Last Updated on September 22, 2021
In recovery, people often go through a time of mourning for the “years lost to alcohol.” It usually hits when things are finally going well: You’ve got your drinking under control or have some sobriety under your belt, and you’re feeling the difference. At this point, a very sad thought can occur to you: that you’ll never regain the years you spent struggling with alcohol misuse.
This is different from mourning lost opportunities or damaged relationships (which is also common in recovery). What I’m talking about here is time itself—the years on Earth one has lost to drinking, detoxing, relapsing, and recovering from alcohol.
No matter how long you’ve spent struggling with your addiction, this can be a difficult rabbit hole to go down. But like many negative thought cycles, it’s possible to overcome it by shifting your perspective, and decisively moving forward.
Here are some useful tips and affirmations for overcoming that feeling of “lost time,” and reclaiming your life.*
3 Important Things to Remind Yourself Every Day
- You’re alive! Don’t take this for granted: it’s HUGE. So many people lose their lives to alcohol use disorder, and you did not! Whenever you feel down about the past, focus on this amazing fact, and feel gratitude for life itself.
- It’s better to have one healthy year than a decade of illness. Think of how much more you can do now that you’re in recovery. Quality beats quantity when it comes to life—just ask anyone living with chronic pain.
- It’s never too late to do the things you missed out on when you were drinking. If you wanted to earn a degree, why not start now? If you’ve never traveled because of your drinking, or ruined vacations by drinking too much, perhaps it’s time to save up for a big trip. You still have time. Embrace your life!
Whenever you feel the weight of the “years you lost,” take a moment. Remind yourself of each of these things, and don’t let your regrets about the past determine your future!
3 Tips For Moving Forward
Next, take action and reclaim the time you still have. One of the best ways to let go of “lost time” is to really and truly move on to the next chapter. Here are some tips that may help you move forward:
- Get in the best shape you can for your age and physical condition. Personally, this one action has eradicated my melancholy over my “lost decade.” At the ripe old age of 54, I can honestly say that I feel better than I ever have in my life. When I work out now, it’s no longer for my career, boyfriend, parents, or any other reason than myself. I find this act of self-care to be empowering, and the feeling of renewed strength is a daily inspiration.
- Add some fun to your life. Take up a new hobby, learn a new skill or sport, explore new social outlets, and deepen your self-care practices. Each of these can be therapeutic, stimulate new brain functions, and alleviate the blues. When the present is so engaging and interesting, you’ll find yourself thinking about the past less and less.
- Make lists! What things in life are you grateful for? What do you hope to accomplish, see, or experience now that you’ve overcome your addiction to alcohol? I’ve found that writing each of these down in list form is a terrific reminder of how lucky I am and that I’m free to do pretty much anything I want.
Reclaim Your Life!
People often tell me they feel their life was stolen by addiction, and that they mourn the time they can never get back. My response is that one should grasp hold of life as it is now. Treat every day for the gift it is.
We are so filled with fear when we’re in the throes of an alcohol use disorder. We’re afraid that people will find out, that we will disappoint people again, or that we’ll be unable to perform at the level we need to. It can be agonizing. Now that you’re no longer consumed with thoughts about alcohol, you have the gift of focusing on your hopes, ambitions, and dreams without fear.
After experiencing alcohol addiction, you already know what a life of struggle and “mediocrity at best” feels like. Now you are released from that. Revel in that freedom. Give yourself permission to enjoy and savor each moment with no regrets, and without constantly looking back.
Personally, I like to take a moment each day to remind myself that my “monster” is dead and that I am free. That small act puts such a big smile on my face that, honestly, little else matters. Every morning that I wake up and remain alcohol-free by choice is another day of clarity, joy, and health that I never take for granted.
Life is beautiful when you are present in your mind, grateful in your heart, and always looking forward—not back. It can be easy to blame yourself for the years lost but believe me—as you move forward into a newer, healthier you, those regrets often disappear. Life is meant to be lived in the present, and if you’ve overcome your addiction, you’ve regained the gift of the now. Enjoy it to its fullest!
*If you are at the beginning of your recovery journey, then please read this article with hope in your heart. Things can and will get better. Commit to your recovery program, and know that you will get your life back very soon.
Claudia Christian is a successful film and television actress. She is also the founder of the C Three Foundation, and a passionate advocate for the Sinclair Method to treat alcohol dependence. Christian is currently a member of Ria Health‘s Advisory Board.