Mental Illness and Addiction: Which Came First?
It was only in recovery that I truly understood the correlation between mental illness and addiction and was able to fully recover.
One of the best things about sobriety is that it does not end with cutting drugs and alcohol out of our lives. Yes, you heard that correctly. Getting sober isn’t just about abstinence from alcohol and drugs. It’s so much more than that. Sobriety translates into our everyday lives. What do I mean by that? I mean it’s a ripple effect and can affect everything and anything we do. Here’s how.
When we get sober we begin to learn about ourselves. We learn about the good, bad, and the ugly. We get to analyze our behavioral patterns, adjust our attitudes, and begin a new way of life. The best part of self-development is that it’s ongoing. Sobriety teaches us how to move through the world as the best version of ourselves. We learn new coping mechanisms, we rediscover our morals and values, and we strive to be functioning members of society.
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When I was drinking and using, I was constantly worried about the future and the past. I was concerned with partying, where to go out, and who to hang with. I couldn’t wait for the next thing to pump up my endorphins. I didn’t understand anything about living in the moment or mindfulness because I was on the constant search for ways of getting out of the moment. I needed to feel numb and I didn’t enjoy being present. Sobriety helps me understand the benefits of living in the moment, of being present, of finding joy and gratitude in each moment of my life.
Before sobriety, I didn’t really understand the concept of gratitude. Sure, I felt grateful for my life, my upbringing, and friends and family, but I took a lot for granted. I didn’t understand that gratitude can be a daily practice. I didn’t understand the depth of gratefulness until I was grateful for waking up sober. Today, I have a daily gratitude practice where I write a list of things I’m grateful for and share it with other women in recovery. Even on bad days, I feel grateful for being and alive and being sober.
I never considered myself to be someone who didn’t take responsibility for their life and their actions. It wasn’t until I got sober and started looking at myself and my past that I realized I often deflected responsibility and wasn’t willing to look at my side of the street. Today, I can say that I am a flawed human being just like everybody else. I make mistakes, I learn, and I change and evolve. I no longer think the universe is out to get me or that I have the words “bad luck,” written across my forehead. I understand what I can and cannot control, and I know taking responsibility for my actions is half the battle.
Self-care is another concept that was foreign to me during active addiction. I had heard the phrase and thought it meant treating yourself to massages and pedicures. Who has time for that? I always used excuses like not having time or money to do any kind of self-care. I was also unaware that self-care is actually taking care of yourself in many ways – including having boundaries, getting enough sleep, eating good food, recognizing and honoring your feelings, and taking breaks from work and exercise when they are needed. For me, the highest form of self-care is sobriety. After that, it’s a daily practice of listening to my intuition and doing the next right thing. Self-care can include massages and pedicures, but it doesn’t have to. Maybe self-care for you is reading a chapter in your book every night and ordering take-out once a week. The beauty of it is that it’s different for everyone.
Sobriety does not end with putting down the bottle or flushing the pills. It begins with those important tasks. But sobriety is also an ongoing process that affects every aspect of our lives. It’s how we learn to navigate our emotions, the ups and downs of life, and discover healthy coping mechanisms. We shed old behavioral patterns that no longer serve us and we begin to develop in our true selves. Sobriety definitely has a ripple effect that translates into our everyday life, which is a beautiful thing.
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