At 6 months sober I’d done loads of hard work and had lots of celebratory I AM SOBER! I AM FREE! moments. Most of us feel like we climb a mountain after emerging from a dark hole in our first few weeks sober, and then if we are lucky, we get to spend some time floating on a pink cloud of joyful tranquility. But then there is the plateau that many of us land on at 6 months sober. For many holding ground on that plateau is far more treacherous than the climb to get there. 6 months sober – this is the place that so many people slip. They climb up the edge of the cliff face, reach the plateau, take a deep breath, look around at what is ahead with a deep sense of uncertainty at the thought of continuing this journey forever, and then tip off the edge.
You’ve done loads of hard work, but it’s not over. Staying sober long term is about continuing the adventure of learning new. It’s about working to not slip back into those old familiar patterns learned over many years of drinking away the intensity of life. In many ways the “work of sobriety” is just beginning but that work becomes more and more rewarding going forward from this point on.
Here are 6 views from that journey along the mountain range that is life, of 6 members of our BOOM Rethink the Drink Community, at 6 months sober. Grab ahold and keep moving forward!
6 months sober and ready to rock!
At 6 months sober, most of us are ready to dive back into the social lives that may have once revolved around drinking. It won’t be the same. But that doesn’t mean it will be worse. You just might find that many things are far better.
My last night out prior to Covid was a Black Lips concert at a punk rock club with my 18-year-old son. I would have never gone out in my city in the winter to a punk rock club had I been still drinking alcohol. It would have taken way too much effort. Been way too cold and way too dangerous to drive home on icy streets. While sitting on my sofa in front of a warm fire sdrinking my nightly entertainment I would have comforted myself that at 52 I am not really the target audience anyway.
But I don’t drink alcohol now. At that point I was 6 months sober and a whole new world of possibilities was opening up to me of what I wanted to do and what I felt I could do. I was no longer tied to the nightly routine of drinking myself numb so I did go to that concert in the city on that cold winter’s night and braved the icy streets because I love that band. And I love live music!
We got there in time for the two warm-up bands. And the club got progressively more crowded and loud. But because I was sober I was totally up for it. I had a couple of Cokes. I talked to people. I danced in the mosh pit next to my 18-year-old. People sweated on me. People got in my space. And I did not miss alcohol for one tiny second, and because I had no alcohol I loved every second of it. And – best of all, the next morning I woke up and felt great and was able to relive every moment of joy I felt the night before.
We all live in different drinking cultures but the experience is the same- You have to do the things that you used to do with alcohol – without alcohol- a few times over months and years- and you will find that it gets better and better. It’s different. But I find being ‘out’ and being ‘social’ ultimately takes less out of me now. My joy is more spontaneous. My commitment to each experience (including hanging with a drinking spouse) is more conscious and more authentic. I am there because I want to be – not because I want/need a venue to drink.
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6 months Sober and Mapping a Plan Away from Complacency
This month marks 6 months sober. My first months were tough, we know those days require constant vigilance and serious commitment. I hunkered down and really focused on not drinking, sometimes that was hour by hour. I love a challenge – tell me I can’t do something and I am hot to prove you wrong. I also like to be different and there are some very discouraging statistics on getting sober and staying sober.
According to Recovery Village, only about 20% of people who receive treatment for alcohol abuse stay sober for a year. For those of us who don’t receive formal treatment, those stats are harder to come by. I took solace from hearing that attempts to get and stay sober vary in successful maintainers – some need one try, some need 100. Anyway, for this go-round I tried all the tricks – epsom salt baths, AF drinks, nice sober treats, did not skimp on chocolate, started therapy, got more exercise, did some meditation, took supplements, ate healthier (except for all that chocolate), and really immersed myself in quit lit and this community. And you know what? All the effort paid off. I had a 2 day slip but have otherwise been solid and steady throughout this 6 months.
Which brings us to today. I have definitely felt a shift in the last couple of weeks. I know the white knuckling is largely over, the habitual part of my alcohol problem has largely subsided; I am spending less time ‘not drinking’ and more time living – it just doesn’t include drinking alcohol.
My concern now is complacency; the last time I ended a long sober stretch I was just “getting back to normal.” I did my time, I returned to drinking socially. Within two years I was drinking pretty much every day with embarrassing overdrinking happening at least once a month. I tanked relationships and a couple of jobs. My health deteriorated and my social life was very limited – I hung out with drinkers mostly, and failed to expand and explore even as I became an empty nester and had more freedom and time.
