Today is my one-year sober anniversary and I am thrilled. It has been the longest and shortest year of my life! Stopping drinking and then staying sober hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth it. I started with a firm goal of 10 days alcohol-free and hoped to reach 100 days sober. I never thought I could do the first 10 days, let alone the 100 much less a whole year, and now I’ve “made it”. But what does that mean?
With the alcohol out of my mind and body, my anxiety is way down and I sleep so much better. Hangover free mornings will never get old. Without the nightly cocktails and wine, I can handle more, I can get more done, I can do life without feeling overwhelmed all the time. I am proud of all of the work I have done and all I have learned to make it this far. But I didn’t wake up this morning at one year sober to feel any different than yesterday. I haven’t solved all my life issues or challenges. I just now have a fighting chance to work on them.
There is always more to learn and grow so I will just keep doing that. I will continue to just put one foot in front of the other, which is a pace that I think we as drinkers hate. But patience is such a key in staying sober. Patience with the process, patience with ourselves, and sometimes patience with time itself.
One of the biggest tools in my sober toolbox is the wisdom of those with more time sober than I. I would not have learned without the examples of others. I have tears and a heart full of gratitude for those that reached back to help me, that traveled with me, and continue to do so. I owe so much to this online community BOOM Rethink the Drink! I would not have made it without BOOM.
Today I graduate into a beginner “person with more time sober” as I cross the one-year threshold and I would like to be a resource to those starting out or having trouble gaining traction. To this end, I’m going to share the tools that helped me in my first month alcohol-free. I don’t think I came up with any of these on my own so I’m just sharing my collection of resources.
Take the mythical impossibility out of getting sober and staying alcohol-free. I have learned it’s about opening yourself to the ideas shared by those who went before you. Accountability, trust, honesty. Community.
Here is my Sober Survival Guide from my First 10 Days Alcohol-Free :
Day 1– distract/read/research
Day 2– white knuckle/willpower
Day 3– have a personal mantra
Day 4- Goals
Day 5- Stay Home – HIDE!
Day 6 – Mrs P. and 100 new things in the next 100 days!!
Day 7 – Understanding Wolfie and the Wine Witch or Beating the Mythical Booze Brain Beasts
Day 8 – Understanding the Importance of Sober Treats
Day 9- HALT(S)
Day 10 – Faith in the Wisdom of those further down the road (further into sobriety).
I don’t know what made my last day one the day that sober finally stuck. I had had a long time of repeated day ones, and a few multiple day runs. It was a Tuesday in the morning. On Monday I was going to start but failed, and I felt scared and crappy as usual. So Tuesday was the day and fear was what I remember most. I read a bunch of posts on Boom and came up with a plan.
Day 1– distract/read/research
My plan for day one was to be ready for my witching hours from 3 to 4 pm and then from 8 to 9 again. I went about my day and at 3 pm I sat down in front of my computer, read all the daily posts from BOOM – read the articles in the resources section, made a list of recommended “quit lit”, and felt like crap but kept – reading – anyway.
I knew from somewhere in the back of my memory banks that a craving can only actively last a few minutes so I breathed and held myself in the chair (literally).
My husband was watching tv in the next room and drinking away and I hated his guts for it. Then at 9 pm I took a Tylenol pm and went to bed (there are lots of other sleep helpers but that’s what I had that day).
I didn’t sleep quickly, sleep well, or sleep easily but I had made it.
Day 1- distract/read/research
On to Day 2!
Day 2– white knuckle/willpower
On Day 2 I felt like I was in shock. The minutes passed slowly, my mind was all over the place and my emotions raged like an angry, sleep-deprived toddler on Halloween night. I felt like total crap physically. I was having auditory hallucinations (which can be very dangerous) and I kept coming up with these “totally rational, good, and legitimate” reasons I could or should have a drink.
I was getting the inkling that there were two parts of myself at war. I knew I didn’t want the pain and grief and the rest of drinking but I wanted the immediate pain to go away. I knew that drinking would take away the physical symptoms, plus my head was telling me to drink..
