You’re finally sober and wondering, “now what?” How is one supposed to rebuild the foundation of their life after a period of time following the voice of addiction and the self-abuse that came along with it? What will it take to reverse the so familiar– although quite negative– habits and beliefs? What’s the point of committing to long-term sobriety if I don’t have any idea what I want to do with my life, why I’m here, or who I wish to be?
Today we are going to explore the various ways you can successfully take on a sober lifestyle with your best interest in mind. No pressure, no B.S., and no escapism required.
What is the Why?
The first thing to contemplate when entering a successful sober lifestyle is the answer to your “Why?” If you’re going to take on a long commitment (in this case, a total personal change for the better), get familiar with the purpose that answers, “why am I doing this?”
Why stay on the sobriety path and continue to live sober? Here are some examples of the answer to that question:
I want a better future for myself and my family.
Really I just need to grow out of the person I used to be in order to fulfill my desire to travel and learn about the world.
I want to have a clear mind and a more open heart to finally start my own web development business.
Drugs are distracting. I like being high too much but it’s really not something I want to focus on anymore.
I am trying to live my highest calling and respect myself in any way I need.
I’m tired of seeking escape through drugs and alcohol and feel it’s time to really get to know myself.
I want to be a stronger dad and husband so I can leave a positive legacy for future generations.
I need to get sober in order to live. My body can no longer handle hard drugs at all.
There are limitless reasons to pursue long-term sobriety. What is your main reason? Allow the “why” to change and expand as you do.
Self-Worth and Surrender
In addition to establishing your purpose for staying sober, surrendering to the journey is a must. The moment you decide you are worth getting sober is the moment you surrender to trusting that you’ll be okay through the process. If you believe in a higher power, trust the guidance of every moment, as well.
You chose right now to make these changes for a reason and anything you seek in the recovery journey will be yours if you ditch expectations, put in the work, and allow it to unfold naturally. The one thing you can shape for sure is your persistence and your perspective.
In moments of doubt or fear of vulnerability, it can be hard to stay connected to other people. It’s so easy to want to isolate, get down on yourself, or hide away in suffering. However, for successful sobriety, it’s important to stay in connection with others who encourage you. Try to connect with a community at least every week.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to go to sober meetings every day, though meetings are incredibly helpful tools to keep in your life for the beginning of your sobriety. If anything, continue to go to the people who feed your mind and soul with meaningful connection. The idea is to have friendships with others you can fully be yourself with, where you build each other up, and who have your best interest in mind.
Get Outside Your Head and Into Nature
By far, one of the most calming, healing activities for anyone experiencing stress or an uncomfortable life change is to go outside and get into nature for a little bit. Walking, hiking, camping, surfing, yoga, or any type of outdoor activity can decrease anxiety and make you feel more alive. There have been scientific studies showing the anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory benefits of spending time outdoors in natural environments abundant with plants or wildlife.
Nonetheless, a change in environment from the usual office cubicle, apartment, or home can help get you out of your head and help you feel– literally– more “down to earth”. When you take a moment to breathe fresh air and appreciate the world’s natural beauty, it’s hard to stay upset or obsess over daily worries.
Eat Good Food (That’s Not Addictive)
I know personally, replacing one addiction with another is a reality we might have struggled with before. Many recovering addicts turn to food. Especially when we’re surrounded by sugar, processed grains, and mysterious chemicals in all the fast food we have such easy access to, even the food we eat can get quite addictive if we don’t watch what we eat. I’ve ditched and re-upped my sugar addiction more than enough times in my life to validate a family history of diabetes… But, the good news is, there’s always the option to prepare the next healthy meal and eat something that is not addictive.
The main tip here for anyone who isn’t a nutrition expert is this: instead of depriving yourself completely of the not-so-healthy food you enjoy, focus on adding in healthy fresh vegetables in every dish you eat. A lot of us lack the required nutrients and minerals the human body thrives off of, so even getting an extra three to five servings of fruit and veggies can make a huge difference. Vegetables are not addictive and won’t make you feel like garbage after you eat it. The more you incorporate or replace substantial ingredients, the less your body will crave the toxic ones.
As we’ve heard so far, a community can be encouraging, the earth can be healing, and food can be nourishing. In the same sense, water can be vitalizing and cleansing. Whether you’re at the beginning of your recovery or a seasoned sober individual, water makes up 70% of your body. Drink water. Hydrate often as it keeps your organs functioning great and your overall health at peak.
It’s Cool to Cry
Another method of “cleansing”, while we’re at it, is tears. I don’t mean to get all wishy-washy on you here, but to be honest, it’s sometimes necessary to let out the feelings that well up. Everyone experiences different levels of “being a cryer” and that’s totally normal. When it comes to the journey of long-term sobriety, it’s likely that old hurts or triggers may come up and you just need a moment to have a good cry session. Healing is a gradual process and there can be powerful healing in tears.
