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 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!



Bring Your Addiction Treatment Online – What 30 Recovery Bloggers Have to Say About the Digital Recovery World

Survey says? The web is a welcoming place to be when it comes to recovery.

Welcome to the ever-changing world of online recovery. Since most of us struggle to unplug, it comes as no surprise that there’s a broad world of digital recovery. Whether you’re blogging behind a laptop, participating in an online meeting, scrolling through your curated sober Instagram feed, checking in with your counselor on the latest online recovery program, or listening to a guided meditation on your phone, there’s a way to stay connected. Recovery in 2017 is a very different place than it was ten years ago, when I first got sober. And it’s changed every year in nuanced ways. Even in the two years since I started The Sobriety Collective, the digital landscape has evolved.So what better way to illustrate the evolution than to poll the very people who make up what we call #TheRecoveryFriendlyWeb? I surveyed a small sample size of 30 recovery bloggers and other folks who use the cyber world as part of their holistic recovery. Let’s see what they say about the changing face of the digital recovery space.

When did you get sober (clean/harm reduction/etc)?

Answers ranged from 1989 to 2017.

Dawn Nickel, our 1989 respondee, creator of She Recovers, believes that “a) we’re all recovering from something, b) that how we recover is up to us, and c) that we’re stronger together.” Considering she got sober in the world of Atari and computers the size of small homes, I’ll give her the prize for seeing the most changes in the digital world. And kudos to her for adapting. She’s spearheading She Recovers in NYC, a face-to-face, sold out event for women in recovery from anything with a digital all access pass (get yours here). Workit Health is a featured partner at She Recovers NYC. I’m immersing myself in the recovery cyber world as a member of the Official Sober Blogger Team.

One of our newer members in sobriety, Jessica Foster, started her journey to recovery in 2015 and ultimately got sober in January of 2017. She credits social media like Instagram (follow Jessica: @jessunwasted) to helping keep her stay on path.

Were there digital recovery resources around back then?

 Addiction Treatment Online - Where there digital recovery resources around back then? Addiction Treatment Online – Where there digital recovery resources around back then?

What do you find to be the most supportive digital recovery space?

 Online Addiction Treatment - Most Supportive Digital Recovery Space Online Addiction Treatment – Most Supportive Digital Recovery Space

What has changed the most since you first got online as a newly sober person? (e.g. online programs, websites, online meet ups, conferences…)

Robyn Joy, sober since January 2016, reflects that things which were useful in the beginning (blogs, Facebook groups, etc.) became less so as time went on. Now Instagram is her main space for recovery. Jo Sullivan, a woman in recovery from addiction and childhood trauma, exclaims, “there are actual [hashtags] just for us! #recoveroutloud #wedorecover. It’s amazing and freeing.” Nuria Reed, co-founder of Ekka Recovery, is effusive with her response: “I see much more openness and frankness about the imperfect process of recovery, and groups that support that! I think the semi-anonymity of the Internet has given space for individuals to be creative in how and where they recover.” Jon Gerler, known on the web as DJ FM, says that besides online programs, “peoples’ openness about their recovery” has changed the most since his 2013 sobriety date.

Do you think there’s as much stigma associated with being in recovery now as there was when you first got sober?

 Addiction Treatment Online - Stigma associated with being in recovery Addiction Treatment Online – Stigma associated with being in recovery

Tawny Lara, founder of SobrieTeaParty.com, muses that “sobriety is kind of trendy these days. Part of me is annoyed by this, but most of me is excited to live in a time where addiction is treated with empathy and respect.” Here’s what Helaina Hovitz, prolific writer and staunch recovery advocate, has to say: “I never found there to be a stigma in my own life personally, but maybe that’s because I’ve always been a strong advocate of owning your willingness to change and not caring what other people have to say about it.”

Is the web a welcoming place? Do you find there are people from all different programs (or none at all)? Have you found your tribe online?

 Addiction Treatment Online - Web Welcoming Place Addiction Treatment Online – Web Welcoming Place

Beverly Sartrain, founder of Recovery Life Management, got sober in 2006. She created her own group because she “wasn’t seeing a community focused on continued practice, up-leveling and using recovery for purpose.” Blogger Lara Frazierhas a dual perspective: “12-step tends to be more friendly to people who are in 12-step. They tend to question when you step out of their beliefs into your own. However, I have found so much support online—more than I could ever [have] thought possible.” British DJ and writer Young Lee says he finds the web to be extremely welcoming: “I find more creative people online than I do in ‘real’ life.” Kelly Junco, also known as The Sober Senorita, says that “the online recovery community has been revolutionary for me. It’s the bedrock of my sobriety.” As Laura Ward, founder of Quit Wining, puts it: “It’s easy to find people to relate to. It’s just as easy to find those with whom I have nothing in common. Spend a little bit of time and you’ll find your tribe.”

Has the Internet enabled more face-to-face relationships with recovery friends?

 Addiction Treatment Online - Face-to-Face Relationships Addiction Treatment Online – Face-to-Face Relationships

Tawny Larasays she’s met people in person becausethey’ve met online. If Facing Addiction’s October 2015 inaugural UNITE to Face Addiction was evident of anything, it was the power of the #RecoveryFriendlyWeb to connect global advocates, face-to-face around a common goal—to #ENDTHESTIGMA. I met so many amazing and wonderful people whom I had only known online up until that point.

What do you hope will change in the digital recovery space going forward?  

One woman, Lisa, chose not to disclose her last name but feels strongly about the face-to-face connection. She distances herself from digital recovery: “Facebook, apps, etc. do not get or keep people sober. Frequent face to face contact with other recovering people does. Being part of a recovery community and doing service and giving back does. I worry that people hang around online and continue to struggle and/or relapse because they see it as an alternative to options that actually work—but are [scarier] and more work.” Cristina Ferri, blogger behind Sober Unicorn, hopes to create “real-life activities with like-minded people that don’t involve [traditional] meetings.” Amanda Kemp, whom I found via Tommy Rosen’s Recovery 2.0 Online Conference Facebook group, seconds Cristina’s notion: “I think it would be better if recovery chat support teams could organize face-to-face get togethers in local areas.”

Welsh podcaster and blogger Esther Nagle hopes for “more models available and more outlets for people to share their stories with pride.” Listen to Esther’s Sober Living Rocks podcast with myself as a guest.

Rose Lockinger, Outreach Director for Stodzy Internet Marketing, says: “I hope that people will continue to recover out loud and that more and more people step out into the light. The silence is killing so many—it’s time to be proud of being in recovery!”And lastly, blogger Katrina, wishes that “everyone can find the help that works for them. Somehow, some way.”