One of the things I am most often asked is, “what advice do you have for newly sober people?” It makes sense. When we’re newly sober everything is scary, overwhelming, and shocking. We imagine sobriety to be one way, and most of the time it turns out being completely different than we thought. It can also be the hardest time of our sobriety, as we adjust to a drastically new life and learn how to be and act in a whole new way. If you’re like I was in early sobriety, you’ll be searching the internet for all the information and experiences you can find, to know what you’re feeling isn’t weird or horrible, and to know you aren’t alone.
Here are 10 things every newly sober person needs to know.
1. You will move at your own pace.
It’s hard to know what to expect in early sobriety, as everyone’s path is their own. Doing the research and asking for help lessens the burden, but it’s important for you to know that you will move at your own pace. Things that might be easier for you, might not be easiest for others, or vice versa. Additionally, situations or feelings that you don’t think will bother you, might. That’s why it’s incredibly important to go into sobriety without high expectations and be gentle with yourself along the way.
2. It takes time to get answers.
I know when I got sober, I was riddled with guilt, shame, and self-loathing. I wanted answers. Why me? Why this? Where did I go wrong? How did my life get unrecognizable? Was I a bad person? Would I feel this way forever? I had to say, “slow down lady!” Answers take time. You won’t get sober and know all the burning questions of the world after dry January. You’ve probably heard that sobriety is much more than just cutting alcohol at of your life. Uncovering who you are, how you got where you are, and why sobriety is your path, requires doing the work. This is not easy, and it takes time!
3. Experiences will feel different.
I guess I knew life without alcohol would be different, but I had no idea how different it would be. Imagine different, and think 100 times more different, which is what sobriety is like. No one who get sober imagines that one day they will have to, so I believe that’s why it becomes so much different. Everyday life experiences like birthdays, vacations, weddings, Friday nights, and grocery shopping – will all be different. They will also change. One day you’ll feel ok doing something and the next day you won’t.
4. You will be a different person than before.
These experiences will be different because you’ll be different. People, places, relationships, hobbies, and things you used to like when you were drinking – you might not like anymore. You might be used to being carefree, or someone who isn’t affected by emotions, or someone who isn’t organized, or any number of qualities, that could change now that you’re sober. Be open to change. Be open to becoming a completely different person than you were.
5. It will be hard.
For some people quitting alcohol might seem easy at first, but building a sober life, is what’s hard. For many of us who have the tools and recovery programs that work for us, putting down the drink is the first logical step, but then we have to go through the process of living as a new, sober and different person. Sobriety is rewarding, but it’s not the easy path. It’s the harder, more enlightened path.
6. You will lose some but gain a lot.
One of my biggest fears in sobriety was losing my old life. I worked hard at becoming cool, skinny, popular, and leading a crazy life. I honestly did not think I could have fun without alcohol or drugs and that I would definitely lose my reputation of the fun party girl. The truth is there is some losses in sobriety. I don’t go out to the club as much. I don’t stay out all night and I don’t socialize half as much as I used to. Parties don’t define me anymore, neither does alcohol. The gains I’ve made in sobriety are so much better than what I’ve lost. I’ve gained friends, work, a recovery community, and more.
7. Giving up only prolongs the inevitable.
You might feel like giving up in early sobriety. Ironically, as soon as you start to feel good in sobriety, you might become nostalgic for your old drinking life, or the old feelings alcohol gave you. You might convince yourself you can have a relationship with alcohol that could fit the mold that you want. My advice to you in this case is to keep going. Don’t give up. Don’t give in to the nostalgic thoughts of drinking. It’s not worth it. Sobriety is the door to a new life.
8. Society is rigged against us.
Yes, this is a sad and depressing truth. We live in an alcohol-soaked society. Why else would it be such a struggle to eliminate alcohol from our lives? Why else would alcohol be marketed to us in every sense of the word? Why else would we be looked at as unusual because we choose not to drink? Just because sobriety is a taboo word in our society doesn’t mean it’s bad. Society may be rigged against us for now, but it’s slowly changing. By living sober we bend the arc towards sobriety.
9. You aren’t missing out on anything.
This is a big one, because in early sobriety it can feel like we’re missing out on everything. When we’re not drinking, we feel like everyone else is on this other, special planet that we can’t get to. It look me a good amount of sobriety and sober experiences to realize I wasn’t missing out on anything, except hangovers, anxiety and regret. I slowly became grateful I wasn’t stuck in the cycle of drinking, binging, moderating, and nursing hangovers.
10 This will be the best decision of your life.
Please know this last statement to be true. Sobriety is lifechanging. It has the power and capacity to change the entire course of your life and everything in it. I have never heard of anyone regretting the act of getting sober. It might not feel like it at first, but one day it will. I hope you stick around until that day.
Kelly Fitzgerald Junco
Kelly Fitzgerald Junco is a sober writer based in Southwest Florida who is best known for her personal blog The Adventures of a Sober Señorita. Her work has been published across the web including sites like The Huffington Post, Thought Catalog, Ravishly, SheKnows, Elite Daily, The Fix, Brit + Co, Addiction Unscripted and AfterPartyMagazine. She is currently writing a memoir.