You feel utterly weird when you first quit drinking. I certainly did. I felt like a sober alien who had been beamed down onto Planet Booze. I felt like a foreigner in my own life, completely out of context and uncomfortable to say the least.
I’d go to social gatherings and feel like I was wearing a gorilla suit and had a huge neon sign above my head flashing “Sober!” with an arrow pointing downwards. My glass (holding something strange like coke or fruit juice) would feel like a burning coal. My smile would be forced.
It was all very weird.
Inside of me as I moved around in those early days of sobriety I felt incredibly unsettled. My thoughts would be going a million miles an hour - thinking, thinking, thinking about the fact I was cutting alcohol out of my life. I’d feel shocked one minute that I was actually doing this, then the next I’d feel scared, then excited, then shocked again.
And my goodness I was raw. It was like my skin had been peeled off leaving my nerves, heart and stomach completely exposed. Everything thing that happened to me would engender extreme emotional reactions. If I was angry it came out like ANGER. If I was sad I felt intense SADNESS. I fluctuated from one emotional state to another with only the slightest provocation. I really was the epitome of a human emotional roller coaster.
This is no surprise. Giving up alcohol and transitioning from living a boozy lifestyle to a sober one is an incredibly life shattering and groundbreaking thing to do. It’s MASSIVE. It takes a huge amount of guts, determination, bravery and effort. But above all it takes willingness.
You’ve got to be willing to weather the storm that early sobriety brings. Willing to feel odd and uncomfortable at social events. Willing to ride out extreme emotional outbursts. Willing to be utterly obsessed with what you are doing. Willing to change your life completely and fundamentally. Willing.
What helped me be willing enough to push through early sobriety and not cave and go back to booze, was the memory of what I was leaving behind. I never (and will never) let myself forget what a miserable and wretched place I was in at the end of my drinking days. How I was utterly lost in a sea of wine, feeling incredibly low about myself, constantly riddled with guilt, and perpetually hungover and sick. Desperate.
I truly was desperate. The desperation was awful, but here’s the funny thing… now I look back and see it as a gift. Because without that desperation I doubt I would have maintained the willingness to go through the rough transition to living sober. Without the desperation I never would have decided to change. And without the memory of the desperation I doubt I would have stuck to my sobriety to this day. My desperation truly was a gift. And the many thousands of people who are also living sober will probably agree theirs was too.
Don’t ever let yourself forget why you are quitting - that low, desperate place alcohol has brought you to. Hold that memory like a gift, because it is one. It will keep you from returning to that boozy, stuck place. If you don’t see it as a gift right now trust that in time you will. You’ll be thankful for your own personal rock bottom as I am for mine. Because it’s there for a reason. It’s there to help you transform your life.
This is a brilliant post. Hysterically funny (beamed down onto planet booze 😂) and SO SO true. 100% Relatable. It’s something that I need to make a point of reading once a month as it’s such an excellent reminder of that horrible place I have left behind.
I’m struggling. Help. I can function no problem but need to stop the wine at night. xx
Exactly how I felt when I stopped and how I stay stopped. A friend who is struggling asked me yesterday “How do you not pick up a drink?”, the honest answer is that I remember the last time I did. I do believe that is the secret to stopping successfully. Over time we remember the so called good times, that coupled with feeling so uncomfortable as you describe here, the temptation to go back to our addictions become stronger. Holding on to that place that made us want to stop is key to staying stopped. Lovely post so relevant to all of us xx
Yes! Exactly, Mrs. D. This is what got me serious about getting sober. I was stuck in the cycle, and I knew terrible things would keep happening, stripping everything away that I cared about if I kept drinking. I stopped when I was more desperate about saving my life than I was desperate to keep drinking. Thank-you for your beautiful post. x
Beautifully said. Thank you! 🙂
Being sober in an addicted society is truly an act of freedom and real independence.
Thank you for this. It is easy to think the rest of your life, my life will be like the early days. This post and your journey so well depicted in your blog, is a reminder, proof that it will not always feel like this.
Agreed, we must remember the bad times, not to beat ourselves up, but so we don’t repeat them. No way do I want to go back to the old way.
This is such a powerful post. I can remember that desperation so well. At the time I felt overwhelmed by it. But there was this tiny voice inside me that was fighting to turn things around. It kept saying “you’re better than the booze and what it’s making your life become.” And that desperation turned into hope with the help of people like you and this lovely site. Thank you.
Here’s a description of how “the gift of desperation” also changed me. https://lyingminds.sixboats.co.nz/2019/05/10/the-gift-of-desperation-actually-stopping-part-2/