Seeking Sobriety? 9 Tips for Getting Started


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A little while back, a friend reached out to me and said she'd reached a point in her life where she thought it was time for her to seek out sobriety. She was wondering if I had any advice for her, and, as I was replying to her an email, I realized I was basically writing a blog post (I surprised even myself with how much I had to say on the topic just off the top of my head!).

If you're trying to get sober or even just considering the idea, here are some things I think are really important to know as you're starting out. And if you're not seeking sobriety, these tips still might be useful for you if you're trying to break a bad habit (or even just trying to live a positive and present life!).

 

  1. Surround yourself with people who get it and are encouraging. A lot of people won’t get it, won’t think you have a problem, won’t be very supportive. It’s often because they know that if they say you have a problem, that means that they also might have a problem and they don’t want to deal with that. When I first got sober, I was really lucky to have a partner in my life who gave up drinking in solidarity with me. I honestly don't know if I could have done it while living with someone else who was still drinking. The people you're around make a huge difference in getting and staying sober. 

  2. Don’t put yourself in tempting situations, especially at the beginning. Avoiding parties and social gatherings wasn't too tough for me at the beginning, since I'm pretty introverted by nature, but I did have to learn to pay attention to when I felt most tempted to drink and avoid those occasions. At the beginning, I had to turn down a lot of invitations because I knew I would be way too tempted. Because I started drinking so young, I had to learn how to socialize without alcohol, and that was (still is sometimes) tough, but avoiding temptation is key at the beginning. 

  3. Find something to take up your time and energy. For me, this ended up being Positively Present. I was able to fill my weekends with writing and creating the website, which made it a little easier to not be out drinking. I never would have been able to focus on Positively Present if I'd been hungover, so it became it's own reward, accomplishing something (a blog post) each week that I wouldn't have been able to do while drinking. Distraction and filling up your time with positive, non-drinking activities is essential to avoid not slipping back into old patterns. 

  4. Take it one day at a time. Yes, I know this is the most cliched thing in the world, but it's stuck around because it's true. Whenever I would think about never drinking again, my mind would go into a panic. But if I told myself, I'm not going to drink at this party, it was much easier to cope with than I'm never, ever drinking again. Sometimes I even broke it down further (I'm not going to drink for the next hour / 30 mins / 5 mins, etc.) It sounds silly, but taking that "never ever ever going to drink again" idea away made it so much easier for me. 

  5. Know you’re likely to slip up or have a relapse. Almost everyone I know who has given up drinking has had a relapse. I was eight months sober and then my sister's wedding came around, and the back of the limo with all of that champagne and excitement (and nervousness about my maid-of-honor speech) was just too much for me. It was awful to feel like I lost all of that progress in one night, but the key is not to use a relapse as excuse to give up. I woke up the next day and decided I was going to start over again, and here I am, seven years later! 

  6. Consider going to meetings, like AA, or therapy. It wasn't until I found the right therapist, one with alcohol and addiction expertise, that I realized I had a problem. Because of my environment, I thought my behavior and the repercussions of it were normal, but the right therapist showed me there was a totally different way to live. I also tried AA, but as an atheist, it was a little too god-focused for me, but I know a lot of people who find that community really helpful. 

  7. Make a list of things you’ve done while drinking that were unhealthy. This was one of the first things my therapist had me do, and it was a game-changer for me. When I saw, in writing, all of the ways my life had been negatively impacted by my drinking, it became really difficult for me to justify mixing another drink. Almost every single bad thing that had ever happened to me was a result, directly or indirectly, of alcohol consumption. Once I saw this clearly written out in a list, it became really hard to rationalize my old ways. 

  8. Understand that it’s gonna be really hard at first. Especially at the beginning, it feels really bad. It feels like you're not having fun, that a whole big part of your life is missing, but, I promise, if you stick with it, it gets so much easier. I can't say it's ever easy (there aren't many days when the thought of a drink doesn't cross my mind), but every single time I say no to that impulse, it gets easier. This probably won't be too much comfort in the beginning, but it's always good to have hope that things won't always be as hard. 

