5 Ways Sobriety Makes Life Better Than Ever
This month marks the 30th anniversary of Recovery Month, which is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to raise awareness about the millions of people living in recovery and the millions more in need of treatment. This national public health campaign is designed to reduce stigma, increase hope, and improve access to treatment and long-term recovery services.
Addiction is a thief that robs us of everything we hold dear—our friends and family, our health, even our dignity. There is a lot of loss. But anyone walking a recovery path soon discovers that they gain so much more than they had before. You might even think of it as a discovery journey.
If that sounds like a bold claim, consider what is available to those who embark on this path:
Discovery # 1. The Fountain of Youth
There is a reason hangovers and withdrawal feel so horrible. Substance misuse makes us look and feel much older than our biological age.
Alcohol, opioids, methamphetamine, cocaine, and other addictive substances are hard on our health. Our organs struggle to process these toxic chemicals, and we lose precious sleep, nutrients and hygiene in the process. We end up using more to feel less, which makes our symptoms worse. It’s a vicious cycle.
When we stop misusing substances, we see the damage we’ve done. This clarity and a solid recovery program can encourage us to eat better, exercise, meditate, spend time in nature—all things that make us feel better and give us more energy. In fact, they can add years to our life.
Discovery #2. Hidden Treasure
Addiction is costly. In fact, it costs hundreds of billions of dollars annually ($442 billion, to be exact). On an individual level, we live paycheck to paycheck with little if anything left over. We spend most of our money and time focusing on getting our next fix.
When we stop feeding an addiction, a wealth of resources becomes available. We are better able to maintain a job and pursue opportunities for advancement. The money we used to spend on drugs and alcohol (which, for most of us, was considerable) can now be used for food, rent, recreation, savings, school—whatever we need to create a better life for ourselves.
We are also able to tap into a wealth of self-knowledge. Developing a personal recovery program helps us discover who we are, what we feel, where we can thrive, when to ask for help, and how to solve our problems. This self-awareness is invaluable for living our best lives.
Discovery #3: A Time Machine
Living under the influence is a blur of blackouts, hazy memories, and foggy days. Most of our time is spent making sure we’ve got a steady supply of our drug of choice and trying to undo the damage we caused when we were out of control.
When we commit to sobriety, our memory and thinking improves and we stop being haunted by our past. We discover we have more time than we thought possible—time to develop new friendships, focus on self care, explore new interests, relax. At first we may not know what to do with all this extra time, which is why participating in a structured sober living program is essential for success in early recovery.
Best of all, we have more time to think about our future and what we want to make of it. Past, present, and future: we enjoy more of all of it.
Discovery #4. Super Powers
Many of us started using substances, at least in part, because we were dealing with challenging situations at home or at school. Substances gave us a false sense of courage. Unfortunately, they also masked our actual abilities and potential.
When we stop using, we put down our kryptonite and begin to face life on life’s terms. It’s scary as hell. But we survive. We face our fears, then we face them again. And again. We discover life is full of challenges, but we also discover that we have what it takes to meet each one of them.
Recovery is the key that unlocks our courage, strength, resourcefulness, resilience, and compassion for others. While life isn’t always easy, it does become more manageable and much more satisfying.
Discovery #5: The Secret to Life
This is, perhaps, the greatest discovery of all. Working a recovery program encourages us to discover what makes life meaningful. It helps us uncover our life’s purpose. Which brings us back to SAMHSA and its working definition of recovery, which includes a sense of purpose.
We all want to feel like our lives matter. We all want to know that our existence makes a difference to others. This search for purpose leads us back to each other and the desire to create healthy relationships. This work is the heart of our sober living community.
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Photo Credit: “Ethics” by Nick Y | licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images
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