Recovery, Transformation, and the Search for Meaning

Recovery, Transformation, and the Search for Meaning | Transcend Recovery Community

There’s a phrase in the mental health field that says Addicts are very spiritual people; they’re just knocking on the wrong door. Instead of finding meaning in life through relationships, a fulfilling career, or through their spirituality, you might say that addicts tend to satisfy their search for meaning through drugs and alcohol. They look for some kind of answer through the highs and altered states that the use of substances bring them.

Yet, there are clearly dangers with this way of finding meaning. Addiction, self-harm, poor health, unhealthy relationships, and legal problems are examples of what can result with finding meaning, whether consciously or unconsciously, through the use of drugs and alcohol. So, what might be a better way to find meaning and satisfaction in life?

This is precisely the question that Transcend Recovery Community asks of their residents.  We invite our residents to explore their aspirations, dreams, and desires. In order to help participants of our programs find new meaning in their lives, we encourage the following:

  1. Create meaningful life goals. Transcend encourages residents to set meaningful goals. Having goals to work toward and something to look forward to can be powerful antidotes to drug addiction. It doesn’t matter what the goals are—whether they involve your career, your personal life, or your health—just that they are important to you.
  2. Stay closely connected to others in recovery. Transcend clearly recognizes that everyone in recovery has a wealth of potential. Our residents are wonderful people with incredible gifts and abilities. By creating a community of sober people, we also create the right environment for channeling the beauty within our clients. It is important to stay in the company of those who share the same life goals, who want to stay sober and who have a positive vision for their lives. Having friendships and peers around you is a reminder that you’re not going through this alone and that you have support.
  3. Stay accountable for your recovery. Transcend believes that the goals and aspirations each resident is after won’t come true unless there is someone there to hold them accountable. By assisting clients in creating a daily schedule, we provide accountability and support their dreams. Transcend also has a tier system based upon client’s accomplishment of goals and consistency towards seeking a sober and meaningful life.
  4. Find a hobby. Transcend gives you time to find an activity that challenges you. Perhaps you want to expand your creativity, explore your imagination, or try something you’ve never done but have always wanted to do – such as learning to play the guitar.
  5. Volunteer. You might not have time to volunteer while residing at one of Transcend‘s sober living homes. But any of our after-care programs will give you time to volunteer. Another way to experience meaning in life is to volunteer at organizations that create social change. You might become active in your church or faith community, or join a local book club or neighborhood running group.

These are ideas for creating new meaning in your life as you progress in your recovery. It’s important to find meaning or soon life can lack happiness and satisfaction. As the psychologist Carl Jung once said, “As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being.”

 

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Why Your Sober Living Home Is a Community for Recovery

Sober Living Home Is a Community for Recovery | Transcend Recovery Community

The journey of recovery is not going to be understood by everyone. Sure, you might have friends and even family members who have said they understand how hard it has been for you or that they can empathize with the challenges you’ve had. However, anyone who is not on the road to recovery themselves is not going to fully grasp what it means to be in recovery from addiction.

If you’re living at a sober living home, then there’s a good chance that you’re surrounded by men and women who are on the same trek to get sober and stay sober. There’s a good chance that they’re facing similar challenges, feeling the same emotions, and hoping for the same things. There’s a very good chance that you and others at your sober living home have a lot in common.

Thousands of years ago, human beings lived in their own sort of communities – tribes. They traveled, worked, ate, and slept in communities. They stayed together as a unit because it was necessary to do that to survive. Today, we don’t have tribes; we have families. But even those are breaking down. Children move away, parents get divorced, and families separate. Many men and women aren’t a part of a community at all. They have to seek them out in their churches, sport teams, and social clubs. And others simply isolate, pulling away from other people, perhaps believing that it’s emotionally safer to be alone. But even still, communities can be hard to find, and worse, hard to feel like you’re a part of even if you do find one. In fact, feeling lonely and feeling like you don’t belong is one of the primary reasons why people turn to drinking and drug use in the first place.