  9. Think about your future self. Whenever I'm really struggling, I remind myself that I’ve never once regretted not drinking, but I sure as hell have a regretted drinking many, many times. If you find yourself in a situation where you’re struggling, remember that you'll never wake up regretting that you didn’t drink. Of course, I try my best to stay present, but looking out for your future self — the one who will be waking up and dealing with last night's repercussions — can be really helpful. 


Staying sober is really hard work, but I've always found that the work always pays off. If you're looking for more insights on staying sober, check out the Sobriety section here on Positively Present or my 6 Lessons from 6 Years Sober video. And if you have any questions about how I got and stayed sober, feel free to leave them in the comments below! 

 

    

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Self-Love + Sobriety: The Perks of Being Sober

Positively-Present-Perks-of-Sobriety

 

 

Last week I celebrated seven years sober, which is pretty crazy since it seems like just yesterday that I wrote this post: Pick the Weeds, Keep the Flowers: My Year of Sobriety. It's easier now than it was then, but as the Kelly Clarkson sings in the song,"Sober," that inspired that post, "Picked all my weeds, but kept the flowers / But I know it's never really over." As anyone who's sober knows, it's never as easy as it might appear to others. But, even when it's hard, it's worth it. 

Like most of us, I'm still a self-love work-in-progress, but removing alcohol from my life is one of the best things I've ever done for myself. It's hard to even list the benefits I've received since I gave up drinking. When you're newly sober, these things are wondrous gifts, things you never imagined you could experience. But when you've been sober for awhile, you start to take them for granted, the negative memories of the past becoming hazier, and I've found it really helpful to remind myself each year of why I'm doing this, why my life is better because of it. 

Sobriety is one of the ultimate acts of self-love because the positive repercussions of that single choice — not to drink — reverberates throughout your life in ways you might not expect. Sobriety isn't necessary for everyone, but if you've wondered if it's something you should do, here are some of the (many!) perks I've experienced from seven years of sobriety. 

 

NO MORE HANGOVERS

This is probably one of the most obvious ones, but, for me, it's been one of the greatest benefits. I'm typing this post right now at 8:30am on a Saturday morning, a time of day I used to miss out on completely (and if I was awake to see it, I was so plagued by a hangover that my mind was mush). Hangovers used to rob me of entire days of my life. This isn't to say that I still don't have (a lot...) of lazy days where I waste my time now, but when I waste time now, I do so in a more productive way, and I feel a lot less ill while doing it. 

 

MORE FREE TIME

Hand-in-hand in with hangover-free mornings comes more free time. Not only do I wake up earlier and feel well enough to get things done on the weekends, but I also have a lot more free time to do things I actually want to be doing. Without hangovers, my weekends start earlier and, as a result, feel longer. Plus, I spend less time going out, which saves even more time. I still go out, but it's not my priority in the way it once was, leaving more time for things I truly enjoy. 

 

PERSONAL GROWTH

Giving up a big part of your life is hard. Like, really hard. But it's amazing for personal growth. Getting sober has taught me that I can do hard things if I really want to do them. It's shown me how strong I can be, even when I don't feel very strong. It's taught me that, even when you don't do what everyone else is doing. you can still be okay. It's opened my eyes to what matters to me, and helped me re-prioritize my life in so many ways. 

 

EASIER TO SAY NO

When you get sober, you have to say no a lot. I've never been much of a people-pleaser so, while I wasn't one of those people who struggles with the word no, I was the type of person who had a lot of trouble saying no to myself. I still struggle with this a lot. My desire for instant gratification still gets in my way much too often, but practicing the art of saying no to myself — turning drinks I really wanted to indulge in — has helped me get better at saying no to other things I want but shouldn't have. 

 

MOTIVATIONAL MANTRAS

It's no surprise that I love motivation and inspiration, but getting sober opened my eyes to a whole new category of inspiration. Sobriety is a unique experience, and unless you've been through it, you're probably not aware of how truly powerful the right words can be. There have been days when I've read something that made me feel stronger, reminders to keep going that came when I needed them them most. This phenomenon of seeing something at the exact moment you need it most isn't unique to sobriety, but sobriety's made me more aware of it. 

