By Edie Weinstein, MSW, LSW One of the most challenging aspects of getting sober, regardless…
Staying Sober Through the Worst of Times
Attaining peace and serenity in sobriety isn’t always easy, but it’s definitely easier when life is going smoothly than it is during difficult or challenging times. At some point in your sobriety, you will have to deal with situations that feel overwhelming or painful. No matter what happens, you don’t have to drink or drug.
When you experience the worst of times, you may think that you can’t possibly get through them. You may feel a depth of hurt and pain like nothing you can ever remember experiencing, and you just want the pain to stop. As a recovering addict or alcoholic, you may intensely experience the urge to pick up a drink or a drug.
The Pain of Loss and Disappointment
There are a lot of forms of loss and disappointment. While the impact of some losses is more devastating than others, even small losses can cause you to feel uncomfortable in your own skin and can threaten your sobriety. You may lose your job, or an important relationship may end. You may experience financial losses or difficulties. Someone close to you may move away. You may even experience the loss of a sponsor, or a meeting you have relied on may dissolve or change in some significant way.
When life throws you curve balls and you aren’t getting your own way, it is natural to feel hurt and sad. In order to stay sober and get past the urge to use, it’s important to learn to deal with life on life’s terms. You may not be getting your own way at the moment, but that doesn’t mean you never will. Picking up a drink or a drug will not make things better. As long as you stay sober, you give yourself a chance to eventually feel peaceful again.
Hurts That Won’t Heal
Sooner or later in sobriety you will experience a crippling or devastating loss that is bigger than anything you have experienced before. You may experience the death of a parent, spouse, sponsor or mentor. Someone you know through recovery groups may pick up a drink or a drug and end up dead through violence or suicide.
For some people, using and abusing alcohol and drugs leads to long-term health problems, and it’s possible that even though you have finally gotten sober, the damage has been done. Health or medical problems caused by alcohol or drug abuse don’t necessarily go away when you get sober. You could have permanent injuries that happened while you drove under the influence, or you could have contracted a life-threatening illness such as HIV. It’s natural to feel angry or sad about this.
While the hurt you feel when these devastating events have occurred is overpowering, it’s important to remember that you won’t always feel overwhelming sadness or anger like you do now. You will get past the pain and you will get better at practicing acceptance.
Living Sober Through the Pain
Picking up a drink or a drug during difficult times is the worst thing you can do. If someone you love has passed away, getting drunk won’t bring him or her back, and most likely it isn’t what that person would have wanted. If you lose your job and are struggling financially, giving in to the urge to use is only going to make a bad situation worse and may make you unemployable. If you’re going through a divorce, it’s time to take care of you.
Get to more meetings if you can. Reach out to others in recovery and let them know that you are hurting. You can share your feelings with a group, or you can talk about them one on one with a sponsor or counselor. You may find it helpful to write down turbulent emotions in a journal.
Remember to take things one day at a time. Face only what you have to face on this one day. Hang in there just for today, and take the pain a single minute at a time if you have to. You won’t always hurt as badly as you do today. Trust that the universe is unfolding as it should, and you are going to be OK as long as you don’t pick up.