Being newly sober was not what I expected.
Here are some things that I personally would have wanted to know early on:
1. You might feel like you’re physically dying.
Say hello to withdrawal.
On a scale of one-to-ten your severity of pain or discomfort will vary, but go in knowing that your body is cleaning house. This can get ugly and it won’t feel good.
No it isn’t fun but it is a necessary part of getting to the best years of your life. You are breaking down barriers to find the new you.
Don’t give up now. You will get through it.
2. After Detox/withdrawal it gets harder.
So you conquered the first ninety-days and that is HUGE. But things won’t magically be or feel better just because you are sober. After some of the fog clears you might look around and notice that so many other things are still a mess.
Good news friends: It’s okay. Messes clean up and it will take some time. You can only clean up so much at once, so try to remind yourself of the progress that you have made and don’t focus so much on all that you have left to do. It will all get done.
3. The emotional struggle is real.
You are so used to drugs making you feel better or helping you to not feel the things that made you feel guilty or sad or the things that acted as reminders of who you became.
Be prepared. You are going to feel things that you thought you hid away and you are going to feel things that you don’t recognize and it’s likely that you moods will be all over the place for a while.
Recovery is the opposite of everything that you’re used to, but it is going to be okay. Give it some time and things will even out a little bit more each day. Feelings are good and come and go, so remind yourself that it’s okay to feel the things, but they shouldn’t dictate your actions.
4. Keeping busy has a purpose.
Often getting sober means that you are getting acquainted with yourself after a long stretch of time. Maybe you never knew what you liked to do to relax, unwind, or recharge. It is possible that you don’t know what recreational fun should look like for you or what kinds of things you are into. What in the hell do you do with downtime? How do you celebrate your victories? How do you curb negative thinking or a mindset that used to trap you inside of your own mind?
In early recovery it is important to try new things and to get a feel for new activities that you can inject into your new life and your new routine.
5. Reaching out can save your progress and your life.
Isolation in early recovery can tear down progress quicker than Donald Trump can say the word great or use singular expressive adjectives to exclaim disdain for his opponents. Sad!
You might not feel comfortable reaching out or ready to pick up the phone and tell someone you are having a shit day or are feeling like giving up. Hiding and concealing is no longer an option. I learned early on that my addiction was very tricky and deceitful. It won every single time that I tried to secretly battle it alone. No one is going to shame you for making the courageous decision to ask for encouragement.
Also, it is your job to speak up and to tell someone that you are having an off day or are feeling unsure of your existence or your choice to be in recovery.
Tell someone who you know cares about you and your Recovery.
Don’t keep it to yourself.
6. Recovery changes ALL of the time.
You might assume that the second that you made the decision to quit and change that you will quit and that will be it. But that isn’t the reality of choosing sobriety. It changes all of the time.
Every single day life will reveal a little bit more to you. Each day you will grow and move away from the old you, as you step into your new way of living your life. As you make new friends and visit new places or meetings or groups you will change. As you implement new activities or uncover new loves for certain hobbies you will change. Every time you tell the truth and follow through you will change. As you set and reach and crush your personal or professional goals you will change. Your recovery benefits from every single thing that you do and think and say and decide. It all matters and it all pushes you closer to your authentic self.
7. Not everyone will be happy for you.
So I guess I expected people to be really happy for me. I thought that everyone would be on board and I would have a group of supporters beating down my door to pat me on the back.. but not everyone cared. There are so many people out there who will have your back and cheer you on, but they may not be the people who you expected. I have lost a lot of ‘friends’ and many of my relationships are gone, over or have changed. But I have gained a family and true, solid, friendships.
8. The other side of staying busy is learning to be alone with yourself.
This was probably one of my least favorite experiences as a newly sober woman.
Just because I was sober and wanted to learn how to embrace a calm, healthy way of living, didn’t mean that I loved myself. I still hated who I was and I had no idea when the loving myself part would happen. Over time I learned how to differentiate between my past mistakes and the person who I was becoming, the things that I could and could not control or change, and the difference between a bad choice and an inherently bad human being. I wasn’t as terrible to be alone with as I had once believed, but it definitely took some getting used to before I could look into a mirror without crying or wanting to smash my face into it.
I hope that these 8 things serve as reminders to you that you are not alone in this thing.
I may not have felt exactly how you are feeling but I can empathize with what you might be going through and I can only say these two things are guaranteed:
God loves you and is for you and will carry you and be by your side, and it all gets better as time passes.