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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.

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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, 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 and lessons learned in recovery and tools I rely on—in meme and GIF form. It is 2018, after all 😉

1. I’m sober, not boring.

Gif from Freaks and Geeks with text "I'm gonna have more fun than any of you. Sober."

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.

GIF of Monica from Friends saying "I've got this uncontrollable need to please people."

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!

GIF of Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice saying "I'm very fond of walking."

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 during and after a workout …

4. Exercise that brain!

GIF of Kate Middleton saying, "Mental health is just as important as physical health."

… Which leads me to Princess Kate: mental health is just as important as physical health. The two 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

5. #MocktailLife

Meme of Oprah yelling, "You get a mocktail! You get a mocktail! Everyone gets a mocktail!"

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.

GIF of Kimmy Schmidt saying "Just take it ten seconds at a time. Everything will be okay."

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.

Gif from America's Got Talent with text "I feel so thankful."

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.

8. Smile.

GIF of Buddy the Elf saying, "I just like to smile! Smiling's my favorite."

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.

Gif of the couch from the opening shot of Friends.

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).

Gif of Demi Lovato with text "All of my past challenges have helped me become who I am today."

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 a single 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).

GIF from Spinal Tap showing an amplifier with the dialogue, "The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven ..."

*Raises mocktail* Cheers!

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.

Any general advice posted on our blog, website, or app is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any medical or other advice. Workit Health, Inc. and its affiliated professional entities make no representations or warranties and expressly disclaim any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person following the general information offered or provided within or through the blog, website, or app. If you have specific concerns or a situation arises in which you require medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified medical services provider.

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