5 Things To Know About Getting Sober

By Beth Leipholtz 11/09/16

Is sobriety worth the effort? Won't I be bored? Here are five things to think about before you embark.

Woman preparing to rock-climb.
Before you venture...

There are many misconceptions about what life in recovery is like. Before getting sober myself, I had preconceived notions about the lives of the people who chose recovery. I thought they were probably boring, and that no non-sober people would want to hang out with them on a Saturday night when they could be elsewhere. I was wrong about that, as I was about many things pre-sobriety.

Though I never gave sobriety much thought before being thrown into it, I know people who do think about the decision before choosing this path. They wonder if sobriety is the right choice, if they really have a problem, and if they are willing to make such large changes in their life. They go back and forth, first trying to string together some time in sobriety, then drinking again, then going back to sobriety. Seeing people struggle this way makes me sad because I know what the world of recovery has to offer and I wish they could see those things, too.

So before venturing into the world of sobriety, here are five things you should know:

Sobriety is hard, but pushing through is worth it. This may sound obvious, but some people are shocked by just how hard sobriety can be. It may go well for a week, a month, a few months, even. But many people eventually come to a place where they begin to feel restless, like sobriety isn’t doing enough for them anymore. When you hit this point, you are at risk for returning to drinking or using. What people don’t realize is that if they just hold on and push through the hard parts, then the enjoyable parts await them. If you hit a wall in sobriety, it’s not a permanent thing. That wall can be knocked down with the right tools, and you can find a point where sobriety is enjoyable and feels like the right choice again.

You shouldn’t waste time wondering if your problem is “bad enough” to get sober. It doesn’t matter if you drink every day or every once in a while. If stopping your relationship with alcohol has crossed your mind, there is likely a good reason for that. In my first few months of sobriety, I heard stories from others about how they would drink every day, or how they would drive after drinking, or end up in jail. I had never done any of those things, so I began to question if I even had a problem. I felt like people were judging me, thinking that I didn’t need sobriety because I didn’t have enough of a problem in the first place. Over time I realized how skewed this thinking was. No one cared about how often I drank or the consequences I faced. For them, it was enough that I wanted to change my life. There is no other type of requirement for sobriety. Anyone is welcome if they want to make a change.

Attitude has a lot to do with sobriety. I entered into sobriety with an awful, mortifying attitude. I was forced to be in treatment, and I made that clear to everyone. Everything about my attitude screamed “I’m better than you and I don’t think I have a problem.” Because of that mindset, I got nothing out of my first month in treatment. Though I remained sober, I shut everyone and everything out and refused to grow. Once my attitude began to shift, I found myself realizing that sobriety was not an awful burden I was being forced to endure. Instead it was a chance, a gift even. I had been given this chance to really turn my life around, and once I realized that, I ran with it. Changing my attitude changed everything about my recovery.

Your life will change. When you get sober, you know your life will change when it comes to drinking or using drugs. What you may not realize is that those are not the only changes. Often in recovery, every aspect of your life changes in some way. The people you spend time with, the places you go, what you do in your free time—it's possible that you will need to change all of it if you want to maintain your sobriety. For people like me who despise change, this is tough. It can be unsettling to realize that so many things will be changing at once. But it’s important to remember that these things are changing because you made the decision to better your life. The people who matter will remain by your side. The really important things like that will remain constant. But the little things in life will change. And that's okay, it’s all part of the process.

A sober life is not a boring life. If one of your biggest concerns about getting sober is that your life will be boring, stop right there. I was guilty of this thought as well. Before I got sober, I would look at people who didn’t drink and wonder what they did for fun on weekends, or why they would possibly choose not to take part in something so enjoyable. Then I found myself in a life of recovery, and my days were far from boring. In the first few months of recovery, I studied abroad in South America. Rather than partying the time away, I was able to be present and sober the entire time. I have clear, intact memories from my five months there, memories I can revisit and that still make me smile. Had I still been drinking then, I’m sure those five months would have been filled with blackouts and drunken mistakes and injuries. I feel this way about so many experiences in my sober life now. Sure, I have restless days when I wish I could be like others my age. But then I look back to experiences like studying abroad and remember that I can’t be like those people. So I push through that restless feeling and as I come out the other side, I feel much more content with life and lucky to be sober.

Though everyone’s journey to recovery is different, these five points are a good starting place if you're thinking about pursuing sobriety now or in the future. 

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