There’s no arguing about it, early sobriety is hard. Of course, sobriety can be hard at any point in your life depending on what you’re going through, but I believe early sobriety is the hardest because you’re like a new born baby exploring the world for the first time again. It’s the time when you have to relearn almost everything, figure out who you are without substances, and learn how to navigate a world without drinking or using anymore. One common issue that comes up during early sobriety is resistance.
Having opposition to sobriety in the beginning is completely normal. Not many people desire to willingly get out of their comfort zone, even when it’s destructive. Add in the fact that most of us must ponder and lament about how we got into this situation, how our lives became unmanageable, and why we’ve been dealt this hand in life. I know in my experience I felt resistance in the beginning because I couldn’t quite believe I really had to let drugs and alcohol go. The society we live and the beliefs we hold about addiction can keep us stuck in our cycles for a long time.
If you’re experiencing resistance, here are some ways you can beat it and stay sober in the beginning of your journey.
1. Be honest with yourself
When you’re wrapped up in your addiction, it’s nearly impossible to be honest with yourself. Your awareness is limited by the substances you take. There is a reason you ended up here. There’s no better time to get honest than when you feel resistance creeping up in early sobriety. Be honest about the negative parts of your using. What adverse consequences have you experienced? How many times were hard times in your life brought about because of alcohol or made worse by alcohol? How does alcohol make you feel after drinking, not just during? Once you get honest, I believe you’ll feel less resistant to change.
2. Educate yourself about the reality of recovery
This was a big one for me in the beginning. Perhaps you hear “recovery,” and imagine it being for only for people who shoot heroin and live under bridges. Maybe you think recovery isn’t for you because you didn’t go to jail or get a DUI. Maybe you think recovery is only for miserable people who don’t know how to have fun. These are all beliefs I held in early sobriety. I had to take the time to truly educate myself about what recovery is and how it differs for every person. I had to learn that sobriety is for anyone who wants it and should be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made, not the worst. I looked around and saw how happy everyone in recovery was and began to shift my awareness and resistance.
3. Empower yourself
One thing addiction always does is remove our choices. Even if we don’t become enslaved to the substance, we become consumed by the thoughts around it. We ask ourselves, are we drinking too much? Did we take it too far? Do I really need to drink? Why can’t I stop? Etc. These thinking patterns can cause us a lot of inner turmoil. We begin to question our worth and our actions. Sobriety is the way we take our power back. This is an excellent reminder when resistance comes up. You can empower yourself by choosing to take your power back, giving yourself choices and sticking with sobriety.
4. Give it time
Time is such a fickle thing! You’ll be surprised by how much time you get back when you get sober because you won’t be using drugs or drinking anymore. However, there will come a time when you want to go back to your old life. You’ll feel like sobriety is too hard, it’s just not working, or it’s not worth your time. But that’s exactly what you need to give it – time. I tell people you can’t really get a good idea of how you feel in sobriety and what it’s like, until you commit to a year. The first year will give you a lot of emotional, spiritual, and physical changes, but resistance will still come up. I challenge you to stay committed and give it the time it deserves. After one year, you can reevaluate again.
5. Stock up on resources and support
There is no such thing as too many sobriety resources and support. Fortunately, the recovery landscape is constantly evolving and changing, and new programs and resources are available every day. Just in the 6 years that I’ve been sober, it has changed drastically and there are more resources available than ever before. Resistance can signal that you need to add to your library of resources. Find a new challenging or interesting book, web series, journal, or group. Try something new in your sobriety. The next best thing could be just around the corner. The important part is not to give up on finding what works for you.
Resistance to change is a normal part of the human experience. It’s having the tools and skills to get through it that enables us to lighten our loads and enjoy the true value of sobriety.
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.