What Keeps Us Sober
Being an active member of a recovery community, I watch a lot of people come in and out. Unfortunately, for as many people that enter recovery, very few stick around. Just when I think, “Yup, that guys got what it takes!” he disappears and is never heard from again. From an outsider’s perspective, those who stay sober seem to do so almost at random. So, I find myself asking the question, “What keeps us sober?”
I’ve drawn from my own personal story in recovery and asked some friends how they’ve achieved long-term sobriety. Let’s be clear, this is not a piece on how to stay sober. I’m simply curious what members of the recovery community do to stay sober.
For some, sobriety almost appears to be easy: “Don’t drink and go to meetings. I try not to complicate things.” This person in particular has over 20 years of sobriety. I might add that he also participates in loads of sober social events and surrounds himself with lots of friends, who are in recovery as well.
For me, this is merely one piece of the puzzle. In addition to regular attendance at 12 step meetings, helping to organize and run these meetings has been a big part of my recovery.
“I participate in recreational activities that enhance my spiritual growth.” One of my co-workers strengthens his spiritual connection during his time in the ocean surfing. Surfing has provided him with an opportunity to stay grounded and rooted in the present moment. It can be hard to remain present in early sobriety: many struggle with the shame of the past or the nervous anticipation of the future. Surfing, as well as other recreational activities, can help keep you grounded in the present moment.
Physical health seems to be a huge part of people’s lives that are experiencing long term sobriety. If you feel good about yourself, if you feel good about your body, you may be more inclined to feel good about your sobriety.
In addition to recreational activity, daily mediation is another way to stay grounded. There are many forms of meditation, but the best way to get going is to start simple. Find a quiet time during the day in a spot where you can sit comfortably and practice sitting in silence. With your eyes closed, practice mindful breathing: inhale through your nostrils and exhale through your mouth while paying close attention to your breath. Try this for a couple minutes at first and then try adding more time as you get comfortable with your meditation.
My biggest piece of advice is to not try it alone. Getting sober and staying sober means building a circle of support. It means asking for help, being open and willing to change, and taking direction from others.
Honor yourself and your process. Love who you are, what you do, and whom you’re around. Learn to love yourself, so you can love others. A huge part of recovery is paying it forward. When I got sober, there were people there to help. Now it’s my turn to pass that on to someone else who needs it. Sobriety is a gift, and if you want to keep that gift, you have to give it away.
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