Getting sober and eventually staying sober, can feel almost mythically impossible. How do you stop drinking and stay sober when you love to drink but the drinking doesn’t love you anymore? What works ? How do you get through that first month sober when drinking has been a daily release for years?
For many people who have struggled with alcohol, living alcohol-free long-term is the most life-affirming thing they’ve ever done! But at first, going sober is quite simply about getting comfortable with being uncomfortable for a while. It’s about saying enough is enough I want to be safe and I’m willing to fight for that! Enough is enough I want to be free and I’ll do whatever it takes to earn that freedom!
Today I am 500 days sober – 499 days ago I was terrified, afraid that I could not make it to day 3 sober, and now I’ll tell you that the only difference between me and someone on day 1 is time !!!! 499 days to be exact. It wasn’t any easier for me to get through those days than it would be for anyone else. I was not really a “grey area” drinker. When I was drinking I was slowly and painfully killing myself. When I stopped drinking and found in the first week of withdrawal that among other things my symptoms included auditory hallucinations, I decided I was going to quit or die trying. Enough was absolutely ENOUGH.
I am so grateful that I lived to share my story. It is simple (don’t drink), but not easy (for a while at least), but it IS worth it. I am not only alive but I am finally fully living!!!!!
I recorded everything that went down in my first month sober, every tool that I used, and everything that worked for me. Will following the 30 things I learned in my first 30 days work for you? Is this the magic trick to achieving long-term sobriety? Absolutely not! But maybe some of these tips and tools and ideas will get you to sleep tonight with the sober intention you woke up with this morning. And waking up hangover-free is a gift worth doing a bit of reading, or a bit of listening, and a bit of work, to achieve.
You can find my first 10 days Survival guide at this link on our Boozemusings blog Demystifying Sober – Survival Guide From My First 10 Days Alcohol-Free and there are voice recordings in these two links if you’d rather listen than read. My day 11 is not included between these two posts as it was September 11th. Thoughts for that day are at the end of the first post under 5 stages of grief.
Demystifying Sober Part 2 – Tips and Tools for Your First Month Sober – Day 12 thru 16
To skip to a specific day just tap the blue title.
Day 12- L-Glutamine
Day 13- Brainwave Entertainment
Day 14- RA MA DA SA mantra
Day 15- Essential Oils
Day 16- Vitamines
Editors note – To understand the possible physical and neurological withdrawal symptoms you may experience in those first 30 days alcohol-free please take a look at this thorough, medically reviewed article from VeryWell Mind Symptom Stages for Alcohol Withdrawal.
Day 12 Alcohol-Free – This was a strange day. I was doing it! I had some sober momentum. I felt physically ok and the daytime was much easier. I would get a few anxiety-ridden thoughts later in the day and the witching hour was still not fun, but handling wine o’clock alcohol-free was doable since I had done it a respectable amount of days. I was finally over that first 10 days of withdrawal so I had Zero alcohol in my system, which felt good. But I started to wonder …
Is this it? just a never-ending string of this? Hiding at night and on weekends? Was this my lonely life now? Did I really want this feeling ok…. but that’s it?
Now I know that all of these thoughts are that parasitic addict voice Wolfie/Wine Witch, mounting a new attack. Wolfie? Wine Witch? Parasitic addict voice?
There is a mental parasite that grows in the psyche of drinkers or people who become addicted to any substance or behavior. You can name the parasite anything you want, but it is actively trying to sabotage you in your quest for sobriety . It wages war against you the moment you decide to stop drinking. The booze brain beast is crafty. It knows wartime strategy and will say or do anything to maintain the real estate it has in your soul.
It keeps you down with the drug of alcohol.
It makes the real you cower
in a tiny corner feeling
I hadn’t made it to the 16-day shift where I had seen other people feel suddenly so much better. Days 11-16 were all just an internal mental chess game for me. I was physically feeling ok, way better than hungover but not all bouncy and “normal people” feeling quite yet. So it was time to get to some of those 100 things in 100 days that I mentioned in the last post that Mrs. P had tasked me with to get through the days without giving in to Wolfie.