Similarly to how a change in environment can get you out of your head, a shift in your body can make all the difference in your energy level. Staying active and moving the body on a regular basis boosts endorphins in the brain, keeps your heart healthy, and lets you release excess toxins through sweat. Working on strengthening and moving your body is a great discipline and makes you look better in the process.
Many recovering addicts who work out weekly have noticed how much of a benefit exercise is to their lives. If you’re the type of person who hates gyms, there are all kinds of ways to still stay moving. Yoga, swimming, walking, hiking, and even dancing around your home can be a huge mood shift.
Sometimes we store suppressed emotions and tension in our bodies that we don’t realize on a daily basis. Moving and even stretching it out can push you to feel a new start, better prepared to navigate life in the next moment.
Truth and Honesty in All Stages of Long-Term Sobriety
Be honest with yourself. Now that you’re no longer depending on drugs or alcohol to escape reality, you can be real. Be honest with yourself first, and also be honest with those who are part of your support system.
Follow truthful people you look up to who have lived out a successful long-term sobriety. Social media is an amazing tool (if you use it) to keep up with the positive or sober influencers you relate to. A simple hashtag search of #RecoveryQuotes #GratitudeChallenge or #LongTermSobriety can be a boost of honest inspiration to anyone.
Do the Things That Are Important to You
Work on something that’s important to you. Whether this something is at your job, or outside of work as a hobby, continue to do the things that keep you interested and in “student” mode. This could be a personal project like fitness, writing in a journal, reading one book per month, learning a new skill, or anything else that keeps you excited about being in the moment.
It has been said that if you want a different life, you must learn to live a different way. So this might mean instead of going to bars or hanging out with old rowdy friends on Friday night, you go to the beach at sunset and meet up with your boxing trainer after. Whatever works for you, keep strengthening your mind and self by doing what builds confidence, interest, and is an outlet of fun for you.
Rest and Relax
Even though it’s beneficial to work on something that can develop you bit by bit, it’s also crucial to make time for rest and relaxation. Nothing is more triggering in long-term sobriety than getting frustrated by burning out physically or emotionally. This is why everyone says to stay busy and to take time for yourself.
Many people say meditation helps them rest, but there are other ways to find peace with yourself, too. Anything that gets your cortisol (stress hormone) levels down is a good self-care practice to make a habit. You might know what your favorite rituals for rest are, but here’s a list of ideas if you want to try something new:
- Sit and relax in the steam room or sauna after the gym
- Write or “free write” your thoughts
- Take a bath for 15 minutes (parents: without your kids!)
- Breathing exercises or guided meditations
- Doodling, painting, or coloring
- Listen to calm or uplifting music
- Clean your closet or room (if cleaning doesn’t frustrate you)
- Take a walk
- Play with your pets or kids
- Cuddle with a partner or close friend
- LAUGH – watch something funny, hang out with your favorite friend, listen to a comedy podcast
- Yoga or stretching
- Get a message (doesn’t have to be fancy- ask a loved one for a back rub)
- Drink herbal tea, cocoa, or something warm that can soothe your senses
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” -Theodore Roosevelt
Comparing yourself to “normies” or different sober people you know can dampen your perspective on how far you’ve actually come. Remember that everyone is on their own unique journey, comes from unique backgrounds, and everyone has their own story. Your story is just as valid as anyone else’s.
You might feel lousy because you’ve only been sober for three months whereas your sponsor and all their friends have been sober for decades. This is okay, but if you sit there and compare, you could raise a feeling of inadequacy in the situation. Nobody wants to keep going if they feel inadequate. So, try to be thankful for each day you stay one more day sober. Comparing yourself will place an unrealistic mirror in front of you, wishing you were “better”, but the truth is you are putting a lot of awesome work in so far. Look in the mirror that reflects the Best You that you’re in the process of becoming.
If you feel inspired to do so, giving back to your community or support groups can be one of the most rewarding feelings. Everyone has natural gifts that can help other people in need. In fact, a majority of employees who work in addiction recovery and sober living homes were once addicts themselves. The reason they continue to work in the very places they once sought help is that they feel a calling to give back.
It’s comforting to receive help from someone who has actually been where you’ve been and then overcome the struggles. If there’s any way in your life you know deep down could help others in something you yourself have survived, consider giving your time or energy to support someone else when the opportunity presents itself.
Closing Tips for Long-Term Sobriety
You’re not going to die from getting through the hard days without using drugs or getting a drink. Sobriety isn’t going to kill you. If anything, it’s going to kill the old ways that no longer add value to your life, in order for you to fill yourself with new life in all its possibilities. One of my favorite women in addiction recovery quoted, “The difficult feelings in recovery won’t kill you, but the drugs surely will.”
If you or a loved one still needs help in overcoming an addiction, reach out to us. We would love to hear from you. Call our Addiction Helpline with any questions or guidance you need.
Recovery is possible. Best wishes to you as you continue to see it through in long-term sobriety!