Your Health Seth Stratton | one year ago

#ThisIsSober: Q&A with Heather

We sat down with Heather, who is in recovery from addiction to drugs. She’s currently in her second year of graduate school at UNC Charlotte in the Master of Social Work program with plans to become a licensed clinical addiction specialist.

Heather tells us what she’s learned – and what she wants others to know – about addiction and recovery. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pb01KPTkpQ4&w=560&h=315]

What are the top three things you learned from being sober?

  1. I learned to love and believe in myself. One of my biggest barriers when I was using was that I wasn’t able to finish anything that I started. I had so much shame and guilt. Once I got clean, I realized that my beliefs about myself and my abilities were false. I engaged in a lot of negative self-talk when I was using. I had to learn to replace those negative thoughts about myself and the world around me with positive thoughts.
  2. I learned that one of the best ways to help myself is to help somebody else.
  3. I learned that life is beautiful. I learned that I can have fun sober. I don’t have to use drugs or drink to find happiness. There is happiness all around me, and now I can experience that every day, and remember those experiences. I thought that I was going to miss out on all the fun by not being able to drink or use drugs. What I learned was that I was actually missing out on all the fun by using and drinking. I had it all twisted.

What’s something that people should never say to someone in recovery?

“You can just take a sip of beer – it won’t hurt you." And “You still have to continue to go to those meetings? Are you not cured yet?”

What’s something most people don’t understand about sobriety?

That it takes work. It takes daily maintenance. It wasn’t easy getting sober, and some days it’s not easy staying sober if I’m not doing the things I was taught to do in early recovery. Most days, coming up on six years clean and sober, staying clean and sober is easy. But some days, it’s still hard. That’s when I really need to lean on others and not try to go through this on my own.

What’s your best advice for people leaving treatment and settling into a sober lifestyle? 

Get a network of sober people in your life. Stay away from old playmates and old playgrounds. Anything that looks like, smells like or reminds you of using – stay far away from it. Find some positive activities in your life that you enjoy. Once you take away the drugs and alcohol, you need to find something to replace those things with.

What’s your favorite mantra or piece of advice you got in treatment that still sticks with you now?

  • Don’t use – no matter what.
  • Go after recovery just as hard as you went after the drugs.
  • Don’t leave five minutes before the miracle happens.
All year long, we’re putting sobriety in the spotlight to help shatter the stigma around addiction and inspire people to change their lives. Read and share our stories – and join the conversation – using #ThisIsSober.