By Daniel D. Maurer
I remember what I was thinking when I first went into inpatient treatment:
I’m never going to have fun again the rest. of. my. life.
I had been arrested, first for a DUI in late December of 2010, then for multiple felony trespassing counts, I had committed while in a blackout from benzos and alcohol.
I thought my life was over.
In a way, it was. But the life that was “over” turned out to be one of the greatest blessings I could ever have imagined because I got a new life that is far superior to the old one.
Many people first entering a professional, evidence-based treatment center naturally feel anxious. After all, no one believes that his or her drug or alcohol use would have led to such a drastic step. I can tell you as a fellow person in long-term sobriety that it’s not as bad as you think it will be. In fact, it may be just the step that allows you (or a loved one) to finally discover a purpose and meaning for your life.
The benefits of recovery far, far outweigh the negatives you imagine you may experience. I won’t lie to you—it is work. But the positives are, frankly, quite amazing. The recovery life is worth it . . . because you are worth it!
Here’s a short list of four incredible, knockout, super-awesome rewards of a drug- or alcohol-free life.
You Get Your Health Back: Physically, Mentally, and Spiritually
One of the steps many rehabs will take is to first snap a photo of you when you’re admitted into an effective addiction rehabilitation program. I attended several rodeos before I finally got sober for the long haul, and my pic was snapped at every one of them.
You know what? I looked like shit!
I don’t know if it’s the distorting effect of alcohol or drugs that changed my perception of myself or it was simply because I didn’t want to look at myself in the mirror. I had become bloated, puffy-faced, and sickly looking. My skin was gray and I smelled awful too. (Okay. That last part my wife told me about.)
The fact of the matter is that drugs and alcohol are extremely hard on your body. I know, right? Duh! After having abused pain pills, benzos, and alcohol for over ten years, my body was simply shot.
The big surprise? Today, I’m at my ideal weight. I have energy again. I can concentrate. My face de-puffed. I got better. I should let you know that I’m 46 years old, too. If you’re younger, it will happen even faster.
Added to the fact that I was no longer puking blood or sleeping half the day, I feel as if I have completely recovered my physical health. It’s just one of the great benefits of sobriety!
The other bonus is that I reconnected with my spiritual center to find purpose and meaning. I’ll cover that below. But wait. There’s more!
You Begin With Focusing on “You,” But That Soon Turns Outward to Help Others
One of the things I often hear “in the rooms” of the Twelve Step program I still keep actively attending is that first, it’s a “ME program.” Later on, it turns into a “WE program.”
When a person is first getting sober, it’s important to work on yourself to clean your side of the street, and above all take the action necessary to remain sober. The difficulty with a chronic illness like addiction is that you are actually your own worst enemy. It’s the decisions you make that get you into trouble. That’s why a 12 Step modality to addiction treatment uses the concept of Higher Power. It’s the belief that something external to you that has your best interests in mind can get you better.
Eventually, we move into action. That means we direct our response outward, to helping other addicts and alcoholics discover what recovery is all about.
For me, that’s been an amazing benefit I had never conceived in before I quit. I just didn’t realize how wonderful it could be to help other people. For sure, it’s frustrating at times. Other times, it’s tragic—I’ve lost two guys I was working with. One died after he fell and hit his head while drinking. The other died of a heroin overdose.
Still, the community is worthwhile. I have lifelong friends and a widespread, nationwide network of other people who have gotten sober.
You Never Have to Worry About How Messed Up You Are, Because You Aren’t
Oh boy. This is a big one!
It’s really simple too. There’s not much else I can’t write about it other than I never worry whether I’ve had too much to drink. (Not that I was that concerned about it before—I regret all the times I drove drunk or high.) Still. Big bonus.
Your head is clear. You are free!
Also . . . Next morning regrets? Zilcho.
Purpose & Meaning: It’s Where It’s At, Baby
This last point is the one I would like to spend a little more time with because it’s a biggie.
My dad gave me a gift of two books while I was in treatment. One was a graphic novel that ultimately inspired me to write Sobriety: A Graphic Novel. The other was Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl was a Jewish neurologist and psychiatrist from Austria. He was also a Holocaust survivor. His magnum opus was the book I had read.
In it, he spells out how when he was in the camps, he noticed that people who had discovered a purpose and meaning for their existence were more likely to survive. After the war, he developed his discoveries into a form of psychotherapy called logotherapy, or “meaning therapy.”
Simply put, the book was earth shattering for me. I had become despondent with my life and couldn’t see the light that purpose and meaning would have given me. I just didn’t see the purpose for any of it! So, I wallowed in depression and drank and used drugs. My downfall is what led me to believe that life really is worth living—that I have value in sharing my story to transform other people’s lives.
Your purpose and meaning, no doubt, will be different. That’s fine. What’s important (and the biggest bonus of a life in recovery) is that you will see value in whatever you choose to do to ultimately make a difference in the world.
Recovery. It’s totally worth it. And the best is yet to come!
If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction and need treatment, we would love to talk with you and see how we can help you. PLEASE CALL 844.310.5975. Our counselors are available to answer your questions.
Daniel D. Maurer is a freelance writer openly living in long-term recovery. He is the author of Sobriety: A Graphic Novel, a Hazelden Publishing, youth and young adult resource. Daniel is currently working on his fourth book, which covers the topic of resiliency. He lives with his family in Saint Paul, Minnesota. For more information on Dan and his work, visit his website and blog at Transformation-is-Real.com/Blog.