And now, here you are: in recovery and in a sober living home, a place that is inherently a community. A place where others are walking the same journey you are. And not only that, you are likely seeing each other in the kitchen or living home of your sober living home, at 12-step meetings, and support groups.

Here’s what a sober living community can do for you:

  • Restores hope.
  • Creates confidence.
  • Combats loneliness.
  • Helps improve self acceptance.
  • Strengthens commitment.
  • Boosts empowerment.
  • Creates a feeling of belonging.
  • Encourages open and honest communication.
  • Provides opportunities to help others.
  • Provides opportunities to witness success and effects of relapse in others.

People crave connection. Desiring connection with others is a natural response. Human being s are social creatures. We cannot live in isolation. Even when we are born we need the assistance of our parents to feed, nurture, and tend to all our needs in order to survive. And that doesn’t change as we get older.

If you’re craving connection with others, but not sure how to start, begin with a simple hello. When you see your roommate, ask her how her day is going. When you see someone at a 12-step meeting, compliment them on how they share at each meeting.

Your sober living home is a natural community. It is in the context of community that people heal, grow, and succeed.

 

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The Power of a Recovery Community, Because the Opposite of Addiction Is Connection

If you’re new to a sober living home or new to a 12-step meeting, you might feel like you don’t fit in. You might feel odd or like you don’t belong. If you’re used to spending time with friends and people you’re familiar with and suddenly you’re spending large amounts of time with strangers, you might even feel intimidated and nervous. You might feel self-conscious about the things you say and what you do, wondering if your new community of people are going to accept you for who you are.

It’s common for addicts to have a low sense of self-esteem. And those patterns of low self-worth can persist into recovery. However, there are ways to feel better, feel a connection with your new community, and even feel supported by them. It’s so easy to feel uncomfortable going into a new environment, especially if the others have already formed a group of their own. Yet, although it feels odd, there are important tips to remember so that you don’t feel like the odd man out but rather the one everyone welcomes with open arms.

Check in with your own feelings and thoughts. When you’re about to go into a new support group or 12-step meeting, and especially if you’re feeling nervous, notice that some of what you’re feeling is a pattern. You probably always feel this way around new people. You might have patterns of feeling uncomfortable until you get to know someone. It’s important to know that these are simply patterns in your mind so that they don’t bring you down or interfere with making new friendships.

Get to know people before making up your mind about them. When you are feeling uncomfortable in your own skin, it’s easy to be judgmental of others as a form of self-protection. For instance, if you have an interaction with someone and the other person feels cold to you, you might think to yourself, “Well, he’s a jerk.” It’s easy to blow someone off and make up your mind about them without really knowing them. You don’t know if he was having a bad day, upset by something that was said in the meeting or just doesn’t know how to socialize very well. When you’re new to a group, give people a few chances before blowing them off.

Treat those you meet with kindness. It might sound obvious but kindness can go a long way. If you’re used to bantering, making fun of, or even arguing with friends, then kindness might feel odd to you. But as you can imagine, most people respond well to kindness, especially at the beginning of a friendship.

Volunteer your time. Whether you’re living at a sober living home or attending regular 12-step meetings, when you volunteer you show that you care. You send the message that sobriety is important to you. But not only that, you also send the message that you want to help others out too. You want to be there for your peers. Others in the group often appreciate and even admire the volunteers for putting in the extra time and effort.

These are tips for feeling more comfortable in your new sober community.

 

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Your Sober Tribe Affects Your Vibe

If you’re in recovery then you’re probably meeting new people every day. Every time you go to a 12-step meeting or attend a support group, you might run into someone you’ve never seen before but someone who shares the goals of sobriety and recovery from addiction. And if you reside at a sober living home, then you might have opportunities to interact with and form relationships all your housemates.

But not everyone you meet in sobriety will be your kind of person. Just because they are in recovery, like you, doesn’t mean that you’ll love everything about them. For that reason, it’s important to find your tribe, your network of people that you resonate with. It’s necessary to find the type of crowd that speaks your language and with whom you have more than just sobriety in common.

