When my readers message me or leave me comments, the most frequent question I am asked is: I am starting my sobriety journey, do you have any advice for me? Or, I'm thinking of going sober, what advice do you have for me?
It's hard for me to answer this because it's SUCH a loaded question and I feel like I could go on for hours about it. It makes it difficult to write back to you guys that ask me this because the space allowed in a Facebook message or tweet is minimal and it would take me hours to write it all down. In an effort to answer this question and not write a book, I've outlined what I consider to be the most useful pieces of advice you need to know when starting your sobriety journey.
1. You've made the right decision.
Stop asking yourself if you've done the right thing or not. I know agonizing about whether or not to go sober is a tough one. Some of us go back and forth for years before taking the plunge. It might be a difficult decision to make, but let me tell you this: I've never heard of any person saying they REGRET getting sober. In fact, 99% of people I know, including myself, say it's the best decision they've ever made. There aren't many negative consequences to getting sober. Therefore, you can take comfort in the fact that you've made the right decision.
2. Don't concentrate on forever
I know part of what kept me drinking for so long was the fact that I could not picture living the rest of my life without alcohol. That was terrifying for me. GASP! a life without alcohol oh my god, it can't be done. Picturing yourself not taking a drink for the rest of your life sets you up for disaster. It will make you feel overwhelmed and hopeless. There is a reason Alcoholics Anonymous' most famous saying is: one day at a time. And no matter how annoying you think it is, it's true. Break it down - one day, one hour, one minute at a time. When I first got sober I didn't know how long it would be, I just kept going one day at a time and here I am 20 months later - still sober.
3. Get ready to feel feelings
Oh man, are you going to have some FEELS. I've written about this subject pretty extensively in the past and what I wasn't prepared to deal with when getting sober was my emotions. After years of numbing yourself with drugs and alcohol, your true emotions come through and they will hit you like a ton of bricks. I am 20 months sober and I STILL find myself crying for no reason or getting my feelings hurt over the silliest things. During the first months of my sobriety I was extremely self conscious. I was afraid everyone was pointing at me and talking about me in private, judging me for being sober, when in reality no one gave a shit that I was sober. I mean of course my friends and family were proud of me and supported my decision, but no one was pointing at me and saying, "HA HA LOOK AT THE SOBER GIRL! WHAT A LOSER." By the way, only alcoholics think things like that! haha.
4. You are not alone
Oh how I cannot stress this one enough. In the first weeks and months of sobriety I felt completely lonely. I had/have an amazing support system, but it was hard to find people who related to me 100%. This could also be due to the fact that I didn't start going to meetings until about 4 months ago. Part of my goal in writing this blog is to let all of you out there know that you are not alone. You are not a bad person and what you are feeling is not weird.
5. Getting sober isn't the end
One of my biggest realizations was that getting sober isn't a quick fix. Don't get me wrong - it's important and it's the first huge step of many. However, if you think you can just stop drinking and doing drugs and your life will be officially normal again, you're wrong. You'll have to relearn how to be a normal person. You'll have figure out how to deal with emotions, situations, and your own personal history. You will need to dig deep and figure out why you were using substances so heavily in the first place and evaluate your life. It takes time. You will be a work in progress, but it will be worth it.
6. You will do great things
The best part about getting sober is that you are clearing the path for a life that will be better than you ever imagined. Yes - you will have to deal with your pain, yes - you'll have to learn how to live again, and yes - it will be hard. But in the end, you will come out on top and you will do great things. If you told me 2 years ago that I would be sitting here, writing this blog right now about advice on being SOBER, I would not have believed you! Here I am though, living my truth, sharing my story, and finding healing through writing about it.
7. You will prefer sobriety
Many people ask me: how will I still be able to have fun? What about birthdays, holidays, weddings, or a champagne toast on New Year's Eve? Guess what.. you will get through all of these occasions without drinking and they will still be glorious. You'll still have fun, a different kind of fun - a fun without regret, hangovers, or shame. A quote I hear a lot in recovery is "Your worst day sober is better than your best day drunk." And it's so true. Eventually you will prefer this way of life, you just need to stick with it.
I hope these pieces of advice will help you along the way as you navigate your sobriety journey. Whether you just started, are a few months in, or have several years - I hope these are good reminders. Remember, it's not about strength or your worthiness as a person - you just have to want a change and stay dedicated to that yearning for a better life.
If you haven't already, please read my latest Huffington Post piece: 5 Feelings You Should Leave Behind In The New Year