You weren’t that bad!
Start again Tomorrow!
I was a zombie. I had cleared my schedule of everything I could get out of and dragged myself through what I couldn’t. Part of what keeps me going now, after a full year sober, is that I don’t want to have to do these early days again. I made a promise to myself that I would go to my next morning’s yoga class no matter what happened. White Knuckle Willpower is what it took!
YES, this is actually something in my sober toolbox. We have all read that white knuckle willpower won’t get or keep you sober alone, and that is COMPLETELY true. But there are times when you do need it for a time, where you have to just hang on tight and do it. Minute by minute meditation/prayer/tea/reading/sleep aid/ rinse and repeat – with hubby drinking to oblivion in the next room, its a running theme, you’ll see. If you hit your bed sober at the end of the day YOU WIN!
The only way out is through so just do whatever it takes.
I had ordered Allen Carr’s book “The Easy Way to Control Alcohol” in advance so it was there for me to read. I read that book 3 times, cover to cover. The first time I knew it was real gold but also I knew it didn’t really sink in, so I started on page one again as soon as I finished the last page. I did this 3 times.
Day 2- White knuckle/willpower
On to Day 3
Day 3– have a personal mantra
Day 3 sucked like day 2 but now I had one more day of crappy, interrupted, lack of sleep. The distract, read, research routine continued and the white knuckle willpower was sort of working but today I added something new!
On day 3 I added a personal mantra. Try something simple and short that you can say over and over and over if or whenever you need.
Mine is “Just Keep Swimming”. I don’t swim. I don’t really like swimming (laps) so I’m not sure why this is my mantra, but if my anxiety comes up, I apply the mantra. If I feel really uncomfortable, mantra. If I am craving alcohol really badly, mantra. Someone pisses me off, mantra.
You get the idea. I am happy to share this one if anyone needs it, it is simple, direct, and moves me along.
Here are some more mantras that work for people in our Boom community
Life is precious, health is a priceless treasure, and sobrenity rocks!
Living sober is being free
Get on with life and stop making excuses
Before life gets on with you
By this time the voice in my head had a MILLION reasons why drinking again was a good idea, and the weekend was coming up. I never had been successful staying sober on the weekend anyway, so I might as well cave in today right?
The decision to have one drink is the decision to have hundreds.
I had a lot of lists from all of my research on great things to help me quit. I had written down the lists in my notebook: my how much money was I saving list, the quit lit list, the books list, the movie list, the supplements list, etc. But it didn’t feel fun so I “just kept swimming” and was a miserable cranky, feel crappy, bitch. I put myself to bed early (Tylenol PM every night for 7 nights was my plan, even though it didn’t get me a full night sleep). Plus I could not stand to watch my SOB husband drinking in the other room. It felt like he was taunting me. He wasn’t, and this wasn’t about him, stopping drinking was a solitary journey of mine and I had to get used to and ok with that fact. I knew if I didn’t separate my sober journey from him I would not make it.
There was also a tiny little voice putting her hand up shyly in the back of the room saying
“I really want to do this, I don’t want to drink, I want to make it through”.
And somehow I did.
Day 3- personal mantra
“Just Keep Swimming”
On to Day 4
The preview of day 4 is that something changes, it feels a teensy, tiny bit easier. Plus there is a level of pride that comes with winning the battle of day 2 and 3.
I read that it takes 10 days for all of the physical alcohol withdrawal symptoms to fully leave your body, that it is only mental cravings after that, so I set that as my goal.
For the vast majority of people, the physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal have passed by day seven….At 10 days without alcohol, if you still have any physical withdrawal symptoms…they’re possibly due to some other condition than alcohol withdrawal.
10 days seemed like a lifetime away but that became my goal.
