8 Life lessons I’ve learned In Recovery

8 Life Lessons I've Learned In Recovery

I would have never thought that getting sober would teach me so much about life and myself. If you’re like me then your addiction controlled every aspect of your life. When I look back, I realize that I spent almost every hour or every day for 8 years under the influence of a substance. During this time I never got to see, feel, and learn who I was. Most people learn about themselves during this time period when they are in their early twenties. I spent it searching for anything that would get me messed up.

When you use drugs on a daily basis your emotional maturity stops progressing. So for me, I started using drugs pretty heavy around 18-19 and stopped at 27. This means my brain function and emotional maturity at 27 was that of an 18-19-year-old. Now at 31, I am experiencing a lot of feelings and emotions that I should have been going through a decade earlier. During this time sober I have learned some wonderful lessons about life.

8 Life Lesson’s I’ve Learned In Recovery

1. My Idea Of Fun Was Warped

I thought for a long time that living sober would be miserable. I assumed I would be that old sober grumpy guy from the movies, always mad and on edge. I WAS DEAD WRONG!! Not only do I have way more fun in sobriety but my previous idea of fun was a lie. Drinking to the point of blacking out, passing out wherever I fell, waking up with a crippling hangover, scrounging for pennies to get another hit, this was my average night. I thought this was life.

When I look back I realize how ass-backward this was. I was not having fun, I was miserable and trying to cover it up with alcohol and drugs. As my addiction got worse it became a necessity to have drugs and alcohol for everyday tasks like going to work, if I didn’t have them I would be angry, anxious, and plain rude to people.

Since getting sober I have done a lot of the same activities I did during my partying days, now without drugs and alcohol, and I realize how much I’ve missed. I recently went golfing with my brother. We competed against each other, enjoyed the day, enjoyed the weather, and had a blast. In the past, I would usually be so drunk by the 7th or 8th hole that we would crash the gold cart. I recently wrote an article:  Is Being Sober Fun And Worth It? That article goes a lot deeper into having fun in sobriety and the benefits of a sober life.

2. Facing Issues Head-On Is The Best Approach

In the past, I used drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with problems in life, but the next morning my problems were still there, and usually worse. Since I’ve gotten sober I’ve had to do massive amounts of re-building to my life. When I took my old approach to things like bills, even though I wasn’t using any substances, I would routinely procrastinate and put them off. I still had the addictive thinking and behaviors just without drugs or alcohol. I’m sure you all know that bills don’t go away if you avoid them. Just because I put down alcohol and drugs didn’t mean I was magically a new person. I had to face my fears and flaws head-on.

Throughout my time sober I have learned to tackle problems right away. This is not always easy but it’s way more effective and less stressful. Facing life’s challenges head-on reduces a huge portion of my anxiety.

3. Being Dependable Is A Great Feeling

Knowing that my family and friends can call me for help is a wonderful feeling. I can be trusted to pick someone up from the airport on time or babysit my niece. My boss and co-workers know I will be at work every day ready to work. It is such a better feeling knowing that my family trusts me with important things. The old Kyle was always late and would lie, steal, and cheat any way I could to get that next fix. Today friends and family actually consider me dependable. 

4. Being Selfless Will Get You Way Further Than Being Selfish

Helping other people is always a better choice in life than being selfish. I never believed people when they told me giving and helping others will actually help me get ahead in life. A huge part of 12-step programs is being a kind person and doing the next right thing. Since I have been trying to stop doing everything for my own selfish needs and helping others, it seems I get more in return. I don’t know if it’s karma or positive energy but what you put out comes back. Putting out positive energy and helping people always helps you in the long run.

5. I’ve learned To Embrace My Past Not Regret It

There is plenty of things I did during my using days that I am ashamed of. The difference now is that I don’t hide from my past and let it define my character. I had to take a hard look at my past mistakes, face them head-on, and learn from them so I don’t make the same mistake in the future.  I used to walk on eggshells always worried about who knew I had been to prison and was a recovering heroin addict. This was mentally exhausting. When I started openly talking about my past, a huge burden was lifted off of my shoulders. Now I embrace my past so that I can help others avoid the mistakes I’ve made.

6. It’s Normal And Ok To Have Feelings

When I was able to look back at my drinking and drug use I realized one of the main reasons I was always high was to drown out my feelings. I didn’t want to feel anxiety, pain, nervousness, stress, joy, or pleasure. I didn’t think I was worthy of happiness. I’ve learned in sobriety to embrace my emotions. Not every day is going to be wonderful and that’s ok. There will be plenty of challenges in life, but feeling stress and nervousness is good when I learn where it comes from, how to deal with it, and how to learn from it. Tears in recovery have helped me grow. The most important thing is to not get high or drunk to deal with my feelings. A bad day or bad feeling is only temporary, alcohol or drugs will only prolonge them and make them worse.

7. The Best Way To Stay Sober Is By Helping Others’ Struggling

I have written before that I’m involved in 12-step programs and a major part of these programs is working with another alcoholic or addict. Throughout my journey, I have spoken with many people in recovery some in 12-step programs and some not. A common theme they all say is that working with other people struggling is the best way to keep their minds on sobriety and feel good about themselves and their lives. When I’m able to help others in recovery I keep my addiction at the forefront of my mind. I can easily get complacent If I don’t remind myself of the pain my addiction created. When I’m able to help others I feel more complete, more passionate, and generally more content with my life.

8. Attitude Is 90% Of The Battle

When I was at Willard Drug Treatment Campus our counselor read us a poem about attitude by Charles Swindoll. Right after that group, I asked her to make a copy for me. It rang so true for me!! I’ve learned that my attitude towards life, whether it’s good or bad, is the most important thing. When I get bad news, my attitude will determine how the rest of my day will play out. When I’m anxious or depressed, my attitude will determine if I get the “fuck it’s” and say I’m getting high.

My life is so much better when I have a good attitude. Just like it says in the poem we have almost no control of outside actions and events. I can’t control anybody else but myself. So my attitude is going to reflect and determine how I perceive the world and myself. A good positive attitude will create a better, happier, more efficient life, that I know for a fact.

Getting Sober Is Not Easy, But Well Worth It

When a person decides they need to get sober and seek recovery, that is a huge step and they should be proud of themselves for getting sober. But getting sober will not make you a better person, that requires work and that is where recovery comes in. In early sobriety, I noticed I still did a lot of selfish things and still had the addict mentality. Putting the drugs and alcohol down was the big first step, working on myself every day and striving to be a better person is when I started to see the real magic.

-Kyle Ruggeri-

Related Questions

How Do You Know Which Recovery Program is Best?                                                         

This is something you have to find out for yourself. Unfortunately, there is no one size fits in recovery. Some people will get the help they need through an inpatient or outpatient rehab, others will connect to a 12-step program. For me, it was a combination of outpatient and 12-step. The best way to find out is to try them. 12-step programs are free, rehabs cost money but insurance should help with the cost. Whichever program you choose make sure you plan long-term care. Recovery requires working on your addiction all the time. I hear many people say “He went to rehab and is still using so I guess rehabs don’t work” That’s False!! It’s up to the person to want to get sober. But keep trying and keep supporting them (not enabling). Just don’t give up!




Kyle Ruggeri, CARC

Kyle Ruggeri, CARC (Certified Addiction Recovery Coach) is a recovering addict/alcoholic. Kyle created Soberdogs Recovery as a way to get accurate and first-hand information about addiction and recovery out to the world. Kyle has been in recovery for over 5 years.