The First Year of Sobriety is the Hardest – Here’s Why
When I think back to my first year of sobriety, I am flooded with emotions. It’s true that each year of sobriety is very different from the previous and there’s nothing that compares to your first year. The first year is many things – overwhelming, glorious, remarkable, emotional, and yes, hard. It’s not something that can be avoided, but it’s something you can be prepared for.
Let me clear, sobriety is never going to be easy all of the time, but the beginning is usually the hardest. Of course, every situation is different and depending on what you are going through in life, sobriety can be tough or simple. But what makes the first year different from the rest and how can you not only survive it, but thrive in it?
Many of us who try to get sober have no idea what we’re doing, how long we’re doing it for, or how to go about it. If you’re like me, you thought “getting sober,” meant to stop drinking alcohol and taking drugs. And this is a true statement, but it’s also so much more than that. Getting sober also means dealing with everything that comes along with living without mind or mood-altering substances. We have to learn how to live our lives without old coping mechanisms, how to shed behavioral patterns that no longer serve us, and how to connect with others and trust our inner guides. Does it sound like a lot? That’s because it is.
The first part of sobriety is learning how not to pick up. Once you do this, you’ll have to work towards the freedom of not wanting to pick up. This is normally done by the inner work you do – whether it’s through a treatment program, the 12 steps, reading literature, journaling, or joining some other kind of recovery group or pathway. There is no real way to prepare for this, besides knowing that it’s going to be hard, emotional, and you’ll have to face a lot of feelings and topics. Knowing this and finding joy within the good and hard times will carry you through.
During my first year of sobriety I had an overwhelming feeling of being lost. I was living in another country, repairing a broken romantic relationship, and trying to figure out if I could salvage any friendships that were fueled by drugs and alcohol. I wasn’t sure if my family and friends were mad at me, disappointed in me, or worried about me. For a time, I felt like I was walking on eggshells and my anxieties were high. Could I do this sober thing? Will people judge me or shame me for this? How will I do this forever?
The first year is when you take the saying “one day at a time,” to heart and realize you’re only going to make it if you look to the day ahead, and not the week, month, or year. Don’t get tied up with wondering “how,” just do what you can do today. Don’t get discouraged. Each day will be different, but not all of them will be easy and not all of them will be hard.
Once you get a few months under your belt and you come out of the fog, you’ll become more sure of yourself. I was able to face my friends and family and apologize to them, make amends, and honestly tell them I was working on myself. Whether they wanted to accept that or not was up to them (and most of them supported me). You’ll become more confident, secure in your self-love, and progression. This will allow you to move through life easier and become more authentic in your relationships.
You might also experience sober euphoria, also known as the pink cloud. Everything might feel wonderful and your senses will become sharper. You might feel as though you could do this sober thing forever! The trick here is that this feeling won’t last forever and it’s not the realistic side of sobriety. The euphoria will fade, but balance will set in and sobriety will be just as amazing in year 4 as it was in year one.
Sobriety is a relearning of who you are. It’s a coming into-your-own. It’s figuring out who you are without drugs and alcohol and where your moral compass guides you now that you’re free from addiction. It’s daunting, but fulfilling. The first year is definitely the hardest because the roller coaster is fresh and scary. But my advice for you is stay on, buckle up, and ride it. You’ll feel completely different in year two and each year is more beautiful than the last. That’s the journey of sobriety.
About the Author
Kelly Fitzgerald is a sober writer based in Southwest Florida who is best known for her personal blog The Adventures of a Sober Señorita. Her work has been published across the web including sites like The Huffington Post, Thought Catalog, Ravishly, SheKnows, Elite Daily, The Fix, Brit + Co, Addiction Unscripted and AfterPartyMagazine. She is currently writing a memoir.