Day 4- Goals
Day 4 came in just a little bit friendlier, a little bit softer. My need to drink, the vice that had me emotionally, physically, and mentally crushed, felt like it had been loosened just a half-turn or so. I felt good about the sober momentum I had gained, but it was also Friday, the dreaded weekend. Weekends trying to be sober had become the bane of my existence. Even If I could get a 5-day alcohol-free stretch starting on Monday, the weekend kept tripping me up. So I started thinking about what I could change or add to make this weekend a sober success story.
I spent some time thinking about and defining my goals. All sorts of goals.
I had my 10-day goal to get past the early alcohol withdrawal symptoms and most acute cravings.
On day 4, facing the beginning of the weekend, I knew 10 days may as well have been a year (HAHA), so I made my goal to get to Monday. I had already done 4 days, I could do 3 days of weekend.
I reasoned that I had spent a million weekends drinking and going out so I could spend ONE weekend not drinking. I also rationalized that the next weekend would roll along eventually and I could always go back to drinking if I wanted to. That’s the thing about drinking, you don’t get kicked out of “the club”, you can always go back. Giving myself permission to go back to drinking in some future time helped me through a bunch of the tough weekends ahead, but I digress.
To achieve my goal of that first sober weekend I cleared my schedule of anything drinkey. No out to dinner with friends, no quick stop in, none of that. I planned to shampoo my living room rug and clean the kitchen (a good clean), because If I was going to feel like crap while still working through those early alcohol-free day withdrawal symptoms, I might as well get something useful done, (maybe I watched Cinderella too much as a kid).
I also read about goals and how to successfully make them. One of the ways to make successful non- drinking goals is to 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! Being conscious of this is important because for most drinkers, the reward for reaching goals is a drink. Be prepared to reward yourself with something alcohol-free! More thoughts on sober treats down the way at day 8 – but for now-
Day 4- Set your goals, clear the weekend schedule and dig in!
On to Day 5 !
Day 5- Stay Home – HIDE!
I had finally cobbled together 6 hours of sleep in a row, and after changing out of my sweaty pj’s I got back to sleep for about another hour and a half. Day 5 was a Saturday and the first morning that I didn’t feel like human garbage. I had cleared my calendar, so it was just another day. That was how I sort of mentally erased the weekend mindset. Plus I had a hot date with a rug shampoo machine and a dirty kitchen.
My Mr. helped me with the rug shampoo and we sort of had fun doing it. This was the first time in 5 days that I remembered that he wasn’t just a big jerk who drank on the couch to taunt me each night, and I realized that some of my sadness was because I missed him. This whole week we had been separate because I wasn’t drinking on the couch with him. I started thinking more about what my going alcohol-free might mean to him. I was “leaving” our status quo. I was also seeing the big uncomfortable truth that this positive thing I was doing for myself was going to completely blow up my whole life. That was very scary and gave my drinking voice (wolfie/wine witch- we will get to them, let’s get through one week first…) a lot of ammo to try to convince me that giving up was a great idea!
It’s a good thing that I had decided to stay home and HIDE! I needed to feel quiet and safe.
While Stay Home and HIDE may sound a bit passive or even regressive it is a great tool. It works well any time you are feeling raw or rough and need some downtime from the glare of the outside world. Drinking to dull anxiety and soothe the rough edges of life is a survival mechanism that was no longer working for me. Using Stay Home and HIDE as a tool was crucial for me not just that first weekend sober, but later on at difficult points in month 3,6,9, etc. I stayed home for the first weekend. I stayed home from a party a few weeks later, I stayed home from a dinner party after that, I didn’t go to my favorite restaurant (best long island iced tea) for over 6 months, I canceled a vacation I had been looking forward to for over a year.
Now I can go ANYWHERE, ANYTIME. I don’t always choose to, because my idea of “fun” has changed, but I can go anywhere, anytime. It was owning the need to Stay Home and HIDE on that first sober weekend that got me to the place where I don’t have to do that anymore.