Belle Robertson, who calls the booze brain Wolfie says that
Anything that isn’t you telling yourself to do what is good/best for you is Wolfie, ANYTHING.
On to the continuation of my first month sober answers to the Booze Brain or how to fight Wolfie with 100 new things in 100 days because FUA !
Day 12- L-Glutamine This is an amino acid that helps with cravings. If you get the capsule you can break it open and put the powder straight under your tongue for faster absorption. I have read that it is the only amino that doesn’t taste bad, so don’t go doing this with all of them….. But I found that it did help to have it on hand. Maybe it just gives me something to do and hold on to and distract myself, but either way, I do think it helped. L Glut is not expensive and I still keep a little packet in my car and in my purse just in case. I recently gave some to a friend who is trying to do a 30-day sober thing and she thought they helped too. A good thing to have in your sober toolbox is anything that works and the key is to be willing to try just about anything so give it a try!!
more reading on L-Glutamine and how people have used it to help with alcohol cravings Alcohol sugar cravings (managing them) and the whole Gut-Brain health connection thing. – Alcohol Cravings and Hypoglycaemia
Think about it! What if early sobriety were an adventure right from the start!
Trying 100 new things in 100 days can make it feel just like an adventure! It gave me something to grab on to. I modified it to include things that I hadn’t done sober and things I hadn’t done since I was a child because 100 new things is a lot and I’m just not that creative. But I did it.
Some days it was as simple as try a new meditation (hey, its new) or go out to lunch (with no wine), and some days it was signing up for a class to do something totally new. It let me practice being out in the world sober, being anxious about new things sober, dealing with new people sober, getting somewhere on time sober, etc. Some things were new sober tools that sounded way out there, some really helped and some didn’t really help but I tried them.
And of course please do remember not to put TOO MUCH PRESSURE on yourself. If you are running out of ideas doing the same thing that you used to do while drinking, sober, Is NEW! Just see it as the adventure it is.
Day 13- Brainwave Entertainment. This one is a TRIP. It is a meditation therapy thingy where you need to use headphones to listen to it and it plays 2 different sides in your head. The idea is it creates the frequency in your brain to align with what you want. It sounds a bit crazy and not too many people talk about it in their toolbox but I have been using it for over a year now. The company is called IAWAKE, and the meditations I use with regularity are 1. Deep Recovery 2. Sound asleep. This is one of the few sober tools that cost a little bit of money. I think when I bought them (downloaded to my phone), each track was about $40. I honestly believe these are worth the investment or I wouldn’t be listing them here. This was one of the “If I found $$ to drink, I can find $$ to recover” items. I used the Deep Recovery track whenever I needed a time out. I would just lie down and listen for 1/2 hr. That one has a guided meditation and music-only track. I sometimes use the music only to help me sleep now. So I would recommend buying the Deep Recovery one first and see if you like it… You can check out Brainwave Entertainment on Insite Timer for free and see what you think.
Editors note– This is not a sponsored post. These are products that the author of this article used and recommends from her experience. Whenever possible a free alternative is suggested.
Looking in my notes on my day 14 I picked up my dry cleaned drapes for the living room. Wow, a huge accomplishment, right? What? Well, I had also washed and ironed the sheers, they still looked bad, so I went out and bought new ones, in ivory, white and ecru because I wasn’t sure what would look best with the drapes. So I had to decide to do the drapes project (6 years in the house now and not done, gross), Take them down, spend the $360 in dry cleaning, buy and iron new shears and return the ones that didn’t work.
This is a project that I had wanted to do for 6 years but couldn’t work up the energy and motivation to get it done.
This was the first sober project I did from start to finish. It is still one of the most satisfying of my sober projects because of the follow-through and the knowledge that I could not get it done while drinking. The ability to follow through and get things all the way done is one of those seemingly small but actually GIANT gifts of sobriety.
Day 14- RA MA DA SA mantra – This is in my sober toolkit for a number of reasons. It checks off a box on my 100 new things in 100 days list (apologies to the very small group of humans who have done this before). It requires a commitment to do this healing chant for 40 days in a row, I think it is either 8 or 11 minutes. That requires dedication and follow-through! And you have to do it out loud, which for me was way out of my comfort zone.
