How Sobriety Dramatically Improved My Life
If you’re early in your sobriety or stuck in a cycle of relapse, you might find yourself questioning why you’re doing this to yourself.
You don’t feel good. Some days, it’s too hard. That elusive pink cloud never visited you. When does it get better?
My best answer to that? Soon. But slowly.
If you’re in need of some sobriety motivation, I’ll share with you the biggest benefits of sobriety I’ve enjoyed in the last 4 years.
Let’s dive right in.
1. I Look A LOT Better
I’ve destroyed any and all images of me that aren’t filtered to the gods from 2014-2016 so I don’t have the photographic evidence, but believe me when I say that I took a major hit in the looks department.
Despite the fact that I’d been heavily drinking for years at that point, something about late 2014/early 2015 made my body say, “I give up.”
I packed on about 25 pounds, my skin was a nightmare (breakouts, dehydrated, reddish tone, rosacea), and my hair was thinning and falling out. My students and coworkers routinely told me how fat I had gotten (cultural differences).
These days, I’m still carrying around about ten extra pounds and I’m jiggly in places I didn’t use to be, but I chalk that up to birthing a human and not trying very hard to rectify the problem. (Eh-hem dusty gym membership.)
My hair is much fuller and shiny! For the first time since elementary school, I don’t have any blemishes on my face. The redness is mostly gone. And those horrid little capillary bursts on my chest have disappeared. That last one is called spider naevi and it’s not only gross but a sign that your liver isn’t doing so well.
How long until you start looking ten years younger?
It depends on a lot of factors including the amount of damage you’ve done, years of heavy drinking, age, and genetics.
Realistically, by six months to a year, you should begin to see marked improvements. Some see results much faster and they are among the lucky few. Bless their hearts.
2. No More Booze Brain
By the end of my drinking days, it is a wonder to me that I was able to do anything. I could not remember things. And it wasn’t just the cute little forgetful moments when you walk into a room and immediately forget why you’re there.
I’m talking things like being at dinner with a friend and forgetting the mechanics of subtracting large numbers. I shit you not.
The long and short-term impact of alcohol on your brain is extensive. I won’t go into detail here because I’ve written about it before, but if you are finding that you can’t engage intellectually with the world like you used to, you’re forgetting more things, or struggle to focus, there is good news for you, my friend!
You will get all your mental faculties back.
This one happened for me relatively early on and that’s WITH pregnancy brain. It is an incredible feeling to have that fog lift. You quite literally feel like a brand new person.
The ability to think, read a book, engage in an intelligent conversation, actually have IDEAS again, and not just looping terrible thoughts on autopilot in your brain is liberating. It’s one of the best benefits of sobriety I’ve experienced.
If you feel numb, like you’re in a fog, or have nothing going on – this is possibly one of the reasons. It goes away and it is magnificent when it does.
Related: How Alcohol Ruins Your Brain
3. My Stress Levels Are Lower
I think on a subconscious level I allowed myself to get worked up over small things because it was a nice excuse to drink.
Alcoholics (or whatever you want to call us) get to a point in their drinking where they’re unable to manage any emotion in a healthy way. Drinking is the solution for boredom, frustration, sadness, and extreme happiness.
At the beginning of your sobriety, you’re going to get hit with these emotions hard. All of them.
It’s like taking the training wheels off your bike and trying to ride on two wheels for the first time. You’re going to be wobbly. You’re going to want those training wheels back. Hell, you might even fall off a few times.
You will get it, though.
And when you do, you’re going to look back at things that used to work you up and think, “Wow, it really wasn’t that serious.”
Don’t get me wrong. I still have my moments. But I’m no longer a big ole bag of negative emotions. You’ll feel stable again and honestly, isn’t that one of the things we want the most from sobriety?
4. I Know Who My Friends Are
Friendships can be tricky things in early sobriety, especially when all of your friends are drinking buddies.
A lot of people feel lonely when they give up alcohol. When your entire social life has revolved around getting wasted, it’s normal to feel like there’s nothing to do.
Re-evaluating your relationships with other people is part of the process.
We all have to go through it, but the AMAZING thing is that you’ll end up with really powerful connections with the people you choose to keep around.
You might think that emotionally unloading with your friends over wine and cookies makes you close, or the fact that your buddy held your hair while you puked means something.
That’s not what strong friendships are built on. Sobriety is going to show what real relationships can look like.
When I got sober, it became very clear who I hung out with because I needed bar buddies and who I actually enjoyed being around. The great thing is that you might be surprised! Somebody who was just a casual acquaintance can become one of your closest friends.
The more comfortable and confident you become in sobriety, the more positive people you will attract to your life. It takes some time and a few growing pains, but it is much more fulfilling.
5. I Actually Like Myself…A Lot
Sobriety has taught me a lot of self-compassion and humility.
I used to drink because I couldn’t stand myself or my life. Ironically, I preferred to drink alone so I could really medicate those feelings on my own terms. The theme of my life seemed to be “I hate feeling alone, but also leave me alone.”
When you finally get over those first months of early sobriety, you’ll see that you’re not so bad after all.
People who are successful with their sobriety find ways to keep themselves busy. It’s through that process that many people start to forgive themselves and see the value they can bring to the world.
Every day you go without drinking is boosting your self-esteem, even if you don’t notice. When you choose to go to the gym or take a cooking class, you’re signaling that you are open to seeing what else this life has to offer. The cumulative effects of all these new experiences and choices add up.
