When people quit an addiction it is like taking the very first step on a journey. Giving up alcohol or drugs is a great and vital start, but it is only the beginning. There is still plenty more work still to be done. This is why they say that recovery is a process and not an event. The individual never really graduates from recovery – it just becomes part of who they are. This is what is meant when people talk about sobriety as a way of life.
In Alcoholics Anonymous they use the analogy of the sober horse thief to describe what happens when people give up an addiction without making sobriety their way of life. It refers to the situation where a horse thief gives up alcohol. Just stopping drinking alone will not make them a better person because they will just become a sober horse thief. In order to really find happiness in life this individual will need to stop drinking and change behavior. The same is true for all addicts. Most of these individuals will have fallen into substance abuse in the beginning because their life felt unsatisfactory. Giving up alcohol or drugs will just bring them back to where they started. They will need to make sobriety a way of life for them to really make progress.
The twelve step recovery movement holds the view that people are never cured from their addiction. This is why they will tend to say things like recovering alcoholic rather than cured alcoholic. This idea of always considering themselves to be an addict is not something that appeals to everyone. As far as they are concerned the fact that they are no longer using alcohol or drugs means that they are cured. They have no wish to be defined by what they used to do. This attitude can be perfectly fine so long as the individual does not believed they are cured in the sense that they are safe to relapse.
Making sobriety a way of life does not need to mean that the individual is making their old addiction the focus of their current life. Sobriety is not about hiding from the past but instead embracing the future. It is all about building a new life that is completely different from everything that went before. The individual begins doing these things because they can see how it benefits them and not because they are living in fear. Sobriety is just a word used to describe this new life. The individual can even call it something else if they no longer wish to be associated with the addiction recovery movement. The important thing is that they find a way of living that is fulfilling and does not involve trying to escape reality.
The benefits of making sobriety a way of life include:
* The individual will be focused on doing those things that they need to do to remain sober long term. This means that their risk of relapse has been reduced.
* Progressing in sobriety is all about overcoming character flaws to become a better person. This is a noble aspiration for any human and it means plenty of rewards.
* Focusing on sobriety makes life highly satisfying. It means that the individual gets to see themselves progress as humans and they will always be finding out new things about themselves and other people.
* Living this way means that the individual will have much better relationships with other people. They will see their self-seeking and self-obsession fall away.
* Those who dedicate themselves to living the sober life should eventually achieve serenity. This is a state of mind where they will feel peace most of the time.
* Those who dedicate themselves to this way of living will still experience problems like everyone else. The difference is that they will develop an armory of coping strategies that will allow them to cope with anything.
* It will mean that the individual is well placed for achieving their dreams.
* There is a community of people who have dedicated themselves to living the sober life. Those who join this community will benefit from amazing friendships and plenty of support.
* Those individuals who live this way will be better able to help other people. Doing service with humility is one of the most satisfying of all life experiences.
* The majority of addicts suffer from low self esteem but by living the sober life they will be able to rectify this.
* People will experience a new freedom and a new type of happiness
* An end to financial worries
* An end to fear of people, places, and things
* The individual will no longer regret their past
* They will develop the ability to intuitively know how to handle any situation
* Positive outlook on life
* An end to self-seeking
* The individual will want to start helping other people
* No more self-pity or feeling useless
* The development of serenity
It is often said that those who forget the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them. If people give up their addiction but fail to put enough effort into their recovery there will be a high risk of relapse. When people first become sober the pain of their addiction may be enough to keep them sober. Over time their memory of how bad things were is likely to fade. This means that this might no longer be enough to keep them on track. Unless they have put some effort into developing their sobriety their risk of relapse will be high.
One of the most prized rewards for choosing sobriety as a way of life is the development of serenity. This can be defined as a feeling of being calm and tranquil. When applied to people in recovery it means that they have developed into a mental state where they feel at peace most of the time. Those who have developed serenity do not get to escape the vicissitudes of life, but they just develop the ability to handle anything life sends their way. They say to people who like to spend time in the ocean that, if you don’t want to be at the mercy of the waves you need to learn how to surf. Serenity means that the individual is a master surfer when faced with the waves of life.
The steps that people can take to make sobriety a way of life includes:
* Viewing their recovery as just a starting point. They are setting out on a journey that will never really end.
* The individual needs to make their recovery the number one priority in their life. If they lose their sobriety it could destroy everything they have achieved in recovery.
* Becoming involved in the recovery community is a great way to stay committed to sobriety. Some people will do this by joining a 12 Step group, but there are many other options as well.
* The online recovery community is really thriving and well worth checking out.
* It is a good idea to keep a recovery journal. This way the individual will be able to track their progress and review their achievements.
* The sober life involves facing challenges and overcoming them. If people refuse to face these changes they can become stuck and there will be no further progress.
* It is a good idea to regularly make use of recovery resources to give sobriety a boost. These resources can include; books, blogs, web forums, podcasts, videos, or even iPhone applications.
* Those individuals who devote themselves to a spiritual path should find that this helps them maintain their sobriety.
* Meditation and other relaxation techniques can be a wonderful asset for people who are living a sober life.
* Helping other people is one of the most effective ways of strengthening recovery. This is also a way for the individual to give something back.
* In order to progress in recovery the individual needs to keep a beginner’s mind and remain willing to try new things.