I figured I had spent so many years drinking that I could miss some social events for a while. Sometimes FOMO (fear of missing out) and just the bratty temper tantrum side of me would show up, but I was tough with my inner toddler. If I didn’t think I could handle it, I didn’t go, it became my “house rule”. I would sit for a while and just wait for my gut to tell me what was true, if I was still conflicted I would post about it to the community in BOOM and when those with more time said, Don’t go, you don’t want to risk it, I listened.
We know deep inside what the right thing to do is, even if we have spent years overriding it.
Day 5- Stay home/Hide
Day 6 was a GAME CHANGER for me.
Day 6 – Mrs P. and 100 new things in the next 100 days!!
My day 6 sober was a holiday weekend. Labor day weekend in the United States. Our alcohol brain makes up all sorts of great sounding excuses to drink and if we listen to that there is never a good time or good situation to stop. A holiday weekend, a drinking SO, a party you can’t get out of, a sick family member, pet, plant…., a work “thing”, a day that ends in Y, there is always a reason it is a “bad time” to stop drinking.
If you let it be.
I had to decide that NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENED, I was not going to drink!
I had made it through the dreaded Saturday night and now it was Sunday. But his weekend was a little tricker than normal even because it was a holiday weekend. By this morning I was feeling pretty proud and physically a bit better. I was almost at a full week alcohol-free which felt good but also intimidating. I hadn’t been this successful so far so from here on out it was uncharted territory.
But I had some special challenges to accept if I was going to reach my first 10-day goal. It would have been easier if there was no alcohol in the house. My husband drank (and still does), every single day, right next to me on the couch. He is a lovely human, I don’t mean to sound like I’m running him down for it, he was just not ready to be part of my support system. So I had to figure out how to keep going NO MATTER WHAT!
On day 6 one of the long-standing members of the Boom community, Mrs P, gave me some game-changing advice. She is the author of The FUCKIT Bucket and so many other posts that just change people’s journeys. Read all you can of hers. Her posts are here on the Boozemusings blog and are often featured in BOOM.
I was lucky enough to be around just as Mrs P was finishing up the helping portion of her journey so she was more active on the website than she had been and did a “You have 30 days to ask me anything” post as her final act. I asked her what was one thing that if you could do it, gave you the best chance for success. And she said:
100 new things in the next 100 days.
Mic drop! Simple but not easy.
Ok, now I see the multi-layers of this project, but 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 sign up for a class to do something totally new. So in getting out there 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.
100 is a long list, and the Obvious thing is that it motivates you to stay alcohol-free for 100 days without the pressure of a 100-day sober goal per say. Which was WAY too big for me at that point.
Day 6- Mrs P. and 100 new things in the next 100 days!! –
On to day 7
Day 7 – Undersatnding Wolfie and the Wine Witch or Beating the Mythical Booze Brain Beasts
By day 7, besides sort of feeling tired and foggy and out of it physically I started feeling ok. I had made it a full week alcohol-free and was really proud of that. So I started trying to convince myself that I deserved a reward for being sober! I truly deserved it. So bloody mary? G & T? “good” chardonnay?
WAIT, record scratch……. WTF?
I felt like someone had pushed me over, why the hell did it sound like such a good idea to have a drink to reward myself for not drinking?
After 7 days sober I noticed that there were definitely two “sides” at war here. My mind seemed to vacillate between the “drink” and “don’t drink” sides. The two were never in the same thought at the same time but seemed to take turns coming forward and going back. So I started thinking about how to keep the “don’t drink” front and center and how to banish the “drink” when it showed up.
With all the reading and research I had been doing I had read a lot about Wolfie and the Wine Witch. I hadn’t really given them too much thought. It seemed to me that these two mythical booze brain beasts were just another way to identify the classic Devil/Angel on your shoulder. Ok so they were something to do with making us slip, or relapse, or just do what is bad for us, but that was us, our responsibility, right? It was my weak willpower, or the “stress” of the situation, some flaw in me. Failing at my job to stay sober and it was just another “failure” of mine.
