What Is It Like to Be Sober When You’re Hurting?

Good morning to each of you, and the day is long past dawn. It is bright and clear in the northern San Francisco Bay Area, and I am loving this weather!

Yesterday, I spoke of what it was like to be sober and I talked about all the positives. What about when it gets tough? You see, it does get tough. It’s not all a picnic. So, that’s what I want to talk about today… what to do when being sober is tough.

The thing about being sober is, you begin to feel your feelings. For years, perhaps, you have numbed them out, and suddenly your numbing agent is gone. The length of time for the difficult emotions to emerge will vary in the time it takes for them to appear and in intensity, depending on the depth of your pain.

For me, I was on a pink cloud, feeling wonderful, for about 6 months before the difficult emotions really hit me, and I mean REALLY hit me. Although, during that 6 months, I was still grieving the loss of an unrequited love, the thing which had led me to my bottom in the first place, when all I could do for several months was drink and cry. So, I was dealing with those feelings of rejection and even thoough I felt grand being sober, those feelings were hovering in the background.

I’m referring to the feelings that were buried deep inside, the ones of rejection from when I was a child, the feelings of worthlessness, shame, and despair that I carried throughout my childhood and then for most of my adulthood until I was 48, which was when I got sober. It was a bottomless well, a deep crevice and I felt like I had fallen off of a cliff many days.

How did I deal with it, you may ask, so you know how to deal with it when those feelings, or similar ones, come upon you? First and foremost, I resolved never to drink, although there were times in the course of my sobriety when I would yell, “Being sober is not better than when I was drinking!” Nonetheless, I kept holding on to my sobriety, I kept sober, and discovered that being sober was absolutely worth it! How did I do that?

I went to 4 or 5 support group meetings a a day for the first one and a half years of being sober. Every morning, I started my day with a brisk walk, followed by writing in a journal with my left, non-doiminant hand. I printed, actually. All sorts of deep feeliings flowed onto the page and I was able to have them to look at, to experience them. My writing helped me work through those feelings.

Plus, I talked to people a lot about those feelings that came up. And then, I read spiritual books voraciously. Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s The Invitation, The Dance, and The Call, Iyanla VanZant’s Until Today, Yesterday I Cried, and One Day My Soul Just Opened Up, Melody Beattie’s books on co-dependency – I forget the titles.

Later in sobriety, when I was facing the pain caused by my child abuse, I read all of Claudia Black’s books, It Will Never Happen to Me was a big one that helped me get through my feelings.

The point is, and this post is getting long so I will end with this, allow your feelings to come up and find some way to cope with them. It is okay to distract yourself at times, with healthy activities, such as reading, exercising, writing, yet you need to face the difficult emotions and feel them. The only way past difficult emotions is to go through them. The only way out is through… Stick with it, hang in there, get counseling if needed. Ah, that’s something else I did that was paramount.

Just remember, the end result is happiness and joy, peace and freedom, like you have never experienced before. Trust me on this. Just stay sober, and don’t pick up that first drink. I wish you well on your journey.

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