine it feels at times it would’ve been luckier to have not set yourself into a dark and self destructive place at all.. I try to come from a place of gratitude for how far we have come.. as clearly you do !
    On March 2 I reached my one year alcohol free anniversary; I hope one day to reach 14 years as well.
    “Every month before my anniversary I feel waves of sadness. Waves of grief. Waves of wishing I had a different life growing up. The shift is that every year I feel all of this a bit little less. Yes there are parts of my story I am still trying to heal but today I believe in my core that healing is possible, that there is nothing too dark, too painful or too scary to heal. And in many ways this is the miracle.” This I feel so much, even in only my first year of recovery. It became very easy, but in the weeks leading up to the one year anniversary I felt a lot of doubt and regret… and also gratitude to have changed the way I was living and to work to become who I have wanted to be.
    Thank you for inspiring us yet again :)

    • ashley

      Hello Marlon and thank you so much! I am always so happy to hear from others in recovery. Huge congrats on your 1 year anniversary – that is just amazing! You are right, I do wish from time to time that my past was different but my gratitude for the life I have always overrides those feelings and thoughts in the end. I feel lucky as a person in recovery to get an opportunity to live a full life of meaning and that is what I knew I was missing in my addiction. It’s so normal to feel that before the anniversaries, it’s an old energy that needs to surface so we can let go a little more each year. I have no doubt you are at the beginning of a truly beautiful life and I am glad you are feeling that so strongly as well. Lots of light and love to you. xoa

  • Christina Stack

    Wow! Thank you and Congratulations. ..i just had my 2 year anniversary. You are an inspiration!

    • ashley

      Two years is amazing! That is major! Very grateful to be in community with you. Sending love and well wishes this weekend. xoa

  • Nicole

    Congrats! you’re totally amazing!!!

    • ashley

      Thanks so much Nicole! Can’t wait to meet you one of these days <3 Love, a

  • Nataly

    You’re amazing and such an inspiration. Learning from you through this blog has been such a happy experience for me! Congrats x

    • ashley

      Hello Nataly, thank you for writing and being part of my community. It makes me so happy to know the blog has been such a positive experience for you! I wishing you lots of love and a wonderful weekend. xoa

  • Nissrine @ Harmony a la Carte

    Such a beautifully written piece. Congratulations on your strength and perseverance and the courage to share your story with others.

    • ashley

      Thank you so much Nissrine, your words mean a great deal to me. It felt like a leap of faith to write about this part of my life but I am so glad that I did. Your comment was a grounding affirmation for me. Lots of love and happy Friday! xoa

  • Kori

    Happy Fourteen Years, Ashley! You are simply wonderful. I so appreciate your honesty and vulnerability. My first year of recovery has given me just a glimpse into such a beautiful life and you sharing about 14 years gives me so much more hope for my own future! Thank you so much for sharing your story. I have learned and gained so much from you over the past few years. It is because of your own journey to find self-worth that I have found worth within myself. Always grateful for your words.

    • ashley

      Hello dear Kori! Always love hearing from you. I think of you often and am so very happy to know you found recovery and are taking such good care of yourself. That makes my day. This is just the beginning my friend!! It gets so much more real and awesome. Sending lots of light and love your way. xoa

  • Corina

    Hi Ashley! Congratulations! I am so glad you chose this way, otherwise I would have missed you! Since I came across your blog, you’ve helped me so many times! Thank you! :-) Corina

    • ashley

      Hello Cornia, thank you and I am glad too! I am thrilled to be sharing this world with you and am always thankful for your love and support. Wishing you a peaceful weekend. xoa

  • Ari

    Love these words, Ashley. There’s an expression in screenwriting: “the more personal, the more universal”. Though I haven’t dealt with addiction myself, there is so much here that I can relate to – both the positive and negative. I don’t, in any way, want to minimize what you’ve experienced, but I am grateful for the skills and knowledge you earned through those experiences, that you share so wholeheartedly with us. You’re the shit. Thanks man ;)

    • ashley

      Thank you for your thoughtful words Ari. I totally agree with you that there are ways we can all relate to each other. The reason I like to share so much about my feelings is that is the part that is universal, it’s less about the details of the story and more about how we all feel, you know? I believe that is what pulls us together. Wishing you a beautiful weekend and thanks so much for taking the time to write. Makes my day! xoa