But I was wrong.
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 us in our quest for sobriety and it wages war against us the moment we 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, makes the real you cower in a tiny corner, makes you feel less than/crazy/weak/unworthy/small/wrong.
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”. More from Belle: wolfie: if you had a drink this would all stop https://www.tiredofthinkingaboutdrinking.com/2016/01/10/wolfie-if-you-had-a-drink-this-would-all-stop/
Really grabbing onto this is one of the big tools that has helped me get to a year alcohol-free.
At first the voice of this parasitic, bullying, booze brain sounds just like you in your own head. It imitates your best intentions perfectly. The only way to tell the difference between its voice and your voice is to stop and look at the content of what is being said. If the proposal of the voice is not good for you, for your greater good, it is not YOU, but this insidious other. You must absolutely STARVE it to get rid of it. Its tactics are sometimes so sneaky, so unexpected that if you don’t look closely you’ll never notice that it isn’t you, and it sometimes lays in wait and pops back up again when you think it is gone. And believe me this beast? It kills.
Around 9 months sober I started thinking thoughts like,
“At one year sober I could take a night off and have some really good wine, then go back to sober”
” I know I could handle one drink if I really wanted one”
I know that it’s not me saying those things, as convincing as it sounds in the moment.
Some people like to create a picture or character to go with this voice, to give a face to the “other”. But remember that the voice is part of you, even though not a helpful part, and that you had given over the reins to it at some point. The Wolfie, Wine Witch is part of us. A difficult hard to accept part of us, but to heal all of us we need to accept ourselves fully, so try to be kind as you fight it like hell.
At 7 days sober I started to notice the split in myself, the two sides both pulling for my attention, and I knew I had to side with one. I still had my 10 day goal to get to, and I was starting to get my brain back from being hijacked and hungover all the time, so I started to spend time figuring out the similarities and differences between those two sides and what I could do to align myself with the one that had the outcome I wanted.
Day 7 -Wolfie/wine witch
On to Day 8
Day 8 – Understanding the Importance of Sober Treats
Day 8- was a non-memorable day. I was past a week sober (woo-hoo!) but not yet to 10 days (next goal), so I was in no man’s land. Day 8 was just a day. I knew my witching hours would be a challenge as they had been the last 7 days. I also knew that It could be done (for at least 7 days). I knew that I could stay alcohol-free no matter how loudly my booze beast called. There are so many “just going along” days in the path to sobriety, but that doesn’t mean that there is not a lot to learn and do while you slog along sober.
On Day 8 I learned one of the BEST tools in the sober toolkit. When you’re feeling blah apply SOBER TREATS!
SOBER TREATS! We get to reward ourselves for being sober. Sober treats are a present. They are a conscious reminder of what we are giving to ourselves by staying alcohol-free and an affirmation that we deserve to be proud of ourselves. If you found the money to drink, you can find the money for sober treats! And treating yourself will help you stay sober.
Sober treats can be as small as hair ties with ponies on them (my day 45), or high-end ice cream if you usually buy store brand. Sober treats can be a p-touch label machine (30 days) or downloading quit lit on your kindle instead of getting it from the library for free. It can be taking up falconry (my 100 days sober treat), or a new custom saddle for your horse (this one may have been stretching the boundaries a bit). Sober treats can be a vintage 80’s tee shirt from Ghostbusters (yup), a Japanese flipbook, or the fancy shirt that even on sale is ridiculous, At one year sober my treat is the fact that I am writing you from my vacation on Cape Cod and the boat I chartered for this week to track and see Great White Sharks (One year baby!!)
The key to sober treats is that you need to identify them as such. “This is a sober treat, I’m proud of you”. I say it to myself (ok, Im cheesey), when I buy it, I say it twice. If I order it online I say it once when ordering and once when it arrives. Start getting really proud of yourself. You are doing this!!
