What is the main issue with getting sober?

Woman hugging herself

If someone was to ask me what I think the main thing you have to learn when you get sober, I would say it is this...

You have to learn how to sit with your uncomfortable emotions.

I mean, yes of course getting sober is also about beating cravings and retraining your brain to stop seeing booze as a good idea.

And of course getting sober is about finding other ways to fill your time and learning how to socialise without drinking.

But I would argue that the main, on-going, heart-of-the-matter issue with getting sober is learning how to sit with uncomfortable emotions. Learning how to feel things like sadness, anger, frustration and disappointment and not reach for something to push those away.

No taking the edge of a stressful day with a beer or five.

No recovering after an argument with whisky.

No avoiding boredom with champagne.

No numbing grief with wine.

No escape - ever. Just every feeling, thought and emotion in all it's raw glory, as and when it arrives, and for as long as it wants to stay around.

It is hard bloody work at first getting used to this way of living. Especially given that early on in sobriety these emotions come at us with a particular ferocity - precisely because we have been working hard to escape them for so long. When I first quit drinking I went on a crazy emotional roller coaster ride. My anger burst out of me like FIRE. My sadness was deep and overwhelming. I was all over the show. It was horrendous.

But slowly, naturally over time, things started to settle down. And slowly I got better at navigating my emotional landscape.

I realised that these feelings would come and go - that nothing lasts for ever.

I realised that these emotions were there for a reason. Whenever I come through a tricky phase and look back on it I feel like learned something about myself.

I realised that simply allowing yourself to feel - honouring your emotional responses to things - makes it easier to process tricky stuff.

I realised that being more in touch with my own feelings puts me more in touch with other people's feelings as well. And that deepens my connections with the people around me (which is super lovely).

And most of all I realised that I'm stronger than I ever thought I was. That tough emotions won't kill me. And that this is the way that humans are supposed to live.

So be prepared for a rollercoaster of emotion when you first quit. Try not to freak out about it! Wait patiently through the tough times and know that you're going to come out ok. And know, deep in your heart, that you are brave and amazing for facing up to life in the raw.

Love, Mrs D xxx

  1. LadyQuig 3 years ago

    Thanks, Mrs. D. Big one I’ve been learning is that I don’t have to escape discomfort. Or boredom (although I never knew boredom until I quit drinking- where’d all this free time come from?). I’m learning to just sit in it.

  2. Tom4500 4 years ago

    This brought back the memory of your blog post on “Firsts”, and how I had read it a week or so after my first (and only) near rage. One that surprised me in its intensity. And I think I was about 27 months AF at the time, too. Or was it 15 months? Not sure, scrolled back, couldn’t find the blog piece. I handled it okay, but it sure was a “wow, where did that come from?” moment.

  3. Pixie2017 4 years ago

    Learning to deal with feelings without alcohol is scary at first but so satisfying later

  4. reena 4 years ago

    Exactly, you nailed Mrs D. The hardest part indeed. Thanks for this and for everything.

    • 20012015 4 years ago

      Thanks, I really needed this advice tonight. x

  5. Pollyonthewagon 4 years ago

    Thank you Mrs D . Another great post. Really enjoyed your book

  6. zittaa 4 years ago

    Thank you Mrs D.
    I have an emotion of grief/sadness, unable to forgive a best friend for nasty comments towards me. I think she is stressed, she drinks a lot… my strongest reaccuring feeling is to cut her out of my life, that she is a bully and I am doing myself no favours being connected to her but I have a glimmer of a feeling ro forgive her. I feel I should forgive her AGAIN but what’s the point in trying to rekindle our relationship. Have you any advice for me?

  7. JR 4 years ago

    Spot on! Having two teens/adults, working and friends, I thought I could never be bored. and yet during COVID, I realize how easily I can be….and my go to to alleviate was wine. Why does numbing my brain be an “activity” I am learning to be comfortable with boredom. Perhaps I need to redine “boredom” as mind space that is much needed. Thank you for writing.

  8. mwild66 4 years ago

    Exactly what I needed to read. Thank you.

  9. Amym22 4 years ago

    Exactly the reason I am beginning my sober journey. All of my adult life I have used alcohol as a way of avoiding ALL the feelings. I have been having therapy for over a year now and only now feel comfortable in trying to remove alcohol as a block for my troubling emotions and feelings. Thank for for this post.x

  10. Amym22 4 years ago

    Exactly the reason I am beginning my sober journey. All of my adult life I have used alcohol as a way of avoiding ALL the feelings. I have been having therapy for over a year now and only now feel comfortable in trying to remove alcohol as a block for my troubling emotions and feelings. Thank for for this post x

  11. olga 4 years ago

    Thank you for another beautiful post. I’m really enjoying reading your new book. You’re a gem Mrs D!

  12. Frog 4 years ago

    So true, so true, this post. Thanks for it!

  13. Mari135 4 years ago

    Beautiful post, as always! Thank you for your continued ‘pouring into’ our lives. xoxo

  14. Hammer123 4 years ago

    I agree al those other issues are tricky and need to be dealt with but the main reason I drank to excess was so I could numb my feelings. I was feeling a little low a few days ago, nothing horrible but just off some how. I am wise enough now to realize that it will pass on its own time. It has and I find now that I am sober it resolves itself faster because I am not piling on guilt and shame about my drinking. Great post!

  15. Buckeyeone 4 years ago

    Yet another great post!

  16. Classic50 4 years ago

    Thanks again Mrs D.
    I can say that everything you described is what I experienced , and am still in the middle of. Learning not to fear my emotions is probably the most significant discovery of my adult life… its hard, its heartbreaking, and sometimes seems an impossible ask… but I see and hear everyday here at LS, that embracing the truth your emotions are revealing is the combination code that unlocks the door to being free to become whole.
    In my life I’ve had glimpses of my true self and I thought those snippets were the full picture, but as I face my feelings, and the thoughts and physical reactions I have to certain situations, I realize my body, my mind and my heart are trying to wake me conscious to do what I can, and need to do… Like the cliché, the only thing to fear is fear…
    So here I am, ready to let my emotions arm me against these bullies and their tyrannical rule, who have tried to drown me and beat me numb… and I will win the greatest prize of all. I will win myself. I will not be afraid of what I feel…

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