Four Ways Sobriety has Changed My Perception of the World

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Four Ways Sobriety has Changed My Perception of the World

By Beth Leipholtz 03/10/17

By refusing help, I was shutting out so many possibilities and not allowing myself room to grow.

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A silhouette of a woman holding an umbrella in front of a pink sky
The world in a different light.

A few days ago, I was talking to my mom about a struggle she was going through with a friend who had made some bad choices. As I began talking through the situation with her, it occurred to me that the things I was saying were a direct result of what sobriety has taught me about life and about people.

Prior to sobriety, my response to my mom’s situation probably would have been different. At that time, my perception of the world around me was limited to the life experiences I had had up until that point. I wasn’t narrow minded per se, but I tended to think things were black and white, that everything was as it appeared, that a person was good or they weren’t.

Then something I never expected to happen happened. I became an alcoholic, and consequently, everything I thought I knew about life became void.

But in the three and a half years since getting sober, I have learned many lessons that have changed the way I view the world around me. Here are a few important ones:

  1. Sobriety has changed my perception of people. When I started speaking out about my decision to stop drinking, I received several messages of support from people in my life who had also stopped drinking -- people I never would have guessed had a problem in the first place. More than anything else, sobriety has taught me that alcoholism/addiction presents in different forms. It doesn’t always look like unemployment, homelessness and poverty, as I thought before. Sometimes it looks like a person who has their life together, who is outwardly happy and funny and kind. Because of this, it can be hard to spot. It can also be surprising, as it can catch people off guard when someone admits to having a problem that wasn’t obvious. In the end it doesn’t matter what addiction or other struggles look like in a person or if they were obvious. What matters is that someone took notice and started to make a change for the better. I’ve learned that there is often so much more to a person than what they present on the outside.
  1. Sobriety has changed my perception of alcohol in today’s culture. Since I stopped drinking, it’s just become more and more obvious how ingrained alcohol is in our culture. Before getting sober, I found it entertaining that certain situations could be made into drinking games. I thought song lyrics about drinking were often fitting. I found it funny when I saw memes about deserving alcohol at the end of a hard day. I always thought it was just a given that alcohol would be present at social gatherings. Now, after being sober for an extended period of time, I view these things differently. While I’m not one to bash other people’s life choices, I do think alcohol has become way too prominent in everyday activities. For example, a link has been making the rounds on Facebook that has to do with a drinking game someone made up to help you clean your room; there's another one of a glass that screws on the top of a wine bottle. I’m sorry, but if you can’t get through cleaning your room without drinking, or wait the 30 seconds it takes to pour a glass of wine, you may have some bigger issues. To be honest, if I had seen these links before I stopped drinking, I probably would have been like, “Hell yeah! Another excuse to drink!” Then again, I am an alcoholic. When I see things like this today it just makes me shake my head in frustration and be just a little more thankful that I am sober.
  1. Sobriety has changed my perception of asking for help. Prior to going to treatment, I hated asking for help. I was a perfectionist and liked to do things on my own. It seemed to me that when people asked for help, they hadn’t tried hard enough or hadn’t given something enough time. But I now know just how wrong I was in looking at it that way. Asking for help is not a weakness, but rather a strength. It is a hard thing to do, letting down all your defenses and telling someone you need help and you can’t do something alone. It is scary and nerve wracking to be vulnerable and open yourself up to help from outside sources. But it is also very rewarding. When I finally accepted help, I realized that there were many people in the world who had much to offer me. By refusing help, I was shutting out so many possibilities and not allowing myself room to grow. Today when I see people ask for help, I do a little happy dance because I know they are doing the right thing for themselves.
  1. Sobriety has changed my perception of addiction as a whole. Before I became a person with a firsthand understanding of alcoholism and addiction, I likely would have been one to make judgments about those in the deep throes of addiction. I may have thought they made wrong life choices, that they deserved to be in the situation they were in. I may have thought they were just druggies who lacked self-control, or people who didn’t try hard enough to pull their life together. It’s embarrassing to admit those things, but the reason I had those thoughts is because I wasn’t educated when it came to addiction. I had it in my head that people with drug or alcohol problems could control them if they tried hard enough. Now, having become an alcoholic and gone through treatment, I know this is not the case. Alcoholism and addiction can affect anyone, anywhere, from any social class and upbringing. Addiction can take root in many ways, and look different in different people. Today I know that addiction does not discriminate. Today I know that anyone is susceptible to addiction, and anyone can recover given the chance.

I know that as time passes, sobriety will continue to open my eyes to seeing things in a new or different light, and this is something that I am so thankful for.

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at www.lifetobecontinued.com, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.

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