I purchased the version that is on AYKANNA’s Livelight, yoga & meditation music ($9.99), Its track 8, and I listen to the whole album in the car lots, I love it!! I am sure there are other versions but I liked this one. It is part of Kundalini yoga kriya (practice). This type of yoga has its own day because it is magic so I won’t say more about it now.
I found the mantra through Holly Whitaker’s sober website The Tempest. She is great. I respect that she has decided to cater to a young, LGBTQ+ friendly demographic, she wrote at one point that she felt that she could do the most good in this group, although being not young I have still found her to be a great resource for me as well, so babbling for what reason? Check her out and see what you think…… Holly Whitaker – Kundalini Meditations
At first I didn’t think I could make it through the mantra and my mind would not settle down, I just waited for the torture to be over. Then after a few days I started to have periods of time where my mind was just floating in the mantra, then the grocery list, and the to do, and life would creep in, then the more days I did it, it got shorter and shorter. I liked it as part of my day, and I definitely noticed a big difference!
All the tools in the sober toolkit work together. They have to to keep us going.
Day 14 RA MA DA SA -Kria for 40 days
A refresher from Day 4 on what I learned about goals –
To make successful goals have a bunch at once, big goals and little goals all working together.
The big goal is the big scary one you honestly believe you will never be able to do, the one that makes the fluttery feeling in your chest, the one you are definitely not telling anyone. For me, this is 2 years sober. 2 years sober was my big goal because that is how long I’ve heard it takes the brain to fully heal from the damage of long term alcohol abuse, overuse, drinkey pants, wine cougar, add your cutesy “anything but alcoholic” name of choice.
The short term goals are fluid and moving, mine went from 1 day sober to 4 days to 3 more (weekend) aka 7. Which was close to 10.
The other key about the short term goals is to MOVE THEM BEFORE YOU GET TO THEM. If your goal is to go one week alcohol-free then don’t wait until day 7 to re-evaluate. On day 5 or 6 of a 7-day goal – move the goal to 10 days or 16. An interesting sidebar is that day 16 is a shift day. I don’t know why but something changes if you get to day 16. I had it happen myself and I’ve seen hundreds of people have the same experience, weird, but true!!!
If you reach your goal then you deserve a reward!
Day 15– This day was so close to my 16-day goal that I almost felt confident that I was going to make it, which meant that it was time to change my goal before I got there. The next logical goal was 30 days, the full month. I was halfway there, but a month sounded big and far away. A whole month….. I couldn’t do it, no way I could not drink for a month said my head and wolfie/WW. But then I took a deep breath. I was already 1/2 way there. I could do this. I was going to just go for it. So a bit scared of such a big goal but ready to fight for it, I “kept on swimming”…..
Day 15- Essential Oils, This is a huge topic and there are many different brands and hundreds of oils, for all different purposes. I used the Young Living “Emotions” kit to help balance out my mood swings and quickness to move to extreme emotions that were happening to me. I know Lavender is great for relaxing and mint/lemon are great for waking up, but besides that, you are going to have to do your own research. I have met a bunch of great reps from Young Living that are super knowledgeable and helpful, and I really like the quality of their oils and blends. There are lots of companies out there, I would just be careful to get actual oils not mixed with filler oils as some companies do. I am sure that an internet search can help.
I believe these oils, along with lots of other tools can help quite a bit. I think today I will use the oil JOY on the way out of the house!!! I also often use Peace & Calm, when feeling anxious. I have had a number of people say to me that if an oil smells good to you it is what you need and if it doesn’t; it is not. I wanted to use the oil Release, thinking it would be a good growth movement. I didn’t really like the smell but I “thought” it was what I should do. I used it for a number of days in a row and had terrible nightmares. I stopped using it and the nightmares stopped right away. Very strange….. Anyhoo, since then I use the oils I am drawn to and stay away from ones that I am not.
100 things in 100 days, right? It can’t hurt to try it and you might just find its another great tool….
