Why Getting Sober Feels So Hard
I love cheering people on throughout their sober journeys with my peppy slogans: You can do this! Keep moving forward! You are doing awesome! One day at a time! Do not look back! Do not quit before the miracle happens! You are doing it! However, while positive reinforcement and enthusiastic encouragement with catchy slogans may be helpful, I also do not want to sugarcoat things. Getting sober is hard!
It just is. There are so many aspects to getting sober that we initially are often unable to see any of them. Maybe we do not quite believe that it is hard because other people tell us that all we have to do is to stop.
Can’t you just stop!?
Maybe we are also in a an excessive amount of denial about how huge of a problem our drinking has become. Maybe it is because it is so socially acceptable and that we may appear weak if we cannot handle our liquor, and/or need to stop drinking. Maybe we believe that it is easy because we just do not know any different.
Maybe it is because you have quit once for a bet, and managed to stay sober for an entire week, so then you believed that it was easy – yes, that was me! LOL! Maybe it is because we have boundless energy that propels us forward to take this huge leap and stop drinking… and then we are disappointed when the first few days, and weeks of sobriety are overwhelmingly difficult.
There are many reasons we may think that getting sober is easy. Nevertheless, for people with addiction to alcohol, it is not easy to put down the drink because we are often addicted both physically and psychologically.
Early recovery is an amazing journey that can be both very exciting and extremely difficult. It can also be scary and unpredictable, as we enter into this great big unknown. We may feel excited and scared at the same time, and anticipate instantaneous rewards after giving up the drink. Instead, we are often faced with extreme emotions, problems concentrating, poor physical health, and loneliness.
We may even feel like we were better off drinking! What is all this for if we feel upset all the time, and everything sets us off. Life is turning out to be more difficult, and we long for the return of the carefree days.
Therefore, as you may be embarking on your sober journey, it helps to know what changes you may be experiencing, and how long they may last. It is important to not underestimate your disease; every single person does at first. We all know that alcohol provides tremendous tolerance to discomfort, so it is not hard to be easy-going and relaxed when we are drinking. That does not mean that life without drinking will be easy!
It is know that withdrawal symptoms can continue for weeks after you have stopped drinking. The symptoms can affect your mood and your mental state. The aches and pains of withdrawals can make you feel irritable, restless, and uncomfortable. You may also suffer from insomnia during the early days of your recovery, which may add to these symptoms.
If you have used alcohol or drugs for a long time, you will most likely suffer from nutritional deficiencies. Poor nutrition may be causing you to have the “foggy head” feeling, and attribute to the lack of concentration and short-term memory loss.
You may also notice that you are flooded with all kinds of new emotions that you might not even be able to identify. After a prolonged time numbing your feelings that you have not really had to deal with, this can definitely feel overwhelming.
You may also feel guilty about your drinking behavior, which may cause you to be stuck in shame and guilt. You may also have a tendency to blow small issues out of proportion and overreact to everyday situations, as managing new situations sober can prove to be a challenge. Quitting drinking also means saying goodbye to friends who are still drinking or even using drugs, and staying away from the places where you drank. Often when you get sober, you get overwhelmed by feelings of loneliness.
However, escaping the prison of alcoholism usually comes as a huge relief, as you may have been battling with this problem for many years. Moreover, little by little, as you gather your sober days, you will gain tremendous freedom and your life will start changing right before your eyes! Things will be getting better as you are getting healthier and your body gets used to functioning without alcohol. Your moods will even out, and your sleep pattern will return. You will make better friends and have more people who you can relate to. You will be able to look at yourself and not feel the guilt or the shame! You will be happy!
Early recovery is indeed thrilling and terrifying, sometimes simultaneously. Many of us will look back on our first year of recovery with a tremendous feeling of relief and satisfaction, as well as a newfound sense of courage, and a feeling of “Whew! What just happened? How did I get through this?” But we do, we get through it and we thrive!
So know that –You can do this! Just keep moving forward! You are doing awesome! One day at a time! Do not look back! Do not quit before the miracle happens! You are doing it!
Are you in early recover? How are you doing?
If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)*, please check out the Sober Courage menu at the top of this page for an extensive list of support groups and recovery related articles.
*Problem drinking that becomes severe is given the medical diagnosis of “alcohol use disorder” or AUD. AUD is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not using (Ref: NIAAA).