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A lot of people will say that one of the hardest things about sobriety is learning how to have free time. The time that would typically be spent using and getting high is suddenly an intimidating emptiness. For many people, free time is dangerous because it allows them to dwell on missing the high, craving the high. As I’ve witnessed too many times, this can often lead to relapse. So how do you fill a void in your life? Simple: fill it with something else, something healthier.
Since getting sober, I’ve realized getting high is a state of mind. I would consider getting high to be anything that alters your state of mind in a seemingly positive way—anything that makes you feel above your average self. Alcohol used to do this for me, but since getting sober two years ago, I’ve had to find a number of replacements. The upside of these replacements? They don’t negatively affect my decision-making abilities or get me into trouble with the law or anyone else. The downside? Well, there really isn’t one.
1. Running/lifting/exercise in general. While I’ve yet to experience that runner’s high (I mean, come on, when done running five miles, most people just wanna curl up and cry), exercise still puts me in a clear frame of mind that not much else does. I feel empowered and confident afterwards, much like I felt when I was drinking, but this is actually real. It’s a very healthy time filler, but also has the danger of becoming a cross-addiction—in other words, a replacement for the addiction you are fighting. As with everything in life, moderation is key.
2. Reading. I really, really missed books when I was drinking. Between homework and required reading, I never made time to read for fun. Any free time was spent drinking or recovering from drinking. Now that I’m sober (and no longer have homework), I’ve rediscovered the world of books. They’re so simple to get lost in. Hours can pass when I’m reading and I barely notice—much like a drunken haze, except I’m taking in valuable information instead of making a fool of myself. I think it’s clear which is the better choice.
3. Spending time with the people I love. Sometimes I’m just watching TV with my family, or eating dinner, and it crosses my mind how lucky I am to have people who love me unconditionally. I, as do many people, too often take that for granted when so many people don’t have love like that in their lives.
4. A real relationship. There’s not much that compares to looking at a person when they’re performing a mundane task, such as washing dishes, and literally feeling love fill you up and almost well over. I never had this until I got sober, and I still have trouble believing the relationship I am in really exists. I have trouble believing anything that’s not a drug can make me feel the way a loving relationship does, but it’s true. A real relationship has made me confident, happy, content in my own skin—all things I searched for through drinking before. Now, I don’t have to.