Relapse. For many, it’s part of the long, winding journey to sobriety. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse states that 40-60%of addicts and alcoholics will relapse after receiving treatment.
Some of these people can get back on the track to sobriety, while others never do. Then there are those who get sober and manage to avoid relapse altogether.
I fall into the latter category. I got sober at age 20 and have remained sober for five years since. However, I know this means nothing in the long run. I am just as susceptible to relapse as everyone else walking this journey.
In my five years of sobriety, I’ve had some close calls when it came to choosing to remain sober. Here’s what happened and how I ultimately chose not to pick up a drink.
1.) Remaining Sober When My Heart was Broken
Heartbreak is hard enough to handle when you can’t drink the hurt away. Being sober and not being able to numb your feelings brings a whole other element of difficulty to it.
When I was a little over a year and a half sober, I met a guy who was also sober. I fell head over heels for him very quickly, and everything was going well for a few weeks. Then he began acting strangely, not answering my texts or calls. Eventually, his behavior led to a relapse and he wanted nothing to do with me or my sober lifestyle. I was devastated. I didn’t know how to even begin to make sense of the way I was feeling. I wanted so badly to say “screw it,” pick up a drink and drink myself into oblivion for a few hours. But when it came down to it, I knew drinking wouldn’t make the situation any more bearable. I may have been able to forget for a few hours, but I would have woken up hurting just as much as I had the day before. So I rode out the pain without drinking, and eventually, it subsided. It always does.
2.) Remaining Sober in the College Atmosphere
Since I got sober at age 20, that means I spent my junior and senior years sober while basically everyone around me went to bars and parties and drank. I chose to continue spending time with my friends who drank in moderation, meaning I had to learn how to be OK with being around alcohol while not consuming it. Sometimes this was easy, and other times it was insanely difficult.
On those days where I found it difficult or tempting, I simply removed myself from the situation. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “I can’t be here right now,” and going home to spend time alone. Often I found that when I removed myself from the problematic situation, the desire to drink was lifted.
3.) Remaining Sober on Vacation
I’ll admit, there have been days when I was lying by the pool or ocean in ninety-degree weather, reading a book and thinking the only thing that would make the situation even better would be a cold drink. I vividly remember feeling this way in Florida when I was at a hotel with a poolside bar. It would have been so easy to drink, but instead, I ordered a virgin drink (which was just as good, if not better, than the real thing).
So many people treat vacations as a way to let loose, going out and drinking every night, or even all day. When it comes to remaining sober on vacation, I continually remind myself that I will wake up with no hangover, ready to embrace whatever the next day has to offer. I will remember every moment of the trip, wherever I may be. I will have clear, intact memories, which is more than I could say if I picked up a drink.
4.) Remaining Sober While Dating
There’s no way around it — first dates while sober are awkward. Getting coffee just isn’t the same as getting drinks. Without alcohol, it’s harder to loosen up and ignore the nerves involved in dating. However, going on first dates sober sets the tone for the rest of the relationship because you know you are being your true self. This helps the other person gain an understanding of who you are and what to expect from you in the future, should you continue seeing one another. On my first date with my partner, I was honest right away. I told him I no longer drink because I had too many issues in the past. Rather than pass judgment, he respected my decision and continues to do so.
5.) Remaining Sober During Celebrations
This is when I most often have pity parties for myself. At weddings, parties, etc., I often wonder “Why me?” I find myself falling into negative thinking, wishing I could drink in moderation like most people around me. I often want to let loose a little, but for me, I know that would be disastrous. It would lead to drinking too much and feeling miserable. So in these moments, I remind myself that a few hours of “fun” isn’t worth the ultimate cost. I have to remind myself that in circumstances like this, I am usually the only one who cares if I am drinking or not. People enjoy my presence more when I’m sober than when I’m drinking, and that is vital to keep in mind to stay sober.
Everyone is different, and so are their methods for maintaining sobriety. However, this is what I have found works for me in these situations and I hope it can help someone else in their journey.