The Perks of Being (8 Years!) Sober

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On Wednesday I celebrate eight years (!!!!!!!!) of sobriety. If someone told younger me I'd be sober for eight years, I never would have believed such a thing would be possible, but here I am, eight years in! To commemorate the day, I redrew the illustration seen above while chatting about the benefits of sobriety in one of my Lettering Life Lessons sessions. Check out the video below! 

 

 Can't see the video? Click here to watch on YouTube! 

 

Looking for more insights on getting and staying sober? Check out some of the sobriety-related content I've created over the years...

 

10 Ways Sobriety Improved My Life

The Benefits of Pets in Recovery

6 Lessons from 6 Years Sober (Video)

Seeking Sobriety? : 9 Tips for Getting Started

Positive Choices: Lessons from 4 Years Sober

Self-Love + Sobriety: Benefits of Being Sober

Pick the Weeds, Keep the Flowers

Staying Sober During the Holidays (Video)

 


10 Ways Sobriety Improved My Life

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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! 

 

Seasons in Malibu Positively Present 3_13_18

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 Benefits of Pets in Recovery

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Artwork inspired by FreehandMagic on Instagram and Etsy

 

Over the couple of weeks, I've been recovering from surgery, and, though it ended up being a relatively easy process compared to others I've had, it's still never a fun experience. (Though, to be fair, playing Scrabble with my mom while watching Hallmark Christmas movies was pretty enjoyable!).

Recovery in the physical sense it tough, and I've made it a little bit more challenging on myself by diving into Russell Brand's amazing book, Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions, while in rest-up mode. The book is so good — I'd recommend it to anyone, even those who don't have substance abuse issues — but it's definitely put me on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. (One of the highs: seeing my pup, Barkley, featured on Russell's Instagram page!)

As I've been working through physical and emotional pain, I've discovered one incredibly beneficial resource that I don't read about often enough: my dog. Studies have show that pet ownership, or just being in the presence of a companion animal, is associated with health benefits, including improvements in mental, social, and physiologic health status. Animals can have a majorly positive impact on our lives, but my awareness of this impact seems to be heightened when it comes to recovery of any kind. 

Recovery, of course, requires assistance from humans, too, but there's something different and powerful about the presence of an animal. Here are some of the benefits I've experienced, in both physical and substance-related recovery, as a result of having a dog in my life: 

 

COMFORT

Probably the most basic of all recovery benefits is the comfort spending time with an animal brings. It's been shown that playing with or petting a pet can help lower oxytocin levels in the brain, which helps you feel more relaxed and less stressed — two factors that definitely help with the anxiety that comes with any kind of recovery. Most of us who have pets know that petting an  animal is calming, and it's also been shown to help keep blood pressure levels lower. Pets also offer physical warmth. I've noticed that warmth — a cozy blanket, clothes fresh out of the dryer, a cup of tea, a soothing bath, or the snuggly body of a pet — really helps with my anxiety. Just feeling the warm pressure of a pup leaning against you (as Barkley is right now as I'm writing this!) can provide additional comfort. 

 

HONESTY

This one tends to apply a bit more to substance recovery, but the benefit is actually pretty universal for anyone who struggles with emotions (who doesn't?!). The great thing about pets is: they can't hide their emotions. When they're afraid or distraught, we know it (especially if we know them well!), and they, in turn, are often tuned into our emotions. This offers a two-fold benefit: (1) they can be a barometer we can use to assess how we're feeling because they'll often mirror our emotional states, and (2) they can inspire us to be more emotionally honest. Many of us (even those without substance abuse histories) try to numb or avoid our emotions, but, through the help of our pets, we can learn that recognizing and expressing emotions doesn't have to be so challenging. (The resistance to feelings is actually way more painful in the end!)

 

COMPASSION

Many animals are able to show compassion for those in emotional or physical pain. Anyone who's had a dog lick her face while she's crying knows that, while pups might not understand complex human emotions, they do appear to understand our feelings in some and often do what they can with their limited communication abilities to convey compassion and even empathy. This compassion can also be easier for some people to accept than the compassion from fellow humans. If you're feeling frustrated by your condition or even envious of those who can do things you cannot (i.e., walking post-surgery or drinking casually without self-destruction), accepting compassion from others can be challenging. With pets, there's no comparison or complex emotional acceptance involved when compassion is offered. The simplicity of it makes it easier to embrace. 

 

SELFLESSNESS

When in recovery of any kind, it can be challenging not to become at least a little self-absorbed. You're in pain and pain's an attention-seeking type of thing. It demands to be felt and attended to, which can lead to some selfish tendencies. While, of course, it's important to attend to pain, focusing too much on it can be dangerous. Pets can take us out of this me-focused mindset because they have many needs they can't attend to on their own — like food, walks, etc. Self-care and self-reflection are important in recovery of any kind, but having a little creature that needs you can be a useful tool for remembering that, despite your pain, the world doesn't (and shouldn't!) revolve around you. Pets give you a purpose, which can be a very big morale boost when you're in a difficult physical or emotional state. 

 

MINDFULNESS

I've written about this countless times before, but pets are such good motivators for staying in the moment. Animals can certainly think about the future and the past, but they tend not to dwell on them the way us humans do. When it recovery, we can learn so much from paying attention to how animals are just able to be. They have the benefit of not having some of the complexities that come with the human brain and, while we might not ever to be able to reach their level of supreme mindfulness, paying attention to how they pay attention be a positively transformative experience. Engaging in certain activities with them (like playing fetch, for example) can also offer opportunities to practice being in the moment. 

 

COMPANIONSHIP

One of the greatest challenges in recovery is the sense of isolation one is likely to feel. Even if you're fortunate enough to have great people around you (thanks, Mom and Dad, for taking care of me!), you're still likely to feel lonely and adrift at times. Other people cannot be by your side 24/7 (nor would you probably want them to be!), but a pet can often be with you most of the time, providing companionship that can ease feelings of loneliness or isolation. While family and friends can provide love and support, unconditional love in the face of recovery can sometimes lead to enabling behavior. Human companionship, no matter how wonderful, is always a bit complex. With pets, it's simple: they love you no matter who you are or what you do, and they don't in any way use that love to enable any behaviors. 

 

SOCIABILITY 

Pets not only give you social interaction with them (no, it's not a substitute for human interaction, but it's still nice), they also give you motivation to get up and socialize with others. (Note: this might just apply to dogs, unless you have a leash for your cat, in which case you're either awesome or have an awesome cat.) When you're in pain (and particularly if you're introverted by nature), getting out and about while in recovery can be hard. If you're physically recovering, you might not really feel up to showcasing your ailment to the world. If it's an emotional kind of recovery, you might feel hesitant or unready to get out and about. But taking a dog for a walk and encountering neighbors can be a simple but effective way to slowly get back to your old self. At the very least, it gets you outside for some fresh air, which I'm pretty sure is good for all kinds of recovery! 

 

PLAYFULNESS

When you're in recovery of any kind, playing isn't really at the forefront of your mind, but pets can bring out a liveliness in you that you didn't realize was there. In general, most adult humans don't do enough playing (at least in my opinion!), and that's one thing pets can be really good at. Playing can have many emotional and cognitive benefits, and even if it's just a short session of tossing the ball or tugging at toy, playing with a pet can really boost your mood — which is a wonderful thing when you're in recovery and might be struggling emotionally. Play also gets you up and moving a bit, which can be beneficial when you either don't feel like (or physically can't) exercise. More endorphins = more healthy mood boosters! 

 

If you're going through any kind of recovery, I hope you have the opportunity to spend time with animals, even if just for a little while. There's something magical about the way they live, and, while it might seem like their lives are simple compared to ours, there's a lot we humans can learn from our four-legged friends. And there are certainly many ways we can benefit from their presence in our lives. If you don't have a pet in your life, you can always check out the adventures (and book recommendations!) of Barkley the Morkie on Instagram! And if you can think of any additional benefits (or even some helpful recovery tips), feel free to leave them in the comments below!  

    

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