There’s no magic involved in getting sober and maintaining sobriety. In fact, each person’s path will be unique and personalized to their resources and experiences. Some people have a rocky road, while others move through sobriety with a few hiccups. Getting sober and maintaining sobriety is challenging for all of us, but there’s one crucial ingredient that’s important for anyone trying to get sober.
You need some kind of support system.
When I decided to get sober, I asked my wife not to drink around me, and she agreed. This gave me an important person that I could count on for support, and trust me, it mattered. I also had a small group of friends who were either sober or drank very little. This was also helpful for me, and it made me feel like I had a few people in my corner.
Not everyone’s spouse will agree to go sober as well, but if you can find a trusted friend or a sobriety group that you can count on, that will help a lot. Even one sober friend can make a huge difference in your sobriety journey.
Without a support system, it can feel like a very lonely road. Also, being around other drinkers and drug users can be far too tempting when you’re trying to be sober. The first time I was around a group of drinkers after I got sober, I had to leave because it was just too hard for me. Thankfully I had my wife who supported me, and we both left the event.
While that may sound like you’re a party pooper, you have to do whatever you can to protect your sobriety, especially in the beginning. Over time, you’ll learn to develop new habits and hobbies that support your sobriety and give your life meaning. But this will take some time to develop, so you’ll need patience, especially in the first year.
Also, the first year or two is a very emotional time. When you’ve spent years, perhaps decades, numbing your emotions with a substance, it can feel really daunting to learn to live without that substance. The first year or two is the most crucial time. Once you get through that, life becomes a lot easier. So it’s essential to have that support system close by in those first two years.
I had a very tumultuous start to my sobriety. The first year was very hard, and I was highly emotional and irritable—it felt like every feeling I ever had was amplified. There was not much I could do to stop the process; I just had to go through it somehow. Having my wife and friends around really helped me, and I could cry on their shoulders and talk about how I was feeling. Sometimes just being in the presence of other sober people was enough to calm me down.
I know some people don’t have the luxury of a support system at home or in their friendships, and this is why AA groups or online sobriety groups can be beneficial. The other resource you could turn to is a journal. Writing out my feelings and thoughts was also really helpful that first year, so you could try writing in a journal if you don’t have a close support network.
Getting sober is one thing; maintaining sobriety is another. It requires a lot of patience and commitment, but maintaining sobriety can sometimes feel impossible without a support system. This is especially true if everyone around you uses substances. Finding a sober support system is crucial in maintaining sobriety. Your support system can be your spouse, a trusted friend or even an online sober group.
Whatever your support system is, make sure you have one and stick close to them in that first critical year.