For instance, you might be an artist. Perhaps you want to connect with other artists and uncover how being creative can support and perhaps jeopardize your sobriety. For so many artists, getting into a creative spirit meant having a drink or getting high. On the other hand, creativity might be healing and spiritually nourishing in recovery. Having a circle of artists around you who are also focused on recovery can be supportive.

Or perhaps you’re lesbian or gay. Over the years, many resources have been created for the sober LGBTQ community. But it wasn’t always that way. In 1969, The AT Center began after 6 gay men met for an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting and decided to call themselves “Alcoholics Together”. Membership quickly grew through the 1970s and 1980s. In fact, throughout Southern California and even in cities far away such as Boston and New York, the acronym “AT” became synonymous with gay AA. Today, the gay Los Angeles sober living community now knows The AT Center as a significant place for refuge.

Another growing community within sober living groups is one that is focused on wellness. Many recovering addicts place emphasis on yoga, meditation, acupuncture and other holistic practices in their recovery. In fact, some would say that their recovery wouldn’t be what it is without these practices.

And along the same lines, many men and women in recovery rely heavily on their spirituality. They may find their support for sobriety through their church by attending church-related 12-step meetings or bible studies for recovering addicts. They may resonate highly with the emphasis on spirituality in each of the 12-steps.

Community is an essential component to recovery for many men and women. It’s the primary reason behind the recommendation to attend 90 AA meetings in 90 days for new recovering addicts. Men and women find support in the personal stories that reflect obstacles and challenges faced by many in the group. And those stories are strengthened and may have more meaning when there’s a shared worldview or common interests.

If you’re new to recovery, don’t just look to spend time with those who are sober, but find your own unique tribe within the sober living community.

 

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When the Whole Community Shares a Vision, Everyone Wins

One of the greatest qualities of communities is that they have something in common. They share a goal, a vision, or an endeavor. A group of people who come together are not necessarily a community. What makes them a community is when they have something in common, something they commune with, which unites them. An online dictionary defines community as “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common”.  For instance, in New York City, there are many ethnic  communities, such as Little Italy or Little Brazil. What makes these parts of the city unique is that they inhabit a group of people who share the same culture. The people in these communities immediately have a bond because of their ethnic background.

The same is true in recovery. There can be an immediate bond because of the shared goal of sobriety. There is an immediate understanding of one another. Everyone is struggling with or has struggled with the endeavor of getting sober and staying sober. Everyone is making an effort toward changing their lives. Because of the shared vision of living a healthy and sober life, simply being in the community helps to strengthen one’s own personal vision.

Another benefit of having a shared vision is that everyone has someone to rely on. Individuals in the group eventually find their unique roles, working toward supporting the benefit of the whole. For instance, within a sober community there might be:

Leaders: These are those who might say hello to newcomers, volunteer to set up 12-step meetings, become sponsors, and take responsibility for the health of the group.

Sponsors: These are those individuals who know the difficulty of the process and who might volunteer to support others through the 12-step process, or another type of recovery model.

Spokespeople: These are the individuals who know the importance of sharing their own story both to heal themselves and to help the healing of others. They might visit recovery centers, speak at 12-step meetings, or facilitate support groups.

Gatherers: These are people who may not necessarily play a role in a recovery community but gain so much out of it that they often invite others. They see the benefits of community that they feel inspired to share those benefits with others.

Attendees: Newcomers may not play any role at all. But they may simply be a part of a community and that alone is significant. It is significant for their own recovery but also for the recovery of others. Simply being a part of a recovery community supports the health and wellbeing of everyone involved.

Regardless of the role you play in your recovery community, you matter. The community exists because of the people involved and the vision you share. And simply by being a part of the community, you gain from it. You gain the support, courage, and hope that sober communities offer to each of its members.

