Becoming a sober adult at 21 has been anything but an easy journey. While my friends are just starting to discover the world of drinking, drugs, and going out, I’m putting the pieces of my life back together after struggling for years with substance abuse. And while I may occasionally get FOMO, for the most part, I’ve found that I don’t miss drugs and alcohol at all. Here’s why.
1. I see everything for what it is
Going to a bar, club, or party when you’re drunk, high, or both seems like the best thing ever. You feel the music flood through your body and the lights look otherworldly and everything literally everyone says is the funniest thing you’ve heard, maybe ever. Going to a venue sober? Very different. You’re able to observe the experience for what it is, without the crutch of drugs and alcohol. And it isn’t as great as you thought it was. This doesn’t just apply to going out, however; I’ve found that in every other aspect of my life, I’m able to see things for what they are. That guy I was so obsessed with wasn’t that special. My excessive partying wasn’t so cute. And life just wasn’t that great when I was high and drunk all the time.
2. I don’t have to deal with hangovers or physical illness from drinking and using
I can’t express how nice it is to go to bed in your right mind and wake up feeling rested after getting a full night’s sleep. Gone are the days of waking up nauseous with a pounding headache; and I couldn’t be happier. I’m able to get out of bed at a reasonable hour and start my day without having a foggy head or feeling physically ill after a long night out. And even if I am up late the previous night, the worst that happens is I’m a little tired the next day; I’m not hungover or in pain from drinking or using excessively.
3. I’m healthier than I have been in years
When I was using, exercise and health were the furthest things from my mind. I could easily spend all day and night getting high and drinking, eating whatever my heart desired. I was always too fucked up to exercise, too out of it to even move from the couch or my bed or wherever I happened to be posted. As a sober adult, I’m more mindful of the food I put into my body; I don’t binge on junk and see food as fuel rather than as something to immediately satisfy a craving. I’ve taken up running again and can enjoy taking walks around my neighborhood. I’ve replaced substances with exercise and can see and feel the difference in my body and mind. Which brings me to my next point.
4. I’m comfortable in my body and mind
One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that people with substance abuse problems don’t use to “let loose” or “have a little fun.” We use to disassociate, to sever the connection between our body and mind. We’re so uncomfortable with our own feelings there’s no possible way that we’d be able to just… sit with them. That isn’t to say that that’s an easy thing to do sober. I still have my bad days. But now I’m able to process my thoughts and feelings in a more productive way. I’ve found that I’m simply so much happier than I used to be in my own head. And with that comes being comfortable in my body, something I never thought would happen.
5. I don’t do impulsive things that I’ll later regret
I.e., drunk texting, hooking up with someone I shouldn’t, driving under the influence, or practically anything else you can think of. When you’re drunk, everything seems like such a good idea; until you’ve done it and it doesn’t. As a sober adult, I’m able to think things through before acting. My impulsive tendencies have drastically diminished and I’ve found that resisting them is ten times easier sober.
6. I have relationships with people that revolve around more than partying
Nearly all of my social activities pre going sober revolved around getting high or drunk. Hanging out with someone was an invitation to get fucked up that I couldn’t resist. The majority of my friends used, and while some still do, we’re able to do things together that aren’t solely about drinking or doing drugs. Additionally, getting sober has shed light on a lot of problematic and toxic relationships I had with some people (goes along with seeing everything for what it is). A friendship forged off a mutual desire to disassociate from our bodies and minds isn’t a meaningful friendship at all. Now, I’m able to cultivate meaningful relationships with people with similar interests and desires.
7. My emotions are more regulated
As someone who suffers from severe anxiety and depression, this is a big one. Prior to going sober, my emotions were a wreck; I’d be happy when I was high (sometimes) and when I wasn’t, I’d be down in the dumps. My emotions were such a rollercoaster that a lot of the times I had no idea what I was feeling or why. Being a sober adult, I’m better able to identify what I’m feeling and what I can do to improve my mood. Drinking and using might have made things better in the moment, but when I sobered up, I’d always be left with what I had been trying to get away from.
8. I already “sowed my wild oats”
I’m 21 now and started drinking when I was 15. I’ve had 6 years of partying to get out all my wild urges, and by now, I’ve found that I’m tired and want to pursue other things. I had a fake ID for the majority of my teenage years, so I got to fully experience what most of my friends are only now discovering. At 21, bars and clubs aren’t nearly as exciting as they should be as I’m already well aware of what they have to offer. Additionally, I had my fair share of drug experimentation as an adolescent, so I don’t feel the need to try anything new now.
9. I have a clear memory
I wish I could say that I fondly remember my partying days, but the fact of the matter is, I don’t remember the majority of them. I spent many nights drinking and using drugs to the point where I’d black out and would have no recollection of anything that occurred upon waking up. And even if I wasn’t blacking out, a lot of the times my mind was so foggy that it’d be hard to remember exactly what had taken place. As a sober adult, I’m able to clearly remember and enjoy my days, something that I’m beyond grateful for.
10. I’m not hurting the people I love with my substance abuse
In sobriety, we’re supposed to make a list of all the people we’ve harmed and make amends to each and every one of them. I haven’t gotten to that step yet, but I’m working on it as I go. There are countless people I hurt when I was using, from relatives to friends, but nobody more than my parents. What was so clearly destructive to them was “just having fun” to me; something I didn’t see until I cut drugs and alcohol out from my life completely. Being sober now, I’m able to work on repairing the harm I’ve done and let my loved ones know how deeply sorry I am and how much I care for them.