My tendency is to run myself down and this treating myself did take some getting used to. But now I’m a guilt-free sober treat monster and I love it. It doesn’t need to be expensive or big and nobody else has to know, that’s the beauty of it.
I have sparkly things that I would have never imagined I would want but I love them. I have croc’s shoes with fuzzy liners in them. I have all sorts of silly reminders all around me now that I see and use daily, things that encourage me and keep me going. I have actually been about to cave in, saw a sober treat sitting on my desk, and changed my mind.
I present the sober treat tool in a silly way but it is serious and REAL.
As drinkers, we notoriously don’t take care of ourselves, or appreciate ourselves, or nurture ourselves. Sober treats teach you how to get back to nurturing yourself in a healthy way. A bullet blender, or essential oil diffuser, or Netti pot, or massage, or reiki session, or session with a nutritionist, could be great and health inspiring at the same time. I prefer my treats to have sparkles and be outrageous but that is just me.
So explore one of the top 2 BEST sober tools, enjoy and your welcome!!!!!!
Day 8 SOBER TREATS!!!
On to Day 9
Day 9- HALT(S)
Day 9 was almost at my 10-day goal so it was time time to shift it to a 16-day goal (see Day 4). I had read that something shifted at 16 days alcohol-free, and I have seen it to be true for many people.
As drinkers, many of us are typically short on patience and don’t know what to do with ourselves when just sitting in the moment is required. Sobriety requires TONS of patience which sometimes seems extra mean of the fates. But now I was in a place of pretty good sober momentum, I had made it through a whole weekend. I physically started to feel better and I was getting some good 4-6 hour stretches of sleep at night. I still had tons of emotional/mental pain that was hanging around in the peripherally and the thoughts and feelings that I had been drinking away were circling around and taking nips at me to see what was available for them to attack. The witching hours at night were still a struggle and NO FUN, but I could do it, rinse and repeat.
So on Day 9, the long and short was that the physical struggle was waining and I was winning. But now I was going to have to figure out ” the rest”, which is where the actual work of sobriety starts.
Now it’s the how part that needs to be figured out, besides the obvious no drink to mouth ……… how do you deal with triggers long term?
HALT(S). Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired, Sad.
These are some of the biggest triggers for us to drink, and if we can identify them and fix them, the cravings go away (for that time). When we want to drink and our Wolfie, Wine Witch or Booze Beast start cooing, it is usually connected to one of these triggers at the base.
For me, the biggest trigger, both in the beginning and now is – Lonely. I felt like I was missing out on opportunities to be with friends having fun. I still get slightly nostalgic sometimes, a good dose of remembering the pain of drinking fixes it quick. Boom really helped here and still does. It is connection with other people, with the same goals, who truly understand.
To stay sober past a few white knuckle days, we need to start to learn to take care of and nurture ourselves and figuring out which one of these triggers is at work and what to do about it is a big key. A great exercise is to actually write these down. Think of what brings them up and what can soothe them. That way when you’re triggered and you can’t think straight you have a resource. Your resource!
Hungry is soothed with food, obviously but protein works way better than Oreos! Angry can be calmed by lots of things. I like trying to see the other person’s point of view, this usually diffuses me, and If I can’t find what they could possibly have been thinking then I laugh and just call them an a$$ (not to them). Tired, can just be 10 minutes of meditation, or a quiet few minutes to rest. Sad, well you can go back to the magic of sober treats, you can hug yourself and tell yourself it will be ok. You can listen to a happy song, you can just smile (fake it till you make it). If you use your smile muscles your brain doesn’t know you’re faking it and sends happy chemicals out.
Today I am so grateful that I am not slogging through a boring sobriety day today. There are lots of them, they are part of the gig, but there is also pink cloudy (good/great/exciting) days. This is part of the beauty of life that you don’t get to really participate in when drinking. I thought I felt things when drinking but really I felt numb, drunk, blacked out, crappy or some shadowed muted thing I thought was happiness.
