5 Things That Happen When You Start Living a Sober Life
My favorite quote comes from a humble comic called Calvin and Hobbes:
“Like is like topography, Hobbes. There are summits of happiness and success, flat stretches of boring routine, and valleys of frustration and failure.”
Every human being can relate to this because we have all been there: surviving the roller coaster of an existence called “life”.
How does that relate to a life of sobriety, you ask?
For me, happiness was finally engaging in what was worth my time. Success was finding the strength to fight for sobriety every day, despite knowing relapses were possible. Routine days consisted of boring actions and events that caused me to believe I had more fun in the past when I was addicted, and the valleys were those dark moments that seemed to pull me right back to square one - and sometimes, they did.
If a relapse or slip-up happens, it’s up to me to climb up another summit or stay trapped in the darkness of a valley. Frankly, it takes hitting rock bottom to realize everything that truly mattered. You can have the support of the entire world or the best medications to keep you stable, but ultimately, the quality of a sober life is determined by you alone, the belief you have in yourself, and the actions you take to keep moving forward.
Life is still painful and difficult even when you start living sober, but you realize it was always rewarding and beautiful at the same time - it just wasn’t apparent. When drugs and alcohol no longer cloud your mind, you begin to see things, people, and (most importantly) yourself for what they actually are.
These are five of the many things that happen when you start living a sober life.
1. You develop a deep sense of self-respect for yourself
Taking the action to get clean is the start of developing a profound self-respect for yourself. You slowly build self-confidence from the ground up and gradually never accept anything less than what you deserve. Over time, you stop beating yourself up over setbacks when they happen. You understand that the journey in staying clean isn’t always smooth one, but that isn’t an excuse to stop you from reaching your goals. You congratulate yourself without shame for accomplishing small victories - like, not getting triggered for a day, and you’re able to come to peace with the fact that self-hatred or victimizing yourself with the past is never worth the investment of your time or emotions.
2. A lack of self-worth becomes a thing of the past
Abusing substances, to me, was both a coping mechanism and means of escape that made personal situations bearable, which consequently, took a toll on my self-esteem and the ability to function normally. Take social situations, for example, I felt like I needed to be wasted and high so I could actually talk to people without feeling awkward. I put so much of my self-worth into the things I couldn’t do without drugs, and that was so awful.
One of the hardest things to do is develop self-worth and esteem from an authentic place. That’s because when we come face-to-face with our fears, weaknesses, insecurities - being utterly transparent about those things is the last thing we want to do. But when getting clean, you can’t help but be honest because you know that no progress can be made without the truth and accepting every single part of you - including the ugly parts. When sober, you’re able to see everything that you were, are now, and have the potential to be. You learn that self-worth doesn’t come from temporary highs or punishing yourself with self-destructive behavior. It’s a result of how you treat yourself and understanding you have value not only in getting clean, but being able to live the life you want.
3. Relationships can be rebuilt and you can create new, authentic ones
Recovering from addiction opens up opportunities to meet others in the same boat and rebuild the relationships that may have been lost during the days of substance abuse. You can find solace in group therapy sessions that exist for the sole purpose of providing a safe and nurturing space for past addicts who wish to share their stories or listen to the experiences of others. Also, with group therapy sessions, you can genuinely connect with others because everyone is there to help each other!
In terms of family and friends - frankly, you may or may not rebuild them. But sincerely trying in itself is enough. The people who truly love you, even if they are no longer present, will forgive you for the past and only wish for your happiness and well-being. They will be the ones who will give you unfailing support and love and remind you that there is always a life worth living past all the drugs and substance abuse.
Another resource you can turn to is a sober companion, an individual whose sole purpose is to aid you through triggering situations and help you adjust into society once again. In addition to that, it always helps to have someone who keeps you accountable and prevents you from falling back into old habits.
4. Fun activities patiently await your participation
You realize that there are better things to do than take drugs or drink. You begin to spend time fostering past and new hobbies, having fun with refreshing activities, and look to spend your efforts into something that gives back to others and yourself somehow, like volunteering or a job you truly love. You take the responsibility for not only your professional life but your ability to have fun and relax in healthy ways!
5. You accept that nothing will ever be perfect
Without struggles and awful days - we would never realize how far strength can take us, that love and kindness aren’t pseudo-inspirational sources of healing, emotions and insecurities are not the enemies, and our goals will never come up short with hard work and trusting in our potential.
No matter how many times we try to convince ourselves that things will be eventually perfect or reach a euphoric state, it will never be true. Living sober isn’t just about being clean forever, it’s about understanding that bad days and relapses can happen, and what matters the most is having the ability to pull yourself out of those dark moments to stay on track of recovery.
To everyone in recovery- you deserve a life that is overwhelmingly full of happiness and experiences untarnished by substance abuse. You are more than the drugs you have taken during hopeless evenings and the drinks you have drowned in during a party. This life is what you make it, and I hope you make it through to the end. Once you’re there, we all look forward to your lifetime of stories and experiences that will impact those willing to listen, and the individuals who needed your story to help them keep moving forward too.
Trevor McDonald is a freelance writer and recovering addict & alcoholic who has been clean and sober for over 5 years. Since his recovery began he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources and addiction awareness. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity