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.
NO MORE HANGOVERS
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.
MORE FREE TIME
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.
EASIER TO SAY NO
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?
TONS OF LIFE LESSONS
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:
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!