I am so grateful to my sobriety and so glad I fought to get it.
Day 9 HALT(S)
On to Day 10
Day 10 – Wisdom of those further down the road (further into sobriety). Faith
Day 10 was disappointing, I was still doing it, I had made it to my 10-day alcohol-free goal, with the new goal of 16 days at the front of my mind, but I had lost the plot. I hadn’t gotten to the pink cloud that I had read about. I didn’t feel good. I felt separate lost discouraged and alone. My gratitude meter was messed up. My dopamine meter hadn’t fully reset yet to register natural highs. I was sober but felt a bit lost and sad.
Day 10 was the day that I learned to blindly follow the wisdom of those further along.
Sometimes this is all you’ve got.
On day 10 alcohol-free all I had to keep me sober was the word of a bunch of people, whom I had never met, that told me it would get better and that it would be worth it. A bunch of people, mind you, that I told myself couldn’t possibly have been as bad as me, for as long as me, and must have had some magical easy path to sobriety. That’s what it felt like.
Today when I’m in the BOOM community, I say to people all the time, “the only difference between you and me is time”, which probably pisses them off as much as it would have pissed me off on day 10. SORRY (with cringe face). But it is true!
This is the faith of sobriety, you don’t need to follow everything that a sober person says but you do need to trust that the people here know more than you do about being sober if they have done it. Those with longer continuous sobriety have figured something out to get there.
And finally, how do you handle The Stages of Grief when you stop drinking.
When we experience a loss we go through 5 stages of grief, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and finally Acceptance. We have no control over how long each of these stages last or how they will present, but make no mistake, separating ourselves from alcohol is a loss. A loss of our way of coping, a loss of our way of hiding, a loss of our way of mal-adaptively handling our lives.
I was in denial for a long time. I went into quitting thinking I could be the exception and just change one thing (not drinking) and keep the rest of my life the same. WRONG. I was angry for just a short time, and it peeks up every now and then when my inner toddler doesn’t want to feel left out of the “fun”. Now I know how to soothe her better so it doesn’t last long. Bargaining for me was (and very rarely now) is the “you could handle one drink” or “you could totally do a night off and pick up tomorrow”. Again this is managed as soon as I recognize it for what it is. I think I am moving through the depression stage now, 12-18 months sober is where some people experience a flat time, a slogging along, living life but not fully thriving. It feels like being away from one shore but not quite at the other. I think very occasionally I have a glimpse of acceptance. That Budda like moment of Zen where you are proud and know you will not drink again in your life. That moment is fleeting, but it does happen occasionally.
For me, knowing what will come helps me. It makes it easier to know what is “all part of the process”, as those wise ones further down the road talk about. There is so much change that is part of the loss (and good riddance) of alcohol. But it is still a loss.
I’ve been on Boom for over a year, so long enough to have “seen” a lot. I have seen people come and go, I have seen people come in and get so involved that they let it take them over and spin out. I have seen people on here daily that seem no closer to getting sober than they did a year ago, and I’ve seen people who had a lot of time sober come back and say “That drink(s) wasn’t worth it”.
People who started before me have slipped and some are still fighting to gain traction. People who started way later are quietly marching along. Boom is a tool like any other (but way better than other sober sites). It is all in how you use it.
Its a balancing act to put yourself and your sobriety FIRST, and to also help others on the same path as you. I feel like a kid who wants to be independent but always runs back to Mom. I have times when I want to be here every day and want to encourage all the new folks fighting their way to string a few days together, and I have times where I just can’t read one more new story. The beauty of the site for me is that I have the freedom to come and go as I please. It becomes a place where we want to be and want to find connection, instead of needing it to prop us up. I want to be supported by the amazing people here and give back to those same people!!
If you’re “sober curious” … If you are drinking too much too often and want to stop or take a break…or if you have stopped drinking and are trying to stick to sober! Talk to Us. Start with 30 days. Try a Dry July, Sober October, or New Year’s Dry January Challenge.
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