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Every July 4, Americans celebrate their national freedom and independence. Recovery is about celebrating freedom and independence, too—only in this case, it’s freedom from drugs and alcohol, and the celebration can be both daily and all-year-round. Freedom from drugs and alcohol isn’t just about sobriety, after all; and if there’s anything I want clients to know, it’s that freedom from addiction is a life that’s full of people, purpose and passion (which beats drugs and alcohol any day).
On that note, I’m kicking off this month with “10 reasons to pursue freedom from addiction.” (Of course there are many more reasons to be in recovery, and I hope you’ll share yours with the rest of us!) If you’re in doubt about whether recovery is worth it, just affix this handy list to your refrigerator, hang them from your windshield mirror or slip them into your wallet as a quick reference guide in times of need:
- Experiencing sober friendships – There are very few things more enriching in life than the gift of authentic relationships with friends. These are the people whom you can count on one hand, and who know and love you as you are—not as you think you need to be in order to earn their friendship or be in their company. In sobriety, you get to experience the powerful and transformative truth that you are worth knowing and loving just as you are, without having to hide behind drugs or alcohol.
- Feeling your emotions – Substance abuse often begins as an effort to escape hard or painful emotions, but feeling your emotions is an invaluable opportunity to experience one very important dimension of being alive and being human.
- Being part of a group like AA – Many people who have been sober for years and years will tell you that they have come to regard their addiction as a blessing. Why? Because it has connected them with others in similar shoes through 12-step fellowships like Alcoholics Anonymous. The mutual honesty and love and support that you’ll encounter in these groups are not replicable anywhere else.
- Better physical health – Quitting substance abuse will exponentially improve your physical health. That’s an indisputable truth based on hard science. Often, too, a healthy recovery lifestyle involves other components such as regular exercise and a nutritious diet, which only further contributes to more wellbeing.
- Learning how to work with your thoughts and choose good ones – Plato once wrote that, “an unexamined life is not worth living.” There are many people who, by the same definition, haven’t really lived. Recovery, on the other hand, is about paying attention to the thoughts that drive our choices, and digging beneath the surface of the assumptions that influence our behavior. By Plato’s definition, that’s what it means to truly live!
- Greater peacefulness – 12-step lessons like self-acceptance, service to others, and daily surrender to a Higher Power are tried and true pathways to a greater sense of peace. Drugs and alcohol, on the other hand, are at best fleeting mirages of peace, insofar as they can only construct a false reality that’s only temporarily free of anxiety.
- Connection with a Higher Power – This spiritual benefit (to working a 12-step program) can infuse your daily life with more gratitude and a greater sense of purpose.
- The gratification of giving back – Members of AA and other 12-step groups often talk about how service to others was central in their recovery, but it’s also the case that performing acts of service helps you feel good.
- Greater self-awareness – Drugs and alcohol are an almost surefire way to ensure that you never truly get to know yourself; recovery, on the other hand, requires greater self-discovery, which in turn is a pathway to living more fully and with greater contentment in the present.
- Deeper connection with others – Whereas substance abuse will isolate and alienate you from others, recovery will build bridges that connect you with others, deepening your reserves of empathy and compassion.