When you think of someone being “clean and sober” what comes to mind? Perhaps you think of someone who no longer uses drugs or alcohol, and you would be right. Now, what about the phrase “living in sobriety” or “recovery.” What does that mean to you?
While treatment and twelve-step programs are not the only way to get clean and sober, they are often the best. Why? Because they don’t just help you stop using, they also help you start living a life of peace, gratitude and fulfillment. That is recovery.
Some people are able to quit using on their own through the sheer power of will. They may white-knuckle it for years, feeling unhappy and stressed. They may continue to engage in negative behaviors and live lives surrounded by chaos and drama. In fact, things may seem little different than they did when they were still using!
This may be clean and sober, but it isn’t recovery.
So what does recovery look like? Well, people who are in recovery are not just abstinent from drugs and alcohol, they are actively seeking to improve themselves. They rely on the support of a larger, clean and sober community and give and get support from them. They seek out opportunities to help others through service, and they maintain a spiritual connection with a power greater than themselves, whatever they choose that to be.
People in recovery spend time counting the things in life that they are grateful for, not the things that aren’t going their way. They try their best to live “one day at a time” which means that they don’t dwell in the past and try not to worry about the future. They do their best to do the next right thing and make choices that don’t hurt themselves or others.
No one “does” recovery perfectly. People will always make mistakes or fall short. When a person is working a program of recovery, he or she tries to look honestly at their mistakes and openly admit them rather than covering them up or blaming things on others. They apologize to others when necessary, and tried not to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.
The result of this is a sense of peace that comes from knowing that you are doing your best, and growth and self-awareness that comes from looking at yourself closely, flaws, assets and all.
How Does Recovery Happen?
Recovery often starts in treatment. Most people think that a treatment center only focuses on quitting drugs and alcohol, but that is only part of it. You see, drugs and alcohol are only part of the problem. It is a common myth that once you take away the substances everything will be fine. While things will certainly improve once a person stops using, many things will remain the same.
In treatment, there is a large focus on behavior patterns, false beliefs, improving low self-esteem and learning coping skills so that you can get through life without turning to substances or unhealthy behaviors to deal with it.
Treatment is also where you will learn the value of a support group. These are the people who will support you in your sobriety.
Living in sobriety doesn’t happen in a vacuum. One of the best ways to live a life of recovery as opposed to just being abstinent is to surround yourself with people who are like-minded. Having clean and sober friends who are also pursuing a life of sobriety means having support for your lifestyle. It can be extremely difficult to do this if you are surrounded by people who don’t understand what you are trying to do and who are not clean and sober themselves.
Of course, you may still have friends and family members who are not in recovery, and that is okay. These people may even be supportive and positive. But the reality is that no one can quite understand you like someone who has been there.
Working a program and living in sobriety also happens when you find ways to give back to others. This could happen within a twelve step program, through sponsorship or through being of service to newcomers. It could also mean volunteering at a local food bank or shelter. Studies show that people who do volunteer work are more satisfied with their lives. Volunteering also boosts self-confidence and self-esteem.
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