The benefits of sobriety are not immediately realized – and for many, the effort it takes to get sober and be sober may not seem worth the “reward”. However, even if you do not recognize your own addiction as a problem or see it as a choice you are willing to make, it is important to understand the full breadth of what you would be giving up by missing out on sobriety.
First, just to keep things clear: sobriety refers to being sober, which simply means not being intoxicated or inebriated. However, the key here is to maintain sobriety, sustaining that state of clear-headedness. Why? For a myriad of reasons. Here are just a few ways you may be missing sobriety, without even truly realizing it.
Ever Feel Physically Exhausted?
Addiction takes its toll on both the body and the mind, yet the body arguably bears the brunt of the damage in many cases. While the brain does go through major changes and brain damage is common in cases of excessive substance use, any addiction will cause your body to deteriorate and break down faster than it should.
Street drugs speed this process up, due to the impurity of the substance and the toxicity of any additives used in cutting it. However, even the abuse of legal drugs like alcohol or prescription medication like amphetamine can scar liver and heart tissue, lead to an unhealthy gut or excessive weight loss, and massively reduce both your life expectancy and your quality of life.
In the day-to-day, this is expressed by constantly feeling tired, in pain, or physically weak. Many experience insomnia as part of their addiction, especially when going through withdrawal. This can further cut into a person’s health, disrupting their sleeping cycle, and keeping their body from finding a healthy rhythm. If you find yourself regularly going through entire nights without sleep, then you may be dealing even more damage to the body.
Ever Feel Unbelievably Angry?
Mood swings are a common symptom of addiction, especially when life is not going so great, and drug use becomes the perfect way to escape. You may lose your temper, hurt those around you, or get yourself in trouble because of excessive risk-taking and a lack of regard for your own safety.
If you find your mood quickly and suddenly fluctuating from one extreme to the next, it can also suggest the onset of a mental illness due to the excessive drug use, caused by emotional pain or suppressed stress and anxiety.
It is healthy to feel things out, even if they are painful. We must complete the act of feeling something to be over it, from grief to pain to anger. Drugs let you bottle those emotions up, but that just builds the pressure for it all to violently explode.
Ever Feel Irrationally Scared?
Aside from anger, fear is another common emotion hidden behind addiction. Some see sobriety and society as restrictive and turn to drugs to experience true freedom and express themselves as they truly should. However, that is a flawed perception of why people turn towards drug use.
You do not need to be addicted to regularly use drugs – many people do to keep mellow or score a pick-me-up at the end of a tough week. However, negative emotions grow stronger when the habit turns into a chronic condition – under the effects of addiction, the fear and anger and shame that pushes many to continue using drugs as soon as they stop is extremely compelling, and almost shapes the day-to-day. Finally distancing yourself from that through prolonged recovery can be an eye-opener to how much fear and other negative emotions shape and define life while addicted.
Ever Feel Lonely?
Drug use often starts as a social thing, but addiction is very much a loner’s habit. Even among addicts, everyone remains individual, and the addiction itself makes it difficult to watch out for others and be there for one another. There also the argument that loneliness is a contributing factor to addiction, more than most people realize.
A big part of many treatment programs – such as sober living – is using large communities to reinstate that sense of togetherness and belonging, helping people fit back into friend groups and family by reminding them what it means to be among people who care about more than their own pain and the next possible high.
Sobriety is a Step
It may take some time and effort to get past the initial hump and into recovery proper, after the detoxification and withdrawal period is over. Once you take your first step towards staying sober, however, your life has the potential to drastically change for the better.
Addiction is a one-way road, always leading to the same destination without a change in scenery. But sobriety lets you enjoy life and gives you opportunities you would never come across while addicted. The opportunity to experience real joy, real connection, live and love with other people, and be a part of a meaningful community, something bigger than yourself.
None of that comes with the sobriety, but it is impossible without being sober. Addiction destroys friendships, erodes bonds and relationships, and removes the meaning from life. It makes living an endless chase after the next high, accentuated by painful crashes and a struggle to survive. While sobriety is not the promise of a better life, it is an important step in that direction. And the only way to get anywhere is by taking your first step and going on from there.
There will be stumbles. There will be times when you fall back rather than taking a striding step forward. Or you may be stuck in your recovery, feeling lost and unsure where life should go next. Being confident in yourself is a rare thing for many people with a history of long-term addiction, but it is an important goal, and it starts with letting others into your life and opening up to being helped and supported on the way. Seek out new friends and reconcile with friends and family.
Learn more about addiction and how others deal with it without drug use. Find ways to solve your problems rather than spending time in fear of them or getting away from them. And instead of letting your stumbles and relapses weigh you down and kill your journey, remember that they are only temporary lapses, and what matters most is your conviction to try again despite them.
Give sobriety a try for a few weeks and see how you feel. You might be surprised.