I still consider my first year sober one of the most difficult times in my life. My life revolved around alcohol for so long, it was quite a challenge to go forth and to rebuild, to become human, and to be normal. I had to learn everything. It was grueling. I hated it! But the truth was that if I had continued on this path of devastation, my next stop would have been death. The miracle is that I did not continue and that I was able to change my path. You can change your path too!
People often ask me how to stop drinking, and that is a hard question to answer – it’s both easy and very complicated. But the bottom line is:
If you want to stop drinking, you have to first stop drinking!
And getting sober is not supposed to be easy. If quitting drinking was easy then it wouldn’t be called an Alcohol Use Disorder. And if you are having a hard time with early sobriety than you should know now, that you are most likely addicted. The inability to live without drinking alcohol is a sign that there is something wrong with your relationship with it.
Then many of us put down the drink and think that things will magically just fall into place – that is most definitely what I thought! But most of the time things do not get better right away because years of damage to our bodies and unhealthy thinking cannot be fixed overnight. It takes time, sometimes a considerable amount of time. The good news is that you can quit drinking!
Yes, you can!
In the beginning, all you have to do is worry about not drinking, without any concern about your past or expectations for your future. I know this may sound tough to do, but believe me, if you just stay sober everything eventually will fall into place. Don’t let the fear of the unknown block you. Taking the first step can be quite challenging but it is just like riding a bike, you get on, you fall, and you try again! The important thing is to keep trying! Keep that memory of your last drunk close by to help you remember why you’re doing this.
It is all going to feel new and scary. Seemingly normal tasks like sleeping and eating may be quite difficult. And since your body got so used to having alcohol on a regular basis, this may be quite a shock to your system, and you will go thru a variety of withdrawal symptoms. Your feelings may be very unstable and all over the place, from being angry, irritable and tried to even happy or somewhat delirious.
You may also physically feel horrible. If you get the sweats or the shakes, and they are persistent and unmanageable, please seek medical assistance, as withdrawals from alcohol in severe cases may cause death. Don’t worry about finding a rehab at this time, your local hospital is most likely equipped to deal with alcohol withdrawals – let them know you are detoxing from alcohol. I have been to detox several times. Usually, you get some IV fluids to hydrate your body and medication to help you with the withdrawals. Some hospitals have meetings and counselors on staff, which can help you with your next step in recovery. Detox usually lasts 3-5 days.
It is a good idea to have a plan after leaving the hospital/detox. Staying sober in the early days can be quite difficult! Chances are that you will feel better physically, but your mind will be filled with carp. This carp can lead you right back to a drink, trust me, I have been there! The key is to have a plan! You should call a local county rehab to see if there have any spaces available. If they do not, they will at least be able to give you contact numbers for other rehabs in the area.
There is also AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA (Narcotics Anonymous) and it is FREE. You may be reluctant to attend a meeting but, give it at least a try! You do not have to speak, you can just sit and listen. For me, meetings were crucial in the early days; it was the only place I felt safe from the drink. I also found many supportive people who were willing to help me stay sober! Please check out the extensive list of support sites under the Find Support link at the top of this page.
Most of all, stick it out, get thru it!
Give yourself a chance because you are worth it, and it does get better!!!
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. You may also find some great inspiration, support, and resources at the bottom of this page.
*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: https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders