10 Ways Sobriety Improved My Life

  Sobriety-Positively-Present

Having recently received quite a few emails asking for advice on sobriety, I’ve been inspired to think about what advice is particularly useful for someone seeking sobriety. When it comes to living a sober life, one of the best pieces of advice I can give is this: discover what will motivate you to begin ¾ and to keep going. No matter what your situation, the one piece of advice that applies to just about everyone is this: identify how your life will be better sober.

Too often, people contemplating sobriety focus their attention on what they might lose — their daily (often comforting) habits, certain people who will hinder their sobriety, activities that might no longer hold the same appeal, a quick (but highly problematic) escape from reality — when they should be focusing on is all that they will gain from choosing to get sober.

Sobriety, of course, isn’t for everyone, but if you think it might be for you, considering the ways your life might improve can be a powerful motivator when it comes to seeking, and sticking with, sobriety. Below I share a few of the ways my life has improved since I got sober (nearly eight years ago!), with the hope that they might inspire you, too.

 

SOBRIETY HAS HELPED ME...

  1. TAKE CONTROL OVER MY OWN STORY

    Sobriety gave me the incredible opportunity to take control of a story that I thought was out of my hands. Many of the actions, thoughts, and ideas I had while drinking were not aligned with my true self. I was living a life that felt wild and fun and carefree (and also depressing, embarrassing, and exhausting), but I wasn’t living the life I wanted to be living. Addiction takes control of your story, and sobriety puts the pen back in your hand, giving you the freedom to write for yourself.

  2. HEIGHTEN MY COMPASSION SKILLS

    Whenever you address your own personal challenges — whether they are addiction-related or not — you gain a better understanding of the potential challenges others might be going through. Very few people in my life knew what I was struggling with. To them, I seemed like my “normal” self. But getting sober helped me realize that you don’t always see what others are going through, and it opened my eyes to seeing the world through a more compassionate lens.

  3. EXPLORE NEW HOBBIES

    When I was drinking, my attention and time were limited to drinking-related activities. I had to prepare, engage, and recover from all of my alcohol-fueled nights. While I did, of course, still do other things, I didn’t have a ton of extra energy to spend exploring new interests. It was only after I stopped drinking that I started really seeking out new hobbies — like drawing! — and the opportunities these activities have led to has been life-changing.

  4. ENHANCE MY DAILY PRODUCTIVITY

    I wasn’t drinking every day (usually…), but that didn’t mean alcohol didn’t impact me on a day-to-day basis. It was something I spent time doing, sure, but it was also something I spent a great deal of time thinking about. It was an unpleasant distraction on a daily basis, and, much as my productive-loving self hated to admit it, it negatively impacted my ability to get things done. Without alcohol in my life, I experienced much higher levels of productivity, which, as you can imagine, was a huge game-changer.

  5. INCREASE MY SELF-AWARENESS

    Getting sober is an oddly wonderful way to get in touch with yourself. At times, yes, it’s painful (you’ve got to face so much of what you’ve been avoiding in a boozy haze), but it’s incredibly rewarding. Since getting sober, I’ve learned so much about myself, and I’m so much more aware of how the world around me impacts my thoughts and emotions. Not only does this awareness help me continue to stay sober, but it also enhances my understanding of what is and isn’t good for me.

  6. HAVE SO MUCH MORE FREE TIME

    Not only did getting sober give me the opportunities to explore new hobbies and become more productive, but it also gave me the awesome gift of free time. No longer spending my weekends preparing to drink, drinking, or recovering from drinking, I suddenly had a lot more time to do things I actually enjoyed doing. Even the simple act of lying in bed with a good book on Sunday morning is an experience that was once rare to me. Every time I wake up hangover-free, I’m so thankful for the opportunity to enjoy the day.

  7. CREATE CLEAR BOUNDARIES

    Sobriety taught me the importance of the people surrounding me. They can either lift me up or pull me down, and nothing brings that distinction into sharper perspective than seeing everyone you know through a sober lens. Once I began to see people clearly, I was able to work on developing clear boundaries for who I did — and didn’t — want in my life. The creation of these boundaries was certainly not easy, but it’s been one of the most transformative aspects of sobriety for me.

  8. EXPERIENCE PERSONAL GROWTH

    Since childhood, I’ve always been interested in personal development, and began exploring it more seriously about a year or so before I got sober. Understanding myself better allowed me to grow and change, but it wasn’t until I got sober that the real growth began. There’s something about seeing life — and yourself — unfiltered and raw and real that allows for the most honest, eye-opening personal growth to occur.

  9. AMPLIFY MY SELF-LOVE

    Strongly linked to the experience of personal growth is the amplification of self-love. When you make a choice to get sober, you’re making one of the most self-loving decisions you’ll ever make. You’re choosing to respect, celebrate, and appreciate yourself every single time you choose to say no to what’s not serving you. Self-love, like personal growth, is a life-long pursuit, but I know my own self-love really began when I chose to step away from substances and toward the substance of self-love.

