The Five Pillars of Sustainable Sobriety are essential for anyone wishing to live a happy and sober life. In this episode, Veronica takes a deep dive into the five pillars of Movement, Connection, Balance, Process, and Growth. She explains how they work, how you can apply them to your life, and why you can’t get sober without them.
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In today’s episode, I’m talking about one of my favorite subjects, the 5 Pillars of Sustainable Sobriety. It’s something that I bring up a lot with my clients and pretty much anyone I talk to about recovery.
“Sustainable sobriety is sobriety that sustains itself without having to think about it.” – Veronica Valli
There are a lot of recovery sayings that make me cringe and that positively repel people thinking about getting sober. Stuff like, “I’m just staying away from drinking, one day at a time” or “I have to remain vigilant at all times.”
Sustainable sobriety means you’re just living your life, maintaining your sobriety, and not having to be in a state of constant vigilance.
That doesn’t mean taking your sobriety for granted. Instead, our focus shifts to maintaining our emotional and spiritual wellbeing. And by investing your time and energy into that, your life expands, improves, and deepens in every single way.
That’s what motivates me.
“If there wasn’t a payoff, I probably wouldn’t be doing it.” – Veronica Valli
The day-to-day tools and strategies that are helpful in the first 90 days or so of your recovery aren’t necessarily the same things you’ll be doing in 10 years.
That’s what sustainable sobriety is.
Sobriety has to continue to sustain itself. Otherwise, it would be too hard to stay sober if every day for decades required you to remain vigilant. I think that would be a pretty miserable experience.
That’s why we have to invest ourselves into a program that becomes a way of life so that our sobriety just happens as a result of doing this other stuff that’s really rewarding.
Over the years with my own sobriety and my work, I’ve figured out that there are five pillars that are crucial elements in sustainable sobriety, no matter what program you work.
The five pillars of sustainable sobriety are movement, connection, balance, process, and growth. When we have these things in place then our ability to stay sober and be the people that we are meant to be is just so much easier.
“We have to make movement a part of our lives.” – Veronica Valli
There are two elements to this, exercise and being conscious about the direction that our life is going.
Whenever I take on a coaching client, I always have two non-negotiables: they have to simply detox from alcohol and the second is that they have to be exercising, at a minimum, a 30-minute brisk walk at least five times a week.
Research clearly shows us that exercise is beneficial for our mental and emotional health and it is often the best treatment that we have for depression.
It’s easy to forget that and push it aside but it’s really the first thing that you need to be doing. Don’t underestimate how significantly this will help you in managing your emotions and your mental health.
When we don’t take control of the direction our life is moving in, then it gets taken control of for us and we end up somewhere we don’t want to be.
When we get sober, we have to take a really long, calculated look at the direction we want our life to go.
It doesn’t matter what age you are, that’s a limiting belief. It’s never too late and we’re never too old.
Limiting beliefs will come up because we get scared.
We’re scared because to move forward in the direction of our lives, we’ll have to grow, and we will almost inevitably hit an upper limit.
Breaking through that upper limit is about pushing yourself way out of your comfort zone, experiencing the discomfort, understanding that that is growth, and knowing that the feeling won’t last forever.
Movement is about keeping going. The growth for us never stops.
“Every human being needs to have meaningful connections in our lives.” Veronica Valli
We all have to have somebody who knows our souls. That’s not going to be dozens and dozens of people but we need at least a couple of people who just really know us inside.
If we don’t have that, we just feel tremendously lonely.
In order to have the connections we want, we have to stop getting caught up in people-pleasing and obsessing over what we think other people think of us.
To get the meaningful connection that we need we have to be vulnerable, we have to learn how to trust, and we have to learn how to be discerning.
We have to keep showing up with the right attitude, with an open heart, and with the willingness to connect with people on the surface and then with the willingness to go deeper.
For people like us, recovery groups (online or in-person) are a good place to start because people already know your story and why you’re there.
“We all have needs and we have to balance those needs and getting those met.” – Veronica Valli
We all have emotional needs, mental health needs, spiritual needs, physical needs, family needs, career needs, growth needs, friendship needs, etc. It’s slightly different for everybody but we all have to balance meeting those needs.
Because we’re always growing and changing, how we get our needs met will change according to circumstances.
That’s why finding the right balance is an art that must continue for the rest of your life.
When we don’t balance our needs well, it gets really painful and uncomfortable.
We have to evaluate our balance plate every so often and check out what needs are not being met.
A great place to start with this is by thinking about HALTS – hungry, angry, lonely, tired, stressed. These are all balance needs that we need to take care of and they’re big triggers.
In early recovery, that kind of stuff can lead to a drink because those feelings are so intense and overwhelming. They are needs that are urgently calling your attention that you have to take care of.
There are going to be periods like a really intense project at work where we have to be out of balance because we have to achieve something. That can be okay in the short term but it never works in the medium and long term.
Learning the art of balance is absolutely essential to long-term sobriety.
“Process is about learning how to deal with our feelings and emotions.” – Veronica Valli
We have to learn how to process our feelings and emotions so our past does not show up in our present.
For most of us, our feelings and emotions are there knocking at the door, wanting our attention, demanding our attention, and we drink on them and we push them down.
We can’t do that in sobriety and expect to stay sober.
Feelings are our internal navigation system – information and feedback.
Learning to deal with how we feel, why we feel that way, where those feelings are coming from, and what the lessons are in those feelings is essential.
When we do this, we become so much more authentic and aligned with who we really are.
One tool that has been really helpful for me is to observe yourself with curiosity, not judgment. Ask yourself: What is this feeling? Where did this feeling come from? When do I remember feeling like this before? How do I usually respond to this?
Out of everything, this is one area where expert help is really worth doing if you have that option. Therapy helped me enormously in understanding myself and beginning to process and deal with my feelings.
“There is a universal law of life. We are either growing or we are dying.” Veronica Valli
When we’re not living authentic lives, when we‘re drinking destructively, we’re just dying on the inside.
You can’t grow when you’re abusing alcohol.
Abusing alcohol takes up a lot of space in our heads. We spend a lot of time thinking about drinking, thinking about not drinking, and recovering from drinking. Those things take up a lot of hours and a lot of bandwidth.
That bandwidth is the bandwidth that you would be using to grow as a person, but you can’t because you’re using it up doing unproductive things. That’s why you stay stuck.
When we get sober, we have to grow. Your purpose is to grow into the person you were always meant to be.
Sobriety will make our lives expand.
But I’m going to tell you, with all growth comes fear and that’s normal. When we understand that and we understand our process of thinking, then we have a much better chance of getting through this stuff.
- Soberful | Episode 42: Vulnerability
- Soberful Free Guide | The 5 Pillars of Sustainable Sobriety
- Gay Hendricks’ Book | The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level
- Join our Soberful FREE private Facebook group for community and support.
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