Have you ever tried to fill your vehicle’s gas tank with anything other than gasoline? Of course not. Because if you pour soda, syrup or vegetable oil into the tank, your car isn’t going to run.
Just like your car was designed to handle fuel, the human body was engineered to handle healthy, natural fruits, vegetables and meats, among other things, in order to keep our bodies, brains and minds functioning to their fullest capacity.
Frequently, however, people forget the importance of filling their bodies with good things and instead turn to illicit, synthetic substances. Whether it’s out of a desire to numb feelings of stress, substance use can have serious, negative repercussions on our health.
Fortunately, the opposite is also true: Sobriety can help reverse the effects that addiction has on the body, and on the mind.
One of the biggest challenges many people face when they battle a substance use disorder (SUD) is the presence of a co-occurring mental health condition, like anxiety, depression or borderline personality disorder. Co-occurring disorders may occur as a result of a SUD, or vice versa.
One study reported that of people battling a SUD “27 percent…have at least one psychiatric disorder, and 45 percent of people with psychiatric conditions actually have two or more disorders. SUDs are highly comorbid with borderline and antisocial personality disorders, bipolar, psychotic, depression, and anxiety disorders.”
This connection shows the reality that a substance use disorder has far more health implications than just a one-time high or inebriation – over time, it can create unwanted complications for both your mental and physical health.
Benefits of sobriety for your mental health
Sobriety offers more than simple health benefits — good mental health and sobriety go hand in hand. And while it’s true you’ll feel more mental clarity, there are many benefits, some pleasantly surprised, that your mental health will experience once you commit to maintaining sobriety.
1. You can feel and look healthier
Quitting drugs and alcohol allows your body to return to natural, healthy functionality. You will also feel a difference in your sleep. Because you’re sleeping better, you’ll experience increased energy. You will also feel energized since your body is not struggling with additional symptoms like withdrawal or cravings.
You will have greater immunity, as your body won’t need to fight against the health implications of substance use. You will experience increased hygiene, as the lack of motivation associated with drug and alcohol use is no longer a factor.
2. Strengthened relationships
Substance use puts a significant strain on relationships with family and friends. This could be due to a number of factors, but often it’s due to the self-centered focus on maintaining addiction that a SUD allows.
When you no longer need to worry about feeding the addiction to avoid painful withdrawal symptoms, you can instead pay attention to the needs of the people around you. This allows you to sustain healthy conversations that can heal wounded relationships, which, in turn, builds a community of support — a crucial component of maintaining sobriety and mental health.
3. Reduced risk of mental health conditions
Substance use disorders commonly occur alongside a mental health condition. It’s important to focus on treating both the mental health disorder and the SUD when in treatment to fully recover from both.
Sobriety does decrease the likelihood of a co-occurring disorder arising. It’s beneficial to keep in mind whether there’s a history of mental illness in your family. This might motivate you away from addictive behaviors as a helpful preventative measure against both addiction and the potential for developing a mental illness.
4. You’ll experience reduced stress
Addiction brings with it a ton of stress — stress about finances, employment, the worsening of the addiction, losing friends, etc. When you take substance use out of the equation, much of this stress also vanishes.
While life without substances isn’t stress-free, you won’t have the added stress of a SUD on top of everything else.
5. You’ll be able to enjoy life
It sounds cliche, but you will experience more of the joys and freedoms of life when you’re no longer bound to a substance use disorder. Sobriety is linked to mental health and clarity, and strong mental health is linked to life with minimal stress and maximum peace. You’ll have more time and desire to do productive things like go for a hike, finish a project or start a new hobby.
If you’re seeking to increase your mental health through sobriety, but don’t know where to start, or just need some added encouragement, Real Recovery can help. Our staff members are here to help you achieve sobriety and maintain mental health through addiction recovery programs tailored to meet your needs.