When I was about two years sober—after I had made it through withdrawal, the pink cloud, sweeping physical changes in the first year and sweeping emotional changes in the second—I had a moment of reckoning. More had improved than I could ever have imagined. So why did I still struggle with some of the same things?
Now at a little over five years sober, I can answer that question: because sobriety doesn’t make life stop. Nothing is going to end all suffering and render you or your life perfect.
But recovery allows you to practice healthy ways of coping with life’s struggles. That makes a big difference. While I do struggle with some of the same things—difficulty staying present, anxiety, feelings of restlessness—the way I struggle has changed dramatically. Nothing seems unmanageable, because I know I have the tools to deal with it.
There is a cliché that your worst day in sobriety is better than your best day in active addiction. I’ve found this to be true, even on the crappiest days when I might swear it’s not. Feeling unable to manage my emotions in active addiction was unbearable, even on my best days. Feeling empowered to handle stress makes the bad days feel less scary.
Many people in active addiction feel overwhelmed by what life brings, as though we have no control. Being empowered to cope with hard times is huge.
Remember that if you are struggling, there are always options. You can exercise, journal, call a supportive person in your life, engage in a hobby, go for a walk, meditate, or any number of other things. The longer you spend sober, the more self-awareness you’ll gain; you’ll start figuring out what helps you deal with specific stressors.
If you are in early sobriety, use this time to try out various coping skills. Journaling is always a great way to become clear about what’s working for you and why—and to keep track of those feelings for later. What works can always change, but practicing healthy coping will give you a good skill set for the future.
Many people with addictions tend to engage in all-or-nothing thinking. Sometimes this manifests as believing sobriety will solve all your problems. Even though I went into sobriety knowing the work would start once I removed substances, part of me bought into that idea.
The problem with this belief is that when your life inevitably isn’t perfect, you could rationalize drinking or using again. I had to let go of the idea of “perfect”—which doesn’t exist—and realize that life without substances is much better than life with them. While things feel hard sometimes, even sober, my best sober days are some of the best I’ve ever had.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is hope. Amatus Recovery Centers across the country offer high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you learn to cope with stressors and build a great life in recovery. To learn more, call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.