  10. DEVELOP STRONGER RELATIONSHIPS

    One of the greatest benefits of sobriety is creating stronger, more meaningful relationships in my life. No longer are my relationships based on a mutual love of something bottled and poisonous. No longer are my relationships fraught with the tensions and challenges that came with the things I said and did while drinking. The relationships I have now ¾ including the one I have with myself ¾ are built on honesty, kindness, and respect.


Whether or not sobriety is something you’re exploring or embracing, it’s my hope that the benefits showcased above will inspire you to consider what you might gain if you let go of something that is not adding value to your life. Making the decision to get sober is not an easy one, but it becomes easier when you shift the focus from what you’re giving up to what you stand to gain.

Thank you to Seasons in Malibu for sponsoring this post! 

 

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Seasons in Malibu is a luxury, world-class addiction treatment center and drug rehab. The experts at this dual-diagnosis, CARF-accredited facility specialize in treating many types of addiction ranging from prescription drug abuse and opiate addiction to alcoholism and cocaine addiction. Known for their 95% satisfaction rate from clients, Seasons in Malibu offers an incredibly high number of one-one-therapy sessions, a multi-dimensional approach to treatment, holistic recovery options, customized aftercare and so much more – all with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean in beautiful, relaxing Malibu, California. If you or someone you know is looking for help, visit SeasonsMalibu.com to learn more about their programs, treatment options, and to get a free insurance check


The 5 Best Ways to Beat the January Blues


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Happy 2018!

2017 was... interesting (to put it nicely), and I can't deny that I'm looking forward to a fresh start, with 12 whole months of possibilities ahead. That being said, January is always a bit of a tough month for me. For some people, there's the excitement of a fresh start, the glow of the coming year's opportunities, and I want to embrace all of those things too, but more often than not, it's just stressful. The beginning of January often comes with a mix of make-it-the-best-year-ever pressure and it's-ages-before-my-favorite-season (autumn) rolls around again. 

Like many people, January often finds me either fretting about what I didn't do in the previous year or worrying about all that's yet to come. Plus, the holidays are over, the days are short, dark, and often gloomy, and it's cold. It's not the greatest month for a lot of us, but that doesn't mean we can't do our best to stay as positively present as possible! 

Here are some of the tactics I'll be using this month to try tackling those January blues. All of these I've tried before and they've really helped me ward off the doom-and-gloom of the new year. Hopefully they'll help you too! 

 

ACCEPT THE DOWN-AND-OUT VIBES

When it comes to dealing with a difficult situation — no matter what it is! — the first step is acceptance. If you try to pretend you're not struggling or you try to push away the sad or stressed emotions, they'll come back even worse (and often in unpredictable and bizarre ways!). If you're not feeling the "new year, new me!" vibes, don't worry — you're not alone. It's a challenging time for a lot of people, and the first step to making it easier is recognizing that it's okay not to feel super excited and optimistic about the year ahead. Twelve months is a long time, and you don't have to be jumping for joy on day one. Allow yourself to feel how you feel, and try your best not to judge yourself or tell yourself that you "should" feel a certain way. You feel how you feel, and that's perfectly okay. 

 

DO SOMETHING YOU PUT OFF LAST YEAR

Part of the not-so-great feelings that can come along on January 1 involve believing that you didn't accomplish everything you wanted to last year. You've probably heard about the high failure rates for new year's resolutions so if you didn't get all of your bad habits under control last year, you're not alone. You can't change everything that happened last year, but you can take a positive action right now. Think of one thing you could do right this month (today even!) that you wanted to do last year. It doesn't have to be something big — could be cleaning out a closet, donating some old clothes, writing an email to an old friend, visiting a museum you've been wanting to check out — but pick something and do it. It'll make you feel good, and it'll set a positive, proactive tone for the year ahead. 

 

START A NEW (POSITIVE!) DAILY HABIT

I know, I know — this is the most cliched new year advice in the world, but for the past few years I've started doing Yoga with Adriene's 30 Day Yoga Journey and it's been amazing for me. Working out is hard (especially if you're not a fan, like me) and this is an easy way for me to get into a routine without too much effort since I can do it at home anytime I want. Plus, because she's been doing these for a few years, I start a old video series in February and it keeps me on track for a few months. It apparently takes about two weeks to start a habit so why not incorporate something into your daily routine now? It doesn't have to be a major shift (sometimes that whole "resolution" concept feels daunting!), but doing something (however small!) new on a daily basis will give you a nice little focus for upcoming gloomy month.  

 

KEEP YOUR HOME FESTIVELY HYGGE

Last year after Christmas, I decided I was going to leave up the lights all year 'round. I'd decorated my bookshelves and windows with them and I knew that taking them down was one of the hardest bits of post-Christmas de-decorating because it meant a lot of the light would be taken out of the room. Keeping up lights always seemed too college-dorm-room to me, but once I decided to embrace them, it was kinda awesome. I generally don't use them much in the warmer months, but they keep my place feeling cozy and hygge-like all winter long. Lights might not be your thing, but try to do something at home that'll keep you feeling cozy and uplifted throughout the darkest months of the year. Even a little thing can have a big impact on your mood!

