Survival Guide to Your First Days Sober
During the six long years between the day I knew I needed to stop drinking, and the day I finally did, there was a lot of pain and frustration that might have been avoided if I'd known a few simple things. It is of course obvious that if you're going to stop drinking....you have to stop drinking....but that is often easier said then done. If you're struggling to get a foothold in sobriety this "survival guide" might make things easier.
I think you have a choice about how you view stopping drinking. You can view it as something you are forced to do or you can view it with curiosity and as a good thing. You can view your life without booze as a lesser life or you can view it as something that will bring new untainted highs, open up new opportunities and inspire you to learn new things. If you're feeling scared that's natural as you have relied on drink for a long time. It will make a huge difference if you can be open to new ideas and immerse yourself in all things sobriety (it is fascinating). Be prepared to be a little selfish for a while, while you focus on putting yourself back together without the booze crutch.
There are many recovery groups on the internet and in the "real" world. It helps tremendously to have a community of people who have personal experience with exactly what you're going through. Look around until you find a group that fits you. The following ideas are from our online community. We are one of many free resources on the internet full of people like you who are helping each other get sober and stay that way. Sobriety is a gift to be shared generously.
Before Day 1: You will most likely be experiencing some anxiety, a lot of self-doubt, and negativity. In the run-up to this, you might have found that you sweat A LOT, your mood is low, you may experience ‘poor me’ syndrome and are prone to stroppiness. You might’ve noticed you have memory problems that go beyond blackouts. You may find exercise has stopped being enjoyable and it is will power that is keeping you at it. Bloated, tired and underperforming at work, most of us find our self-esteem down around our ankles as we begin day 1.
This article on the stages of alcohol withdrawal will help you know what to expect physically and psychologically as you move off Day 1. ( If you experience severe withdrawal symptoms (including tremors, shaking, etc.) see a doctor immediately, but know this is relatively uncommon.)
One of the simplest most important lessons I've learned is that there is a connection between low blood sugar and alcohol cravings in the late afternoon. To be safe make sure that you plan to eat before your usual drinking time and we recommend you think about trying L-Glutamine powder as explained in these posts by two of our members-
Have good food and alternative beverages handy. The first days and weeks will be easier if you help your body detox so do a bit of study on foods you enjoy that are liver cleansing. There are some great books on the subject or you can easily do a quick internet search of top ten liver detox foods. Have special treats ready though for those evening hours when your brain craves alcohol. Although there are people out there who cut alcohol, carbs, sugar, and caffeine in one fell swoop I found that I needed "treats" to keep from "treating" myself to alcohol. Don't be afraid of ice cream! It's scientifically proven to make you happy
Make a sobriety plan. It's a good idea to have some books ready to read in the evening as well as podcasts and videos that will support your intention to stay sober. There are lots of free resources on the internet. Blogs and Ted Talks and PodCasts. Our resource section is full of links with posts from members on what worked for them and why. Resources to Watch / Resources to Read
In general, it is fair to say that there are as many different experiences as there are people trying to get sober. All are valid. It helps to be able to talk it out with others as someone will have had the same issue and will have some ideas on making it a little more bearable. There is no absolute truth in what to expect when you stop drinking. There is no specific addictive personality or an absolute cure. When I was drinking myself numb I lost track of who I was. Sobriety has been about rediscovering me.
Day 1 Unless you are physically dependent and suffer DT's ( if so it would be wise to see a Dr) day one will most likely be the easiest for you to stay alcohol-free. You'll be focused and be comforted that you have made a decision to put an end to this mess. You may have trouble sleeping on and off during your first sober week but on day one you're likely to sleep relatively well. Try to drink a lot of water. Three liters and a bit will help you start to detox and also help keep anxiety down.
Days 2-3 may start well as you wake up fresh and hopeful but some people also find that the anxiety they drank to appease is still there. Whether you're feeling strong and positive as you face the day or a bit empty and lost expect that around 2-5pm you are likely to start thinking about drinking. A perfectly rational little voice will pop up telling you to have a drink and start again tomorrow. You may suddenly decide that you’re not that bad, it’s your partner's fault, you can re-start on Monday, after the holiday etc. This is where the real hard recovery work starts. If you haven’t made a plan you need to do that now. This is a great time to read up on your Lizard Brain and start to understand that for a good while everything and anything is a reason to the addicted brain to drink
Be prepared for a roller coaster ride, or what I call "riding the yo-yo". If you journal - do it. If you need to talk, find an ear. If being alone is hard on your psyche - don't be alone!. Remember what you were doing to your mind and body; they became accustomed to the poisoning and abuse. Remember what was happening to your daily life and relationships. You can't heal yourself without removing the toxin. You can't change those things without changing the behavior.
One of the things I never understood when trying to stop drinking and smoking is that for a while my brain didn't really know how to function without nicotine and alcohol. I didn't have the reflexes to relax without a drink or concentrate without a smoke. We often think that smokers and drinkers NEED their drug of choice because until you have actually gone through withdrawal and rewired your brain to function well without the drug you are running on empty.
Day 4 -5 etc You might have a low-level headache, the sweats, sleep problems and vivid dreams (maybe about drinking) as the chemicals and toxins start to leave your mind and body. This post has some terrific sleep solutions.
You might feel tense and wired and restless and uncomfortable. Anxiety is fairly common in the first and second weeks. Try listening to music to help you process your emotions and to relax. Your mind will be busy but your liver is thanking you from the bottom of its livery self . Taking a hot bath with a few cups of Epsom salts or unrefined sea salts dissolved in the water can help a lot with the detox process. The magnesium in the salts will ease the tension in your muscles while soothing you to sleep. If you are worried, you need to go to the doctor.
No matter how strong your cravings may be remember that they will pass. Waking up fresh in the morning, without guilt, shame or fear of what damage you've done to your body, is a great reward for holding on to those first awkward sober evenings.
Be prepared for "feeling better." This is deceiving. Feeling better does NOT mean that your body can handle more poison. It does NOT mean that your pattern of drinking will have changed. It does NOT mean that alcohol is 'OK' again. Alcohol is still a drug and it is still going to poison you. Think of it as though you're building up a bank account. You get richer with every penny you save, right. Everyday AF is one more "penny" in the bank! People who have lived AF long-term will attest to the power of sober momentum. When you've built up that bank account, it's harder to spend the money.
Sober Survival Tips:
Keep it simple, eat well (especially before you're drinking hour), and make a plan that lists your triggers and how bad drinking is for you (relationships, as a parent, financially, living life to the full, work-wise etc.)
Work with a community online or in the tangible world or both. If you make sobriety your number one priority for a while you will make it.
Write down what it is you want. How do you want to live? Now FOCUS on those things.
Avoid shops after 1-2pm or so for as long as it takes (this is an amazing strategy to stop ‘absent-minded’ buying of booze.)
Try to think about today only, focus on getting through this minute, this hour, this day.
If you have a family to feed and cooking in the evening is a trigger do as much prep as you can on the weekend and let yourself indulge in as many take-outs as you might need to on crazy days. Leave the chores if you need to keep calm.
Think of your first 30 days as an at home rehab and treat yourself to the help you need to keep the evening stress at a minimum.
Open a Book, open a browser, open your mind. The keys are out there.
You don't HAVE to drink.
Sobriety is Clarity, Creativity , Freedom
Community connection is the first step. BOOzeMusings BOOM!
Talk to Us , Rethink the Drink !
This post was written by Clare1, Patrece, WV, Jill and Tana with links to posts from other members of the Boozemusings Community.