Life After Addiction: What Living Sober Would Look Like

Life After Addiction

This page does not provide medical advice

Written by Elevate Addiction Services | ©2020 Elevate Addiction Services | All Rights Reserved

What would your life look like?

If you could put down drugs.
Say ‘no’ to alcohol.
Be the person you daydream about being.

Maybe you have tried to break your addiction but weren’t able to kick it on your own.

Two things keep people trapped in addiction: physical dependence and psychological dependence.

  • Physical dependence is when your body is dependent on the substance to keep functioning and avoid withdrawal symptoms.
  • Psychological dependence is when you’re afraid to quit drinking/using because as much as it’s hurting your life, the idea of being sober is even worse.

This concept can be challenging to understand for people who haven’t struggled with substance abuse. They see all the problems addiction can cause and think that surely nothing can be worse than that experience.

Sure, sometimes it’s the physical dependency keeping people hooked. But many people start taking drugs to escape part of their life that they can’t face, can’t handle, or feel they can’t take on sober.

Don’t Let Fear Keep You From Starting Over

What if you were to let it all go and start over?

Thinking about this may inspire hopeful dreams of what could be.
It could just as quickly inspire fear of losing what you have.

You might ask yourself one or more of the following questions:

  • Will your family still love you if they find out you’re a closet alcoholic?
  • Will your pot-smoking buddies still want to hang out with you if you’re sober? Will you want to hang out with them when they’re high, and you’re not?
  • Will you lose your job if your boss learns that your “vacation” is a trip to rehab?

Letting Go and Starting Fresh

By default, human beings are wired to fear loss. We hold on tightly to what we have, even if what we have isn’t that great, because, hey, at least we have something.

The hard fact is that getting clean and sober isn’t only about physical detoxification, as many rehab programs would have you believe.

Recovery also involves psychological detox: a whole-life detox, if you will. Which comes with a lot of letting go.

There’s a famous saying: Good is the enemy of great.

If good were good enough for you, you probably wouldn’t be where you’re at now. You deserve better. You deserve great.

Having excellent means letting go of good, letting go of OK, letting go of “well, at least I have something.”

The natural fear humans have of letting go is that they’ll end up with nothing. But that’s not what happens. Letting go of everything, and starting over means you have a clean slate.

It means there’s nothing to hold you back from going after what you want. It means that anything is possible.

And the fantastic thing is, once you let go of all that other stuff and start fresh, you can still look back and see what you had that was great, that did matter, that was worth keeping.

Find Your “Why”

Studies have shown that knowing your ‘why’ for getting sober can help people achieve their long-term recovery goals. Reigniting a passion can help with this. 

Maybe it’s a hobby you abandoned in high school. Perhaps it’s a relationship that was amazing until your addiction screwed things up.

Maybe it’s a dream you always had but didn’t have the guts to pursue. Whatever it is for you, there’s something fantastic you want, and that is meant to be yours.

Once you realize what it is, and when you’re sober and have your head on straight, you can go after it. So go ahead, use your addiction as an excuse to wipe the slate clean.

Use rehab as a way to find out what you really want in life and how to get it.

Yeah, you’re going to have to be willing to clean house and let some stuff go. But what you replace it with will be infinitely better.

Here are a couple of real-life stories from people in recovery who have discovered new lives for themselves once they finally admitted there was a problem and made a commitment to change it.

Julie’s Story

In her college years, Julie had three identities: the studious pupil at school, the good daughter at home, and the party girl on the weekends.

It was necessary to keep her weekend activities carefully separated from her work and home life since she often made decisions she wasn’t proud of while drinking and partying.

She felt that she always stopped short of addiction because she had rules to stay safe and keep things under control.

However, bit by bit, things started going too far, like waking up in a strange house and not knowing how she got there or who she was with. Her aching nose from snorting drugs was also an eye-opener.

The real wake-up call came when she woke up one morning to discover that she had written a suicide note the night before.

At this point, she was married to a husband who loved her unconditionally. And they had a child whom she loved dearly, so she was shocked to discover the suicide note when she was sober.

She couldn’t ignore the problem anymore, and she committed to recovery.

The Day Everything Changed

Julie was three weeks sober when she was in a severe car accident and suffered physical injury and brain damage. Unable to work or care for her family, Julie had no choice but to focus entirely on her healing.

“Although I had given up alcohol, I still had so much ego. I defined myself by my career and money. The accident showed me that I needed deeper recovery, not just giving up booze,”
“I lost my entire career, but I gained the opportunity to build a new me and love the new me. And now I own three companies.” — Julie

Today, Julie shares tips on “finding the joys in life while living straight up” at

Thomas’ Story

Thomas’ polysubstance abuse started with marijuana at age 15, which helped ease the anxieties of social awkwardness and academic challenges.

As a rock band member, Thomas considered drugs not only acceptable but cool, and he found that being under the influence helped him feel good about whatever music he created and quieted his doubts and self-consciousness.

Later, he received an injury while riding a dirt bike and became addicted to the prescribed Vicodin pain medication.

Then he found a psychiatrist willing to prescribe him Xanax and ADHD medications, and eventually began drinking.

When Thomas finally hit rock bottom, he realized that he needed to let go of everything and start with a clean slate.

“I let go of the way I dressed, let go of all friends associated with, I changed my self-image … I completely reinvented myself,” said Thomas. “I started to become more responsible for myself, more self-sufficient.
“Now, I feel so much calmer. I feel that I’m free from this terrible burden. It’s amazing. So much has changed. It’s hard to explain.”

Thomas Today

Now Thomas works at Elevate as the Rehabilitation Supervisor and as a one-on-one counselor. It’s his way of giving back to others who can relate to his troubled past.

“What really helped me let go was taking responsibility for my actions and cleaning my slate with myself,” he said. “Journaling my transgressions and really seeing the magnitude of what I had done, getting honest with myself about that, helped me let go of the life I had once lived.”

In September, Thomas will be five years sober.

How Will Your Story Go?

What’s your story? What do you need to let go of? Why are you hesitating?

It is possible to create a life you are excited about—a life that doesn’t require substances to feel normal but fulfilling and meaningful all on its own.

If you or your loved one is struggling with substance abuse, contact Elevate Addiction Services. We are here to help you achieve your dreams.

Medically Reviewed by

Scott Friend, MSW, M.S.

December 1, 2020

Overcome Addiction at Elevate Addiction Services
Elevate is currently offering immediate enrollment in inpatient, outpatient, or telehealth programs. Reach out today to learn more.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Table of Contents

Jump to a Section

Article Contents

Treatment Resources

Related Links