Life After Addiction: What Living Sober Would Look Like

Article Contents

Life After Addiction

Article Contents

If you were to give up your addiction and start over with a new life, what would it look like? Are you afraid it would look too much like your old life? Maybe that’s why you’re still struggling with addiction.

There are two things that 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.

That’s hard for people who have never been addicted to wrap their heads around. They see what a mess addiction makes of people’s lives and think that surely nothing can be worse than that.

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

What if you were to let it all go and start over? What would that life look like?

Thinking about this may inspire hopeful dreams of what could be. And it could just as easily 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 really 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 that.

The hard fact is that getting clean and sober isn’t just about physical detoxification. It also involves psychological detox: whole-life detox, if you will. And that means being willing to let 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. And having great means letting go of good, letting go of OK, letting go of “well, at least I have this.”

The natural fear humans have of letting go is that they’ll end up with nothing. But that’s not what really 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 really want. It means that anything is possible.

And the amazing 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 really was great, that did matter, that was worth keeping. Maybe it’s a hobby you abandoned in high school. Maybe 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. We’ve seen it hundreds of times with the people who have come through our doors and become our extended family. We can’t wait to see it happen for you too.

Not willing to take our word for it? Here are a couple of real-life stories from people in recovery who have discovered new lives for themselves once they finally admitted they had a problem and made a commitment to recovery.

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

Bit by bit, however, things started going too far, like waking up in a strange house and not knowing how she got there or who the other people were. Her nose damage from drug use was also an eye-opener.

But 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.

At this point, she couldn’t ignore the problem anymore, and she made the commitment to recovery.

Dramatic Turn Of Events

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

“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.”

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 member of a rock band, 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 had an injury while riding a dirt bike, and became addicted to the Vicodin pain medication he was prescribed. Then he found a psychiatrist willing to prescribe him Xanax and ADHD medications, and eventually began drinking alcohol as well.

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 my past addiction days, 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 own 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.

Your Story

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

If you’ve been to rehab, what happened when you let go of your old life? What have you learned that you wish you knew earlier?

This page does not provide medical advice.
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