Self-Love + Sobriety: The Perks of Being Sober




Last week I celebrated seven years sober, which is pretty crazy since it seems like just yesterday that I wrote this post: Pick the Weeds, Keep the Flowers: My Year of Sobriety. It's easier now than it was then, but as the Kelly Clarkson sings in the song,"Sober," that inspired that post, "Picked all my weeds, but kept the flowers / But I know it's never really over." As anyone who's sober knows, it's never as easy as it might appear to others. But, even when it's hard, it's worth it. 

Like most of us, I'm still a self-love work-in-progress, but removing alcohol from my life is one of the best things I've ever done for myself. It's hard to even list the benefits I've received since I gave up drinking. When you're newly sober, these things are wondrous gifts, things you never imagined you could experience. But when you've been sober for awhile, you start to take them for granted, the negative memories of the past becoming hazier, and I've found it really helpful to remind myself each year of why I'm doing this, why my life is better because of it. 

Sobriety is one of the ultimate acts of self-love because the positive repercussions of that single choice — not to drink — reverberates throughout your life in ways you might not expect. Sobriety isn't necessary for everyone, but if you've wondered if it's something you should do, here are some of the (many!) perks I've experienced from seven years of sobriety. 



This is probably one of the most obvious ones, but, for me, it's been one of the greatest benefits. I'm typing this post right now at 8:30am on a Saturday morning, a time of day I used to miss out on completely (and if I was awake to see it, I was so plagued by a hangover that my mind was mush). Hangovers used to rob me of entire days of my life. This isn't to say that I still don't have (a lot...) of lazy days where I waste my time now, but when I waste time now, I do so in a more productive way, and I feel a lot less ill while doing it. 



Hand-in-hand in with hangover-free mornings comes more free time. Not only do I wake up earlier and feel well enough to get things done on the weekends, but I also have a lot more free time to do things I actually want to be doing. Without hangovers, my weekends start earlier and, as a result, feel longer. Plus, I spend less time going out, which saves even more time. I still go out, but it's not my priority in the way it once was, leaving more time for things I truly enjoy. 



Giving up a big part of your life is hard. Like, really hard. But it's amazing for personal growth. Getting sober has taught me that I can do hard things if I really want to do them. It's shown me how strong I can be, even when I don't feel very strong. It's taught me that, even when you don't do what everyone else is doing. you can still be okay. It's opened my eyes to what matters to me, and helped me re-prioritize my life in so many ways. 



When you get sober, you have to say no a lot. I've never been much of a people-pleaser so, while I wasn't one of those people who struggles with the word no, I was the type of person who had a lot of trouble saying no to myself. I still struggle with this a lot. My desire for instant gratification still gets in my way much too often, but practicing the art of saying no to myself — turning drinks I really wanted to indulge in — has helped me get better at saying no to other things I want but shouldn't have. 



It's no surprise that I love motivation and inspiration, but getting sober opened my eyes to a whole new category of inspiration. Sobriety is a unique experience, and unless you've been through it, you're probably not aware of how truly powerful the right words can be. There have been days when I've read something that made me feel stronger, reminders to keep going that came when I needed them them most. This phenomenon of seeing something at the exact moment you need it most isn't unique to sobriety, but sobriety's made me more aware of it. 



Sometimes it feels a little silly celebrating an anniversary of sobriety (especially seven years in!), but then I'm reminded of all the mistakes not made, all the mornings I woke clear-headed and certain of what I did the night before, all the stress-inducing words I didn't say, all the times I didn't break my own heart, and I can't help but think that all of that deserves a celebration. Plus, who doesn't love a special anniversary to celebrate? 



I've learned so much about life just from getting sober. I could write an entire post just on these lessons (some of which I touched on last year's 6 Lessons I Learned from 6 Years Sober), but some of the most important ones I've uncovered since getting sober include: learning who my true friends are, discovering that who I am is more than what I do, and recognizing that avoiding problems doesn't work. (As Frida Kahlo put it: "I tried to drown my sorrows, but the bastards learned how to swim.")



Seven years in, this one has faded from my mind a bit, but I used to spend so much money on drinks, on getting ready to go drinking, on late-night snacks, on cab rides to and from the bar (no Uber back then!), on hungover breakfasts. With those items removed from my budget (among other spending changes), I was able to save enough to leave my job and pursue my life-long dream. That, alone, is a pretty amazing benefit of sobriety. 



For me, drinking and going out was a big part of my life. I spent a lot of my time thinking about and preparing for the next opportunity I'd have to go out, and while I do still enjoy going out from time to time, it's not my life's focus. Removing such a big part of my life gave me an opportunity to explore what I really wanted to spend my time on, which is what lead to all of the amazing things I've been able to do with Positively Present.  


When I write these sobriety-related posts, it's my hope that someone out there will read it and it will inspire him or her to choose a sober path. It's not the path for everyone, but if you're considering it, I highly recommend it. It's hard as hell sometimes, but benefits outweigh the hardships tenfold. If you want to know more about my journey, here are some things to check out: 

6 Lessons I Learned from 6 Years Sober

Sublime Sobriety (Pinterest Board)

Pick the Weeds, Keep the Flowers: My Year of Sobriety

Sobriety Playlist (YouTube)

Staying Sober Playlist (Spotify)

Positively Present Sobriety Section

If you have questions about my personal experience or want advice on how to get or stay sober, leave a comment below and I'll do my best to reply ASAP! 


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6 lessons I learned from 6 years sober


Today I have been sober for six years! I should be used this word -- sober -- by now, but sometimes it still shocks me that I'm the one saying it. That I've been saying it for six years. Over the past six years, I've taken away some pretty big life lessons from living sober. Here are the top six lessons I've learned. Even if you're not sober or trying to get sober, I hope they'll inspire you!  



It took me a long time to get and stay sober because there wasn't anything I wanted more than the rush of going out and drinking. It wasn't until I started Positively Present and started seeing a wonderful therapist that I realized that my alcohol-fueled behavior wasn't at all in line with the kind of life I wanted to be living: a positive, present one.

Once I had something that mattered more to me than drinking and the exciting possibility of having a wild night, I realized I had to change. I wanted to be more at peace with who I was and I wanted to make positive choices. With that at the forefront of my mind, I was able to begin making changes and, ultimately, was able to quit drinking. 



Cliche? Yep! But it's a oft-repeated phrase for a reason: it's true. What scared me most about the thought of sobriety was that I'd never, ever drink again. Telling me I can't do something is one of the quickest ways to get me to want to do it. So instead of focusing on the never, ever, ever part of sobriety, I choose to focus on a single day.

Whenever I'm struggling, I tell myself, "I'm not going to drink today." Today seems much more manageable than thinking I'll never drink again. This present-focused trick works for any negative behavior. If you're struggling to stay on track, tell yourself, "I'm not going to drink today" or "I'm not going to text him today" or "I'm not going to eat a whole bag of junk food today." If you're still struggling (as I sometimes am), break it down further and promise yourself not to drink, etc. for an hour. 



Sobriety comes with a variety of level of loneliness. First, there will be people who don't get why you're getting sober. Because you're not waking up in a gutter or destroying your life, sometimes people will have trouble grasping just how negatively alcohol has impacted your life.

There will be people struggling with their own addiction issues. Admitting you have a problem means they might have to take a look at their own actions, and this might be difficult for them. Rather than do this, they'll simply shrug off your sobriety as something dramatic rather than necessary. 

Also, being the only one at the party not drinking can be lonely at times. No one seems to care that I'm sober (people I know well are used to it and new people are usually impressed or curious), but it's still isolating, particularly when drinking used to be my go-to resource for easing my social anxiety. But, for me, the little bit of loneliness is worth the positive benefits of being sober. 



By far the hardest lesson I've had to learn is getting to know who I truly am without alcohol. When I drank, I became a lot of things I'm normal not: brave, social, adventurous. Through sobriety I've had to learn which traits are truly me and which were fueled by alcohol. And, in some cases (like socializing), I've had to learn how to cope with my anxiety sans alcohol, which has been challenging at times. 

Also, without alcohol to numb emotions, sobriety requires that you really get in touch with your emotions. Sobriety is scarily real. There is no escape from who you are or how you feel. My flaws and my feelings are glaringly obvious (as are my mistakes, which now can no longer hide behind the words, "Sorry! I was so drunk!"). 

Feeling all the feelings and being who you truly are is hard, but it's made me stronger than I ever was before. I'm more self-aware and much more in control of my choices than I was six years ago and no amount of partying could ever feel better than that. 



Triggers sounds like a word that should be reserved for hard-core drug addicts, but was all have triggers -- situations, people, or things that prompt us to behave in ways we'd rather not. Sobriety has taught me how important it is to recognize those triggers and avoid them if possible. 

Some triggers -- like a wine tasting -- are avoidable for me. Others, like a stressful day or a beautiful summer afternoon, are not. I do my best to avoid situations that will be difficult for me. And, for those that I can't avoid, I do what I can to make it easier on myself. For example, I know Saturday nights are hard for me so I'll make plans to keep my mind off of drinking or, if I have to attend a triggering event, like a wedding, I might leave a bit early if I feel heightened temptation. 

I'm not sure why this is, but simply being aware of a trigger makes it easier to cope with. Maybe it's because you have an idea of why you're feeling the way you are and, with a solid explanation in hand, you can better choose how to react rather than impulsively responding. For example, let's say when you're really stressed at work, you're more likely to snap at your children when you get home. If you're aware of this, you can do a few things to make it better: try to lessen the stress at work, try to minimize stressful feelings by calming yourself on the ride home, or explain to your children that you've had a bad day and you might need a little less interaction that night.

Knowing your triggers is incredibly helpful, even if you can't always avoid them. And this goes for all kinds of situations -- what triggers you to feel angry at your partner, what triggers you to feel extra stressed out, what triggers you to eat an entire gallon of ice cream. So often we're impulsively reacting instead of thinking about why we're making the choices we are. 



Wallowing in the past does absolutely no good. You cannot go back and change it (no matter how much you might like to!). To be truly present, you have to accept what's past. But accepting isn't the same as forgetting. And, when it comes to sobriety, it's critical not to forget the bad things.

Yes, that sounds exactly opposite of saying positively present -- focusing on the negative aspect of past -- but romanticizing the past, especially if you're trying to get or stay sober, is dangerous. It's hard sometimes not to long for the days when I was laughing with friends, a cold beer in hand, or hitting the dance floor with my Red Bull-and-vodka-fueled confidence, but I have to remind myself that it wasn't all laughter and dancing. 

Drinking had serious consequences for me and, while I certainly don't want to dwell on the past, sometimes I have to recall some of the negative situations I encountered as a reminder to myself that I am better -- and safer -- when I'm sober. 


I also made a YouTube video (warning: it's a long one) about why I chose to get sober and I go into more detail about these six lessons. You can watch it below or click this link.  




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positive choices: lessons from 4 years of sobriety


“The most liberating and empowering day of my life was the day I freed myself from my own self-destructive nonsense," wrote Dr. Steve Maraboli, and I couldn't agree more. Last Friday I celebrated four years of sobriety and, difficult as it has been and sometimes continues to be, every day I am sober is both liberating and empowering.

When I think back to the person I was before sobriety, it's kind of hard to believe it's actually been years since I've had a drink. But here I am, four years in, and pretty darn excited about it—especially because research has shown that if someone can stay sober for four years, the risk of relapse drops significantly. While there's never a guarantee, it feels good to know I've hit some sort of milestone in my recovery.

Not everyone needs sobriety in order to live a positive, present life, but for me, it is absolutely essential. When I wasn't sober, I struggled to stay in the moment, often ruminating excessively about the past. (Or in some cases, I stayed too much in the moment—not considering the consequences of my actions and landing myself in some pretty big messes.) When I wasn't sober, I also struggled to stay positive, the depressive chemicals leading me down increasingly negative paths of thinking. 

For me, staying sober is a huge part of living a positive and present life. Whether or not you, too, choose to live a sober life, you may benefit from taking a look at the lessons I've learned about getting (and staying) sober over the last four years. While they're written specifically about my experiences with living a sober life, a lot of them apply to life in general so check 'em out! 





