Early sobriety is the most confusing and challenging time for most individuals working to stay sober. It can feel like a rollercoaster of emotions.
At first, you may feel like absolute garbage – detoxing from the otherworldly chemicals you’ve been ingesting for the past however many years. It’s scary to be outside of your comfort zone in a locked facility with no idea what to expect moving forward. You may have no idea how to cope with all of the new emotions, and want to avoid any social activities without using a substance. You will probably even have a few days when you regret deciding to go to treatment thinking your old way of life was easier.
However, some time will pass and you will begin to make some connections with the people around you. Usually, it begins with what your drug of choice was and you bond over that and share war stories. Then you start connecting a little deeper. Maybe you realize you both love the Cleveland Indians and are bummed they lost the World Series. You find out you like the same music and both watch Family Guy. Now you’re starting to get your feelings back within yourself. You haven’t felt anything in so long thanks to the substances you used to cope with life.
Slowly, an almost euphoric feeling arises – a new appreciation for life. You have big, big plans and you feel like you’re on top of the world. You have a picture in your head of this amazing, wonderful person you are becoming and can’t wait to get started on changing your life.
Unfortunately, along with these new feelings usually comes guilt and shame. The memories of pain we’ve caused to our families and friends. Jobs we’ve lost. Crimes we’ve committed. Harmful things we’ve done to ourselves. The rollercoaster of emotions comes flooding back. Luckily the friends you have made have more than likely shared the same guilt and shame. Now you build an even deeper connection and you’re comforted by the fact that you aren’t alone in all of this. Life is in the palm of your hands and you feel as if you can do everything you’ve wanted to do. travel dream job, dream partner, dream home. The chains that have bound you are now broken. Most of us call friends and relatives and exclaim “things will be different! I’ve changed and I have big aspirations ahead.” And you mean it.
After treatment, you go back into the real world and out of the comfort zone of treatment. This is what separates “the men from the boys,” if you will. Many of us move into halfway houses, we start at an IOP to keep accountable, and we start looking for meetings to attend and jobs to work. However, we tend to want things to go our way, and when they don’t, it’s easy for us to lose sight of the vision we had for ourselves. This is why it is crucial to hit the ground running with a 12-step program. Without it, we are doomed to return to our old way of living.
Now, the worst thing that can happen to someone in early sobriety is to get complacent. Some people call it the “pink cloud.” You feel great, you’re sober, and you’re showering daily. The rollercoaster goes up. What often happens is that we forget the deeds of our past and we start to ride the pink cloud we rode in on. The common reality is that the pink cloud will fade and all falls down, the rollercoaster that goes up, will eventually come down.
When I was first getting sober, I felt very scared and lost without having a substance to help me get through my days. The realities of life and wreckage of my using career came crashing down on me. The vacation-like treatment center days were over; now I had to find a job, handle court cases, find transportation, all while remaining clean from drugs and alcohol.
In my past, I tried my best to avoid all real life responsibilities. I avoided intimate relationships and hardly opened up to people or expressed my feelings. Instead, I suppressed my feelings by drowning myself in a bottle or eating/shooting/sniffing a handful of pills. Wise folks with sobriety would tell me I needed to get out of my comfort zone and ask for help. I needed to ask a complete stranger to help take me through my steps, tell them my darkest secrets, trust them, and upon completing my steps, I would have a psychic change and spiritual experience of my own. This all seemed far-fetched to me, but I knew the life I had been living wasn’t one I wanted to continue.
If I told you my life was all cupcakes and rainbows in early sobriety, I would be lying. If I said there weren’t dark days and times I thought I would never get through, I would be lying. However, I listened to the people in the program that came before me and kept working on my program of recovery. I asked for help with even the smallest of problems in my life.
The program showed me how to have fun again, without needing a substance to enjoy myself. The loving fellowship introduced me to other alcoholics, who would take me to the movies, art shows, concerts, and various other activities I used to only do while under the influence. Through these experiences, I learned life could still be very much enjoyable without using. There is nothing like a group of ex-problem drinkers playing mini golf on a Friday night. But I was often reminded that all of the good times could be ripped away from me if I didn’t continue to do extensive work in my program.
As I said earlier, early sobriety can be one of the most difficult parts of recovery for addicts and alcoholics. The only way I’ve found to get through the bad times and keep the good times in your life is to listen to the people who came before you. Work on your steps and work within the program. Grit your teeth and fight through the lows – and don’t let the highs blind you of where you once were. The promises within the literature and what people tell you do in fact come true. You’ve just got to give yourself a chance to see it work in your life like thousands of other seemingly hopeless addicts before you.
Getting Help At Wayside House
If you are a woman struggling with addiction, Wayside House can help. We offer a women-only program and provide a safe, supportive environment to recover in. We have outstanding treatments and therapies that are often only found in more expensive programs. We offer a 90-day inpatient rehab with relapse prevention education, outpatient, and aftercare. Contact Wayside House at 800-655-0817 to learn more.