I want to state clearly that in no way do I think that getting sober is easy. In fact, in my own personal experience, I found that getting sober was brutal and frightening.
For several years I tried and failed miserably to get sober on my own using nothing but willpower. I knew with absolute certainty that I was an alcoholic, but I just couldn’t manage to stop drinking no matter how hard I tried. I would stop for a few days or weeks, but that was as far as I could get. I just couldn’t resist the temptation to drink again.
And on and on it went without relief. My drinking continued, my problems increased, my health worsened, my ambition waned, and my life fell to pieces.
Luckily, in December of 2007, I was finally able to break the chains of addiction that had held me prisoner for so long. I joined a sober community, surrounded myself with a team of people who were willing to guide me, and today I’m still clean and sober.
What I quickly learned, however, was that GETTING sober is easier than STAYING sober. I had to completely relearn how to live my life without drinking or using drugs. In many ways, I was like a new born child trying to figure out how to walk and talk.
Over my thirteen years of sobriety I’ve noticed that there is a significant amount of attention focused on GETTING sober but not as much on STAYING sober. In order to stay sober, we have to learn how to navigate the often treacherous waters of recovery.
For a newly sober alcoholic or drug addict, recovery can often feel like swimming in a raging ocean filled with hungry sharks. We’re trying not to drown while also trying not to be eaten alive.
New sobriety is a scary situation for most people, requiring a great deal of help and guidance from others who have already navigated, and survived, the shark-filled tempest of recovery. I consider myself extremely lucky and blessed that I found so many kind, caring people to help me stay afloat in my early days of sobriety, no matter how bad I felt from day to day (and trust me, I felt like shit most of the time during the first year of recovery).
I always tell people who are new to sobriety that their number one source of strength is going to be a team of friends and professionals who can keep them from drowning in emotions, frustration and regret. This is particularly true in the first year or two of recovery.
Too often I see people get sober and within a few months become so overwhelmed by emotions and adult responsibilities that they panic and quickly run back to the bottle (or whatever their favorite mind-altering substance happens to be). By surrounding themselves with people who are experienced in recovery their chances of surviving is much, much greater. If they can just manage to hold on, especially through the first year, the likelihood that their life will bloom into something significantly more joyous, healthy and prosperous increases exponentially. The key is to have a team of like-minded people, especially other recovering alcoholics and addicts, who are willing and able to help them survive.
Getting sober is never easy. It takes a great deal of courage, strength and a heavy dose of desperation before most alcoholics or addicts will finally reach out for help.
But staying sober is often more difficult because now that the numbing agents of alcohol or drugs have been removed, life can feel pretty damn scary and painful. If you, or someone you love, needs help navigating the shark-infested ocean of early recovery, make sure to gather a team of caring people who survived the dangerous waters of early recovery. Otherwise, you might end up as shark food.
Dirk Foster has been in recovery since 2007. He is a sober coach who helps others survive recovery from addiction. He is also a best-selling author of five books about addiction and sobriety, a husband, a doggy-dad and an avid fly-fisherman. To contact Dirk, visit: www.sobercoachdirk.com