23 Aug A New Kind of Wonderful: Finding What’s Good About Living Sober
Wonderful probably isn’t the first descriptor that comes to mind when you’re asked about what it’s like to be in recovery.
Maybe it should be.
When it comes right down to it, there’s a whole lot that’s new and different about this life in sobriety that you’ve freely – for the most part – chosen. Here we look at a new kind of wonderful, how it feels finding what’s good about living sober.
How often have you awakened from your drunken spree or late-night partying that continued for countless days only to discover that you can’t remember what went down? It’s not that you’re losing your mind, not really, just that you’ve killed off so many brain cells that your short-term memory has pretty much dissipated, dissolving into mush like ice cubes melting on a hot day.
Now that you’re sober, you will soon realize – if you haven’t already – that it’s much easier recalling events that happened yesterday. In fact, a whole series of yesterdays will tend to become crystal clear in your rear-view inner mirror.
This is the good news, one starting point of finding out what’s good about living sober.
Of course, there’s a downside to having excellent recall about the near past: you also remember the consequences of your actions that caused harm to others.
But this all goes with getting right with sobriety. Once you know what you’ve done, you can’t faze over it by saying you don’t remember. In fact, excuses play no part in effective recovery.
Food Tastes Better
Everyone has to eat, right? Think about how long it has been since you really enjoyed your food. For many long-time drinkers, food became something of an afterthought. It was consumed out of habit, or as part of a family routine, maybe just to keep on going, sort of a residual holdover from your childhood.
But enjoy eating? Forget about it.
That’s likely all changed now, especially if you’ve completed treatment for alcohol abuse or addiction and are now in the first stages of recovery.
In fact, your appetite may even increase, along with your appreciation of the food you consume each day. Mealtime, far from being a chore or something to do because you have to, can become an occasion for family communication, for spending quality time with friends, for taking a needed break from work or study.
Eating is part of living, and now that you’re on the path of living sober, you can indulge in the pleasures of all that food brings to the table – literally.
Did you pay attention to the words your therapist said during rehab about moving forward in sobriety and letting go of old resentments and regrets? This recommendation may have sailed over your head at the time, not being particularly relevant when you were in the middle of trying to get through the days and nights without going berserk over cravings and urges, among other new realities you found yourself having to deal with.
What about the relapse prevention phase of rehab, the time when your counselors attempted to prepare you for re-entry into your normal world? Surely there it was mentioned about the wisdom of getting over regrets. What good do regrets do you anyway? It’s making a plan to overcome and make amends for the bad things you’ve done in the past that’s important. That’s the way to move forward. That’s what recovery is all about.
And it’s another point that’s worth remembering when you’re considering what’s good about living sober.
Consider the hours and days and weeks you lost to your addiction to alcohol. That’s time you can never get back. This is a very sobering thought for many a newcomer to recovery, thinking about all the time they wasted chasing after alcohol, possibly combined with drugs and process addictions such as compulsive gambling, compulsive sexual behavior, or workaholism.
Time was more or less a blur, wasn’t it? The days either seemed to stretch on endlessly, one blending into the other with a kind of seamless repetition, or they passed so fast that you couldn’t keep track of exactly what day it was – let alone what you were supposed to be doing at any given time.
How many appointments or assignments or important meetings did you miss, blow off, forget or otherwise mess up as a result of being constantly loaded? No doubt you didn’t care much about the consequences at the time, much less worry about the time you lost while under the influence.
Now, however, time has probably gained immense significance in your life. You realize that life is short, time is fleeting, and you’re taking to heart the recommendation of your counselors and therapists to live life in the present, maximizing your recovery efforts and doing the best you can each moment of the day.
Time, it seems, is precious. Time is important. Time is something you don’t ever want to waste in a delirium of intoxication again.
Recognizing the importance of time is a big step in the right direction and another great thing about living sober.
The Chance to Remake Your Life
While you were a slave to your addiction, you likely didn’t give too hoots about the future – other than when your next drink would be or getting your plans together for the next round of hard partying.
Plans – who cared? Sticking to deadlines – no way! As for being responsible and living up to your word: not a chance.
That was then. This is now. Today you recognize that your actions – all of your actions – have consequences. You may not totally be ready to accept this reality all at once, but you’re getting there. You know, for example, that to live in sobriety entails responsibilities and that these are your obligations, both to yourself and to others.
After all, you have made a commitment to being sober. You have given your word, even if you only paid it lip service to begin with. Gradually, you’re coming to some sort of understanding about what it means to live in sobriety and to begin tackling the hard work of recovery.
Is it easy? Decidedly not. But this doesn’t mean that you cannot make progress in your life. Now that you’re clean and sober, the opportunities ahead are pretty much wide open. What will happen in the future will depend on the groundwork you lay today, the plans that you come up with and your willingness and determination to see them through to completion.
