When I first stopped drinking, one of the benefits of sobriety was that I didn’t get hangovers anymore. Before I stopped drinking, I got practically psychedelic hangovers that left both my body and mind out of commission for days at a time. So, each morning as I woke up sober, I no longer felt like I’d just hatched my broken body out of an egg for the first time. It was unusual for me. And it was nice.

I have five years sober now. And although I take it for granted some days, and resent the commitment it takes on others, to say that it feels like a fucking miracle? That’s an understatement. Sobriety is the reason I’m alive.

And, of course, I’m still happy to wake up without a hangover. But at this point, the benefits of sobriety became slightly more abstract: I like becoming less afraid to be human. It’s a slow process for me, but I’m here for it. Mostly because I have a community of sober women that help me stay alive and grow.

But the best part of being sober is personal—and if you’re sober-curious, you might wonder what the benefits of sobriety might be for you. We asked nine incredible sober women, with different paths to recovery, to share what makes them so freakin’ happy to be sober. Maybe their experiences could help you find your bliss, too.

Laughing, Because It Heals

Kayla, with seven years sober, says one of her favorite benefits of sobriety is laughing at all “the dark shit” with other sober people. Other sober people really know what you’re talking about when you share your dirt and your real, raw feelings, no matter how strange or loaded they seem. Because they’ve been through it, too.

“Yeah, my favorite thing is definitely sober laughing,” she says. “Wouldn’t be here without it.”

Living Authentically

“Being drunk is a lie,” says Biet, who’s been sober for 10 years. She explains that, for her, one of the biggest benefits of sobriety is about living a life that’s authentic, for which she can actually be awake and present. “Yes, being drunk feels amazing for anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. And, yes, maybe you get to be sexy, alive, vibrant, courageous for that short period time. But the price is that it was all a pill.”

Biet’s sobriety allows her to connect with the real world. She says she can actually achieve and feel things without needing to rely on a substance getting her there. “Real authenticity, real courage, real connection, real sexiness, real action, real follow through, real love, real service. That’s my favorite part of sobriety.”

The biggest benefit of sobriety is that I no longer have to live in shame.

Showing Up As a Mother

“The slice of sobriety that has been most important to me is being a mom,” says Beth, a mother of two with four years of sobriety. “It’s not super sexy, but being able to show up clear-headed and steady for my kids has been the number one thing. Most of my interactions with them were hungover or wanting to drink.”

She adds that when things seem hard, thinking about her journey to sobriety feels like she has a superpower. “I think, wait a minute, I got sober. That’s the hardest thing ever. If I can do that, I can do anything.”

Saying Goodbye to Shame

“The biggest benefit of sobriety is that I no longer have to live in shame,” says Cara, with three years. She shares that the source of her shame would often come from with a long night of partying and little accountability the next day.

“I can wake up every morning and remember what happened last night … I am able to be present in relationships with family and friends, because they no longer worry about where I am and what I’m doing.”  

Remembering Your Moments

Like Cara, Candi, who’s been sober for four years, is grateful for the clarity of sobriety. “I really love that I’ve gotten to resign from being the detective of my own life,” she says. “Rather than trying to reconstruct my evenings from text messages, ATM receipts, and weird looks my friends give me the next day, I get to just remember my behavior. And even, to some extent, control it!”

A Gateway to Spirituality

“Getting sober from alcohol specifically was my gateway drug to spirituality,” says Kaitlyn, with three years. “It was what I needed to open my Pandora’s Box of healing, and to find out [the why] beneath my addiction. I was able to think about that stuff in a sober way and live truthfully.”

There is not one thing or feeling that I have gone through that another sober person hasn’t been through already.

Having a Community

Lexie, with 14 years, says that her community of sober people has the biggest benefit of sobriety. She insists that she wouldn’t have known how to survive without the help of women who had built their own sober lives.

“Drinking will kill you,” she says. “I have managed to scramble a life beyond my wildest dreams just by listening to what all these crazy sober ladies told me to do. It’s effin’ amazing.”

And, like Lexie, Cara adds that community is a substantial part of what she loves about sobriety. “Sobriety is not something I do alone,” she says. “I have a huge community of all kinds of people on this journey with me. There is not one thing or feeling that I have gone through that another sober person hasn’t been through already.”

Although community might seem like something you don’t even want at the moment, you might be surprised by how much it can help. Another gift sobriety brought Cara, as it did with Jean, who has two years sober, was strong, communicative relationships with family members. “It’s healed my family,” says Jean. “It’s given me a bridge back to my life.”  

The Best Benefit of Sobriety? Learning To Actually Love Yourself

All that stuff does, indeed, create a basis to have an actual relationship with yourself, as Gen, with four years sober, points out. She says:

“I think perhaps the best part of being sober is learning what unconditional love feels like,” she says. “For me, I experienced it for the first time when I walked into a recovery meeting and I felt love from every single stranger sitting there around me without having to do anything other than be myself. I hadn’t felt that before. I felt like I needed to be perfect or do something for someone else or be whatever they wanted me to be before I could earn their love. It wasn’t until I got sober that I was able to open up to the idea that I was lovable and deserving of love just as I am.”  

Living sober isn’t necessarily an easy path to choose, and it’s difficult to communicate the remarkable growth that happens as you do it. The world looks different sober. And as a sober person, you become different to the world.