My drinking was all about self-loathing, which I had done for almost twenty years at that point. Sobriety helped me escape that.
6. I Don’t Have As Much To Be Sorry About
I LOVE not having to feel bad about something stupid or mean I said when I was drunk. There are zero alcohol-related regrets plaguing my life right now.
Sobriety means never having to say, “I’m sorry I puked on your plants.”
If I do something that requires an apology these days, it comes from a place of genuine misunderstanding. That is much easier to handle than drunk shenanigans that got out of hand.
7. My Mental Health Is Stronger
In the last year of my drinking, I woke up every day with the worst cases of anxiety, sometimes referred to as a “hangxiety.” I would ask my husband to hold me tight while I did some deep breathing just so I could get out of bed. It was awful.
That never happens these days.
I continue to suffer from anxiety and have to manage it, but it doesn’t ruin my life like before.
Sobriety did not cure my depression or anxiety, but it weakened them significantly. Because I am much more clear-headed and happy, I don’t identify with my depression like before.
Alcohol made my anxiety worse. Smoking also made it worse. I consumed both things because I wanted to escape it. In my mind, I was depressed, I was sad, I was living a miserable life. These things completely defined me.
Now when my anxiety or depression pops up, I can see it for what it is.
Oh, shit! My chest is tight. That’s my anxiety. Or hey, I’ve been feeling kind of low-energy and bummed out lately. That’s depression. Now, I can deal with them the same way you would deal with any chronic disease.
I rest, do a body scan meditation, some light exercise, take my medicine, and go easy on myself until I feel better. Instead of saying, oh I am so depressed, I actively deal with it.
8. I’ve Got More Money, Honey…Kind Of
These days I do not REALLY have more money because I quit my job and added another human to our family, BUT, I know for damn sure that I am not throwing away cash like I was when I spent the equivalent of $400 USD per week on alcohol and cigarettes (liquor is expensive in the country where I live).
There’s also the added costs of paying for takeout food because you’re too drunk or hungover to function properly.
What about those drunk impulse buys online? How about the groceries that spoiled in the fridge because you weren’t responsible enough to cook?
None of those things are problems for me anymore. (Well sometimes the produce still goes bad before I get to it.)
A lot of people are surprised by just how much they would spend on their drinking. Those $5 pints add up. Saving all that money means paying off debt, traveling, or finally being able to set a little aside.
9. I’ve Got Way More Time
I’ve mentioned this in a previous post, but in case you missed it, did you know the average person spends TWO YEARS of their life hungover? Two. Whole. Years.
The weekends always felt like they flew by and that’s probably because at least one of those days would be spent in hangover agony. Another fabulous benefit of sobriety is that you get to actually enjoy two full days of weekend bliss!
There are few things more liberating than being outside on a Saturday morning, and NOT because you’re squinting in the sun on your walk of shame back to your car or home.
I used to wonder how some people found the time and energy to have so much going on in their lives. It turns out that not getting trashed several times a week really helps.
10. I’m No Longer An Easy Target
When you’re sober and clear-headed, you stop opening yourself up to manipulators and scammers.
I used to be an easy target for abusers and gaslighting. Because I was a mental and emotional wreck with no sense of self-worth, it was easy to take advantage of me. And plenty of people did.
As an added bonus, I got to play the victim and drink even MORE when it happened.
Sure, every now and again I still catch myself falling victim to good marketing and making impulse purchases or unnecessarily second-guessing myself after someone makes a comment to me. I’m a human being, after all.
What I am NOT is a pushover. I used to be. Sobriety has blessed me with some sense to not get swept up in drama and BS.
11. I Have Confidence
My friend, if you can go months and months without drinking, you can do anything! At least, that’s how sobriety will start to feel.
At some point in your journey (for me about 90 days in), you’re going to change your mindset about sobriety.
It will go from something you’re struggling to maintain, to something you realize you HAVE. That mental shift is empowering. If you can quit drinking, what other magic can you do?
For me, I finally got up the courage to quit a career I did not enjoy and throw my weight behind blogging and starting a new business.
Alcoholic “me” would have NEVER. I would’ve doubted myself and my abilities and been so paralyzed with fear that I would’ve given up before I even started.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m still a bit worried about whether or not I can make this all work, BUT I’m able to view it more as a problem to be solved and not some bigger, negative picture of who I am as a person or whether I’m capable of success.
Don’t Believe Me?
During each one of my failed attempts to quit drinking, I would read about and listen to people who had made sobriety work for them. I would see the way their life had changed and think, “okay, I want that for myself.”
One week would go by and I still felt horrible. What gives? Or maybe I felt great one week and then miserable the next. Eventually, I would reach the one month mark and think, “Where are the benefits?”
It. Takes. Time.
Your world is not going to completely transform in three months. Your sobriety is heavily dependent on being both optimistic and realistic.
What this list doesn’t explore are all the things you have to do to get to these benefits. Sobriety takes work, much of it not easy or pleasant to go through. But these benefits are available to you if you keep at it.
You need support, sometimes a program, and almost certainly a good counselor to help you navigate this new sober life.
I wish I could promise that if you don’t drink for four months or six months of twelve, then you’ll have reached some magical number where all your hopes and dreams come true.
It doesn’t work that way. Some people get there faster than others.
Just know that you can get there and the Soberish community is here to support you.
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