I received the following question from Momobean in my inbox recently and I thought it worth sharing as it will resonate with lots of you:
How long will it take before I can go out and feel confident and happy about not drinking? It’s been 6 weeks since I stopped drinking and I still feel crap. I feel like I’m missing out and I’m getting frustrated that it’s still hard work and I’m still not feeling this sober amazing that everyone talks about.
This was my answer:
Hi ..., lovely to hear from you and thanks for the great question – this is one that will help lots of people who are in a similar position to you. I want to answer it in four parts:
Firstly, well done on your six weeks sober! This is a GREAT achievement and I hope you’re celebrating this (soberly 😉), acknowledging your success and how far you’ve come.
Secondly, go easy on yourself. Six weeks of being sober is very early days. If you’ve spent years training your brain to reach for alcohol as an automatic response to certain emotions, situations or triggers then it’s going to take some time and commitment to retrain it. It could take up to six months, a year or even more.
When we first start living life sober after years of using alcohol, we’re literally learning a new skill. We’re learning how to live life sober because we don’t know how to do it yet. Like learning to play a musical instrument or learning a new language or learning to dance, it’s going to take practice before it becomes “automatic” in the way drinking was automatic before. You need to do lots more practising of new, healthier habits in all those situations when you used to reach for alcohol to rewire your brain to get comfortable with doing things differently.
The good news is, it does get easier with practice and, with the right mindset and some commitment and focus, you do reach a point where you are happy and confident living life sober and you’re not thinking about alcohol or drinking at all – it doesn’t cross your mind. Sober living does become easy, effortless and automatic providing you have all the tools and support you need to do it.
Thirdly and to answer your question, how long it takes to get to this point varies from person to person. We're all different and experience the journey differently. I felt amazing after three months sober, dipped into feeling crap at about six months sober (when I started dealing with the anxiety issues that surfaced because I was no long using alcohol as a “medicine”) then got back into an even keel and more sober freedom after about a year. I know people who have reached confident and easy sobriety after six months and people who have got there after two years. Different people, different timescales. What helps is having the right mindset and the right tools to help you along the way. Having a positive approach to living life sober and imagining it as a huge gain that liberates you and gets you what you want is helpful here.
Fourthly, what is this “sober amazing” that you’re referring to? Life is so much better when you’re living it sober because you’re more connected with yourself, with other people and with the world around you. You get to live life fully without the barriers of hangovers, anxiety, shame, paranoia and low self-confidence getting in the way. You get to live your aspirations and be the best version of yourself.
But, even though there is much joy and liberation and marvelling at life to be had when you’re sober, even though life is infinitely better when you're living it sober, even though you can deal with life’s ups and downs more easily, and even though you’re more in control, life still gives you lemons - it isn’t always plain sailing. I still have some awful days. I get to feel more, whether that's pain, distress and grief or joy, excitement and energy. I get to feel it all more acutely because I'm not numbing out. When we numb out with alcohol, we don't get to pick and choose which bits we numb, we numb it all. When we stop numbing out, we get to feel it all - the good, the bad and the ugly.
The truth is that the good bits are better and the bad bits are better because you’re not dealing with them through a fog of alcohol. There is no wondrous “amazing ever after” when you’re sober – you just get to be present and in control for it all. It's infinitely better than life with alcohol in it and it can be amazing at times. I wake up every morning smiling because I don't have a hangover. I appreciate every day and the opportunities it gives me. I get to appreciate the little things that would have passed me by when I was drinking.
What there also is, after a certain amount of time and practise (different timescales for different people) is a happy confidence in your sobriety and a point where alcohol doesn’t feature in your thinking. When you can go to pubs, parties, social gatherings, weddings, family events, barbecues, picnics – even weekend evenings at home – and enjoy them completely sober without concentrating, without feeling bad, without feeling like you’re missing out and without giving any headspace to alcohol. You're in control, you're making good decisions, you're becoming your best self and you're achieving more. t’s less of a magical line that you step over and more of a gradual merging from one way of thinking/feeling/being to another. And, this gradual merging takes practise and time.
So, go easy on yourself. Six weeks is a huge achievement that deserves to be celebrated. You’ve done an amazing job so far! You have the strength to keep going and to keep practising until it all becomes automatic. But, in the grand scheme of things, it's no time at all and certainly not long enough to have retrained your brain to do things differently automatically. You still have some work to do. Don’t beat yourself up because you’re not feeling deliriously happy yet. Protect yourself, take it easy, hide from the world when you have to and don’t put yourself under unnecessary pressure or strain because you’re judging yourself against an imaginary criteria. Your journey into living life happily sober is as long as it needs to be and you WILL get there with the right mindset, the right tools and the right support.
You’re welcome to visit the site and tuck into the Free Support as often as you like for inspiration and motivation. You're also welcome to join our supportive community in the Go Get Sober Facebook Group where you'll get lots of encouragement and reassurance - we have some amazing people in there!
Keep going and keep reaching out when you need to - you're doing great,
How does my answer resonate with you? I'd love to hear from you so do leave a comment. How were you feeling at six weeks' sober? How long did it take you to reach easy, happy and confident sober living?
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