 

SPECIAL ANNIVERSARY

Sometimes it feels a little silly celebrating an anniversary of sobriety (especially seven years in!), but then I'm reminded of all the mistakes not made, all the mornings I woke clear-headed and certain of what I did the night before, all the stress-inducing words I didn't say, all the times I didn't break my own heart, and I can't help but think that all of that deserves a celebration. Plus, who doesn't love a special anniversary to celebrate? 

 

TONS OF LIFE LESSONS

I've learned so much about life just from getting sober. I could write an entire post just on these lessons (some of which I touched on last year's 6 Lessons I Learned from 6 Years Sober), but some of the most important ones I've uncovered since getting sober include: learning who my true friends are, discovering that who I am is more than what I do, and recognizing that avoiding problems doesn't work. (As Frida Kahlo put it: "I tried to drown my sorrows, but the bastards learned how to swim.")

 

MORE MONEY

Seven years in, this one has faded from my mind a bit, but I used to spend so much money on drinks, on getting ready to go drinking, on late-night snacks, on cab rides to and from the bar (no Uber back then!), on hungover breakfasts. With those items removed from my budget (among other spending changes), I was able to save enough to leave my job and pursue my life-long dream. That, alone, is a pretty amazing benefit of sobriety. 

 

FRESH PERSPECTIVE

For me, drinking and going out was a big part of my life. I spent a lot of my time thinking about and preparing for the next opportunity I'd have to go out, and while I do still enjoy going out from time to time, it's not my life's focus. Removing such a big part of my life gave me an opportunity to explore what I really wanted to spend my time on, which is what lead to all of the amazing things I've been able to do with Positively Present.  

 

When I write these sobriety-related posts, it's my hope that someone out there will read it and it will inspire him or her to choose a sober path. It's not the path for everyone, but if you're considering it, I highly recommend it. It's hard as hell sometimes, but benefits outweigh the hardships tenfold. If you want to know more about my journey, here are some things to check out: 

6 Lessons I Learned from 6 Years Sober

Sublime Sobriety (Pinterest Board)

Pick the Weeds, Keep the Flowers: My Year of Sobriety

Sobriety Playlist (YouTube)

Staying Sober Playlist (Spotify)

Positively Present Sobriety Section


If you have questions about my personal experience or want advice on how to get or stay sober, leave a comment below and I'll do my best to reply ASAP! 

 

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6 lessons I learned from 6 years sober


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Today I have been sober for six years! I should be used this word -- sober -- by now, but sometimes it still shocks me that I'm the one saying it. That I've been saying it for six years. Over the past six years, I've taken away some pretty big life lessons from living sober. Here are the top six lessons I've learned. Even if you're not sober or trying to get sober, I hope they'll inspire you!  

 

LESSON #1
YOU HAVE TO WANT IT 

It took me a long time to get and stay sober because there wasn't anything I wanted more than the rush of going out and drinking. It wasn't until I started Positively Present and started seeing a wonderful therapist that I realized that my alcohol-fueled behavior wasn't at all in line with the kind of life I wanted to be living: a positive, present one.

Once I had something that mattered more to me than drinking and the exciting possibility of having a wild night, I realized I had to change. I wanted to be more at peace with who I was and I wanted to make positive choices. With that at the forefront of my mind, I was able to begin making changes and, ultimately, was able to quit drinking. 

 

LESSON #2
YOU HAVE TO TAKE IT ONE DAY AT A TIME

Cliche? Yep! But it's a oft-repeated phrase for a reason: it's true. What scared me most about the thought of sobriety was that I'd never, ever drink again. Telling me I can't do something is one of the quickest ways to get me to want to do it. So instead of focusing on the never, ever, ever part of sobriety, I choose to focus on a single day.

Whenever I'm struggling, I tell myself, "I'm not going to drink today." Today seems much more manageable than thinking I'll never drink again. This present-focused trick works for any negative behavior. If you're struggling to stay on track, tell yourself, "I'm not going to drink today" or "I'm not going to text him today" or "I'm not going to eat a whole bag of junk food today." If you're still struggling (as I sometimes am), break it down further and promise yourself not to drink, etc. for an hour. 

 

LESSON #3
YOU HAVE TO ACCEPT LONELINESS

Sobriety comes with a variety of level of loneliness. First, there will be people who don't get why you're getting sober. Because you're not waking up in a gutter or destroying your life, sometimes people will have trouble grasping just how negatively alcohol has impacted your life.

