Early sobriety. If your story is anything like mine, it was anything but easy. The emotional roller coaster, combined with plowing through the massive pile of wreckage that I had created, made my first year extremely challenging. Based on my personal experience, and what I have learned from others, there are five things that can help make that first year a little more bearable. Here are the five “to do’s” in early sobriety:
1) Find a Support Group
Like, right away. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a group of people to talk to that know exactly what you’re going through. This not only made me feel less alone but helped me get through some huge challenges that first year. Many of the things I went through felt a little less scary because I spoke with other people who had gone through many of those same situations when getting sober. In the end, those early women that I latched on to saved my life. Am I saying that in the entire history of sobriety no one has ever gotten sober without a support group? No. But I believe that going it alone makes it so much harder. Sobriety is also about growth and learning how to form relationships without a social lubricant. Being with others like me helped to make that process a little easier and a lot more meaningful.
2) Get a Hobby
Yes, a hobby. Before I got sober, my hobby was drinking and drugging. I worked a full-time job and got loaded. That’s it. It was so important for me to find something that I enjoyed doing in order to fill that void that used to be satisfied by booze and pills. For me, I turned to running as my hobby because I didn’t know what to do with all my pent up energy and anxiety. I thought I was going to go crazy. Today, I enjoy gardening, playing guitar, writing, singing, and so much more! It’s important to start exploring who we are and what we love again! Take some time to find something you enjoy doing, and do it for you.
3) Help Others
It doesn’t matter if you have 24 hours or 24 years sober – you could be the one person to give hope to the next person that cannot even get an hour. It’s extremely important to find ways to help others still suffering from addiction. This can be done with support groups, social media, volunteering to share your story at a treatment center, etc. And we don’t have to just help others only by working with those in active addiction. Volunteering at an animal shelter, nursing home, or homeless shelter are all great ways to give back. The important thing for me is to always find ways to get out of myself. Selfishness = Misery. Helping Others = Joy. Remember those simple equations.
4) Get Physically Active
If you’re anything like I used to be, this is probably where a large groan just came out. I used to loathe any form of activity. However, this was something that was extremely necessary and very helpful for me during my early sobriety. For many of us, the constant use of chemicals will eventually make our brains go a little haywire. This is especially true in those early months when many of us have depleted a lot of our serotonin. What’s a great and natural way to increase serotonin levels? Exercise! No, you don’t have to go join a CrossFit gym tomorrow, but even taking a walk outside every afternoon is good for the mind, body, and soul. Yoga is extremely relaxing and helps to build muscle. You can even grab a friend and find an exercise class to attend together. For many of us, this is something that is difficult to begin – but once you start, you won’t regret it!
5) Reach Out to Others for Help
This was a big one for me. Pride had often gotten in the way of me maintaining any long term sobriety in the past, and I am grateful that I was willing to drop it this last time I finally got sober. Not only is it okay to not be okay, but it’s okay to reach out and tell someone that you’re not okay. For me, keeping things inside never ends well. I have had to learn to “tell on myself” when my mind starts telling me things that are meant to keep me sick. Feeling like you want to drink? Call someone. Feeling sad? Call someone, Just having an all-around crappy day? Call someone! I cannot tell you how many times I had moments of wanting to drink in the early days, only to have that feeling relieved after I picked up the phone and called my sponsor.