When you have a prolonged period of abstinence, you experience increased positive mental and physical health. Abstinence allows you to immediately increase your capacity to learn new skills, begin to positively manage problems, and to experience a reduction in new problems. As you continue reading this book, you will experience increased happiness, physical health, and emotional health as long as you do not use. This is true even if you do nothing else. More importantly, the probability of not using and maintaining sobriety increases every time you learn a new coping skill, and each time you make the effort to apply that new skill in your daily life.
Nobody wants their whole life to be about not using. You have other goals. You may want better relationships, peace of mind, a new house, or car. Maybe you just want to walk along the street and have people see you as a person who is happy and healthy. Whatever they are, you have goals beyond not using. Abstinence is like breathing. Everyone has to breathe to live, but breathing isn’t what you want to think about all the time nor is it a way to measure your success in life. People concentrate on their breath when they have a respiratory problem. People count their success in days abstinent when they are leaving the problems of the addiction lifestyle behind. But you have to count more than days abstinent or your life will still be only about addiction and not about living. Eventually, if you use abstinence as your only goal, you will experience frustration, anger, depression, anxiety, and negative emotions that can lead to lapse or relapse. There has to be more.