One of the things I am most often asked is, “I’m just starting out with my sobriety, do you have any advice for me?” There is so much to know when you’re just getting sober. It can be a scary, vulnerable time when we’re stepping into the unknown, with no idea of what’s to come. That’s probably why you’re reading this to begin with. I hope you’ll consider these five pieces of advice when you take the leap and get sober.
1. You don’t have to do it alone
I wish someone had told me this in my early days of sobriety. I tried hard to get sober by myself and I did, but it was incredibly lonely. I felt like I was the one who was drinking and using drugs, so I had to be the one to fix it. Of course, it’s up to you to stop drinking and using, but you do not have to do it alone. Help is available, whether it’s through a treatment center, an online recovery group, books and blogs, podcasts or any other type of recovery program. Talking to others who have been where you are is an irreplaceable component to sobriety.
2. Asking for help can be hard, but humbling
Asking for help when you want to get sober is never easy. In fact, it may be the hardest thing you ever do. Admitting to yourself and somebody else that you need help is difficult, but it can be life-changing, as well as humbling. None of us are perfect. We make mistakes, we become out of control, addiction takes hold of us.
Asking for help doesn’t mean you’re weak, it means you are in a state of acceptance and ready to move on towards change. You may be pleasantly surprised by the number of doors that asking for help opens.
3. It gets painful before it gets better
Just because you stop drinking and using drugs does not mean the pain is gone. I wish that were the case! But you will be on your way to creating less emotional and physical pain for yourself and learning how to manage pain in a healthy way. Being sober can be raw, scary, and unpredictable at first, but these are not reasons to avoid it. The first year of sobriety will be uncomfortable and learning how to live without substances may even seem overwhelming at times. It gets better, I promise you. After a certain point, you will wish you started sobriety much earlier. Luckily there are tools that can help us along the way.
4. Don’t be so hard on yourself
Sobriety is hard work. Making the decision to stop drinking and using is difficult. It may take you a few times, and you will have good days and bad days. It’s normal for you to feel down on yourself. You might have thoughts like, how did I get myself into this situation? How could I be so stupid, careless or selfish? How did I let myself get to this point? If sobriety is going to work, you have to learn how to be gentle with yourself.
You must learn how to forgive yourself for your past, for not knowing better or for not being able to stop sooner. Life is full of ups and downs, and the important thing here is that you’re trying. You’re trying to sustain sobriety. You’re trying to do better and be the best version of yourself. That’s all anyone can ask of you. Remember, don’t be so hard on yourself because it will make sobriety harder and life less enjoyable.
5. Getting sober is not the end
This is another piece of advice I wish someone would have given me. I personally felt like getting sober meant my life was over. I didn’t think I would ever have fun again. When we get sober, we’re often left feeling defeated, weak and unsure of our future. Chances are you associate fun with drinking and drugs and it’s hard to imagine what life could be like without all of those things. But I’m here to tell you that getting sober is not the end; it’s the beginning. It might not seem like it now, but sobriety opens doors, it doesn’t close them. You will not feel this bad forever. Sobriety is the first step in healing yourself and making the most out of your life.
Beginnings are always hard, especially with something like starting recovery from addiction. No one wants to become addicted, and I would bet that the majority of us do not have any real desire to go through the detox and rehab process when this all begins. The point is we reach a time when change is our only option, and we have a glimmer of hope that we can do better. It is possible, and it takes hard work. There will be bad days and good days, but knowing all of this, it’s still worth it.