Long-term sobriety. Aptly characterized as a battle, recovery is often a literal fight for survival. For many of us it is the greatest challenge of our lives, and the hardest work we’ll ever do. It can be so difficult, some days it feels impossible, and that’s the truth.
But, while being honest about the effort it takes to overcome addiction is important, and there is no way around the daily, sometimes hourly challenges that come with maintaining sobriety – particularly in the early days and in times of crisis, belaboring the point can make recovery sound absolutely exhausting, and if we can be totally honest, really hard and not very much fun. It can leave a person wondering, “if this is the greatest thing we can ever do for ourselves, why does it sound so terrible?”
Sobriety, in these terms only, conjures the image of a boring, flat light kind of existence where there is no cheer, no buzz, no party, no fun. Where there is no relief from stress. Where there is nothing to take the edge off of the small and large difficulties and pain that comes with living. A world where you have to constantly say no to yourself. A world where you have to cut ties with old friends who you now recognize as unhealthy influences, while at the same time digging up and examining the traumas you’ve been throwing dirt on for years.
So, what is the point then? Why do the work to maintain sobriety day in and day out over the long-term? How does a person enjoy – actually enjoy – being sober? It starts by recognizing the rewards that come with cutting loose the bad habits.
Acknowledge and Enjoy Your Newfound Clarity
Waking up in the morning refreshed after a full night of uninterrupted sleep. Putting together a list of things you want to get done – and then actually doing them. Becoming reacquainted with long-abandoned activities and hobbies that used to get you into that zone where you’re so focused and absorbed, you completely lose track of time. Without the fog of hangovers clouding your thinking and judgement, without the exhaustion and obsession that comes with feeding a drug, gambling or food addiction, without the addictive substances changing your brain chemistry, there is more clarity.
Clarity brings you closer to knowing yourself, knowing what brings you fulfillment and knowing how to attain it. Clarity helps you communicate and helps you focus. Clarity helps you put into perspective the reality of addiction and helps you see just how sick substance abuse was making you. Clarity helps you set goals and priorities. Clarity feels good and is one of the greatest benefits of sobriety.
Acknowledge and Enjoy Your Improving Physical Health
When you say goodbye to substance addiction, you say hello to feeling better. From lack of exercise, to poor diet, to the actual physical toll that addictive substances take on your body, substance abuse profoundly damages health. Getting clean and sober can result in the healing of chronic digestive issues, it can help improve immune system function, it can lead to clearer skin and it can reduce your risk of heart attack, cancer, and liver problems.
When your system is no longer working overtime to clear away the toxins and poison of drugs and/or alcohol, you will likely have more energy, which can lead to improvements in mood and motivation, boosting overall quality of life.
Enjoy Rebuilding Relationships with People Who Love You
A life of partying, of alcohol and drugs seems great at first – before the addiction kicks in full throttle and you’re stealing from your friends, fighting with your family, getting fired from your job, and losing the right to see your children. By the time many people come to terms with their situation, they have alienated themselves so completely there is no one left to turn to.
Part of recovery is facing up to the ways substances changed your personality and made you behave in a way that hurt others – and that is not fun. But it is necessary in order to heal and to rebuild the relationships you value and want in your life. Even more, releasing yourself from addiction is also releasing the people who love you from the worry, stress, uncertainty, and havoc that addiction wreaks in their lives. This is an invaluable gift that you can give to your loved ones and should be a source of joy and pride for your each and every day.
Enjoy the Release the Comes with Finally, FINALLY Facing and Dealing with the Traumas that Led to Addiction in the First Place
At the end of it all, recovery is worth it because it often requires the individual to finally come to terms with the traumas and experiences that led them to substance abuse in the first place. Through therapy and medication, if necessary, mental health issues can be addressed and managed in a way that leads to higher functionality and better quality of life. Recognizing the issues and stressors that relate to use and relapse, and then developing the tools and behaviors that can help you stay on the path to recovery gives you back your power.
This step can help you to create healthy boundaries with others, and cut ties with people who are not behaving in your best interest. It can help you to be a better parent, co-worker, friend and partner. Releasing yourself from the pain of abuse can help reset the behavior patterns that developed through interactions with unhealthy role models. Acknowledging, and then forgiving yourself for the pain you caused others can help you let go of guilt and shame.
Taking ownership of your actions – good and bad, committing to doing your best, every day, even when there seems to be nothing but challenges, loving yourself enough to do what is necessary to maintain your sobriety. This is how you grow stronger, more capable and ultimately more fulfilled.
It’s not easy, but it is worth it.