Early Sobriety Sucks (But It’s Worth It!)

By Martina 12/26/16

They keep telling me it gets easier, and even though it doesn’t seem to be, I have to trust my sober AA family.

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Martina

I wake up every morning in pool of sweat; bad dreams still lingering in my brain; anxiety roaring through my veins; depression weighing heavy on my heart. I sigh, “Oh, shit, another day.”  

However not all is lost: I now have tools to deal with this shit. I can pray, meditate, do cognitive therapy, read something inspirational, call my sponsor, go to a meeting, and slowly, I’ll notice by mid-afternoon I’ll start to feel, “okay,” sometimes, maybe even great!   

But getting back to waking up mode: What can I do about feeling so abominably awful every morning? No one can tell me: “Hey, you’re not trying; you’re not working a good program; get to therapy.”  

No!

There is no way of controlling your initial thoughts, feelings, or physiological responses upon awakening. And it sucks!  However, through the tools I’ve been given—ones I used to think were ridiculous (like how is a HP going to make my foreclosure go away?) can actually work if I do them with bravery and honesty—two traits I’m sadly lacking in. But the deal is, I’m still trying. And no matter how small, it gives me a sense of peace.  

And I notice another thing: not only am I giving abstinence an honest try, the benefits of it are beginning to pervade other parts of my life. For example: I’m not so angry anymore. I’m no longer writing long emails to friends and family hotly trying to defend myself against accusations. Sometimes the accusations were untrue, but I knew I was screwed because even if I was right, the mere fact I was using made me lose all credibility.

I’d often find myself angrily retorting: “Regardless of the fact that I’m taking Vicodin doesn’t take away from the ‘fact’ that you did: [insert whatever slight she/he did to me] and you need to be held accountable for it and stop blaming my drug use on everything.”  

Wow.

Just the energy I’d spend trying to make someone apologize to me was absurd. And now I realize it was the drugs making me disproportionately angry. Now, sober, I never get so mad. If someone is a little bitchy, or slights me slightly, I just toss it up to him/her having a “bad day,” and not take it personally.

Cravings are a truly malevolent mental monster that whisper to me all day and night. Oh how good just one oxy would feel. And that is where honesty has to come into the picture. Because now I gotta play that tape back. I literally have to lie down on my bed and think deeply, very deeply about what happens towards the end.  

Through my drug career, sometimes I could “chip” (use occasionally) for years, but that day would inexorably come when I’d lose control and become a fiend once again. And when the tape comes to the end and I see myself drinking day and night, or running down to Mexico, dope sick, waiting for one of my waiter buddies to deliver my fix in some filthy bathroom, I realize, getting high is irredeemably out of the question.  

So, yeah, early sobriety is tough. My moods are all over the place, I have no energy, or too much, I’m prone to childish temper tantrums, and want to blame everyone for my problems...especially myself. So thank heaven, we have tools, and support, and people who feel us.

I’d like to give a round of a applause for all my AA buddies, and sympathetic normies for helping me get through these tough times. My AA buddies keep telling me it’s “normal” what I’m going through, and that does help enormously, because most of the time I’m thinking I’m just irrevocably crazy.  

And, even though waking up sucks, laying my head on the pillow at night—even if I don’t fall asleep right away—usually feels pretty good. Because I know I’ve tried to the best of my ability, to do what a newly sober person is supposed to be doing. And even if I toss and turn, it’s not the fitful, filled-with-regret-due-to-using-consequences type of insomnia. 

When I awake, filled with dread, it’s now manageable, because the guilt, shame, and the desperation of being in active addiction will not be interfering with me dealing with the “wreckage of my past.” And I got a helluva lot of that!

But I take it in infantile crawls: first get a cup of coffee; maybe watch Trump acting the fool on the telly; call my “foreclosure specialist,” and then just plop myself on the sofa and smoke a cigarette. Yeah, a little cigarette break may seem unseemly to some, but for us in early sobriety, it won’t be a lifesaver but it can be a mind-saver. Then I might up the ante a bit and do some baby steps: call my sponsor, take a shower, hit a meeting.  

By midday, I’m actually trudging, clumsily, but full force, with the mindset of a crazed teenager...but, still, it’s “progress, not perfection,” I must remind myself.

They keep telling me it gets easier, and even though it doesn’t seem to be, I have to trust my sober AA family. I’ve finally surrendered. And that in itself does feel good. So yeah, early sobriety sucks, but it’s worth it—because it’s real, it’s honest, and I can look at myself in the mirror now.

Martina is from Bonita, California and is a student and dancer.

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