 

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Facing Your Fears of Getting Sober

Fear is a given in life. Everyone is going to feel it at one point or another. However, some people let fear hold them back while others don’t. And when it comes to recovery, there are all sorts of unknowns that a person might be afraid of. But, as you may already know, many people move forward anyway. Those who really want to get sober find the courage inside to move past those fears and get the help they need.

Here’s an inspiring story about courage by Georges St-Pierre, author of The Way of the Fight:

I remember hearing a story about soldiers going into battle and showing no fear, and the guy said it was really simple (I’m paraphrasing here): ‘There are two kinds of men: those who want to go out and fight—the crazy ones—and the ones who are afraid to go, but they go anyway. They’re the courageous ones.’ I realized at this moment that it takes fear to make a person courageous. And I like that, because courage says something about you.

The result is that, after a while, you get practice at being courageous. You understand how to move forward against fear, how to react in certain situations. You just get better. It doesn’t mean you stop feeling fear—that would be careless—but it means you have earned the right to feel confidence in the battle against fear.

There’s no question that there is a lot of fear in recovery. Getting sober can feel like you are taking a step into the unknown. It might feel like you are taking a leap of faith. When someone decides to get help for their addiction, he or she will often have no idea what to expect. A person might hope that there will be the right people, environment, and resources to feel well supported in their early recovery.

In fact, it is fear that can hold someone back and keep them from getting help. Most people fear change, and when there is that fear of the unknown or when there is chronic ambivalence and uncertainty, it can be stifling and interfere with one’s ability to move forward. It’s common to see someone who is frequently ambivalent and indecisive move from one side of the fence to the other. That person might continue to jump from “Yes, I’m ready to get sober,” to “No, I don’t want to do it.”

If you’re stuck in fear and you can’t seem to move forward, here are some suggestions to consider:

First, accept where you are. If you try to force yourself to get help when you’re not ready, you might doing something to sabotage it. Don’t try to force yourself into a rash decision. Simply let yourself be where you are. Recognize and accept your ambivalent feelings.

Second, remember that you can take your time. You’re human. And you’re not a soldier being forced into battle. If you want to get sober, you will. Give yourself some time to accept the fear and make the right decision for yourself. (However, don’t use this as an excuse to avoid getting help.)

Third, talk to someone so that you can process your feelings. It’s perfectly normal to be afraid. Sometimes, recognizing that fear will be a part of your experience regardless of your choices, then you might feel more apt to ignore the fear and get the help you need.

Lastly, get help to manage fear, especially if it feels overwhelming. Consider seeking professional mental health services to help yourself examine and sort out your feelings of fear and ambivalence.

Although you’re afraid, there are steps to take so that fear doesn’t stand in your way.

 

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What Friendships Mean in Recovery

When you have at least one person who believes in you, who is there for you, and who you can turn to when things get rough, your view of life changes. You might feel a bit more safe, supported, and secure in your life. You might have hope, despite the challenges you face. And you might even feel confident in your ability to surmount a challenge like staying sober.

In the 1940’s, psychiatrist John Bowlby discovered that children who have supportive parents grew up confident in their abilities, had a greater sense of resilience, and had the ability to regulate their feelings when upset or emotionally overwhelmed. Bowlby was asked to research and write about the experiences of children who had been abandoned or orphaned by their parents. Bowlby discovered that children who had a secure attachment with their parents tended to have a greater sense of confidence to go out and explore the world. And when they felt frightened or threatened, they would immediately return to their attachment figure.

Bowlby also discovered that those children with broken attachment relationships with their parents often did not develop the ability to calm themselves when upset and tended to have behavioral, academic, social, and/or emotional difficulties in adolescence and in adulthood. Along with these difficulties, they had a greater vulnerability to the use of substances as a means to cope with their lives.  Many men and women who have a substance abuse disorder may have had an insecure relationship with one or more of their parents.

In fact, research has shown that those children with broken relationships with their parents, but who had at least one person in their life who saw and understood them, were more likely to overcome their developmental challenges.

