11 Lessons Learned in 11 Years of Addiction Recovery
Laura Silverman of The Sobriety Collective just celebrated 11 years sober. She offers up tips and tricks that have kept her going over 11 years of recovery.
The year was 2007. Phones were clunky and the opposite of “smart.” iPods were relatively new, MapQuest directions were printed, Amazon.com was a bookseller, Senator Barack Obama prepared to hit the campaign trail, the new ABC show Grey’s Anatomy was taking the country by storm, and Laura Silverman (aka yours truly) checked herself into an intensive outpatient program for alcohol abuse after six years of heavy binge drinking.
****The year is now 2018. Phones are pocket-sized computers. Amazon runs the world (and you can access it from your phone, natch). Former Senator Obama is now former two-term U.S. President (miss you, Barry!). Grey’s Anatomy is still around. And Laura, our protagonist, celebrated 11 years of continuous sobriety on July 14th.
****Switching over to first person now that I’ve set the stage for you. Without further ado, here are some nuggets of wisdom, lessons, and tools I use in over a decade of recovery – in meme and GIF form. It is 2018, after all 😉
1. I’m sober, not boring.
I go to concerts and sing loudly on karaoke nights. I date. I bowl. I play with my nephews. I go out on girls’ nights to fancy dinners. I ice skate and rock climb and dance (like Elaine from Seinfeld).
And I wake up the next morning blissfully hangover-free. It feels fan-freakin-tastic.
2. Personal growth is necessary – and (sometimes) painful.
One of the things I have to work on daily is my need to people-please. Being bullied for years as a kid tore down any self-confidence I had; all I wanted was to be liked by you. To be your friend. To not be at the bottom of the social barrel.
But now? I still fall prey to wanting to be liked (even at 35 years old! I see it happen the most via social media). And I have to actively take a part in my daily recovery by knowing I’m whole and enough and beautifully radiant, inside and out, just as I am. With or without your approval. That’s personal growth. It sure ain’t easy.
3. Move that body!
Walking in nature, practicing yoga, hiking, weight lifting, busting a sweat. Releasing those endorphins and feeling accomplished.
Honestly, the best way to get out of my head is to turn on some tunes and go for a walk outside. I always feel on top of the world and more peaceful in and post-workout…
4. Exercise that brain!
…Which leads me to Princess Kate: mental health is just as important as physical health. They are very much intertwined.
Exercise makes me feel more positive and happy and empowered; and feeling those feelings boosts my mental health – and will make me more inclined to want to continue taking care of my physical body.
This is why I love yoga so much. I get to amplify my physical, mental, and spiritual health. #NamasteSober
Gone are the days of just water or soda. (Those are still viable options).
Just the other night I had a delicious ginger/coconut/passion fruit NoJito. And it was glorious. I like to feel glamorous and holding a drink (especially in early recovery but even well into now) can give me more confidence on a date or at a work event. Booze-free, full of flavor, no consequences.
6. Take things one moment at a time.
To get anywhere with my sobriety, mental health, spiritual health, and just, well, life, I have to take things – as they say – one day at a time. Thinking in terms of “forever” will inevitably stress me out.
That doesn’t mean I can’t have goals or ambitions. But there’s no sense in agonizing over the future or regretting the past. Staying present is what it’s all about.
7. Stay grateful.
A daily gratitude practice – whether it’s just a mental acknowledgement of what I’m thankful for or writing a list – is crucial.
They say the sign of true gratitude is not in having what you want, but in wanting what you have.
I love smiling. Have you seen my smile? It’s radiant if I do say so myself. That doesn’t mean I’m always happy. If you’re always happy, how can you be grateful for true happiness? (see #7). But I find that even a fake smile can turn into a real one; and a real smile is infectious.
If you can use your smile and aim it at a stranger; and they do that to another, and another, and another…imagine the impact a small, simple act of kindness can have on the world.
9. Surround yourself with love and support.
No matter if you choose a program (12 step, SMART, Refuge, LifeRing) or trailblaze your own path, find a support system of friends, loved ones, and professionals that works for you.
If you want or need it, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Reaching out is a sign of strength, not weakness.
10. Be proud of how far you’ve come, no matter where you are (in the process of recovery).
In the wake of Demi Lovato’s relapse, I thought it was only right to pay homage to someone who fights on the front lines of mental health and addiction recovery daily. We have lessons to learn from her – and that’s that this is a process and we must always support each other.
Maybe you’ve slipped, maybe you’ve stayed sober or drug-free without one lapse; maybe you keep trying. This is a process and you should be proud of where you are, forging your own path.
11. My sobriety goes to 11 (years).
*Raises mocktail* Cheers!
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Laura Silverman is the founder of The Sobriety Collective, a digital recovery hub and go-to space for creatives living a life free of substances. She is also the Director of Community Relations at Potomac Pathways, an adolescent behavioral health treatment program in the Washington DC metro area. Laura has been featured in media outlets such as Glamour, Bustle, Women’s Health, and HuffPost. She is a committee member serving the national board of Mental Health America and believes in strongly advocating for recovery from mental health concerns and substance use disorder. You can connect with Laura on Twitter @wearesober and Instagram @wearesober.