Getting sober took me a long, long time because, for most of my young adult life, there wasn't anything I wanted more than going out and having a good time. I didn't care if I hurt people or myself. I didn't care if I messed with my job or with my relationships. Nothing else matter more to me than doing what I'd always done—until one day something clicked. After years of placing blame on everything and everyone else, I finally realized that what I really truly wanted was to change myself, to become positive and present. I couldn't do that with a bottle in my hand and so I made a choice: I chose to want something (a more positive, present life) than I wanted to drink. 



It's one thing to make the right choice once (like asking for water at the bar instead of a beer), but to do it over and over and over again is really hard work. I'm four years into this, and I still struggle when a waiter approaches me to take my drink order. Even just doing every day things can be a challenge. For example, walking past a liquor store can send my mind racing, a little devil on my shoulder saying, "Just go in, get a six pack and drink it. No one will know." Making the right choice happens on a moment-to-moment basis and it's rarely easy. But, as frustrating as it is to have to make the right (often hard!) choice all the time, it's so incredibly satisfying to make the choice that I know will make me more positive and present. 



I'll be honest: sometimes not drinking sucks. I miss the connections I had (or at least felt I had) with those I would go drinking with. I miss the invitations to bar crawls and happy hours. Even when I'm invited, I sometimes have to decline because I know certain events (like, say, an all-day tour of a vineyard) won't be good for me. It's hard choosing to be left out of the fun. And it can sometimes be the most lonely when I actually do go to social events. There's nothing quite like holding up your water glass during a champagne toast to make you feel alone in a room full of people. Luckily I have a partner who is supportive (and sober) so that really helps, but I won't lie: sobriety can be really lonely. 



For me, drinking was always an escape. It was a journey I'd take to a familiar-yet-altered world where almost anything could happen. In that world, I was brave (can I drive home? sure!). I was social (talk to people I've never met? no problem!). I was free (leave the bar alone and wander the streets? sounds like fun!). All of my real-life problems could be avoided by downing a drink, and I could evade my many faults (particularly my inherent introvertedness) by simply cracking open a beer. Of course, sobriety doesn't lend itself will to this type of avoidance. One of the scariest things about sobriety is how real everything is. When I make a mistake, it can no longer blame it on a substance coursing through my veins. When I have trouble being social, I can no longer self-medicate to get through an evening out. Which brings me to my next point... 



When I was drinking, it often felt as though my feelings were magnified—every heartache was the worst one ever and every fight was a dramatic battle. But I didn't know what really having to feel was until I got sober. With no escape from the way I feel, I've been forced to actually, you know, feel. Even when escaping into a night of drunken rumination actually made things worst, emotionally, drinking away any pain somehow allowed me to feel as if I was getting away from painful feelings, if only for a night. Now, there's no escaping how I feel. I found this especially challenging last year when I put my beloved dog Bella to sleep. I wanted nothing more to escape from the loss and pain, to ease myself into some sort of oblivion where the loss of her didn't hurt so much, but I couldn't. I had to feel and it hurt like hell, but you know what? As cliche as it is, learning to feel without any escape has made me stronger and that strength (unlike the temporary escape that comes with numbed feelings) is something that can never be taken from me. 



Someone who'd been sober for a few months once said to me, "It's really not bad. I haven't really missed drinking that much." My mind instantly clouded with a green fog of jealousy. Not bad? Haven't missed it? I wanted whatever sort of calm state of mind would allow me, too, to find sobriety so effortless. For me, it's never been easy, and though it gets easier—I've learned how to better avoid triggers, how to handle my emotions, and how to make things less difficult for myself—it is never something I don't really miss. Drinking was a like a dear friend I'd had for over a decade, and even though I know she was a terrible friend, I still miss her and the fun we used to have together. I keep waiting for a day when I won't miss her and maybe that will happen someday, but for now, I've chosen to accept the fact that sobriety gets easier but never easy



