Any quick Google search for “treatment” or “sober living” will quickly reveal that today, “luxury” and “comfort” are all the rage when it comes to getting sober. Seriously – try it. “Affordable luxury sober living”, “luxury living setting”, “luxury alcohol rehabs”… The list goes on. Head on over to one of the many websites that have popped up to “review” rehabs and sober livings (I added the quotations because many of these so-called reviews are fueled by advertising dollars), and luxury is one of the top aspects used to judge the quality of these facilities. The problem is, luxury never got anyone sober. Do a quick search on Lindsay Lohan’s attempts to get sober if you disagree. So here’s 5 reason that I’m grateful my sober living had rules. It might be less glamorous than poolside massages and a custom sushi chef – but in May, New Life House celebrated 75 years of alumni sobriety. Here’s to less time in the spa and more time in the solution.
1. I couldn’t get high when I wanted to.
Anyone that tells you they didn’t have moments of wanting to drink or use in early recovery is either lying to you or they don’t have a drug problem. It’s an unfortunate part about being an alcoholic or an addict – you turn to drugs and alcohol when you are uncomfortable. Because the sober living I went through had a system of rules and accountability, I never had the opportunity to use and sabotage my own chances of getting some time under my belt in my early recovery. Statistics have shown us that the more time we put together sober, the higher chance we have of staying in recovery. Good thing I didn’t have the chance to shoot myself in the foot.
2. I learned how to not get what I wanted.
A big part of dealing with addiction and alcoholism is starting to learn to be ok, even when things don’t go your way. Catering to someone’s every want and desire in early recovery does the opposite of teaching this – rather, it enforces an entitled mentality that leaves an individual ill-prepared for real life. Every time I wanted something that would have been detrimental to my recovery and got told no, I had to begin learning how to be ok with not getting my way – one of the most crucial skills I have picked up in my entire sobriety.
3. I learned how to play well with others.
Being a productive member of society means being a member of society. You can’t do that if you don’t know how to play nice with others. By getting sober in a recovery house that strongly encouraged me to think of the needs of those around me, I slowly started to realize that the whole world didn’t revolve around me. Just because I was in a bad mood, I don’t have the right to take it out on everyone around. This groundbreaking revelation not only allowed me to be a good employee, it set the stage for me to have healthy relationships, get closer to my family, and taught me how to be a good friend.
4. I got to focus on the internal, instead of the external.
While 70 inch LCD screens in every room and unfettered laptop access sounds really attractive when deciding which program to choose, I looked for every opportunity I could find to avoid my feelings when I was newly sober. The absence of those distractions forced me to turn inward and figure out why it was impossible to sit with myself for even 5 minutes without going on social media, playing a video game or doing something else to check out. No iPhone?! How draconian! As terrifying as the prospect of not having a smartphone may sound, the absence of this and other distractions created enough space for me to begin diving into who I actually was, and allowed me to learn how to deal with my feelings rather than stuff them down. This is one of the things I am most grateful for.
5. I learned that material comforts don’t make you happy.
Contrary to what the media would have us believe, I discovered while in sober living that material things aren’t actually what fulfill us. Some of the most exciting, fun and enjoyable experiences of my life to this day were had on a camping trip with my peers, sitting around a table with a deck of cards, or just laughing and enjoying the company of close friends. All without any fancy, shiny toys to enhance the experience. While I’m no luddite – I enjoy technology and comfort as much as the next guy – realizing that those things were not the key to my happiness was a profound discovery for me. One that has allowed me to be ok regardless of my circumstances in the years that have come since.
I’m glad my sober living had rules. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take serenity and lasting recovery over luxury any day.