This guest post comes from my dear friend @suek. She writes brilliantly and is always full of such wisdom and warmth. I will be publishing another post from her soon that follows on from this one – offering practical suggestions on how to approach life after sobriety.
@suek. So you’ve made the switch to sober. That’s brave and amazing, and you know it. But 100, 200, or even 500 days down the track the novelty’s worn off, and you’re sitting there feeling a bit blah, a bit empty, perhaps even a bit disappointed. Wasn’t this supposed to be the Best Thing Ever for your life, to quit drinking? When you were boozing, didn’t you wake up thousands of times groaning, “If only I wasn’t such a looser boozer my life would be so much better.” So why isn’t your life so much better?
You put in all that effort and slogged through the brutal early days, you made it through your first Christmas and birthday and anniversary and work conference and Friday drinks at the office. You told your family and friends. You signed up for online support. You did it all right, and stayed sober. So what’s going on? It can actually feel like sobriety has let you down. You put in all that effort, and it’s ended up being blah and boring. A bit nothing.
Is this what’s happened with your sobriety? And if it is, how can you turn it around?
When I look around the sobersphere, I see two fundamental attitudes toward living sober.
You can approach living sober as simply giving up drinking – you cut a destructive substance out of your life, and leave it at that. Good riddance to bad rubbish.
You can approach living sober as a chance to trade-in your crap boozy life for a new and better life.
The people who take the second approach seem to have an easier time being and staying sober. They’re the ones whooping it up about how much better their life is now. They seem to be cruising through. It’s easy to be mad at them. How come they get to be happily sober?
It’s not because they’re better or stronger or more privileged than you. It’s because they do some things that help make their sober life better. They probably do all sorts of things, but I’ve noticed three very clear habits of happy sober people;
1) They remember clearly the hell they were in.
2) They are very thankful to be out of that hell.
3) They make it a priority to do something different with their time and money.
Want to get on a happier sober track? Here’s how you can start.
Step 1: Remember clearly the hell you were in
When you start thinking that sober is boring and you probably could start drinking again, the first thing you need is a big reality check. You need to remember, very clearly, why you’re sober now, and why you’re even having this conversation with yourself. Why did you join Living Sober? Why were you motivated to stop drinking? What was happening in your life to make you think you had a problem? If you’re clear about those things, I believe you’ll be far less likely to start drinking again.
If you kept a journal or blog when you first got sober (or before you got sober), read it whenever you get the blahs. It will quickly remind you of why you don’t want to go back there. If you don’t have a record of what was going on in your life when you felt you needed to quit, make one right away. Here are some ideas for how to do that:
• Use the Living Sober “Sober Stories” blog post questions to write your own Sober Story. Mrs D has given us a fantastic Sober Story template there, so write down your own answers to the interview questions, and use it to remember why you’re sober.
• If writing isn’t your thing, get out your phone or computer and make your very own “why I quit drinking” audio or video. Make your own Bubble Hour show!
• If you’ve got a good sober buddy, get together, talk frankly about your drinking and sobriety, and record the conversation so you’ve both got a record of it.
• Dig up an old photo of you passed out at a party or doing something mortifiying. A collage would be even better.
Whatever it is, make sure you have an honest record of why you quit drinking. Then when you think “this isn’t worth it, I’m over being sober” promise yourself you’ll have a quick stroll down memory lane to remind yourself why being sober absolutely is worth it.
Step 2: Be very thankful you’re out of that hell
Gratitude changes your attitude. I promise you. Every day, write down at least one thing you’re grateful for about being sober. Even better, write down three things. I don’t care how mundane or repetitive you are. Just do this. It will re-train your brain to stop being nostalgic about the good-old-bad-old-days. It will also teach your brain to value and respect why you’re sober. You will start to feel fundamentally different about being sober. You’ll start looking forward, not backwards. You’ll start focussing on the benefits, not the losses. This is seriously good stuff.
Step 3: Do something different with your spare time and money
You have to get off that couch, and do something different. Basically, it’s time to make over your habits. When we’re drinking, we get stuck in ruts that support our bad habits, we don’t expect much of ourselves, and we make sure other people don’t expect much of us either. We spend the bulk of our time and money and energy on this limited life. Drinking and addiction can also totally strip away our confidence, our capabilities, our curiosity and our will to do pretty much anything except drink or use. Being sober means that over time you get a load of your personal resources back. You immediately get your time and money back, and those resources alone can make a huge difference to your lifestyle.
So what are you going to do with all the time and money you’ve saved by not drinking?