When I first made the decision to get sober, I had no idea of the bountiful benefits it would provide. I thought I was simply going to learn how to not rely on putting a substance in my body to make it through the day. In reality, sobriety taught me much more. It taught me a new way of life.
1. Don’t be too hard on myself
From a young age, I was always obsessed with being the best. I wanted to be the smartest, prettiest, and funniest. I wanted to be the most talented girl on the basketball team and the teacher’s star student. In order to attain these ideals, I was brutally critical of myself.
It has taken me a long time to accept the fact that I am not perfect. In sobriety, I am going to fall short and make mistakes because I am human. Regardless of the mistakes I have made or the ones I will make in the future, I must stop beating myself up. I do this by being mindful of the fact that despite my imperfections, I am still loved. Despite my mistakes, I am doing whatever it takes to better myself. I must focus on the concept of progress – not perfection.
2. Take responsibility for things I’ve done
Between my family and friends, I hurt a lot of people during active addiction. I stole from people who trusted me and I lied to people who loved me. I put my parents through the agony of wondering if they will ever see me alive again.
Sobriety taught me how to take responsibility for my past rather than shove it deep inside or try to make the pain subside through a bag and a needle. If I fail to take responsibility for my mistakes, I will never heal the relationships I have damaged. Not only do I have to admit to these wrongdoings, but I have to walk a sober, honest path each day. Embarking on this journey allows me to be trustworthy again. It takes humility and compassion. Without taking responsibility, I would remain a stagnant, arrogant person who wouldn’t have the relationships I have today.
3. Accepting people for who they are
I spent much of my life trying to control the actions of others. Aside from being powerless over drugs and alcohol, I am powerless over other people. It can be painful to watch people I care about relapse and return to a life of bitter insanity, but it happens and I have to accept that.
Accepting that I cannot control others means I have to love people right where they are at. If I attempt to control the actions of other people, I will begin to harbor resentment. When I am resentful, I am hurting myself and making myself unavailable to help others.
4. Left to my own devices I will fail
I tried to sober up on my own countless times and always failed. Each time, I would awake with a firm resolve that I would stay sober that day, yet find myself sticking a needle in my arm hours later wondering how it happened.
Sobriety means admitting that my own will power will not suffice. It means letting go of my ego and allowing others to help me. I have to be willing to shut my mouth, open my ears, and listen to the suggestions people give me. If I were to isolate from my support group, I would lose my sobriety in a heartbeat.
5. Gratitude preludes peace
I have found it true that gratitude is the key to happiness, but I also find it true that gratitude preludes peace. While in active addiction, and even in early sobriety, my mind would spin like an incessant hamster wheel. I struggled with obsessive thoughts constantly.
Being grateful consists of looking at the little things at life and appreciating the true value of those things, such as having a roof over my head, food to eat, relationships with my family, and not being a slave to a substance. Knowing the value of life’s blessings allows me to slow down my thoughts as it makes me realize that things really aren’t that bad. In all actuality, things are pretty good when I am sober.
6. How to love myself
Like many others in early recovery, I craved sweets all the time. Sugar can actually be another addiction, which is one reason why eating disorders so commonly co-occur with substance use disorders. Eating well in early recovery was one of the first steps I took towards self-care. When you love something, you treat it with compassion and kindness. If all I put in my body is junk, I am not loving myself.
Not only did I learn how to take care of my physical health in sobriety, but I learned the importance of taking care of my mental health as well. This means praying, meditating, and taking time to appreciate nature and the world around me.
7. How to appreciate life
My addiction to heroin was a death sentence. I spent years wishing death upon myself. I was miserable and self-sabotaging. Now that I am sober and see the light at the end of the tunnel, I have begun to appreciate life.
Appreciating life means taking walks through nature and looking at the patterns on the leaves, smelling the flowers, and feeling the grass beneath my feet. It also means learning lessons from all the struggles that I face in order to grow. Had I not experienced the dark depths of addiction, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I wouldn’t have the opportunity to appreciate life as I do today.
8. My purpose in life
I truly believe that addicts are uniquely qualified to help one another because we are bound together by the shared experience of suffering, despair, and fear. We have all felt hopeless – like there would be no way to break the chains that bound us to addiction.
For me, purpose means belonging and belonging means service. If my life has a purpose, that means I belong on this earth for a reason. I came to find my belonging by joining a beautiful fellowship of individuals who share their experiences with one another in hopes that somebody will hear their message and stay sober today.
The brightest spot of my life today is watching others recover. I get to watch as the light comes back on in a desperate person’s eyes. I get to watch hope be restored on a daily basis. I get to watch people who couldn’t go 30 minutes without a substance in their body raise children, build a career, and get multiple consecutive years of sobriety. That is nothing short of a miracle.
Photo is pixabay creative commons
Guest Author Bio
Kate Adermann is an aspiring writer from Memphis, TN. She enjoys hiking with her dog, Jake, and helping other alcoholics and addicts get sober and stay sober.