The Big Transition: Nobody told me I had to build a bridge to sobriety when I decided to get clean…

The Big Transition

“Just leave your old life of using and drinking behind.”
“Look at all the problems your addiction has caused you!”
“I mean, really???”
“Why would you not?”
“You have four Operating While Intoxicated and two broken marriages, and now you have liver problems.”

Or maybe you just overdosed for the first time, escaped death, lost all your money. And now you have people down your throat about what you put them through. Why can’t people get it?

It’s hard enough making the decision to give up drugs or alcohol, let alone actually following through with staying sober for one day… let alone having to deal with this thing nobody told you about… a thing called the Big Transition.

What is the “Big Transition?”

The Big Transition takes place in the time it takes you to build a bridge across the gap between your using life and your sober life. It’s the bridge we all need, taking us from one end of our life to a new way of life. The reality is that you need time, knowledge and tools to build the bracing and structure of the bridge so that the gap can be overcome.

We might think we can take the fast track to the other side and imagine getting there in a week or two, but the structure used will most likely not stand the test of time. We might not even have a lot of ideas on how to build the bridge and be all that comfortable sitting in the unknown of the how to do it. We might want to just imagine we are on the other side and that we don’t need to put so much work into it. That maybe we don’t need anybody to help us build the bridge of recovery. We could build it by ourselves.

The bridge – the gap, time and building blocks – was best explained by old schooler William Bridges in his book Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes. He understood that we all go through transitions during our lifetime: from moving out on our own from our parents, to getting married, to having kids, to changing jobs and even getting acceptance when someone close to us dies. When we look at the word transition and understand what it means, we can begin to see the steps needed to not only say goodbye, but to deal with the period of unknowing. Then new life can be birthed, and eventually, a bridge can be built.

When you think of going through a transition in life, there is a bridge that needs to be built across the gap. The gap for me was between my divorce and remarriage. I look back at my divorce in 2003, and in retrospect, realize how emotionally upside down I was at times. I had mixed feelings about my future.  I had no idea what was going to happen for me and our daughter. I saw her three to four times per week and had to somehow figure out how to make to sustain a changed life.

How I Crossed the Bridge

I did not have a lot of money, but I realized the zoo was close to our house. There was a young girl my daughter’s age next door. I discovered by trying new things, there were a lot of cool, free and fun things to do in Madison. As I tried different things I began to discover I could rewrite how we relate, and how I am her father. Nobody told me at the time, but I was in actually in a Big Transition. There was an unknown gap, but I learned that if I could keep trying new things, I would eventually get to the other side of a divorce to once again lead a happy life.  This was not without pain and obstacles.  It was with an understanding that I am in a time period of transition and change and eventually things will settle down with me finding my way.  

What strengths do you have that will help you transition from addiction to recovery?

Keep trying new things (i.e., sober strategies) to maintain your sobriety. Be resilient. Become comfortable with the transition process. There will be things that will make sense, and then there will be things that will feel uncomfortable and not make sense. There will be days that are 95 degrees, hot and humid, and you will think you are exhausted. Then there will be rainy days where you have no umbrella, and you will get wet and cold and wonder.  Then there will be those perfect days of 75 degrees and everything seems to fall in place.


What if we started a DIALOGUE ABOUT THE TRANSITION AND GAP? What if we helped people figure out not just how to stay sober, but how to become re-juiced and re-energized on the path of transition? Let’s face it sometimes we will forget our umbrella thinking we won’t get wet, only to encounter a downpour. The problem is not really that there is gap or transition. The problem is recognizing it and figuring out how you are going to handle it – how you will build your own bridge over time to a new sober life.

Crossing the Bridge

Ask yourself these key questions about the gap

  1. What are my ideas on what my transition and bridge-building will look like?
  2. How patient will I be with myself?
  3. Do I want an immediate bridge, and if so, what might I miss?
  4. What can I do to make sure I remain in bridge-building mode and not end up on the side I find so familiar?
  5. How have I gotten through transitions in my life before? What are my patterns for getting through them? What are my strengths in pulling through them?
  6. Who will be my co-workers on this bridge? Do I want some people with experience? Will I choose to try to build it myself? Will I ask people who have built the bridge already?
  7. What don’t I know about recovery?
  8. What do I want my story to be regarding my bridge building and ability to be in the transition?

About Ted Izydor - LPC, CSAC, ICS, MINT 62 Articles
Ted Izydor holds both a Master of Counseling Psychology and Master of Business Administration. With a distinguished 20-year clinical therapy background as a mental health and addiction counselor, Ted offers techniques, strategies and approaches that produce changes. As the founder of Full Potential Coaching and Consulting of Wisconsin, he devotes himself to sharing this knowledge and insight to people seeking more fulfilling, happier and healthier lives.

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