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8 Things You Can Learn From People Who Have Been Sober Over a Decade


soberAlcoholics Anonymous likes to remind new members that the person longest sober is the one who got up earliest that morning. This observation is a reminder to those in this group that it is always ‘one day at a time’ and, it’s not so much about how long it has been since your last drink, but how close you are to the next one. This humility in regards to long-term sobriety does make a lot of sense, but this is not to say nothing can be learned from those free of addiction for many years. In fact, these individuals can be an invaluable resource and can be a wonderful source for advice, support, and inspiration. Here are just some of the things you can learn from people who have been sober for more than a decade.

1. Being Sober Doesn’t Mean You Get a Free Pass in Life

Giving up alcohol is a major accomplishment, meaning that things should be generally easier for you in the future. It is important to be realistic though because getting sober does not mean getting a free pass; you can expect to face the same difficulties as everyone else. Plenty of examples abound of individuals becoming sober and having had to deal with terrible tragedy in their life. You need to keep in mind that the goal of sobriety is not to escape the vicissitudes of life but to be able to learn how to deal with whatever is going on in your life. In other words, you cannot make the waves go away but you can learn to surf.

2. Emotional Sobriety Can Be Just As Important As Physical Sobriety

If you stop drinking but make no further effort to improve your life then it is doubtful that you would find real happiness. The problem is that there would have been reasons why you turned to alcohol in the beginning and these reasons will still be there when you sober up. For many people, the initial attraction of alcohol is that it allows them to escape their feelings and problems by creating a sense of numbness – this is a type of coping strategy. If you do not develop better coping strategies in recovery then it will be hard for you to make any real progress in your new life. Emotional sobriety means that you are able to manage your feelings, which can be just as important as physical sobriety.

3. Helping Others Is One of the Most Powerful Things You Can Do To Strengthen Your Sobriety

Alcoholics Anonymous like to tell people ‘you need to give it away to keep it’. The benefit of helping others is that it boosts your self-esteem, meaning that you become less self-absorbed and more compassionate. Helping others is also a way for you to give back; it can be incredibly satisfying to know that you are making a positive contribution in the world. This type of volunteering does not have to involve helping alcoholics but, if you belong to a fellowship, there will be plenty of opportunity for this kind of service. One of the benefits of spending time with those struggling to get sober is it can be a powerful reminder of what could be waiting for you if you returned to that life.

4. You Must Never Become Complacent

One of the experiences that those in long-term recovery have likely endured is watching close friends relapse. This could happen with those having been sober for decades. It matters not how long you stay sober – the risk of relapse never really goes away. In recovery, you are only ever one drink away from being a drunk. Old-timers have seen the dangers of complacency first-hand so can encourage you to stay on track.

5. It is Up to You to Get the Most Out of this New Life

If you expect life to be perfect just because you stopped drinking, you are setting yourself up for a fall. This is an incredibly unrealistic expectation because life just does not work like that. All you do when you quit alcohol is to stop shooting yourself in the foot; it means you remove an obstacle to your happiness, but it does not guarantee this happiness. If you want to get the most out of your new life, you will need to put in the effort. There are no real short cuts but, at least when you are sober, you will have the chance to make progress towards your dreams.

6. You Need Other People to Succeed

Trying to be a ‘one man show’ all the time may mean that the best you can hope for in life is mediocrity. Even if you look at successful entrepreneurs, you will find that these individuals are surrounded by a team doing most of the work. The problem with trying to do everything yourself is that it assumes you are skilled at every task; however, this is highly unlikely. If you are afraid to ask for help when you need it, you can look forward to a great deal of unnecessary suffering and frustration.

7. Humility is a Vital Component of Successful Recovery

Those so full of pride that they are unable to admit that they are wrong can really struggle in recovery. You will almost certainly take wrong turns, so it is vital that you have the willingness to admit to such mistakes. If you associate being right all the time with your self-esteem, it will be harder to admit to your faults. The risk is that if this does not happen, when you fall into a hole you will just keep on digging.

8. Successful Recovery Will Require Faith

There are likely to be times in recovery when the future looks very uncertain; it may even be that all the signs are suggesting disaster ahead. In order to make it through these tough times, you will need to develop faith. It is not about any type of religious faith, although that may be a great source of strength for you. The type of faith that is being talked about here is more about the belief that by trying to do the right things in life, you will reap the right results.

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