  • Charlotte

    Hi Ashley,

    This is such a strong and powerful narrative. Cheers to you on overcoming such a big obstacle. While I don’t know you personally, I still feel your warmth and vibrancy. Sending you love and light on this day and many more…

    Warmest,

    Charlotte

    • ashley

      Hello dear Charlotte, so great to hear from you. I’ve been adoring your blog and Instagram feed. Very happy we connected. Thank you for your kind words. I can feel the sincerity and am very grateful. Wishing you a beautiful weekend. Lots of love. xoa

  • Mar

    Happy soberanniversary Ashley! Thank you for opening yourself up today, your words really moved me. Kepp up the good work with the website. You’re such an inspiration <3

    • ashley

      Hi there Mar! I really appreciate you taking the time to write, thank you for your love and support. It means so much to me. Sending light and love to you! xoa

  • Kelly

    Ashley! This is such an incredible post; thank you for sharing. And congratulations on 14 years! I am so grateful and honored by how openly you express yourself; your bravery and authenticity really inspire me and fill me with love! Thank you for all that you offer, especially to women like me who are seeking to express themselves more openly and live every day knowing their worth, power, and joy.

    • ashley

      Kelly! So wonderful to hear from you and thank you! I am very grateful to be connected to you, it’s really important to have community as women. Wishing you a beautiful week and keep living out loud girl!! xoa

  • Maria-Fernanda Silva

    Your honesty and openess blows my mind. I appreciate you taking the time to share your victory. It is extraordinary! Congratulations a thousand times! It inspires me and makes me believe that I will be sober too one day! Addictions are very hard to let go. It takes so much courage and determination… Thank you so much! I feel very blessed for having you cross my way.

    C H E E R S ! ! !

    • ashley

      Thank you dear Maria! Your thoughtful words came at the perfect moment. I appreciate you taking the time to reach out. You are incredibly brave and have so much strength. If there is anything I can ever do to support your journey please let me know. Wishing you lots of light and love today. Thanks for being in community with me. xoa

  • Christine // my natural kitchen

    Ashley, through following your posts here I’ve learned little bits about your story but the way you’ve framed your past and your celebratory anniversary here sheds light on really how admirable and inspirational you are. Even as someone who doesn’t know you very well, I feel such pride in reading how you have pulled through and the way that you radiate light. Sending love, Christine xo

    • ashley

      Thank you for taking the time to write Christine. I find myself playing the edge of what to share from my past on the blog seeing as my life looks so different today. It felt important to share it to help others and connect a little more with our community. I am very grateful for your thoughtful words and am so happy to connect with you and the amazing work you are doing! Wishing you a beautiful week and sending lots of love your way. xoa

  • lauren

    AHO!!

    LOVE
    x

  • Julia

    Ashley thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences! I´m going through hard times at the moment so it really helps to read your words here, you give me hope and remind me of my power within and that we can reach out for the support of likeminded souls! Thats what i´m going to do tonight before i fall asleep! all the best to you

    • ashley

      Hello Julia,

      Thank you for writing. I am happy to connect with you! I can relate to going through hard times. What is important is to try to breathe through it and when you’ve got the energy reach out to others and share – just like you are doing! Sending loads of love your way and am so grateful that you wrote.

      xoa

  • Sherrie

    Ashley, I just stumbled upon your Instagram feed and now on to this blog post. Thank you for sharing your story with all of us, that takes so much courage and your gusto for life is contagious.. Without knowing much about you, I feel like our stories are similar and deeply connected. Happy to have found you and connected with you today. All the love, all the time, xo!

    • ashley

      Hello Sherrie!

      So wonderful to connect with you! I really appreciate you taking the time to comment and connect here. I can’t wait to check out your blog, love the name of it. Your kind words mean a great deal to me and I am happy to know we have similar stories, kindred spirits! Wishing you a beautiful week. Lots of light and love to you! xoa

  • Tammy

    Congratulations on your sobriety, and sharing part of yourself. I felt a. sence of joy as I read, because another person in this world found thier way out of addiction and your passion to strive forward no matter what life throws at you. Living Life on Lifes terms. Thanks for sharing. From one recovering addict to another.

    • ashley

      Thanks so much Tammy! I really appreciate your kind words. Yes, it’s all about life of life’s terms and being of service EVERYWHERE! That is our true occupation. Thrilled to connect with another like minded woman on her path to heal and share. Lots of love to you. xoa

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