The Transition to Living & Feeling Sober by Michele P.
Remember how fun life was when we were drinking and using? The parties, the friends, the long nights up until morning, the crazy photos and even crazier stories? Well now, you’re sober…how boring is that? It’s one of the biggest challenges in sobriety; to still have fun living life. There’s a catch now…you’re also “feeling” life, not just living it in a blur. All those wild times in our addiction, when we thought we were having fun, but we were also numbing out what our lives were really like. Yes, numbing out our loneliness, anxiety, depression, hopelessness, fear…but also numbing out our happiness, friendships, memories, ambitions, truth, and the list goes on.
That’s the reality in our addiction, we numb out all aspects of emotional life. Whether you’ve been sober for 2 days, 2 months, 2 years or 20 years, one of the many challenges we face is how to live life happy and satisfied in our feelings. And what do we “do” with our time now that we’re not drinking or using? Well, the following is, by no means all that you can do to, but hopefully, it’s a start.
Having an Inner Circle
It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to surround yourself with sober people. This exposes you to others going through the same experience as you are. These new friends ideally have a range of sobriety time, having more time, less time, and the same amount of time that you do. This is important for all of us in sobriety, no matter what length of time we have or how “emotionally stable” we feel.
Where do you find a sober network? Attending 12-Step meetings in your community is a wonderful way to meet fellow members of the sobriety club. Attending sober activities (like meetings and all the events you are introduced to by going to meetings) leads to lasting friendships, mentorship through tough times, and a feeling of “being a part of” a group actively engaged in working through the bumps of a sober life.
What about my old friends? I am not suggesting that you can never go back to your old circle of friends and family, but it’s crucial that you build a sober network of support and encouragement first. Call it “fireproofing” your sobriety to surround yourself with individuals who are fighting the same battle you are.
Don’t put yourself in tempting situations if you don’t have to, you will not be able to hang out with the same friends you did when you were drinking/using; especially if they are not clean and sober. Building and maintaining friendships for your “Sober Inner Circle” is the first step to identifying and distancing yourself from past, unhealthy relationships.
If you’re anything like me, your finances might be a little funky once you’re sober. So finding things to do that are cheap or free is the road you want to explore. I started with what I know and what I was comfortable with.
Many people in recovery will advise you to make a commitment to attend a 12-step meeting consistently, and I would also encourage that. Once you attend a meeting consistently, you then offer to help at the meeting (taking a commitment, such as making coffee, setting up chairs, bringing cookies). This is not the only way to stay accountable, but it puts you in the position of meeting people and finding out what other sober people do with their free time. And don’t just talk to the seasoned folks, ask some of the newer members as well.
Another place to take a commitment is at your local house of worship. I volunteer at my local church in the front office. There are many other areas to serve in your church, such as an usher, setup or helping to keep the facility looking nice. There are also ministries within the church that could use help. There are prison ministries and programs for youth where your perspective and experience are of value. There may even be a recovery ministry where you can serve.
Those are just two ideas, so think about what you’re proficient or what you have a passion for. Making a commitment is really about helping people. I can promise you, it will get you out of your own headspace every time. It is challenging to think about my own problems and struggles when I am busy helping others, and I often get a fresh perspective while doing it.
Finding an Interest
What are some of your hobbies? Do you like sports, knitting, reading, etc.? What did you talk about doing in your addiction, but never seem to actually do? I talked about photography, travelling, crafting, writing, and all sorts of hobbies that I wished I could pursue. But I never actually pursued them, just talked and thought about it. When you get sober, you gain time, enthusiasm, and the capability to finally do what you have been talking about.
Meetup.com is great online app to find out what’s going on in your community. Most of these activities are free or just a nominal fee for participation. Sign up for a hike or bike riding. Find a sober bowling or softball league. If you don’t find a group or activity to participate in, create one and ask others to join! You can start a Meetup group of your own or use Facebook to seek out others with similar interests.
When I don’t have anything to do, I crochet hats and scarves and donate them or just give them to people I know and they love them! Giving to others gives me such a great feeling, and I get to pursue a creative interest while giving. It’s all a matter of getting excited about something you feel passionate about, doing a little footwork, and asking others to join you at meetings or in your community.
Taking Care of Self
By all means, don’t forget to take care of you. Many times, I forget to take care of myself properly or I feel guilty for resting. This may be due to, in part, the feeling that I wasted so much time using and drinking. I try not to get caught up in that negative spiral and remember: I am right where I am supposed to be, when I am supposed to be there. I don’t try to make up for lost time. I try to be present in each moment, and when that gets overwhelming it may be a cue for self-care. And when I start feeling guilty and unproductive because I decide to watch a movie instead of doing something more constructive, I remind myself, “even God rested on the 7th day”. There is a balance between “doing” and “resting”, and it takes time and experience to achieve it.
For my sobriety, it has been important to stay connected with my essential purpose in life (to stay sober) and to stick with a sober, fun group of people. Life is meant to be lived, and to live means I have to be able to handle just about anything, and not reach for a drink or drug. By broadening my circle of supporters, getting involved in helping others, doing things I love to do, and taking care of myself, I have found that my life is full and happy, and I have more positive feelings than negative ones. With just a little effort and help, life can be great when you can feel it!
About Michele P.
Michele just achieved 1 year of sobriety this month. Michele lives in Dana Point, California but she is originally from the East Coast. Her favorite quote is: "Comparison is the thief of joy," by Theodore Roosevelt.