This time I realize that I failed to plan my recovery and therefore, my recovery was destined to fail. This time, I am mapping a path forward. Even if I could drink “normally,” why would I want to? Now that we know there is no safe level of alcohol consumption, what is my excuse? As I go into the last half of my life (not one minute of which is promised to me – this pandemic has made that clear), I want to optimize my health, my relationships, my mind, and my spirit. Alcohol can’t and won’t improve any of that for me, believe me I tried over and over just in case.
Recovery.org has a great page on planning your recovery Developing Your Personal Recovery Plan (Template Included!). I am using this as a basis to map out the next 18 months.
Did you know that if you make it to 2 years sober, you have a 60% chance of remaining so the rest of your life? At 5 years, it is in the 90s percent-wise. I love a good plan and I know that I have the power to design my life for success, serenity, and most importantly – sobriety.
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6 Months Sober Means Facing My Imperfections and Liking Myself
Drinking seems to have filled a void I was trying to fill with other crap for about a decade. I have increasingly realized that I was constantly trying to scratch an itch, calm an inner discord, ease a constant creep of dissatisfaction, by changing the things around me instead of trying to figure out what was making me so damn dissatisfied in the first place. I’ll admit, I thought leaving my marriage might be the change I needed. It wasn’t (not that it wasn’t wrong for other reasons). What I needed, was to stop trying to fill the void with alcohol and find me again.
I’m coming up on six months alcohol-free, and I’m finally getting back to that vague feeling from over a decade ago. Liking myself. Not feeling like I have everything down, but being at peace with who I’ve become and where I am in life. Not because everything’s perfect, but because I’m starting to face things head on instead of trying to bury everything in alcohol.
I remember sitting in therapy a couple of years ago, and my therapist asking me if I liked myself. I kind of shrugged and said “I guess.” Him: “So that’s a no, then.” He was right, I didn’t. (He also said I wasn’t an alcoholic, but hey – can’t be right about everything 🤣).
And I hadn’t liked myself in awhile.
I kept trying to make changes that would fix how I felt, but the changes would only feel satisfying for a few hours, days, maybe weeks. And then I’d be right back to where I was.
That’s what so freaking awesome about this not drinking thing. Not drinking, by itself, is an amazing thing. But using not drinking as an opportunity to learn more about yourself, becoming a person you have love and compassion for, either again or for the first time ever – is truly an incredible thing and one of the most awesome-est parts of this process. I’m pretty confident I’ve learned more about myself the last 6 months sober than I did the rest of my life – and I know there’s much more to come. I’m only at the beginning.
Some of this has come from making connections through books, podcasts, journaling, etc. But a lot of it has been from interacting with Boom and learning from others who are courageous enough to share their stories, challenges, and growth. I clicked on literally every single Boozemusings link that was posted in BOOM for at least the first month. Whether or not I thought it would help, or thought it was relevant to me. And guess what – I connected with about 95% of those posts. And to top it all off, all of this has cost me exactly zero dollars, other than some donated ones (Wingy and anyone else who helps manage this community, you absolutely ROCK 🤘). So I guess all of that IS pretty Marvelous.
And! Liking yourself again – filling that void with YOU – is just ONE of the many benefits that you don’t even realize are out there waiting for you before you stop drinking. As always, if you’re struggling, KEEP AT IT. If you can’t do it for all the benefits you’re already imagining, then think about doing it for all the benefits you haven’t even considered yet. With you today Boom, AF. 💚
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6 Months Sober and Living Bravely in Love and Truth
The last month has been an emotional whirlwind. Mainly because my threshold for bull💩 has become so low. B.S. from others but mostly from myself. I simply can’t accept the lame excuses and the limiting ideas I have fed myself for so long just to maintain the status quo. It’s just not cutting it anymore and I want more realness. I want authenticity. This has been an uncomfortable month, but it has led to some amazing things.
I have had terrifying and deeply honest discussions with my husband about my drinking and the process I am going through now. I have shared some of my posts with him. My God, it has been scary. I don’t think I have ever felt so vulnerable. Raw. Naked. But, there I was. Just me. All of me. And not willing to hide anymore. Not willing to hear the BS that if you show this part of you you will not be loved. You won’t be enough. In fact, the exact opposite has happened. My husband has been so supportive and gracious in the midst of my pain and vulnerability that it has only strengthened our relationship. And my ability to embrace this part of me has in turn strengthened my love for myself. This all sounds so cheezy when I write it out, but it is the deepest of emotions that I am describing.
The pink cloud has officially lifted and reality has set in. But I am fine with this reality. It is dirty and rough, but it is real and it is 100 percent me, and I don’t ever want to lose this.
“Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.”
― Soren Kierkegaard
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