If getting sober is hard, then staying sober can feel like an impossible feat. Sobriety represents a complete transformation, one that requires you to reflect, shift, and change the way you interact with the world around you.
While sobriety will never be a continuous episode of sunshine and rainbows, you should be experiencing some relief and optimism.
Still feeling miserable? You need to start asking yourself the following questions.
WHO ARE YOU SURROUNDED BY?
Like it or not, we are products of our closest relationships. That means if you are hanging out with positive, stable, and productive people, you’re likely to emulate those traits yourself. However, the opposite can be true as well. If you’re spending time with toxic, negative, or unhealthy people, those traits can reflect you.
Thus, if you’re feeling miserable, it’s time to take an honest perspective at your social circle. Do the people in your life promote a sense of nourishment and well-being- or do they make you feel disconnected and cynical?
Are you still associating yourself with people actively using? Are you finding yourself stuck in chaotic and codependent relationships?
Remember this: it’s hard to be healthy, confident, and successful when your social circle encourages otherwise.
WHAT DOES YOUR SELF-CARE LOOK LIKE?
Going to work? Check. Going to meetings? Check. Paying rent? Check.
Yes, focusing on your established sober routine is essential for long-term success. But, what about considering what fulfills your happiness? What about looking into what rejuvenates your spirit? Because if you’re not taking care of yourself on a routine basis, you’re going to burn out quickly- no matter how reliable your routine looks.
Self-care isn’t selfish; it’s the act of respecting and honoring your needs and wants in this world.
Self-care encompasses taking the time to unwind, relax, and recharge. It includes finding the room for laughter, recreation, and fun. Finally, self-care means that you allow yourself to engage in meaningful hobbies and activities on a routine basis.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING FOR YOURSELF SPIRITUALLY?
Connecting with something outside of yourself provides a virtuous sense of grounding and stability. Some people find their spiritual connection through their Higher Power or within an organized religious practice; others obtain serenity within a yoga or meditation practice.
This isn’t an argument for religion, God, or prayer. It’s a prosocial consideration for finding connectivity outside of your own self and own thoughts. It doesn’t matter how you spiritually connect with the world around you, but doing so is almost guaranteed to help you feel better.
We live in a vast and amazing universe. When was the last time you allowed that to truly sink in?
WHAT OTHER MALADAPTIVE BEHAVIORS ARE YOU STILL ENGAGING IN?
Many people in recovery focus on strict drug and alcohol sobriety because it’s a blatant depiction of life-or-death. With that said, even people achieving long-term abstinence often act out in various ways reinforcing mental instability.
Whether it’s compulsively shopping to disordered eating to promiscuous sex to working far too much, it’s essential that you honestly consider how you still choose to escape or control your feelings. Even if you no longer use mood-altering substances to cope with life stressors, it’s easy to fill those voids with other “quick fixes.”
At the root of it, if you aren’t appropriately addressing the wounds deep inside of you, it doesn’t matter if you’re sober. You’re still going to be miserable.
ARE YOU TAKING CARE OF YOUR MENTAL HEALTH?
7.9 million Americans have co-occurring disorders, meaning they struggle with both a mental health and substance use disorder. While treating addiction can inadvertently improve symptoms associated with conditions like depression or anxiety, many of these illnesses require additional treatment or support.
Have you considered therapy? Going on medication? Practicing positive coping skills? In other words, even if you’re sober, are you still managing your physical and mental well-being?
It must also be noted that in early recovery, the symptoms associated with post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) can dramatically impact your mood. PAWS can consist of the following:
Depressed or irritable mood
Feelings of anxiety or panic
Increased vulnerability to stress
While the presence of PAWS does not indicate the existence of a mental health condition, it can certainly exacerbate symptoms of distress.
Sobriety, like all journeys in life, has its realistic share of ebbs and flows. Learning how to honor yourself during that process can make all the difference in keeping you grounded and hopeful for both your present and future.