In the same way, having a friend in recovery, especially someone who believes in you and who is there for you when you need it, can help provide that sense of security that’s needed to feel safe. Just one close friendship rooted in trust and care can help turn things around in recovery. This alone may be enough to give you the confidence to make the choices that keep you sober and healthy. A friendship can be the very thing that gets someone through the challenges that come with recovery.

Furthermore, it’s not only the connection you have with another person, but also the many healing moments that can come out of this kind of friendship. For instance, just sharing your story and what you’ve been through can be incredibly meaningful. When you tell your story, you lift the burden of your illness and problems. You provide yourself with space between you and what you’re going through. Also, there may be feelings of accomplishment, especially if you’ve overcome major obstacles. When you let your friend know what you’ve been through and how you found your way through it, you also deepen the emotional connection with another human being – which only enhances your feelings of being supported and held by someone else.

Friendships can be incredibly meaningful in recovery. Value and honor your friendships. They can be great sources of support, meaning, and emotional connection.

 

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Forming New Friendships Within Your Sober Community

It used to be that when you were at a party, it was drinking and drug use that brought people together. By sharing in the experience of having a beer or playing a drinking game, you perhaps felt connected to others. Perhaps you felt a sense of belonging.

However, when you’re in recovery, the way to connect with others changes. You’re no longer bonding through substances; instead, you can connect through sobriety. And the place to begin to make friends in this way is in your sober community. Perhaps you are attending a 12-step group, living at a sober living home, or participating in a support group. Whenever you have the opportunity to spark a new conversation, do so. Whenever you feel the slightest connection with someone also working on sobriety, perhaps find the courage to ask them to lunch.

One of the most important parts of recovery is having the support around you to face those challenging moments. And if you’re early in your recovery, there’s a good chance that you have more friends who are still using substances versus friends who are sober. So, now’s the time to make friends and establish new connections.

And the fact that you have sobriety in common may make finding new friends easier. There’s a mutual respect, a kindness that you both show one another, because of similarities in the journey you share. You might be able to more easily trust that he or she is going to be there for you if you call for help. And together you may even be able to laugh with each other over the silly moments on your journey through recovery. When you have a friend in your life, everything seems easier.

Here are a few ways to approach those you may want to be friends with in your sober community:

Volunteer at your 12-step group – When you volunteer, you’re often asked to arrive early and/or leave a little later than everyone else. Before and after meetings are a great time to begin a conversation with someone. And often these conversations happen naturally when setting up for a meeting or taking things down. Volunteering immediately puts you in touch with others who care about sobriety too.

 Be brave and ask someone out for coffee or tea – If you didn’t want to volunteer, but you want to make friends, you may simply need to muster up the courage to approach people. Perhaps you’ve seen someone at meetings, or perhaps you’ve even had one or two conversations with them. Lots of other people feel just as uncomfortable about reaching out and making new friends as you do. If you have the courage you can be the one to break the ice. The worst that person can do is say no and at least you’ve tried. And on the other hand, if he or she says yes, then perhaps you’ve got a new friendship in your life.

Make it a point to introduce yourself. If you don’t have the courage to ask someone out for lunch, you can at least introduce yourself. Sometimes, friendships form simply when people see you enough. When you’re introducing yourself whether it’s at support groups or 12-step meetings, your face will become more and more familiar and people will be more willing to open up to you.

These are suggestions for forming new sober relationships. When you have recovery in common, you may immediately have something that no two other people share. Plus, recovery is hard to do alone. Having friends in your life eases the journey of recovery.

 

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The Lies That Addicts Tell Themselves

Denial plays a major role in addiction, so much so that it is considered to be a part of the illness of addiction. When a person continues to believe that they do not have a problem with alcohol and drugs, they continue to tell themselves all sorts of excuses to keep using. You might describe denial that which people cannot identify or accept in themselves but what is apparent to others. It is a person’s inability to see that there is a concern, problem, or issue to be dealt with.

