It took me well into my first year of sobriety to figure out sobriety is so much more than just quitting drugs and alcohol. Sobriety isn’t just a total revamp of your life, it’s a progression of your soul, and a way into your mind. Sobriety is living awake and doing all the things you need to do every day to stay that way. It’s not unusual that most of us feel alive and free for the first time in our lives once we get sober. While not ingesting drugs and alcohol is the first step to sobriety, other actions must be taken in order to sustain a healthy and happy life in recovery. Over the last 5 years I’ve done this by taking care of my soul, mind, and body and making my sobriety holistic.
In my experience basing my sobriety on only one thing – only elimination of alcohol and drugs, just AA, just yoga, or just therapy, doesn’t work for me. It’s a combination of things that address the three facets of my recovery – mind, body, and soul, that keeps me stable and healthy. A holistic approach to sobriety means you treat the whole person and not just one piece of them, or one behavior. Addressing a person’s symptoms or behaviors only is a recipe for disaster. A holistic recovery believes that you need to address the underlying issues that led to destructive behaviors in the first place. Lack of healthy coping mechanisms, environmental toxins or environmental trauma, a lack of spiritual grounding, and emotional imbalance can all lead to addictive behaviors that become unmanageable.
The first part of my recovery that I addressed was my mind. I fed my mind with books and reading all about alcohol misuse, substance use disorders, and sobriety. I had to educate myself on everything I was feeling. I had so many questions about what was normal and what was not, the severity of my blackouts and hangovers, and why I just couldn’t moderate even though others could. Reading helped me understand that I wasn’t alone in my feelings, that there are millions of people in this world who also struggle with alcohol and drug misuse and that drugs are designed to be addictive. I have learned that the society we live in revolves around alcohol and advertisements are aimed at people just like me. Literature and continuing staying educated on substance use disorders and sobriety have become an integral part of my holistic recovery.
Taking care of my body became one of my top priorities in sobriety. I abused my body religiously while drinking and using. I didn’t nourish it, I didn’t rest it, and I didn’t give much thought to the damage I had done. In sobriety I’ve found a workout routine that has become an integral part of my everyday life. CrossFit has become something I not only excel at, but is an outlet for my emotions, a natural creator of dopamine, and another place where I can go to be alone with myself and my mind. It’s also exercise that is healthy for my body. Additionally, I’ve gone back to eating three meals a day and sleeping 6 to 8 hours at night. I understand the importance of rest and listening to my body’s needs. I’ve also developed a relationship of self-love, something I never had during my drinking years. Operating from a place of self-love allows me to choose better decisions for myself and my life.
One of the biggest changes I’ve made in sobriety is healing my soul. I never considered myself to be spiritual during my addiction. I laughed at religion and spirituality and cringed at the word, “God.” I didn’t think any of it applied to me. I didn’t think I needed to take care of my soul or heal from anything. It wasn’t until I got sober that I realized how much pain I was in. That’s when I knew I needed to do some healing in the form of soul work. Journaling, writing, trauma therapy, and Kundalini yoga are soul tools that I use today in my recovery. Each one helps me uncover why I drank, why I’m sober, and how to heal from the trauma that I’ve experienced throughout my life. Developing a relationship with my inner guide and a connection with the universe through yoga and meditation has been a game changer for me. It has brought my holistic recovery together.
Having sobriety that ignores one aspect of your life isn’t cohesive. You might be able to survive by just cutting out drugs and alcohol, but you won’t thrive. That’s why it’s so important to address the feelings, triggers, and events that led up to your addictive behaviors and carve a pathway to a new life that includes a mental and spiritual overhaul. Quitting drinking and using drugs has been the turning point in my life and has allowed me to become a better version of myself. Holistic sobriety has given me the power to take care of me, to address my mind, body, and spiritual needs and to thrive as a human being.
Kelly Fitzgerald is a sober writer based in Southwest Florida who is best known for her personal blog The Adventures of a Sober Señorita. Her work has been published across the web including sites like The Huffington Post, Thought Catalog, Ravishly, SheKnows, Elite Daily, The Fix, Brit + Co, Addiction Unscripted and AfterParty Magazine. She is currently writing a memoir.