If someone was to ask me what I think the main thing is you have to learn to do 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