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I have worked solely with young adults over the past 12 years of my career and have had the joy and pleasure of experiencing many clients that are enjoying the benefits of long-term recovery. After interviewing several of my previous clients about what they learned following one year of sobriety, I summarized their responses into 12 reoccurring themes.

1. The more I practice doing something the more normal it becomes.
Even sobriety. Even when it seems like it will never get better or easier it does.

2. I’ve learned who my real friends are.
These may be different then the friends I partied with. Some of my “party friends” still love and support me but they support and love the sober me. In fact, some of these friends even love and support me more than they did before.

3. There are so many people out there who suffer from or are affected by addiction.
It’s interesting how when I choose to be sober my eyes opened to see how many people related to me and are so similar. Recovery creates an immediate connection to other recovering addicts, an immediate mutual understanding and respect.

4. Honesty is always best.
Honesty with myself is key but is also applies to my relationships with the people that are meaningful to me in my life. The more people know what is going on, the more support and accountability I have.

5. A parent’s love is unconditional.
Even when I have felt undeserving of their love they are there for me. Sobriety strengthens those bonds and helps me appreciate the sacrifices my parents have made to support me.

6. Looking like an idiot at a party or on the dance floor is okay.
At first, going to a concert or a social event was hard. Dancing sober was awkward initially. Now I just look around and realize that everyone is a) drunk and dancing like an idiot and b) no one knows that I am sober and no one cares. I’m more comfortable just being me and not caring what others think.

7. I’ve learned how to cope with feelings instead of use to avoid them.
Tough emotions can be hard to deal with. Feeling things isn’t always pleasant or fun but in the long run it is so much healthier and more productive and the plus side is I can also feel the full extent of my positive emotions when I’m sober.

8. My relationships have become real and meaningful.
Most of my relationships when I was using were just superficial. Some people were just my drinking or using buddies, nothing more. Relationship maintenance also becomes a lot simpler when I am not blacking out and making decisions that have a negative impact on my friends and family.

9. Balance is key.
I’ve come to learn that people still genuinely want me around and enjoy my company even as a sober person. Sometimes being social can be more challenging sober but connection with others is critical. Maintaining a balance socially, educationally/occupationally and spiritually makes all the difference.

10. Not using can be hard and frustrating at times, especially in college.
I’ve learned to be okay admitting this and struggling with it if I acknowledge and face it. It’s normal and okay to struggle with this, as long as I face it somehow. Whether this is talking to a friend, a sponsor or writing about it.

11. I have more money!
Using drugs and alcohol is expensive. Not only that but using decreases motivation and results in bad choices that can lead to losing employment or paying consequences through the legal system. Sobriety puts more money in my pocket and helps me sustain my responsibilities as an adult.

12. Sober or not, bad days are still going to be a part of my life.
The difference now is they are easier to deal with and as I mature they become easier to navigate over time. My worst days sober are still significantly better than my worst days using.

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