Sobriety isn’t really something you can take a class for a few times a week, and after a semester you’ve got it down. Sobriety is a state you must define yourself, it’s a point where you’re ready to say that you’re sober. For some, it’s as simple as deciding not to drink after the problem turns so bad you hurt someone else significantly. There’s a switch in them that flips, and they can’t have another drink without it destroying them.
For others, that only drives them to drink even more. People are so completely and utterly different from one another, and that goes for how they deal with the task of getting sober – and even how they go about being an addict in the first place. It’s all very personal.
What Being Sober Means
There are some universal aspects to sobriety. For one, it must involve not being intoxicated. That much is clear. From there, it depends on you. For most, there’s a certain clarity that comes from sobriety. Life is supposed to be perceived as it is. That means if you’re off alcohol but dealing with depression, then your goal isn’t just to quit the drink for good – it’s to find a way to healthily cope with your mental issues and eventually get off the anti-depressants, as well. But it’s important for you to figure out what you mean by being sober.
Why Many “Dry Drunks” Are Angry
Coming out of rehab, you’ll have recently quit the drink with the motivation to stay sober. However, while rehab can give you the tools you need to continue your recovery, it may not always prepare you for the consequences of early sobriety. Aside from the obvious symptoms of withdrawal, being sober comes with a level of clarity that may “help” you remember some unsavory details about your life and emotional health.
Early sobriety can also leave you frustrated and extremely short-tempered. You’re not fully sober just yet – you’re a dry drunk, emotionally recovering from addiction long after the initial physical withdrawal period has passed on.
Learning to Live Clean & Sober
Sobriety can take a while. That much is for sure. And for many, it’s a journey they’ve started several times. Sometimes, all you need to really make it is enough of a first push to get you started on a sober path.
Environments like sober living homes are excellent for this purpose, because they give you every reason to stay sober. Coming straight out of rehab, it can be a little difficult to make the proper adjustments and feel like you’re ready to take the world on without alcohol.
And then, one by one, the grievances begin to hit you, and your doubts solidify. First, you become annoyed and angry – and then that frustration mounts into a bigger and worsening problem. With time, you can overcome it. But many people struggle to find the motivation to do so without the drink.
Some people don’t, of course – they simply determine they’ve had enough, and they quit. Whether those people were ever truly addicted is another question – but for those who simply cannot just up and quit, sober living provides the sanctity and security of a home among other recovery drunks with similar stories and ambitions towards long-term sobriety.
No matter how you choose to motivate yourself, it is that accountability – that sense of responsibility towards yourself and others to stay off the stuff – that remains essential if you want to keep sober. It doesn’t just help you count on that feeling of needing a drink magically going away with time. Time alone isn’t enough. What you need is to systematically take away every reason for alcohol to continue to be in your life, by tackling its existence as a friend to you.
Alcohol as a Coping Tool
The thing about alcohol is that it promises happiness in different ways. And in some ways, it delivers. Alcohol can help smoothen friendships and bring life to parties, it can help you lower your inhibitions and just dance the night away. It can provide you with comfort, get your mind off the things you can’t stop thinking about otherwise, and it’ll help you stop worrying about everything – even if just for a little while.
It’s that little friend in a bottle, whispering to you whenever you feel even remoted bad. But relying on alcohol in any capacity to do anything can quickly reveal a much deeper issue within.
Alcohol is in some cases a coping mechanism. It’s a way of covering up something more significant in size and scariness, from anxiety to childhood trauma or major depression. Sometimes, it’s a mental illness we’re born with – at other times, it’s the haunting mental ramifications of something we’re dealing with in life, like the death of a loved one or a major parting point in life like divorce.
Coping tools are either maladaptive (not coping well) or adaptive (coping), and the difference is determined by whether a coping mechanism leaves you better off in the long-term and helps you deal with the issues you’re facing.
Exercise, for example, is a great coping mechanism. It boosts self-esteem and improves the brain’s neurochemistry, in cases like anxiety and depression. Alcohol, on the other hand, provides short-term relief but at a long-term cost, and with several terrible risks. Alcohol isn’t automatically bad, but relying on it for anything is a curse.
Finding True Happiness
It may be a little sappy, but it does relate back to the message about maladaptive and adaptive coping mechanisms. True happiness is the kind that doesn’t leave you broken. It’s not the kind that gives you a taste of happiness, before plunging you back into depression unless you indulge further.
It’s long-lasting. True happiness is being with someone you love, having a family you can be a part of and belong to, and some purpose or goal in life.
Being sober isn’t just about giving up alcohol. It’s about replacing it. It’s about replacing the fake promises with an actual sense of happiness. And yeah, it’s not easy. But it’s worth it.