On Monday (September 17th) I celebrated eight months of sobriety. I say I don’t count days but there is an app on my phone that tracks my sobriety and I find myself checking it every few days for an update. Being the longest I’ve been sober since age 16, I’d be lying if I said these milestones aren’t exciting for me. Time doesn’t define my sobriety, how I feel and what I accomplish through it does. But in honor of my excitement for my eight months, I’ve decided to put together a list of eight not often talked about advantages of being sober.
1 – An Abundance of Optimism
I keep saying that I’m so damn optimistic lately that it’s almost annoying. I know when I was in my active addiction that I would get annoyed with people who seemed like they were always positive. I thought no one can really be that happy all of the time, they must be faking. Well, I was wrong. Turns out that you really can be happy all of the time. It’s not that everything is perfect and life is all peaches all of the time, but when you’re truly happy you can take the ups and downs in stride. I don’t let the negatives or bad days get to me as much. I still see the good in everything. I realize that it’s all just part of life. I can see beyond the current moment to the bigger picture.
2 – Food Tastes Better
Really all the senses are heightened, but food tasting better is the best of them. In active addiction, you don’t realize that your sense of taste has been dulled until it comes back. Plus you’re more alert to the enjoyment. I can take my time to eat now and just enjoy the process of eating, unlike before when I would just scarf down food and pass out. Even though as a naturally skinny guy you may not be able to tell, I do love food and I love that it tastes ten times better now. It’s like rediscovering all of my favorite foods for the first time.
3 – Clearer Thinking
I know this is obvious but it’s the extent of the change that is important to highlight. Growing up I was always told how smart I was, and my grades all through school into college backed it up. School was always fairly easy for me and I always believed I was smart. Then the alcohol and benzos began to take effect on my brain and I began to struggle with even forming clear thoughts at times. And when in my withdrawals, forget about it. I couldn’t think straight for the life of me. It may sound strange, but I could literally feel the alcohol changing my brain. I wasn’t anywhere near as sharp as before and I lost the confidence I had always had in my intelligence. It’s excruciating to know that you are losing your mind. Now, I’m back to being sharp and witty. I’m once again being told I’m intelligent and I believe in my own intelligence again.
4 – Heightened Compassion
I care about things again. In my addiction, I had quite frankly stopped giving a fuck. Many days, I could’ve cared less if I lived or died. Life didn’t matter to me anymore. At one point, I overdosed on alcohol and a mixture of pills, including about a month’s supply of benzos. I didn’t care. Now, it’s all about helping others who are struggling. Through returning to school, through this blog, and through social media pretty much everything I do now has an end purpose of giving back and helping others. I don’t really get pissed off anymore, things just aren’t as big of a deal. I realize that everyone is dealing with some sort of issues that you probably have no idea about, so we’re all in the same boat. Life is short, be kind, be happy, feel good.
5 – Perspective – Things Aren’t As Big of a Deal
As I just mentioned, things don’t get to me as much these days. That goes both for both ends of the spectrum too. The lows aren’t as low and the highs aren’t as high. When I’m having a down day I know that things will get better. And when I’m having a great day I am extremely grateful for it because I remember that things weren’t always that way. It’s a great sense of perspective. I relate it to a near death experience. When you’re told multiple times that you’re going to die if you keep going on like you are, and you feel yourself becoming less and less human, you start to resign to the idea that you’re not going to be around long. I know without a doubt that I was on a path to an early death. I was losing the will to live, I was feeling like a glutton. The alcohol and benzo combo I was on was not pretty.
6 – Confidence / Comfort In My Own Skin / Grounded
I feel the most confident and grounded in life that I ever have. I’ve had anxiety and mental health issues my entire life, but I’ve been covering it up with alcohol since I started drinking at 16. That’s more than half my life and my entire adult life. I have never really dealt with issues in life as an adult without a substance. And I’ve certainly never dealt with the anxiety as an adult. In fact, I wasn’t diagnosed with an anxiety disorder until my first full-on panic attack in my late 20’s. So I’ve never dealt with my anxiety head-on at all. And that’s been a big motivating factor for me in my sobriety. I’m taking this opportunity as a challenge to figure out healthy ways to naturally manage my anxiety. It’s powerful because it’s been something I’ve struggled with mightily my entire life. And even though it’s still very much a work in progress, becoming comfortable in my own skin without a substance is such a huge breakthrough for me.
7 – Productivity
I’m back to the level of productivity and excitement in accomplishing my goals that I had back in my early 20’s before the alcohol and pills really took their hold. See, I started a business back in the early 2000’s and had a little bit of success with it. That happened through a relentless work ethic and excitement for what I was working on. During my addiction, I struggled with productivity. After being what many consider a high-functioning alcoholic for several years, I eventually fell into a cycle of going through manic swings in my productivity. I’d come to life and be super productive for a bit then just completely fall off the face of the earth. I became very unreliable. In fact, I destroyed some friendships and many business relationships because of it. I couldn’t be counted on for the longest time. For the past eight months, I’ve taken great pride in getting things accomplished. I’m back to working on side hustles, I’m going back to school, I’m fixing my credit, I’m doing all the adult things most people take for granted but I’m having fun doing them because they’re new to me again.
8 – Gratitude
I’m just so grateful for everything in my life now. I have this app on my phone called “HappyFeed” in which you just simply enter three things that you are grateful for each day. I look forward to my gratitude time every day now. No matter what happened in my day, whether good, bad, horrible or great, I identify three things that I am grateful for. No more, no less. On down days this is an excellent way of reminding myself I still have plenty to be grateful for in life. On up days it gives me a chance to reflect on the core reasons my day went well. I’m extremely grateful for everything life throws my way now, both good and bad.
These things may not be glamorous but they are important to me. While I have gained some physical objects that I like through being sober, they are not on the list. Maybe it’s a combination of my age and sobriety, but my priorities in life have definitely changed over the past eight months. It all comes down to happiness and compassion. As long my sobriety has made me happy and helped me to be less selfish, then it’s the path I’ll be staying on.
Let me hear what advantages you have discovered about yourself through your sobriety in the comments below. And as always, be sure to subscribe for updates, like, follow, share and comment on social media to help others OWN their SOBRIETY.