In essence, you have the chance for a do-over. This is your opportunity to remake your life into what you want it to be. Sure, you’ll need to make amends for the bad things you’ve done, for the harm your actions have brought to others, but this is all part of strengthening your recovery. You need to walk the talk and talk the walk.
The Chance to Dream
How many times can you remember dreaming about something you really wanted in the recent past – the period when your life was consumed by your fixation on alcohol? And we’re not referring to dreaming about the next blow-out party.
For a good number of individuals now entering recovery from alcohol abuse and addiction, dreams aren’t necessarily on the near horizon. In fact, there’s a whole lot of shame and guilt and self-punishment and lack of self-esteem to overcome before many newcomers to sobriety can find it within themselves to allow dreaming of any sort.
What kind of dreams are we referring to? How about the dream of something that you always wanted to do but somehow never got around to getting started on it? How about the dream to have a family, to live without being strapped financially, to make a meaningful contribution to society, to obtain a degree, to go after a dream job, to travel, to make new friends, and so on?
There’s no limit to what you can dream. Rather, the only limitation is the one you place upon yourself. Think about your new life in sobriety this way. If it is something that’s important to you, if you deem it an activity or project or goal that you really want to accomplish, then it is up to you to figure out a way to move forward with it.
Suppose you think you want something and find out later that it isn’t really what you wanted after all? It’s called revising your goals, and it goes on all the time in recovery. What typically happens is that you create a list of goals, some short-term and others long-term. Of course, those long-term goals have a number of interim steps, things or experience or knowledge that you need to attain or achieve before you can move on to the next level, the next step in the progression toward your dream goal.
Sometimes you stumble across a totally different opportunity along the way. Whereas before you may never have considered this potential new direction, now that you are thinking clearly and are in more cognizant of accepting and living up to your responsibilities, you are better able to recognize that you have choices. There’s nothing wrong with changing direction, going after new and different goals, eliminating those that no longer work for you or incorporating them into a revised plan for your future.
Having the chance to dream is a gift, one that you’ve been blessed with now that you’re living sober. Maybe you don’t fully realize it yet, but you will in time.
Life is more than just existence, more than just making it through the day. Now that you’re in recovery, it may seem tough at times to know how to handle the stresses and tensions that seem to fly at you from every direction. This is a common reaction to newcomers to sobriety and is nothing to be overly concerned with.
When, you wonder, does it become easier? When can you expect your everyday life to be less about regimented schedules and 12-step meetings and having to deal with one challenge after another?
As recovery experts are quick to remind us, it gets better every day that you’re clean and sober, every day that you do your best to the best of your ability to continue the work of recovery.
Some of it is tedious, to be sure. Some of it may seem like busywork – but it is necessary. You have to become so accustomed to a healthier lifestyle that you automatically do what is right for your own recovery – and that takes time and considerable practice.
What happens over the course of attending 12-step meetings, getting a sponsor and beginning to work the Twelve Steps, is that you find yourself feeling stronger, more self-confident, more willing to tackle the next item on your list. Rather than feeling put upon or depriving yourself of happiness, you will find that there are some things about yourself that you actually like – that is, the person you have become, this newly sober individual who has committed wholeheartedly to sobriety.
Liking yourself may be part of this new discovery. And, although that may sound a bit strange, it’s a realization that is fairly incredible when it occurs. For many who are in recovery from alcohol abuse or addiction haven’t liked themselves for a long time. It is, for them, a pretty amazing self-discovery.
But there are other discoveries about yourself that you will become aware of as you continue to work your recovery plan. Be open to receiving them. Give yourself time to reflect on your blessings and be grateful for what your life is now all about.
Let’s see. Recapping this new kind of wonderful, finding what’s good about living sober can mean any and all of the following:
- You not only remember yesterday, but you’re more aware of your actions at all times.
- You’ve rediscovered or discovered the great taste of food, incidentally, the building-block of life.
- You’ve learned that life in sobriety means living with no regrets. Not that you’re forgetting about your past misdeeds and how they’ve brought harm to others, but that regret is counter-productive to recovery and, as such, has no place in your life.
- You’ve found that time is important in your daily life. You don’t want to waste a single moment of it.
- You’re cognizant that you now have the chance to remake your life – and that this is a great gift that you have been given.
- Along with your new sobriety – as hard-won as it has been – you gradually are coming to the realization that you have the chance to dream, and to make good on your dreams to bring them to fruition.
- In the process of working your recovery, you are learning new things every day, things about yourself and your capabilities, discoveries that delight and amaze you.
- Recovery is a continually unfolding new kind of wonderful, when you come right down to it. This is your life in sobriety. Make it what you truly want and deserve – and be willing to work hard to achieve and maintain it. As you move forward in recovery, consider helping other newcomers to find their footing in recovery as well. Just as others helped you, so, too, can you help bring others into a new appreciation of the opportunities awaiting them in their chosen life in sobriety.
Find relief in recovery. Life gets better with addiction treatment.
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