Ah, yes, the good ol' "one day at a time" slogan, courtesy of AA (which, by the way, I tried, but just couldn't seem to get into). It sounds incredibly cliche, but it has been incredibly crucial for me in my recovery. When I think about never, ever drinking again, I feel a wave of panic wash over me. Never? Never ever? Telling me I can't do something is the best way to make me want it more than anything so the thought of never being allowed to do something makes me feel increasingly rebellious. And so I don't think about the never-ever part of sobriety. Instead, I tell myself, "I'm not drinking today." When I think about it that way, it gets so much easier to manage. Not drink for a day? I can do that! And so I do it for one day and then another and another... and suddenly it's been four years. Whether it's drinking or something else you're trying to quit, if you focus on each day (the present!), the idea of change can become the reality of progress. 



A lot of people don't understand sobriety. Either they don't have the aching need for alcohol so they don't see why you'd need to give it up completely or they're so attached to it themselves that thinking about you being sober makes them have to question their own habits (which most people don't really want to do). It's hard when people don't understand or don't think sobriety is necessary, but after four years of this, I've realized that it just doesn't matter what people think or say. What matters is making choices for myself that help me to live a more positive, more present life. If those same choices work for other people too, awesome. If they don't, that's fine too. Luckily, I haven't had people who try to pressure me into drinking, but sometimes the lack of understanding or support can be just as tough. The trick, I've learned, is to focus my attention on the people who do get it and allow their love and support to drown out the questions or disapproval of others. 



I could spend my days wallowing in regret, wishing I could go back and change some of the mistakes I'd made while drinking, but that doesn't do me much good in the present does it? Nope. However, I've also discovered it's important not to completely forget the past—especially the negative parts of it. When I find myself reminiscing about the glory days of drinking, recalling how lovely it was to sit outside on a hot day with a cold beer or how great it felt to be amped up on RedBull and vodka and dancing without a care in the world, I have to remind myself how the past wasn't all dancing and laughter. There were a lot of very unpleasant things that happened while I was drinking and sometimes (negative as this sounds!) it helps to recall those bad times to remind myself why I no longer drinking. Romanticizing the past can be a dangerous thing when it comes to sobriety so it helps to recall what the past was really like. 



Everyone has something that sets them off, and it's no different when it comes to staying sober. I have some annoying triggers (summer, Saturday nights, weddings) that make me want to drink, but learning to recognize these has helped me. Just knowing that something is a trigger can help me make it through the tough times. For example, when I hear neighbors having parties and getting wild on Saturday nights and I feel that awful pang of loneliness in my chest, I remind myself that tomorrow it will be gone and it'll be much easier. Just knowing that the feeling will go away helps a lot. Also, knowing what types of events to avoid makes it easier for me to avoid situations what will be really difficult for me to handle. I can't always avoid triggers (Saturday nights aren't going away any time soon...), but I've learned to be aware of them, which allows me to feel more in control of how I react to them. 



It's taken me awhile to realize this, but I now know that if you want to really commit yourself to getting and staying sober, it has to be your number one priority. It has to be more important than the party of the year. It has to be more important than the once-in-a-lifetime celebration. It has to be more important that escaping loss or unhappiness. It has to be more important than what other people think (or what you think they think!). It has to come before everything, because if it doesn't, there will always be a reason to let it go. Sobriety is a squirming, moody thing, and there are moments when letting it go seems easier than hanging on. But those are just moments and moments end. So do parties. And weddings. And Saturday nights. Sometimes it's really hard not to hang on in the moments when I feel like I'm missing out. But I've realized that, for me, letting go of sobriety would mean missing out on so much more—on the positively present life I'm striving so hard to live—and that knowledge reminds me to always, always put my sobriety first. 


It wasn't particularly easy for me to write this post. I don't talk much about my sobriety here on Positively Present, but it's important to me and it's important to the blog because, without it, there's no way I would have been able to commit myself to these words—and to my readers—the way I have all of these years. So, hard as this was to write, it was important for me to share what I've learned. If you're sober or trying to get sober, I hope these words help you. And if you aren't sober or don't want to be, I hope you've gained a nugget or two of knowledge from what I've learned over the last four years of sobriety.