Something we don’t talk nearly enough about, but should, is the fact that no matter what you do, you have to struggle and fight for your sobriety. There is no pill, supplement, program, or prescription that makes sobriety bearable 100% of the time.
The (harsh) truth of the matter is you will never get sober if you aren’t willing to take on some pain and discomfort to get there. If I’m being doubly honest, that pain can be brutal.
Most of us doing this sobriety thing, at one point, have probably tried to find the emotional equivalent of a morphine drip to take the edge off. Is there a way to get sober without feeling like you’re going to set yourself on fire if you don’t drink?
I’ve yet to find one.
Sobriety is hard. Addiction is both patient and sneaky. You can be doing well for weeks or even months and then get completely broadsided by cravings.
How many people have I heard say, “I don’t know what happened? I didn’t drink for three months and then last weekend, I caved and drank two bottles of wine!”
How many times did I string together three or four months of sobriety only to plunge headfirst back into near-daily drinking and for no discernible reason?
So much of this journey is about pain.
When you spend years (or decades) drowning your pain in alcohol, you become incapable of handling anything sober. Even the slightest aggravation becomes a reason to drink. Your inner world is a volatile fog that can you no longer make heads or tails of.
Eventually, you get to a point where nothing feels good unless you’re drinking. Life becomes gray, dull, and inherently painful.
But the thing about suppressing pain is that it doesn’t disappear. It compounds. It settles into your bones. We absorb it until it literally makes us sick.
And when we stop drinking alcohol, all that pain comes flooding back into the foreground with an intensity that honestly feels unbearable.
It’s around this point that we start to question what we’re doing.
“Is this all there is?”
Either I’m drunk and mucking up my life or I’m so paralyzed with pain and grief that I can’t function? It’s enough to drive a person mad and often does.
We become stuck in a horrible cycle of sobriety, pain, relapse, and shame. And it’s hard to talk about. There’s nothing motivating about this topic. I mean, why would anyone willingly subject themselves to this?
Well, because we don’t have a choice.
You have to accept that it’s going to hurt and then do it anyway.
In the beginning, you’re going to have to sit in your pain – every last, miserable second of it. You’re going to have to confront the uglier parts of yourself. There is no way around it.
It will not go away or improve in any predictable way. You’ll have good days followed by bad days that hit you out of nowhere and it just goes on like this for a really long time.
It’s why we can’t do it alone.
You need a solid support system to help you navigate this extremely delicate, unpredictable process. For the vast majority of us, professional medical and psychiatric support is necessary.
We have to be willing to allow people who understand addiction, trauma, and mental health to help us and give us tools to get through it. It’s not simple, and you’d be amazed just how much you can hide from yourself.
I’ve been very open about my own mental health struggles. I suffer from anxiety and have some trauma that years into my sobriety, I am just starting to unpack. It is a process.
I do counseling/talk therapy with Better Help who is now a sponsor of Soberish, which I am so incredibly grateful for because I know how important access to a good counselor is for recovery to work.
We do what we must, which often means doing a bunch of shit we don’t want to do, including talking to professionals about painful subjects and listening to their insights.
Sobriety is a lot of work.
But the pay off is life-changing.
I wish I could tell you that the first month or two is rough and then it’s fine, but that’s not how this goes.
It’s hard to learn how to function as a sober adult. It’s like being in a terrible accident and having to learn to walk and do basic things for yourself again.
This is not a fast or easy process, but you get there.
Eventually, you develop strategies for dealing with pain in healthier ways. Your brain chemistry starts to stabilize and the world doesn’t feel quite as bleak as before. Maybe you start eating better and getting some exercise.
You find a new normal. Some days it hangs on by a thread, but you keep at it, and eventually, you prefer the sober version of your life to your previous one.
It goes like this until one day you realize, “I’m okay.”
I cannot tell you how radically powerful and transformative it is to feel at peace with yourself, but you absolutely cannot get there without coming face-to-face with the parts of yourself you drank to escape.
So my wish for you is that you take the necessary steps to tackle the worst of sobriety so that you can reach the best parts. And if the Soberish community can support you in any way, feel free to send us a request.