Getting sober is not easy. When we get clean we begin feeling emotions again, we are faced with difficult situations, and we are suddenly plopped into a new way of living. At many addiction treatment centers and in twelve-step meetings, we are encouraged to take a look at our behavior and feelings. We work hard in therapy, in meetings, and with our support network to process how we feel and what drove us to drink or use. And of course we learn a new way of living and facing life so that we don’t have to turn toward mind altering substances. However, a piece of the puzzle that is often left out is that we also must often find a new life when we get sober. Whether we get sober as an adult or as a teen, we may need to construct a new life for ourselves, finding new passion, a job, activities, and relationships.
When I got sober at 19, I remember thinking that I was never going to have fun again. When I was using, I did absolutely everything loaded. There were many things I enjoyed, but I always got high before doing them. In early recovery, I found that the same things were sometimes triggering for me. I had to find a new way to interact with what was “fun” for me. As with every aspect of recovery from addiction, it’s still a work in progress. When I was in sober living, I had true fun for the first time at a sober bowling night. A bunch of sober young people got together and had a fun time, showing me that it indeed was possible to enjoy life sober.
Since then, I have found many ways to enjoy myself. Sometimes, we need to find new things. We also may find new ways to do things that we loved while using. Whether it’s hiking, exercise, reading, playing pool, or listening to music, you may start by investigating what you enjoyed when you were using. Can you change your relationship to the activity and see if you can learn to enjoy it with a clear mind? Give it a true shot. You may also try something new. There are always groups of sober people going to do fun things. Connect with some people and maybe you’ll discover something you like!
When we get sober, we may need to investigate our relationship with our work. Perhaps we work in an industry that is not conducive to a healthy recovery. It can be difficult in early sobriety to be surrounded by drugs or alcohol in our work, or work somewhere that is too stressful for us. What was tolerable in our using may be a little much in recovery. Perhaps we can find work that allows us to work a true program.
When we get sober, we have the opportunity to start afresh. If, like me, you are young when you get sober, you may have the chance to build a new career. When I got sober, I found that I loved to work in a way that used my mind. I worked a few assistant jobs to pay the bills, but ended up starting my own marketing firm at 20 years old. I was able to use what I learned in my recovery program to work hard with my work and find what was useful to me. Getting sober is a deeply beautiful opportunity to find yourself and what makes you happy with work.
Another spot in our lives which we may need to investigate is our relationships. This includes intimate relationships, familial relationships, and our relationships with friends. Are the people we have in our lives healthy for us? For me, I had to move on from quite a few friends in my life. Some of my friends were supportive of my newfound recovery, while others simply didn’t understand. It was difficult, but I was able to build new friendships based on more than a shared passion for drug abuse.
Hopefully we have relationships that we have damaged but not lost. My relationship with my family was pretty bad when I got sober, and I was unable to be in a healthy intimate relationship. It took a lot of work on myself, but I am able to have a healthy relationship with my family and am in a happy marriage. Sometimes we have to set boundaries with those in our lives, and sometimes we have to learn some patience. Part of recovery is building a new way to life, and this often means some trial in error in looking at our relationships with others.
One of the final pieces of building a new life in recovery is finding our passion. It may be in relation to work, our relationships, our recovery program, service work, or what we do for fun. You may find that you have a deep passion for mountain biking, working with other addicts, learning about the mind, or being with your family. As with all of the other suggestions, take some time to see what feels right to you. What sparks your interest? What makes you happy? Where does your passion lie?
Getting sober is a huge opportunity to live the life you want. Of course you won’t be happy 100% of the time, as life is full of ups and downs. But you can create the living conditions that lead to a lasting recovery. The #1 priority is to stay sober, which isn’t always simple. It’s a recipe that calls for some trial and error. We work our program, keep drugs and alcohol our of our system, and learn about the causes of our using. We also must find a way to live life anew, seeing what works for us and what doesn’t. Finding recovery can be the greatest gift you ever give yourself, and the opportunities are endless when you have the chance to see the world through new lenses.