Shaky. Sweaty. Guilty. Anxious. Unsettled. Sleepless. Panicky. Remorseful. Confused. Overwhelmed. Exhausted. Disgusted. Angry. Depressed. Worthless. Powerless.
That’s how I felt in the beginning…
Then my mind would say, “I have to stop doing this to myself!”
“Why do I keep doing this?”
“How did you let it get to this point?”
“I’m OK. I can eventually limit myself to one, maybe two drinks. I can control this!”
“Maybe I really should give it up, but then how will I hang out with my friends and family?”
“If I give it up, how will I cope or enjoy myself?”
“Give it up FOREVER?!? No way! I can’t!”
“I have a problem, but I’m not living on the streets. I still have a job and my family. I’m OK. I just need to control it more.”
“I hate myself when I drink! That person is not me!”
“Everyone else is drinking, so why can’t I be normal like them??”
Early sobriety is arduous! There are a million-and-a-half feelings, thoughts, and questions hitting you all at once. It’s overwhelming. It’s scary. It’s emotional. It’s physically tiresome.
But to get to the other side of it, you must endure it.
For me, thinking of all those days is enough to keep me sober on my worst day! I don’t want to ever relive those days. Days where it was tough to get out of bed, to be excited for life without some inclusion of alcohol. Moments where I felt lost on how to handle a meltdown, stress, excitement, anger, anxiety without alcohol.
But again, you have to fight the good fight of those early days to reach the point where life is so beautiful…without alcohol.
Honestly, it’s very much like a grieving process.
- Stage One- Denial
“I don’t really have a problem with drinking. I just drink too much sometimes.”
“Life is hard right now. A drink makes it feel better.”
“I’ll stop drinking so much when things get better.”
“I can control my drinking.”
- Stage Two- Anger
“Why can’t I be a ‘normal’ drinker?!?”
“Why am I the one going through this??”
“Why can’t I control it? Why??”
“I hate how isolated I feel! Why do I have to be alone in this??”
- Stage Three- Bargaining
“I’ll set limits for myself.”
“I’ll stop for 30 days and then control it better.”
“If I go to therapy then maybe I can go back to drinking in a normal fashion after we iron out my issues.”
- Stage Four- Depression
“This sucks. I hate how I feel. I hate that I’m an alcoholic.”
“I just want to sleep all these feelings away.”
“What is the point in getting sober? The damage has already been done.”
“I’m so worthless.”
“My life is going to suck without alcohol.”
- Stage Five- Acceptance
“I do struggle with alcohol, but it’s not the end of the world.”
“I’m not alone in this. Others suffer, too, and are out there for support.”
“Life does feel different without alcohol, but it’s a life I am in control of.”
“I am OK. I can do hard things.”
“I’m not a ‘normal’ drinker, but I am a normal, living soul. I’m worth recovery!”
Again, those early days make you feel bipolar, like you’re going mad and that you’re all alone. You have doubts, highs, lows, tears (oh, the tears!), outbursts, little energy, and perhaps a whole lot of pessimism.
But the good news is this- once you are able to push past those early days, to just be present in ALL those mixed emotions, you start to feel lighter. You start to return to hobbies you love. You find new ways to cope with stress. You celebrate joys differently. You see that life has been returned to you with a big red bow on it. You cherish the small moments you once missed when you were numbed out. Little by little you forgive and love yourself. You feel a sense of pride. You realize you are in control of you; not the alcohol.
In all truth, the first day, week, even months into sobriety are definitely a pinch of hell, but it’s well worth the onerous journey through it to reach the utopia on the other side!