What is the main issue with getting sober?

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

18 Comments
  1. Ian morgan 3 months ago

    What a lovely read….just what I needed as I’ve been going through hell since I stopped drinking and smoking on the same day through hypnotherapy and it worked in an hour.I haven’t touched either since May.First few weeks were easy then I noticed I was getting a bit low,started to lose interest in things ,work was getting me down,and gradually started to spiral into depression.Ive been signed off work with this horrible illness since June.
    I’ve had horrible days and dark thoughts been put on anti depressants but not doing much.
    I now realise it’s because I’m seeing things through sober eyes and finding dealing with issues so hard as I’m not wearing my bandage anymore.
    I wasnt even aware I had a problem until I had been diagnosed with liver disease and varical bleeds.
    I wasn’t your typical,if there is a typical,drinker.i never had to have a drink on awakening or one before bed and sozzled all day…I was just drinking to excess on a regular basis.
    I’m hoping to start joining social events evening classes,anything to keep my mind occupied.
    Noone said it was going to be easy…the easy part was stopping albeit by hypnotherapy,the hardest part is retraining your life.

  2. sober@sixty 3 months ago

    Absolutely spot on Mrs. D!!! Day 139 for me and I feel like I’ve conquered the “not drinking booze” part of living sober. I plan a lot more ahead of events, always thinking about what I’m going to bring to drink, will I have enough, etc. That’s the easy part. But the raw emotions can really trip me up! This past July 30 was the anniversary of my mom’s passing (3 years). I was a basket case! I didn’t get it at first. I was thinking, why is this year SO hard?! When I met with my therapist that week, she pointed out to me, that I had probably escaped my emotions over that anniversary with booze the previous years…and she was right!

    I got through that day! I did not drink!!! I did have ice cream, and a nice relaxing bath. My family rallied around me and buoyed my spirits. I realized that I probably haven’t truly grieved my mom’s death, and I’m working through that as well.

    Every day I go to bed sober and wake up hangover free is one step closer to a healthier (physically and mentally) way of life for me. I am so much happier these days…and it’s rubbing off on everyone around me!

    Thank you Mrs. D! Your books have been an inspiration to me.

  3. Clare 3 months ago

    Helpful,honest post.brilliant Mrs D.
    Yes,it took me awhile to get used to daily life with my raw emotions,but I’ve gotten used to my new equilibrium,and made so many good changes in lots of little ways,to reduce irritation,grumpiness,anger,boredom,regret.
    I keep our home clean & tidy,eat 3 small meals a day,have hot baths,fresh roses,watch Netflix,write in my journal,I pray,I now keep away from people who were I feel mistreating me.I can’t believe how much better my life is without my precious,and much loved alcohol.
    I have it up for my marriage.Yet I’ve gotten so many benefits.
    I’ll always love red wine,but I love the benefits of going without more.
    Xxxx

  4. Andrew 3 months ago

    It’s taken me a year to get this. That all of my emotions are running all of the time, and for a LONG time that wasn’t the case. Suddenly I’ve realised that I get emotional doing Yoga, emotional spending time with friends or even just meeting new people, laugh out loud at silly and quietly shed a tear over sad. Yes, I get bored sometimes, still run through evenings of depression at times with nothing more than peppermint tea to get me to bedtime, but it’s real. No wine to make something rubbish seem funny, or something funny seem rubbish.

    Great article. Very true.

  5. embracingsober 3 months ago

    Best of all once you start dealing with the tricky situations sober you realise that the drink that you used to turn to, to help get you through or to unwind before you could face the issue was only prolonging the situation… when we are sober, we can face them head on, even if it’s hard, and as you say, accept them, and process them, deal with them as best we can, and in many situations resolve them so much sooner.

  6. Anonymous 3 months ago

    Thank you.
    3 months sober on Friday and it’s definitely getting better. I thank you so much for your honesty. I think if we had been taught as children that it’s OK to be afraid, lonely, depressed, overwhelmed etc. that we’d be far better off. I think more parents are doing this today but back when I was growing up in the 60s everybody pretended that they had it all figured out and nobody really did. That’s why I always thought there was something wrong with me but now after meeting several people that have struggled with alcohol issues I realize we are all alike. Thank you!

  7. Lydia727 3 months ago

    This is something so simple, yet something SO TRUE, that we really fail to understand. This has been the biggest obstacle for me. Sitting with your raw emotions is a very hard thing to do. Not being able to do this is probably one of the reasons many of us started drinking to start with, which explains why we have such trouble with it.
    Thanks!

  8. grannie 3 months ago

    Thanks, Mrs D for this article…just reached 4 years sober this week and every day I still think why couldn’t I just come home and have 1 drink to take the edge off my day..why, why, why but then I realise I have an addictive personality. I am only now coming to grips with my emotions and feelings and telling myself it is ok to feel life raw and edgy and if I need to express how I am feeling in front of others it is ok. I no longer hide behind alcohol and it is something I will have to do for the rest of my life to maintain the quality of self-worth I finally established for myself

  9. Anonymous 3 months ago

    5 weeks Sober and my emotions are ALL over the show! They don’t come out of the blue, but are so loud and raw when they do. I needed to read your blog tonight. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  10. Elaybe 3 months ago

    i cannot tell you how much I needed to read this exactly at this moment. It’s freakish! Thank you.

  11. Anonymous 3 months ago

    Thank you so much for this it makes going through it not as lonely. Last night on my blog I wrote about something in my past which I was ashamed of and I ended up with a sleepless night tossing and turning thinking about it. I am facing it real and raw and no more hiding, no more numbing and this post was great timing. XOX

  12. Gill 3 months ago

    Totally agree. Learning to cope without a crutch is the hardest thing. My councillor likened my emotions to a big black stallion that had been sedated for 20 years. Then it woke up and didn’t know where to put it’s self so went a bit crazy jumping around the place. Eventually it will settle down and learn to live in it’s own skin. (I really liked how he explained this 🙂 )

  13. reena 3 months ago

    I totally agree @mrsd . Thank you for another great read and share.

  14. lynnelowe 3 months ago

    Yep so agree and finding that out so clearly right now……

  15. Saoirse 3 months ago

    Thank you for this @mrs-d. Having a bit of a blue day today but that aside know I can rise above it and come out ok. Just letting it sit for a bit and then going for a walk. We are lucky to be here and have the opportunity to change ourselves for the better.❤️

  16. Annie 3 months ago

    Fabulous post @MrsD. I loved it and your insight into my wee brain. Its sooo true that we are emotional rollercoasters and just want to get off at the slightest bump. Thankyou. I am stronger than I think.x

  17. honestjoy 3 months ago

    Totally true! I had to do this just today (umm, and every day!). I feel more secure knowing my bad feeling won’t last if I go ahead and feel it for a while.

  18. Anonymous 3 months ago

    Loved this and found it very helpful as I have done all the reading I’ve been doing. No temptation to go back to drinking but the emotions and reactions to them are the hardest at the moment. Trying to deal with them as they arise and then not dwel on it afterwards.

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