Here is a list of excuses and lies that many addicts have told themselves to avoid the reality that there might in fact be a problem to address:

  • I can quit anytime.
  • Recovery from drug and alcohol use is boring.
  • I’m under a lot of stress and need the alcohol or drug to calm down.
  • Addiction is the best kind of life that I can hope for.
  • My drug use is my own business and it shouldn’t matter to anyone else.
  • Beer drinkers aren’t addicts.
  • I only drink on the weekends.
  • The DUI was unfair; I was fine to drive that night.
  • Sober people are miserable.
  • The doctor prescribed the medication so they must be okay to use.
  • Recovery is basically a constant fight with cravings.
  • I’m not that bad; I know people who drink much more than I do.
  • I am much more creative when I’m high.
  • Life is going to come to an end anyway so why not thoroughly enjoy it now.
  • People who chronically relapse will never get sober.
  • Everyone I know uses drugs and alcohol so it must be normal behavior.
  • My addiction isn’t affecting anyone else.
  • I’d never be able to manage my stress/problems without drugs and alcohol.
  • I don’t care about my life and I don’t care if the addiction kills me.
  • I’m only a social user.
  • I can’t quit so I may as well go along with the addiction.
  • I’m not an addict because this isn’t affecting my work.
  • I only drink on nights and weekends so I’m not an addict.
  • Giving up alcohol or drugs for the rest of my life is a prison sentence.
  • I’m waiting to hit rock bottom.
  • I have a lot of bad luck.

Fortunately, there are times when some men and women recognize the need for help. It is common for those struggling with an addiction to have insight at certain times, while denial at other times. If a person were to recognize denial in themselves, there are ways keep denial at bay. For instance, ways to cope with denial include making a strong network of support. When the cycle of addiction begins to take over, allow your friends and family members to provide their support. You can even write out advance directives or create a treatment plan with a therapist in advance so that your wishes can be adhered to regardless of your mental state. Creating a plan ahead of time can help break through the tendency for denial to keep you stuck in addiction.

However, if you find that no matter what you do you’re still fighting addiction, contact a mental health provider today.

 

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Sober Living Requires Love

If you’re someone who is not used to experiencing love, then you might think the idea of love as a requirement for recovery is odd. But think about it. Just getting help for yourself when you hit rock bottom is love. Calling for help when you wanted to quit drinking is love. Attending meetings on a regular basis is love, and starting to build a new life for yourself is love. Love is really all the things you’re doing to keep yourself well. And you likely started doing those things because what you were doing wasn’t working.

Addiction can wreak havoc on a person’s self esteem. It undermines a person’s ability to love, especially themselves. In fact, addiction is a form of self-harm. To get help, to live at a sober living home, find new sober friends – these are all forms of self-love. For those who have struggled with an addiction, it’s easy to have negative thoughts about your self-image, body, intellect, or any other part of your life, especially in a culture that can be stigmatizing towards those who don’t have an ideal life. At the same time, when you have a low self esteem, your negative feelings about yourself can multiply. Your belief in yourself can worsen. And there can be a destructive and negative cycle with self-esteem and addiction.

Sober living not only requires self-love but it also asks that you love others. When you get sober, you’re not just sober for yourself, but for the sake of others too. Addiction frequently ruins relationships. It can slowly eat away at the trust between two people, until eventually a friend or loved one doesn’t want to spend time with you anymore. However, with sober living, you begin to want those friendships and family members back in your life. You want to amend what happened in the past. You might even notice that when cravings arise you think of your children, spouse, coworkers, and family. You decide not to use because you love them. You decide not to give into the craving because you love your life with them in it.

In a way, sober living also requires love for the world. Whereas when you were addicted, you thought the world was an awful place, with sober living, you might actually enjoy your life. And when you begin to find happiness in sobriety, you might even help others find sobriety too. You want to make the world a better place. You want to give back for all the help and support you received while in early recovery. Although love for the world isn’t required for sober living (unlike self love), it can bring meaning and purpose to your life. Trying to make the world a better place in your own way can make life feel even more fulfilling.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, think about the presence of love. If you want to get sober, self-love will be the foundation for recovery.

 

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