Just because you’re sober doesn’t mean you can’t get high. When I first quit drugs and alcohol, I thought I was signing up for a life devoid of pleasure. Party’s over I thought, with sad resignation.
But at that point, it wasn’t really much of a party. I was using drugs and alcohol not to feel good, but to feel nothing. My addictions had reached a point where I needed substances just to get through the day.
In early sobriety, I spent a good chunk of time curled up in bed with Netflix and a pint of Haagen-Dazs. Sugar and television were the only way I knew how to get that daily dopamine rush I had become dependent upon as an emotional escape. But a sugar-and-loneliness hangover is not so different from a booze-and-cocaine hangover. And though I still hit the pint from time to time, I’ve learned how to get that same feeling of euphoria through healthier activities that don’t leave me feeling exhausted and depleted the next day.
Here are a few all-natural ways to get high without a drop of alcohol, drugs or refined sugar:
I thought I’d never dance sober. Until I did. That cheesy “dance like no one’s watching” suggestion is one I took quite literally, at about six months sober, when I found myself at a club on a Friday night with some sober friends. Once I let go of the idea that I might humiliate myself, and realized no one else gives a damn how awkward I might look, I ended up dancing for four hours straight.
That combination of music and movement really hits the sweet spot. Now I dance whenever I can. Even if it’s in my room alone, blasting Beyonce, dancing gets me out of my head and makes me feel like a kid again.
Exercise of any kind releases an actual dopamine rush to the brain, not dissimilarly to drugs. Though some prefer yoga or team sports, I’m partial to hitting the pavement. Not only do I feel a physical high during and immediately after I run, but I’m happier the rest of the day. It’s also a great way to burn off those occasional ice cream binges. And the superficial benefits of exercise—like weight loss—feel pretty damn good too.
3. Doing Something for Others
Studies have actually shown that people who volunteer have higher self-esteem and overall happiness. Whether you’re volunteering at a local homeless shelter or just calling up a friend to ask how they’re doing, doing good feels good. It’s easy to forget this. As humans we’re often inclined to want to seek pleasure in more selfish ways. But helping someone out creates an emotional high that lasts longer than any drug.
“Studies have actually shown that people who volunteer have higher self-esteem and overall happiness… doing good feels good.”
4. A Good Night’s Sleep
Maybe you don’t feel high while you sleep, since you’re unconscious at the time. But a full eight or nine hours of shut-eye on a comfortable mattress with a fresh set of sheets can be pure bliss to wake up from. Sleep boosts your immune system and makes life a little more tolerable. Waking up from a good night’s sleep pairs well with coffee—which contains caffeine: a not-so-natural but reliable pathway to pleasure. Plus, did you know that poor sleep can increase your risk of relapse?
Laughter is liberating: It’s like taking the power back from your pain.
It may seem obvious, but it bears repeating; laughter is a great natural high. Humor often comes from a dark place, and addiction offers up a well of material. Hearing laughter in 12-step meetings can be incredibly comforting. And there is something hilarious about hearing your own experiences coming from someone else’s mouth. Sharing memories and relating experiences with fellow recovering addicts has often made me laugh so hard I was gasping for air. Laughter is liberating: It’s like taking the power back from your pain.
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