Adjusting to the New Life of Sobriety
"I never said it would be easy; I only said it would be worth it." It's such an apt quote for addiction and recovery. Adjusting to the first year of sober life is like a tornado of cycling emotions. From fear, anger, pride, frustration, happiness, guilt, sadness, confusion, and clarity - sobriety itself can make you feel insane. Each day, each moment can elicit multiple changing emotions, especially if your days are filled with the wrong people and activities. Staying Sober Is Worth The Effort The emotional ups and downs are distressful, but they are nothing compared to the physical, psychological, emotional, financial, and social impacts of addiction on both you and your loved ones. By staying sober, you can begin to repair and rebuild broken relationships, eventually even forge new ones. You'll be more productive and valuable at work, increasing your earning potential and job opportunities in the future. The mental clarity will enable you to accurately evaluate your life as a whole and your relationships, eventually allowing you to realize your aspirations and make steps toward them. Of course, you'll see improved health and psychological well-being, too. Even if some days don't seem like it, the long-term and short-term benefits are endless if you can adjust to life as a sober person. So, how do you learn to adjust? One important step is in knowing what exactly should and shouldn't be in your life. Do Have a Strong Support System in Place and Don't Be Afraid to Utilize It One of the most difficult processes a sober person has to go through is the breaking of old ties. It can make life seem very lonely when you must avoid a lot of the people you know and love because they engage in activities that compromise your sobriety. But, it's something you'll need to commit to in order to give yourself the best chance at sobriety possible. This might even require you changing housing if you have roommates that are heavy drinkers or you live in a 'party' community. Develop sober contacts. They understand your cravings and emotions because they, too, have been there; they can become your confidants, friends, and trusted advisors. Establish at least one person that you can rely upon being there when you need to talk. Attend sobriety meetings regularly, and remember to engage. You don't learn anything if you aren't mentally engaging in what the meeting is about and how it can apply to your own life. Don't Isolate Yourself Alcohol lessens inhibitions, anxiety, and self-consciousness in social settings. As a sober person, you'll need to develop new settings and methods of socialization. You'll need to get out and about and find ways to connect with sober individuals - a book club, athletic team, poetry reading, or cooking classes are good examples. The main point is that you don't isolate yourself and don't fall back into old drinking hangouts or with old drinking pals. This process will most likely be somewhat stressful as you worry about things like coming into contact with alcohol or fearing that you are going to have less fun without alcohol. However, a healthy amount of stress is necessary to develop the sober coping mechanisms, sober social skills, and personal wherewithal to handle life as a new sober you. The key word here is healthy amount!! If something feels like it's uncomfortably too much, then step back and re-evaluate. Do Learn Healthy Eating Habits Firstly, many addicts neglect their health while in active stage of the addiction. Second, it's common to replace one addiction with another - the alcoholic picks up tobacco, the smoker picks up food, the food addict picks up tobacco. It can be a vicious cycle of one addiction replacing another. Third, what you eat can directly affect your mood, stress, and energy. Given these three facts, it's important to speak to a nutritionist and/or do some personal research on how nutrition affects the mind and body so that you can adopt a healthy, well-balanced diet. Don't Neglect Your Mental Health "I'm fine," isn't an answer. You need to be mentally present in your own life if you want to control how you live and feel. Take time each morning or evening to keep a journal. Try to include a list of positive and negative things that affected you during the day. This can help you identify and evaluate any activity or person that may impact your sobriety negatively or positively. In the morning, you can even make a goal list; at night, evaluate your actions to see if they're taking you closer or further from these goals. Meditation, yoga, or just personal quiet time to reflect is also beneficial to clear your mind and reset for sobriety. A mental health professional can help you if you feel like this isn't a process you can deal with alone. Don't Make Any Unnecessary Major Life Changes For The First Year Of Sobriety Of course, if you live in a party house, you'll want to change housing. It's a major decision, but it's also a necessary one for your sobriety. Major life changes which aren't necessary for sobriety often create anxiety, stress, worry, and unstableness that can lead to relapse. Such changes include: • Job changes. • Opening a business. • Accepting a promotion. • Going back to school. • Getting married or divorced. • Starting a new romance. • Getting pregnant. • Moving long distances. • Traveling long distances. • Creating new large debts, such as buying a car. Again, sometimes in life these things are unavoidable. If so, consult with your therapist, sponsor, sober advisor, religious council, or another stable support source anytime you feel that your sobriety is threatened. Stay Persistent In closing, remember that sobriety isn't an easy road. If it were, there wouldn't be addicts. It will take persistence and commitment to learn the new life skills that will help you stay sober. Know what, who, and where affects your sobriety negatively and positively, and then make the necessary steps to either avoid or foster those things within your life. Your chances of continued sobriety, all its rewards, and your overall mental and physical well-being will improve greatly with continued effort.