Day 16- On day 16 for me the pink cloud arrived, and it was glorious! I don’t know if it was because someone told me that day 16 was a shifting point, but I didn’t care. I had a positivity welling up from somewhere, I felt pretty good physically. I had also made it more than halfway to my new 30-day goal. I had a general sense of wellness and that everything would be alright. It was a nice change from the uncertainty and struggle of the first 15 days. I was proud that I had no alcohol in my system (10 days) and I had some sober momentum. I also found myself singing along with the radio in the car. I realized that I hadn’t even felt well enough to do that for a long time, there was just a bubbling up of the words of the song, it felt effervescent. So feeling good, makes us want to feel good and take care of ourselves.
Day 16- Vitamines – As drinkers, we generally don’t take very good care of ourselves. Our diet is not what it should be and alcohol is toxic and takes away a lot from our bodies. There are great article and resources here from inside our BOOM Community – Thoughts on Supplements – More Thoughts on Supplements – and this interview is excellent Bubble Hour Interview with Chris Engen on Nutrition for Recovery – But even a quick google search comes up with a pretty consistent list of what is needed most by people who have used too much alcohol.
From my experience start with a good quality daily multi- vitamin. then add B (storage is reduced in drinkers), C, D (bone softening in drinkers). Folic acid (may or may not be enough in your multi), Zinc, Magnesium, Calcium, Iron. I also added Rhodiola for focus. I figured I would take these religiously for 30 days, well most of the bottles are sold in 60 days or more so I figured I would finish the bottles.
A tip: most grocery store brands or even local pharmacies don’t really sell high-quality vitamins. Find a health food market, they often have a guru that can tell you the optimal levels and which brands are the best for absorption, and storage, etc. Or there is always the online shopping solution. You can get great brands but have to do the research yourself. I am lucky that I have one of these Natural food stores, and yes the vitamins cost more there, but you are getting what actually will help versus the fillers and low potency of the lesser brands.
So I considered this a lesser sober treat and just went for it and bought them all at once. If necessary you can start with a multi, then one by one add some of the others. I felt that I should try to give my body the best chance to heal and move forward so this became part of my self-care. Now I still take a multi, a pro-biotic, B complex supplement, Rhodiola, and just added L-Glut back to work on my sugar cravings. I reduced the rest over time. I took away one at a time and paid attention to if I felt any different. At one point I stopped taking the B and really felt a difference so I added it back!
More thoughts on the importance of sober treats : Sober Treats – Rewiring your Reward Pathways When You Go Alcohol-Free
L-glutamine, chanting, brainwave entertainment, aromatherapy, and vitamins! That is a good solid set of tools to add to your sober tool kit. In that first few weeks when most days I felt like I was living in a new, ill-fitted skin, my key to staying sober was to try new things. 100 new things actually! What can I do with my time and money other than washing it away?
Living sober was new to me and while it may have felt like a chore at times it was also an awakening into possibility. When life becomes a marathon, rather than a sprint or nose dive off a cliff – the possibilities for enjoying the sensational scenery along the way are endless.
I’ll be back soon with part 3 of my first month soon –
Even months into this alcohol-free adventure you may have days that your body and brain scream for that numbness that only booze brings.
And until you’ve been alcohol-free for a year or two that emergency numb now trigger may still flip on occassion.
This afternoon I had a really super bad stress headache and anxiety attack and was ready to kick the fuckit bucket! 🥾🪣😱
Then I started to play the movie forward ( what would happen if I drank ) with star scenes from bathroom ugliness, headache from hell, fighting with hubby like my mouth was possessed by Satan himself. So rather than trying to drink away my stress, I searched u tube for binaural music.
I came across the above video and it was amazing. While listening to the low tone vibration music you can watch a video of brain neurons floating like jelly fish !
I was visualizing my brain cells healing and becoming healthy. It was so relaxing and brought my panic level down so I could think rationally.
I get frustrated when life gives me lemons instead of sweet lemon aid. The reality I have to remind myself is that just because I live sober doesn’t make me immune to life’s frustrations, disappointment, and heartaches. So for today I decided to keep on keeping on and added some great low frequency binaural music with visualization to my tool box .
Keep going no matter if you are on day 1 or day 10,000 we journey together and remember together is always better!
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