Cleaning Up Life After the Drugs Are Gone
Sobriety is about more than just learning how to live without mood or mind-altering substances. To be fully happy and live life to its fullest, we must learn how to change our behaviors and embrace living sober. Emotional sobriety comes when we clean up our motives and live a life that is morally right and esteemed.
My first year of sobriety was all about navigating life without putting a substance in my body. I was sober, but I was still unhappy and evoking chaos in certain areas of my life. My mind was still spinning with anxious thoughts about the future and deep regrets about the past. I had put the drugs down, and that is a miracle, but now what?
My second year sober was about cleaning up the person inside of me. It was about developing emotional sobriety.
Living in the Moment
Living in the moment means I’m not constantly worrying about what is going to happen in the unpredictable future. Instead of spending hours laying awake at night reflecting on the bad things I have done in the past, I am taking a moment, whenever necessary, to take a few deep breaths and focus on the world around me as it is in that very moment.
When I am living in the moment, life is easier. I am breathing, I am sober, I have a roof over my head, I have a job, and everything is okay. Most of my problems are of my own making, and sitting in my head reflecting on what I could have done differently doesn’t help anybody. Accepting life as it comes to me allows me to be at peace.
Coping with my Emotions
I was certainly an emotional train wreck while using drugs, but just because I put the drugs down didn’t mean my emotional state got any better. After all, I used drugs to cope with my emotions– so I had no coping skills when I got sober. Not only that, but without drugs to mask the way I felt, I began to experience all of my emotions to the extreme.
I have found that the best way to cope with my emotions is to talk about the way I feel with the people in my support group. I have started to do yoga and meditation to help relieve my anxiety. I learned that taking a walk outdoors can improve my mood significantly. Just because I get emotional doesn’t mean I have to act irrationally and sulk in self-pity. Emotions are normal– that’s what makes us human! Learning to deal with emotions, however, is a huge part of developing emotional sobriety.
Taking Responsibility for my Past
I hurt a lot of people when I was using. In order to repair the damage of my past, I had to make amends to the people I had harmed. If I wanted to stay miserable, I would have just shoved all the bad things deep down and proceed with the rest of my life, but I wanted to be happy.
Making amends isn’t just saying “I’m sorry”. I’ve mumbled those meaningless words a million times, and usually, they didn’t mean a thing. Making amends looks like getting honest and vulnerable with the people I hurt. I must take responsibility for the ways I acted and the things I did. Then, I must ask if there is anything I can do to make these mistakes right. If there is something I can do, it is absolutely essential that I keep my word and do those things to the best of my ability. At the very least, I show the person I have harmed that I have changed by practicing love and tolerance in all situations. I must demonstrate to that person that I have changed.
Developing Strong Relationships
Before getting sober, I only had fair weather friends. Friends who were only there for me when I had something to offer them. The relationships I developed in the second year of my sobriety are genuine. We are uniquely bound to one another through common experiences in addiction and recovery. We can learn from and support one another in all aspects of life.
These friends are there for me even when I inevitably make mistakes. They pick up the phone when I call. They show up when they say they will. They listen when I speak in a nonjudgmental manner. They have taught me the true meaning of friendship and today I aim to be the same, supportive friend to newly sober addicts as these friends have been to me.
In order to maintain sobriety, it is important that we change every aspect of our lives, from our day to day living, to our humility, and through the friendships we build in recovery. Recovery from addiction doesn’t end with treatment, it continues as we thrive and grow into strong, sober individuals. Developing emotional sobriety is the key to being happy and at peace with the journey of sobriety that we are embarking on.
Kate is an aspiring writer and a recovering drug addict. She enjoys going hiking with her dog, Jake, and spending time outdoors. She works with organizations like PAX Memphis to help shed light on the disease of addiction by sharing her experience.