14 Things I Would Tell Myself In Early Sobriety
14 Things I Would Tell Myself In Early Sobriety
The first year of sobriety is difficult. Everything is new, and sometimes it’s hard to tell which way is up, and which way is down. There’s new life challenges, new feelings, and new experiences.
When I first got sober, I never thought I would regain my memory. I would hear something really good, and then immediately forget. During the first few months, I thought every problem, big or small, was going to crash my whole world.
But, over time, things got easier to face. The emotions weren’t so new. Challenges were easier to face. And life started getting better.
Looking back today, there are many things I wish I could tell myself in early sobriety, and many things I’ve forgotten. So, I decided to poll my friends, and ask them what they would tell themselves in early sobriety. The following is a combination of their answers and mine.
For many people, drinking was a way to cover up insecurities. It was that way for me. When I was drinking, I could wear a mask and be someone else. I was a social chameleon. When I was drinking, I could do things I normally wouldn’t do sober, like dance or talk to guys.
When I got sober, I didn’t know who I was. Since I had pretended to like so many different things, I had no idea what I did like. I knew I was an introvert, but when I was drinking, I tried to be an extrovert. So, during that first year, I took the time to figure out what I did and did not like.
The best cure for lethargy and apathy is to get out of your comfort zone. When you don’t want to go to a meeting, go anyway. When you don’t want to make your bed or do the dishes, do them anyway. When you don’t want to talk to someone because you’re afraid of what they’ll think of you, do it anyway.
By breaking the cycle of “I don’t want to do ___”, you train your brain to keep going when the going gets tough. Because it will get tough, but eventually it gets better.
Life itself is full of challenges. But, when you add in learning how to live life on life’s terms without a drink, those challenges can seem overwhelming.
When that time comes, remember – it doesn’t get easier, but it does get better.
Remember everything you’ve been through already. Remember the way you felt while you were drinking. Look at the progress you’ve made so far. And, remember that you are a warrior, and stand tall in your strength. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, even when you feel like you can’t take another step.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak, it makes you stronger. That was something I had to remember. I was terrified to ask for help because I thought it made me look weak, like I couldn’t handle my problems on my own. But it didn’t make me look weak. I learned that asking for help made me stronger because I was no longer trying to carry my burden by myself. Asking for help lightens my load, and I have someone else to help me solve my problem.
Find a mentor or sponsor, someone who has more time in sobriety than you do. Having someone to turn to in hard times was crucial in my early days of sobriety. It was through working with my mentor that I learned how to ask for help. Instead of a friendship, where I would share my woes, and he would share his, my mentor focused solely on me.
This was a completely new experience for me because I was so used to focusing on everyone else’s problems, and putting my problems aside. I didn’t know what it was like to have someone be there for me 100%.
Over time, I learned how to take care of myself and my problems first, so that I could be there to help others when I was able to.
Always ask questions. Even those questions you think are stupid. Since there are no stupid questions, don’t be afraid to ask. When you ask questions, you are helping someone else. This can work in two ways.
First, by asking a question in a group setting, the answer can help others who are afraid to ask. Second, if the person you ask doesn’t know the answer, they can turn to someone else to find the answer. By turning to someone else to find the answer, they are learning something new along with you.
As you’re asking questions, and learning new things, be patient with yourself. You’re not going to learn everything you need to know all at once. That’s the beauty of learning new things. There’s always something new to learn, and you’ll never have all the answers.
Also, be patient with yourself as your learning because you won’t remember everything when you first get sober. Your brain is still foggy, it’s still healing, and it will take time to process all the new information you’re learning.
To help with the memory process, write things down. Carry a notebook with you, and when you hear something you like, write it down. Not only will this help you retain information, it will also be helpful down the road when you need to refresh your memory.
Especially in early recovery, keep an open mind. Forget everything you think you know about this process of getting sober, and learn something new. Be willing to take suggestions from others who have been sober longer. Be honest with yourself if you know something isn’t working.
Keeping an open mind is just one of the many things I’ve learned in recovery. Just when I think I know my stance on something, I learn a different perspective, and my whole mindset shifts. As I grow, and learn new things, I shed old thought patterns and ideas. I must shed those old thought patterns because it opens the door for more growth.
After you get a few months of sobriety, you’re going to feel so much better. Things will start getting better. Life won’t feel like one big challenge after another. And, you’re going to start feeling like you’ve got things under control.
If you start thinking, “I’ve got this sobriety thing down”, knock that thought out of your head immediately. As soon as I started telling myself “I’ve got this”, I almost relapsed. I was caught off guard by a life moment, and it almost cost me my sobriety. As my friend Matt says,
The resistance and frustration you are experiencing is primarily due to your belief that you have mastered recovery at one year sober. You have not.”
As long as you keep those thoughts away, you’ll be just fine.
Word of advice: don’t date in the first year of sobriety. Unless you’re already in a relationship, then by all means, go for it. But, if you’re single when you first get sober, stay that way. Take it from me, trying to date in the first year of sobriety can be messy. You’re emotions are still out of whack during that first year. You’re still learning who you are without the dampening effects of alcohol. And, staying sober is hard enough without trying to make someone else happy at the same time.
Find a support group, or group of people in sobriety that you can connect with. Being around other people who are striving for the same thing you are, sobriety, makes life much easier. When you’re hanging around other sober people, you have people you can turn to for advice when things get tough. You have people who aren’t constantly trying to shove a drink down your throat. And, you get the human connection that we all need. It’s a win win.
As time goes on, and you get more sobriety under your belt, there will probably be a little nagging voice in your head. It will tell you that you don’t have a problem with alcohol. If you take part in 12 Step meetings, that voice will tell you that you don’t belong. It will tell you that alcohol is your friend, and it would really help you get through this tough time your currently facing. If that voice starts nagging you –
Tell it to fuck off.
I’m serious. Tell that voice to fuck off and take a hike, because you’re not listening. If it continues after that, call your sponsor/ mentor and spill your guts. Tell them that this voice is nagging you, and won’t leave you alone. Most of the time when I tattle on myself, the nagging voice goes away.
Another way to get the nagging voice to quiet down is, look for the similarities, not the differences. When you’re in a meeting, listening to someone speak, listen for similarities between their story and yours. If you only focus on the differences, you’ll find yourself wondering why you’re there, why you’re sober, and that voice will be screaming at you to drink.
Last but not least, when a funk day comes around, roll with it. There will be many funk days in early sobriety. You’ll be going along fine, on top of the world, and then all the sudden, bam! A bad day rolls around, and you won’t want to do anything. It’ll feel like there’s a black cloud looming over your head.
If you have one of these days, or more than one, roll with it. Don’t try to force away the dark mood. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, do the things, talk with the people, etc. But, don’t try to force the mood away. It will pass eventually, I promise.
The above list is brief. There are many more things I could add to this list, but then it would probably be a book. But, by keeping it brief, I am leaving the door open for you to add your own.
So, if you have been sober for a year or more, what would you tell yourself in early sobriety?
Or, if you’ve been sober for less than a year, what else has worked for you?
Feel free to share what has, and has not, worked for you in the comments below, or on my Facebook page. And remember, sobriety is a journey, not a destination.
Thanks for stopping by!