The Other Side of Sobriety
“You will feel so much better when you are sober.”
“Just think of how much more freedom you will have when you are sober.”
“Eventually you won’t even crave it.”
“Think of all the money you’ll save.”
I think every addict out there has heard at least some of these lines during their lives. And if they are like me then they grin, nod and then go have another taste of whatever their addiction of choice is. For me it was alcohol. I mean it isn’t bad enough that I felt like I wasn’t good enough, that I was messing up, that I was making all the wrong choices in my life and I was negatively affecting those around me but then to hear all these “great things” from all be it well-meaning friends and family members just reinforced the fact that I was a screw-up.
None of these statements are necessarily wrong, but none of them are going to make an addict stop their behaviour. It is something more and very personal to each one. It is not a rock bottom per se, it’s several rock bottoms. It is many failed relationships, countless broken promises, ruined relationships and for some multiple stints in jails, rehabs and mental health units before change happens.
The thing people don’t tell you about sobriety is how very lonely it is.
Sobriety for many people means breaking ties with friends we have had for years, shared a lot of memories with (even if we can’t actually remember them), it means loss of family members that just got fed up with the addiction drama and left, it’s a change of living arrangements, moving towns or even provinces (states) to get away from the usual suspects that can so quickly bring us back to our old habits.
Sobriety is lonely, scary, hard, anxiety-filled, life-altering, 180 degrees different to what we have known for years, decades even. Family members who are still in addiction or who “don’t have a problem so should be allowed to drink whether you are there or not” need to be removed from the new sober life if we want to succeed. The constant fear of what about if these new people find out about my past, are they going to stick around or leave thoughts all the time. Explaining to people why you can’t just go out after work after closing that big deal. Deciding if you can risk going to your best friend’s wedding because there might be alcohol and how can you not toast the new Mr and Mrs?
Yes, the sober life is so much better in so many ways than the addict life, but it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. Unless you count the butterflies in your belly. It is great, it is freeing in some ways but very closed off and foreign.
It’s a whole other culture you have to learn, a new set of rules and boundaries that you have to adhere to. The constant pressure of not screwing up again is more than many can handle. Relapse happens and the “told you so’s” start.
I write this not to put fear in anyone who is ready for sobriety, but as a caution to those who have never had to change their entire thought process. Be mindful of your sober friend, family member, co-worker. Be careful of the platitudes you provide that, really, only make you feel better and them a little worse.
To those ready to make that change, be prepared to be lonely sometimes but don’t give up on yourself. There will be hard days but from one addict to another, it will be worth it. You will find someone that will be strong with you and support you. Lean on them even when you don’t think they want you too.