There are many articles online about what to expect physically when you stop drinking. This article, Stages of Alcohol-Withdrawal , is excellent and we recommend it to all new members who join our online community Boom Rethink the Drink. One of the things that is easy to forget when you have been sober for years, is how it felt the first few days and weeks that you were alcohol-free. In most support communities, whether formally structured groups like AA, or the newer independent online support groups, there is a tradition of telling your story. The story of your last rock bottom, the story of your history as a drinker that led you to know it was time to stop, the story that is evolving of your new sober narrative. But it is common to forget how the first days and weeks alcohol-free felt. Not necessarily the physical withdrawal symptoms but the somewhat bizarre sort of sensory shift in early sobriety.
One of our members asked this :
Those of you who have 6 months sober, and those who have years alcohol-free, I’d love to know how you experienced your early days sober in regards to feeling surreal and uncomfortable in your body and how that changed. Thank you 💗
How does it FEEL to go sober?
These are a few of our answers:
I felt a sense of relief and power in the first few days alcohol-free. And then my thoughts turned to “maybe I can have just one”. Those days when I had those thoughts were difficult but I changed up my habits. Had naps, long baths, read, wrote in my sober journal, doodled...distracted myself. After not drinking, I’d wake up the next day feeling so victorious and on top of the world! I never wanted that feeling to end. And so I guard that sober morning feeling because my life depends on it.
It actually feels like I’ve been sober all of my life now. It never enters my mind to drink. The smell on people’s breath is completely revolting as is the smell of alcohol from a glass or bottle. I’m grateful for that! Just so happy being this way. DAY 273.
I felt horrible physically for at least two to three weeks when I stopped drinking. My resolve never wavered, but I was so surprised at all the sneaky ways alcohol showed up in my day to day life. I was emotionally all over the place, a mixture of pride and conviction, but also afraid I was weak and somehow not in control. I had crazy dreams. I lost a huge piece of my identity when I stopped drinking, and floated trying out things to fill that gap (sleep? Tea? Work? Running?).
Yes, it was surreal.
Eventually, it became more normal, and as I stood up to challenges to my sobriety, I found myself more rooted than ever. Now, alcohol-free, sober, it’s just who I am.
Remembering the surreal feeling? YES! I felt like the mime in the box. This video below is how it felt, but he is a healthy happy kid, so you don’t get the sense of isolation from him that I’m remembering …
Drinking myself senseless every night had been a way to shut down and shut everything out. Not because my family was horrible but because I hadn’t learned how to let them in without losing my self. So drinking myself away every night was a way to protect me from these people who meant me no harm. Those people whose very love for me had become threatening because it was overwhelming.
In early days alcohol-free, just the first couple of weeks really, that invisible wall or box that I had created when I was drinking myself into it was still around me. I was feeling my way along the surface trying to find my way out, but quite frankly not sure I wanted to come out because being vulnerable to emotion was a trigger for me. Feeling vulnerable to good emotions or bad emotions, either one could trigger me to drink in my early alcohol-free days.
Bit by bit, day by day, I let my kids and husband in, little by little I let them in, just a bit at a time, and I found that I was FINE and that we were actually a good strong healthy family.
I was genuinely surprised to find that I had wise, supportive, stuff to share with my kids when I let them in, and I was surprised to find that if I came out of my box, things flowed quite nicely in my family dynamic. I learned that I could actually ASK for space when I needed it and I did. And the understanding that I COULD ask for space, and that what was going on in my head was just as important as what was going on in theirs, was the beginning of my standing on dry ground with my sobriety. I began to change and evolve and be comfortable living outside the box with a strong solid voice.
I felt really antsy in the beginning like I was going to explode out of my skin. I had to walk and walk and walk to try and ease it.
I worked through my recovery, and it was not fun but survivable. I had feelings of literally wanting to jump out of my seat and run screaming out of the building. I had to incorporate a lot of breathing exercises to get through it. I tried ashwagandha and L- glutamine for cravings, not sure if they helped or not. It was nice being hangover-free but I didn’t start really perking up until about a month after going alcohol-free. Which seemed like forever at the time and really “unfair,” nothing has been as hard as that first month sober since.
I felt ok during the daytime in my early days sober, a bit surreal, but then by 5pm, I turned into teen wolf. I felt Really weird and surreal and pretty much just hid myself away! Until it became less weird. I made my bedroom a sanctuary and ate supper really early. And tried to ‘embrace the discomfort’. I didn’t really know how to do that, but said it to myself …embrace the discomfort… My teen wolf hours were between 5-8 and after that I was ok. I went through the surrealist stuff again when on holiday in my second month sober, and when doing other sober firsts.
Emotionally it felt like being on a roller coaster.
Catherine Gray does a fantastic job of this in her book The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober and so many women thought leaders (bloggers, authors) have documented their early journey in great and colorful detail. This varies so much from individual to individual, but I think the more we read, the more we can relate to. Belle is another great one, some love Kristi Coulter. I suggest Catherine because she spent so much of her book on the struggle and she covers so very many bases and offers wonderful resources along the way. I used to love to listen to the HOME podcast with Laura McKowen and Holly Whitaker, they have their own books out now, but just between the two of them was 180°. For Holly, giving up alcohol was quick and easy, she felt free and badass and revolutionary from almost the first moment. Laura felt like she had just murdered her best friend and she missed the drink with every breath. And that struggle dragged on for some time.
Embarking on any transformational journey is inviting what could be gale-wind forces of change. We might be dealing with issues that have been pushed down, denied or medicated, ancient wounds buried in the cellar, ungrieved sorrows stuck away in the attic, or just some heavy bags leftover from childhood yet to unpack. Possibly one or two few bats in our belfry. Sometimes getting sober just turns the key and opens the door to the real work of transforming our lives. Hallelujah’s all around.
I heard the phrase “sobriety as a portal” in a podcast and it totally captured my imagination. OMG yes! Sobriety IS a portal.
We all know there are portals into Darkness and portals into Light. If we don’t know the difference yet just a bit more experience changes that and We LEARN. Unfortunately, some of the portals, passageways, tunnels, pinholes into the Darkness are addictions that are tough to walk away from when we don’t like or even hate where we have landed. It just keeps getting worse and worse and worse. We feel trapped, chained, doomed to repeat the same mistakes again and again and again. We start to feel like the protagonist in some Greek tragedy or like Sisyphus in an endless mythological nightmare.
Sobriety as a Portal into what?
You name it.
All you can be. All you can do. Your best self, your peace of mind, your fulfillment, your health and longevity, your enjoyment of intimate relationships, your soul’s highest expression in this human vessel. This is the place you enter. This is the portal. This is the Way.
I totally advocate for EVERYONE to change how they are looking at the one dangerous, destructive drug we celebrate and market as the “elixer of happiness and joy.” So hang tight my precious sober community, no matter how much trouble we have staying on this path, no matter how many times we veer off into the weeds, this is our happy destiny. This is our place, our calling, our numbers will only grow.
Think of yourselves as trailblazers, pioneers, way-makers. We can do this…together. We can do anything together.
I’m staying joyously and gloriously sober today, let’s do this together.
Excerpt from Sobriety is a Portal from the author of Breaking Down the Myths: What can Alcohol REALLY do for You? and Tikkun Olam – Healing the World Begins with Each of Us
Whenever the sound of alcohol seems to have a nice ring Remember By being sober You can hear your heart sing ❤ 🎶
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