 

MAKE A STAY-THE-SAME RESOLUTION

Years ago, I wrote New Year, Same Me: 6 Stay-the-Same Resolutions, and I think about it every year when all of the articles and blog posts on making and keeping new year's resolutions start popping up everywhere. There's always so much focus on what we want to change and what we hope for in the year ahead (or reflections on what happened the year before), and most people don't pause to think about what they want to stay the same in the upcoming months. Resolutions might work for some people, but I personally find them frustratingly ineffective. Since I wrote that post back in 2010, I've found it a lot more useful to think about what worked well in the previous year and direct my focus to creating more of that in my life. Instead of focusing on what you don't want to be (or don't feel you are), try zeroing in on what's working about you and your life, and it's sure to make January a bit more joyful (and perhaps a little less judgmental, too!). 

 

If you're struggling right now, don't forget: you're not alone. A lot of us have a hard time during this time of year, and the best thing you can do is do what you can to make the most of it. Hopefully these tips will provide some inspiration for the weeks to come, but if you're really feeling down and can't seem to shake the January blues, I highly recommend seeking advice from a professional. Therapy (and light therapy!) can work wonders for the toughest time of the year. 

 

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4 Ways to Embrace the Freedom of Letting Go

 

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This week, I made this illustration for the "Freedom" prompt of the 2017 Gratitude Challenge, and it really got me thinking about how freeing the act of letting go really is. But it's also really difficult to do — at least for me it is. I'm pretty picky so when I let a person / thing / experience / idea / behavior into my life, I find it challenging to let it go (even when I know for sure it's no good for me). But, as I say often, it's often the most challenging things that are the ones worth doing. 

Hanging onto the things you no longer need might feel comforting, but consider what would happen if trees clung to all of their dead leaves? Come spring, the brand new (alive!) leaves would have a pretty tough time finding room on the branches. Same goes for us. When we cling to what's no longer enhancing our lives, we block off possibilities for new things to flourish. 

Releasing our own dead leaves isn't always a smooth and effortless process, the way it seems to be for the trees, but that doesn't mean we can't do it. If we want the freedom that comes with letting go, it's up to us to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work of letting go. Here are some of the best ways to get started: 
 

  • Determine what you value most. When you take a step back and think about you truly value in your life, you'll realize that much of you're holding on to isn't as essential as you might've thought. What's essential is being healthy, positive, mindful, and living your life to the fullest (or maybe some other things that matter most to you!). If you are clinging to things or people, you're not experiencing true freedom. You're restricted by beliefs that aren't allowing you to thrive the way the trees do in the spring. Stepping back and assessing what really matters to you will make letting go a lot easier.

  • Reflect on what you're really receiving. We often hang on to things or people because we believe they're add value to our lives, that we're receiving some benefit from them (or providing it to them). But is that actually a fact? Are you actually benefiting from the clutter (emotional or physical) in your life, or do you just tell yourself you are because it's easier than choosing change? Reflecting on whether or not a person / experience / etc. is making your life richer can provide you with a boost of motivation to let someone or something go. Of course, not everything in life is about what you get from it, but if something is taking more than it's giving, it might not be worth clinging to.  

  • Take note of what you're overvaluing. Are you placing high value on a person or thing you're holding on to unnecessarily? Are you giving something way more value than it truly has? More often than not, we idealize people or things and tell ourselves that, for whatever reason, we need it/him/her. Needing something is kind of prison; it keeps you trapped in situations that aren't necessarily beneficial for you. If there's a voice inside you saying "let go," it's a pretty good sign that you should let go. What you truly need in your life is never going to be accompanied by a voice that urges you to let go. Listen to that voice — not the one that overvalues what's no good for you as a way to keep you feeling the false comfort of not experiencing freedom. 

  • Be strong enough to release your grasp. It really does come down to two little words: let go. No matter how hard it feels, no matter what obstacles appear to stand in your way, if you want to experience true freedom, you have to be brave and release your grip. Of course, this is much easier said than done, but, honestly, taking action really is the only way to access freedom and make room for new growth. You owe it to yourself to be brave and release what you no longer need. And keep this in mind: the hardest part is the release; once you're brave enough to take that first step, you'll soon see that you're fine without those dead leaves clinging to your branches. 
     

As you're learning to let go, also keep in mind that, deep down, you know what's best for you. If there's a voice telling you to let go, listen to that instinct. You won't hear that voice when you're doing what's right for you, when you're with people who bring you up, when you're connecting with the very best parts of yourself. It's hard to listen to the voice telling you to do the hard thing, but not listening often makes it harder — you'll either remained imprisoned by what you're clinging to, or you'll drag out the letting go process, making it even more challenging when you finally release that grip. 

Let the trees inspire you, and look to them way they let the dead leaves drop motivate you to release what you no longer need. When you let go, you might go through a tough time — a bare-branched winter, like the trees — but that pain will pass, and you'll have made room for the bright, lively leaves of spring when they arrive (and they will!). 

 

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