What I want you to know about being sober in your 20s

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by Ben Emerling.

Have you ever met anyone who has battled addiction? If so, you have probably wondered why they cant stop using and acting like an idiot. With addiction comes irrational behavior, with irrational behavior comes a plethora of negative consequences. Still, it takes a great deal of pain and suffering for someone to recover from addiction.

Many people start using drugs and alcohol at a young age. When most kids start experimenting with drugs, they do not have the end goal of becoming an addict. However, it happens and as they grow older it gets harder and harder to come out of this dark cycle of addiction. Think of all of the peer pressure- parties, bars and clubs are a great way to meet people and most weekend activities evolve around drinking. When you take that out of someones life what is there left to do? That is the number one question young people in recovery ask at first.

I fell into the grip of addiction in my teenage years. I started drinking and abusing drugs at the young age of 13. Around the same time I was diagnosed with ADHD. I was prescribed Adderall and realized it was the perfect compliment to my marijuana habit. I had the perfect balance… Or so I thought. The Adderall kept me up and the weed mellowed me out. Little did I know I was self medicating. My parents caught on to my addiction and sent me to a dual diagnosis rehab center at the age of 16.

At this dual diagnosis rehab center I learned about everything I didn’t want to know about addiction. My therapist explained to me that it was a fatal disease, and if I continued to use, I am either going to end up in jail, in an institution or dead. To me, it seemed like a bunch of scare tactics to make me change my ways, so I continued to use drugs and drink throughout rehab. The next three years turned into a living hell, until I hit a bottom.

Without going into detail, I ended up hospitalized due to drugs and finally recognized that I have this disease of addiction. From the hospital I willingly went to rehab. I was completely spiritually broken and had nothing left to my name. I was done and I knew it. At the age of 19, I decided to take the blind leap of faith into recovery and haven’t looked back since. Making this decision to get sober was the best action I ever took.

Today, I am 25 years old and have over six years of uninterrupted and continuous sobriety. When I got out of that dual diagnosis rehab center at 19, I asked that above question: drinking and using drugs were my life, how am I going to have fun again? I quickly found out that in sobriety having fun is the best part. My inner child was released when I got sober and I quickly learned that there are so many beautiful gifts to life. Something as simple as going to a movie with my friends was a blast. I started doing all the hobbies that I gave up when I was in addiction. Playing basketball, snowboarding and weightlifting all became part of life once again. If I have a reason to, I will go out to bars or clubs. Best of all, I found a new friend group that actually cares for each other, as opposed to my old group, who only cared about getting high. I am no longer a slave to addiction and finally have the freedom that I always tried to achieve.

My life is like every other 25 year-old. The only difference is I don’t drink or use drugs.

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