With the start of a new year, many people intentionally choose to be a better version of themselves. Whether they make a resolution to lose weight, read more, or be a better friend, self-improvement is a hot topic this time of year.
However, some of us may find ourselves feeling down, lamenting past years and previous versions of ourselves. Maybe you’re newly sober and the pink cloud never showed up for you or you’re struggling to adjust to a sober lifestyle. If this is you, you’re certainly not alone. Many people have a hard time making the transition after rehab, but all hope is not lost. You CAN do this and you WILL eventually settle into a sober life.
In difficult times like this, it’s helpful to be reminded of all the good things that came as a result of getting sober. Aside from the obvious (no more hangovers, hospitalizations, jail time, etc.), there are so many ways life is better when you’re sober. With a brand new year ahead of you, there are plenty of opportunities to make the most of your new life. Here’s a quick reminder.
1. You have more free time.
Back when you were addicted, you spent so much time being preoccupied with your next high, getting high, or recovering from it. Now that you have eliminated drugs and alcohol from your life, you have so much more time to fill with meaningful activities. Whether you choose to spend it working toward a personal goal you have, spending quality time with family, or pursuing a new hobby, you should find comfort in knowing that your time is much better spent sober.
2. You look healthier.
Consistent drug and alcohol abuse take a toll on your appearance, wreaking havoc on your skin, weight, teeth, eyes, hair, and more. Interestingly enough, you may not even realize all the negative effects drugs and alcohol have had on your appearance until you stop using them and start to see changes. With time, living a sober life can take years off of your appearance, which can also help boost your self-esteem. Although improving your appearance shouldn’t be the only reason you choose to get sober and stay that way, it’s a great perk that comes with it.
3. You’re less forgetful.
Drugs and alcohol change the way your brain functions and may even cause long-term or irreversible brain damage. Fortunately, not all of the damage is permanent and as your body adjusts to sobriety, your brain will too. With time, the mental fog will fade and you’ll begin to feel more alert, focused, and present in your everyday life. This means you’ll have an easier time functioning at work, carrying out your daily routine, reading a book, and even just having deeper thoughts and ideas that add value to your life.
4. You have more money.
It’s no secret that the financial cost of addictive substances really adds up quickly. As your addiction worsened, you likely spent more and more on drugs or alcohol, eventually blowing hundreds or even thousands of dollars in a matter of weeks or months. Now that you’re sober, you’re probably saving buku bucks every month, which you can put towards your savings, healthy groceries, a vacation you’ve always wanted to take, or something else that has a special meaning to you.
5. You’re more productive.
Remember all that free time we talked about earlier? And the lack of mental fog? Well, these benefits of sobriety also mean you have time to be more productive. Without the distraction of addiction, you can now work toward self-improvement by accomplishing short-term daily goals that will ultimately bring you closer to your long-term goals and the new life you’re striving to create for yourself.
6. You are self-aware.
Sometimes being in recovery is just hard and there’s no getting around that. At times, you have to face difficult realities and truths about yourself that can be pretty painful. However, facing these things head-on also greatly increases your self-awareness. As a result, you develop a better understanding of the world around you, how it impacts you personally, and what actions you can take to stay sober for the long-haul.
7. Your physical health improves.
Drug and alcohol abuse is harmful to nearly every organ in the body and chronic and long-term substance abuse can even cause life-threatening diseases or medical conditions. Fortunately, just as your appearance will improve as you spend more time sober, your overall health will also get better. Without all the drugs and alcohol in your body, you’ll likely get sick less often because your immune system will function well, your diet will improve and you’ll have fewer junk food cravings, your weight will stabilize, and your body will work to repair itself, bit by bit.
8. You have healthy boundaries.
Personal growth is a big part of getting sober and creating healthy boundaries for yourself will help you achieve that. While you were actively addicted, you likely had poor boundaries that contributed to self-harming behaviors like substance abuse. Part of living a sober life is establishing healthy boundaries and understanding the negative or positive impact of the people and things you choose to surround yourself with. As you continue to live a sober life, setting these boundaries will become more natural and you will reap the benefits daily.
9. Your relationships improve.
Addiction destroys relationships but now you have the chance to develop genuine, lasting relationships with non-drug-using friends and work to repair old ones. While it’s true that some relationships in your life may not be salvageable, many friends and family members are likely willing to work with you to repair the damage that has been done and start over. In fact, you might be surprised to find that many of your loved ones have been waiting to welcome you back into their lives with open arms.
10. You have real friends.
If your life revolves around your next high or your next drink, then your friends most likely do too. Now that you’re sober, you can start working to develop real friendships with people who actually care about you and value you. Additionally, now that you’re not under the influence of addictive substances, you can start being a better friend by making better decisions, acting appropriately, and actually being available for the people in your life that you care about.
11. You explore new hobbies.
Recovery is an excellent opportunity to explore new hobbies and develop new passions along the way. These are the things that make life worth living and having them will help you find purpose and meaning in life at a time when you may feel very uncertain about the direction you’re headed. Early sobriety can be a difficult time, but exploring new hobbies or re-kindling old ones can help you refocus and spend your newly found free time wisely.
12. You’re less stressed and anxious.
People often abuse drugs and alcohol to cope with difficult life circumstances or to mask feelings of anxiety or stress. However, this can be a double-edged sword because substance abuse can also cause these issues. When you cut drugs and alcohol out of your life completely, you are forced to face these painful emotions and difficult circumstances without substances. But as you learn how to cope more healthily, you’ll eventually find that you feel less stressed and anxious overall.
13. You make fewer apologies.
How many times did you have to apologize for things you said or did while you were addicted? Probably too many. Without the influence of drugs and alcohol, you’re bound to make better decisions, and as a result, you’ll make fewer apologies to the people you love. Although you’ll probably still need to make apologies here and there, they won’t be a result of drunken escapades and you can genuinely apologize and make amends with a clear and sober mind.
14. You live longer.
Fatal overdoses caused by drug addiction have decreased the overall lifespan of Americans.1 Even if you never overdose, drug and alcohol addiction can cause serious health problems that reduce both the quality and length of your life. In addition to living a better, more fulfilling life, sobriety can also extend your years due to increased health and wellness.
15. You like yourself.
At its core, substance abuse is often a result of self-hatred. Maybe you used to abuse drugs and alcohol because you didn’t like yourself and you were trying to be someone else. Or maybe you hated yourself because you couldn’t stop abusing substances. Either way, as you continue living a sober life, you may learn how to love yourself (flaws and all), respect yourself, and feel confident and good about the new decisions you’re making.
16. You have more fun.
Some people are scared to get sober because they think they won’t have any fun. In reality, though, sober people can have even more fun! Instead of spending Saturday morning hungover in bed, you can get out and hike at a new park, bike a local trail, or go out for lunch with friends. Instead of planning your life around your next drink or hit of drugs, the opportunities for having fun expand exponentially once your mind is clear, your body is able, and your spirit is willing. All you have to do is get out there and go find some fun sober activities.
The year 2020 is a great new opportunity to continue growing and learning in sobriety. Addiction recovery isn’t always sunshine and roses, but a little bit of help and support can go a long way. If you find that you’re struggling to stay sober, there is plenty of help available for you! Start the new year out right by taking advantage of it.