There will be people struggling with their own addiction issues. Admitting you have a problem means they might have to take a look at their own actions, and this might be difficult for them. Rather than do this, they'll simply shrug off your sobriety as something dramatic rather than necessary. 

Also, being the only one at the party not drinking can be lonely at times. No one seems to care that I'm sober (people I know well are used to it and new people are usually impressed or curious), but it's still isolating, particularly when drinking used to be my go-to resource for easing my social anxiety. But, for me, the little bit of loneliness is worth the positive benefits of being sober. 

 

LESSON #4
YOU HAVE TO GET IN TOUCH WITH YOURSELF

By far the hardest lesson I've had to learn is getting to know who I truly am without alcohol. When I drank, I became a lot of things I'm normal not: brave, social, adventurous. Through sobriety I've had to learn which traits are truly me and which were fueled by alcohol. And, in some cases (like socializing), I've had to learn how to cope with my anxiety sans alcohol, which has been challenging at times. 

Also, without alcohol to numb emotions, sobriety requires that you really get in touch with your emotions. Sobriety is scarily real. There is no escape from who you are or how you feel. My flaws and my feelings are glaringly obvious (as are my mistakes, which now can no longer hide behind the words, "Sorry! I was so drunk!"). 

Feeling all the feelings and being who you truly are is hard, but it's made me stronger than I ever was before. I'm more self-aware and much more in control of my choices than I was six years ago and no amount of partying could ever feel better than that. 

 

LESSON #5
YOU HAVE TO LEARN YOUR TRIGGERS

Triggers sounds like a word that should be reserved for hard-core drug addicts, but was all have triggers -- situations, people, or things that prompt us to behave in ways we'd rather not. Sobriety has taught me how important it is to recognize those triggers and avoid them if possible. 

Some triggers -- like a wine tasting -- are avoidable for me. Others, like a stressful day or a beautiful summer afternoon, are not. I do my best to avoid situations that will be difficult for me. And, for those that I can't avoid, I do what I can to make it easier on myself. For example, I know Saturday nights are hard for me so I'll make plans to keep my mind off of drinking or, if I have to attend a triggering event, like a wedding, I might leave a bit early if I feel heightened temptation. 

I'm not sure why this is, but simply being aware of a trigger makes it easier to cope with. Maybe it's because you have an idea of why you're feeling the way you are and, with a solid explanation in hand, you can better choose how to react rather than impulsively responding. For example, let's say when you're really stressed at work, you're more likely to snap at your children when you get home. If you're aware of this, you can do a few things to make it better: try to lessen the stress at work, try to minimize stressful feelings by calming yourself on the ride home, or explain to your children that you've had a bad day and you might need a little less interaction that night.

Knowing your triggers is incredibly helpful, even if you can't always avoid them. And this goes for all kinds of situations -- what triggers you to feel angry at your partner, what triggers you to feel extra stressed out, what triggers you to eat an entire gallon of ice cream. So often we're impulsively reacting instead of thinking about why we're making the choices we are. 

 

LESSON #6
YOU HAVE TO ACCEPT - NOT FORGET - THE PAST

Wallowing in the past does absolutely no good. You cannot go back and change it (no matter how much you might like to!). To be truly present, you have to accept what's past. But accepting isn't the same as forgetting. And, when it comes to sobriety, it's critical not to forget the bad things.

Yes, that sounds exactly opposite of saying positively present -- focusing on the negative aspect of past -- but romanticizing the past, especially if you're trying to get or stay sober, is dangerous. It's hard sometimes not to long for the days when I was laughing with friends, a cold beer in hand, or hitting the dance floor with my Red Bull-and-vodka-fueled confidence, but I have to remind myself that it wasn't all laughter and dancing. 

Drinking had serious consequences for me and, while I certainly don't want to dwell on the past, sometimes I have to recall some of the negative situations I encountered as a reminder to myself that I am better -- and safer -- when I'm sober. 

 

I also made a YouTube video (warning: it's a long one) about why I chose to get sober and I go into more detail about these six lessons. You can watch it below or click this link.  

 

 

 

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