10 Things I’ve Learned from Addiction Recovery

Young woman in recovery is enjoying sunrise.

We should all strive to become lifelong learners and some of the most important lessons that a person can learn in life will come from life experience, not a textbook. One of the most educational experiences I have had has come from my journey through addiction recovery and navigating the new world of living a sober lifestyle. Some things I have learned during this process include:

1. It’s OK to take time for yourself.

For some reason, I used to think that taking time for myself meant I was selfish. I don’t really know where this idea came from but I have grown to realize that taking time for myself was the only way I could really focus on getting better. Now that I have put in the work to establish a firm foundation for my recovery I am better able to take time for those I care about, but it is still important to make time for self-care on a regular basis.

2. Healthy boundaries are essential.

Learning how to say no without feeling guilty, setting higher standards and standing up for myself are all things that I have learned are important aspects of maintaining my sobriety. I don’t need to say yes to every invitation and being a “people pleaser” will never make everyone happy. Learning how to establish and maintain healthy boundaries has been one of the most important aspects of my recovery.

3. There is no room for negative influences.

I do not have time or space for people who are constantly negative in my life. If they are family I can love them from a distance but I have decided that I will no longer allow the negativity of others to drag me down. I have had to cut ties with certain people who were a negative influence in my life. At first, this was a difficult process but over time it has created positive change.

4. I am stronger than I thought I was.

Overcoming adversity shows us all how strong we really are. Sure, we all have moments of weakness and times we break down but going through difficult times is what makes a person figure out how much they can endure and what they are really made of. Hard times can either make or break you.

5. Healthy coping mechanisms work much better than I used to think.

When I was drinking to deal with my problems the idea of going for a run to deal with stress seemed ridiculous. Now that I am sober I have learned several different ways to cope with stress in a way that won’t cause mayhem and destruction in my life. The process of learning these new skills may have been uncomfortable in the beginning but over time I have learned that healthy ways of dealing with stress are actually more effective in the long run than drinking ever was.

Smiling young man

6. Forgiveness is key.

Holding onto bitterness, anger, and resentment will eat away at a person. If you are not careful hate unchecked can consume your life and change who you are as a person. I have learned that it is important to not only forgive others but also to forgive myself for my past mistakes. Life is too short to carry the burden of anger and resentment.

7. I’m not “missing out” by making my life better.

In early sobriety, I worried that I was “missing out” by being in rehab and not at social events. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to have fun anymore without drinking alcohol. While I may have missed a few events during my time in treatment, I am able to actually be there for events in my life now that I would have otherwise missed out on due to my drinking. Taking time out for self-improvement is never a waste of time.

8. The more I value myself the more I want to stay sober.

When I was at my lowest low and my drinking was at its worst I did not value myself, my life or my health. I did not love myself and I did not respect myself. Addiction has a way of doing this to people and it is really a very sad thing to endure. The longer I have been sober the more I have learned to value and take care of myself. The more I have learned to look after my health the less I want to poison my body with alcohol.

9. Happiness takes work, and that’s OK.

I used to think that people who were happy were just the lucky ones and I wasn’t really sure how to achieve real peace or an authentic sense of joy. The thing is, it is hard to be happy when life isn’t going well. Real joy takes work because getting your life in order takes effort. Reestablishing habits, routines, and thinking patterns are all things that have contributed to my sobriety. Being happy isn’t always easy and you know what, that’s OK.

10. Sobriety is the foundation for my success.

All of the things that I have accomplished over the course of my journey through addiction recovery would not be possible without my sobriety. The things I have worked for and the life I have made for myself would not be in my reach were it not for my commitment to live a sober lifestyle. It may have been a difficult process to get where I am today but the longer I am sober the easier it becomes to stay that way.



After overcoming her own addiction in 2012 Julie went on to become certified as an addiction counselor in order to help others achieve a life of recovery. She worked in the addiction field for 8 years and now uses both her personal and professional experiences with addiction as an influence for her writing.