Wednesday, January 29, 2014

When Getting Sober Feel Like Grief

*** Submitted by Andrea, who blogs at Your Kick-Ass Life

Recently I’ve had the privilege of helping out a friend who is trying to get sober. It’s been a while since I’ve been in those early days, and as I’ve helped her and listened to her fears about sobriety, I remember.

And something struck me—something I’ve never thought of before. The grief process many of us go through, as we get sober.

They say in recovery, it works until it doesn’t. When I got sober in 2011 I came to a point when drinking just wasn’t working anymore. And I so, so wanted it to. I tried to make it work exactly like I would in a relationship with a lover. The one you have that intense connection with. So much history. But, you know you’re not good for each other. You know in your heart the relationship should end. But, you can’t even for one minute image your life without that person. It’s too painful to even think about. So you spend day after day with that person. Trying to make it work. Trying to make it fun again. Trying go back to the way it used to be. Reminiscing about old times when things were so good. So desperate for it to work again.

And it never does.

That’s what drinking alcoholically feels like.

And when we finally make that decision to get sober, at least for me, it absolutely felt like I was leaving a relationship. One that had protected me from all my fears in the world. Or so I thought. In the end of these relationships that are falling apart we do everything in our power to paint a picture of love. But, in reality it’s far from it. The relationship is causing us more sadness and anxiety that we can bear, so we hold on tighter to try to make it better. And the cycle starts all over again.

And I know because I’ve been in that intimate relationship with that real-life person when it fell apart and we split up. We were together for 13 years, had so much history and were bonded intensely. The grief I experienced was unlike any other. I was lost without him. I didn’t know who I was without him in my life. It was as if I had to learn how to “be”. The fear and grief were at times unbearable.

And after more than 2 years of sobriety I’ve suddenly realized getting sober feels like same thing.

Heartbreak. Grief. And fear.

I grieved and was heartbroken over the loss of alcohol. I grieved the loss of who I was when drinking actually did work. I grieved the fact that I now identified with a group of people that at one time I judged—at one time I swore I wasn’t one of them. I grieved that I would have to work hard at recovery—because just abstaining from alcohol wasn’t going to be enough for me. I grieved the loss of a part of me.

I feared facing my life without a means to numb and hide from the hard times. I feared that alcoholism really was something that was out of my control. I feared that for me, there would be no turning back once I knew for sure and admitted that I was a true alcoholic.

All of this isn’t to say that there isn’t so much to be gained from sobriety. I have a beautiful, sober life now. But, I write this post for anyone who might think that their feelings of grief and sadness are wrong. You need to feel what you feel. And if you feel grief about getting sober that’s okay. I’ve been one to over-think almost everything and this is one of them. I’ve made up that it has to mean something if I feel sad about it all. Am I headed for relapse? Shouldn’t I always feel happy now that I’m sober? Fear and grief are real feelings that we all feel. In my experience, having a spiritual connection has greatly reduced these feelings and I still turn to that connection every time I feel fear and grief come up. But, I remember in early sobriety, they were quite common feelings.


So if you’re in those early days please believe me that all of your feelings are normal. 

And that it does get better.

21 comments:

  1. Absolutely Beautiful!! Thank you for writing this. Today I am 7 months and 26 days sober. I feel so much better than I did 6 months ago. But, I still feel like I am getting over my relationship with alcohol. My husband helped me stop drinking. He set the example for me by quitting. Since then he has relapsed and it is so hard for him to get back to being sober. I am trying to be strong for him. I know if I relapse it will destroy me. I am holding on to my sobriety with everything I have.

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    1. Thanks, Dolly! Congratulations on your sobriety and stay strong sober sister! :)

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  2. Wow! I LOVE THIS. This is exactly how I feel to a T. Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

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  3. Thanks so much for this article it was amazing. I am now about 9 months sober and in those earliest months I definitely felt a lot of sadness and grief and "what do I do with myself now". I slept all the time just to avoid living- something I am guilty of occasionally these days too as I am not perfect. But its better than when I used to get wasted every night so as not to sit with my emotions and loneliness. and I grieved because there were many years when drinking really worked and I had so much fun doing it. I could totally relate to what you said about having to identify with people I once loathed because when drinking I avoided tee-totallers and their kind like the plague. Anyway, its still early days for me obviously but let me tell you, they don't lie when they say it gets better. It really does. And I am looking forward to doing things I used to think I could NEVER do without drinking. I go to parties and I dance all night with my boyfriend - until my feet hurt so bad and I feel just the same amount of joy I used to think came from being drunk, but comes from connection and simple pleasures. I make delicious elaborate meals and I take naps in the sun at the beach, and I've joined book clubs and go to the gym and break a sweat on the elliptical. And I'm fatter than I used to be but for the first time I am comfortable with my body and my sense of self because I don't loathe myself, I forgive myself. I just want anyone out there who is in the period of "breakup" and "grieving" to know that it does get easier, slowly but surely. I'm seeing it happen already in my life.

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    1. I love this Mimi! I can relate with going out dancing sober and having such a great time. I remember the first time I did this I noticed I didn't fall over, didn't knock anyone over on the dance floor, didn't do any embarrassing dance moves, and didn't remove any clothing. All in all a GREAT TIME! :)

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    2. This is one of the "best" articles I've ever read -- you've described sobriety and grief amazingly. Thank you, thank you. You truly inspire me.

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  4. Andrea, this is an amazingly accurate description of the grieving that I experienced when I was able to lay it down for the final time. I'm approaching a big anniversary-thirty years next month-one that i never expected to see because I was convinced i wouldn't live this long. Well, here we are and here's where we are put to do our life's work-however long that life is. Thank you for this well-written and thought-out piece; it's a gem in the annals of sober writing.

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  5. Thank you for writing this. I am only 7 days sober and I am having all of these feelings. It's good to view it like a breakup. I've gone through breakups before and I know I can get over them. So I can get over this too.

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  6. This is good to read. I'm not sober, so to speak, but I was for almost three months until last week, and I felt like I was "doing it wrong." I still felt awful, depressed, not myself.....seemed like I felt worse than when I was actually drinking. Its good to know its not forever.

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  7. This is such a great observation. I'm about a month-and-a-half in, and I feel such a sense of loss for what I THINK alcohol gave me. But you know, it's so easy to remember the good times over the years, and forget the boring, dull, painful, soul-crushing day-to-day of it. At least for me. It's all those days of pretending to be okay, pretending to feel okay, and trying (and failing) to work productively that really represent my relationship with alcohol. Not to mention the crushing depression I felt and the sense that I would never be happy again. THAT is what alcohol actually gave me. Thanks for the reminder, and for reminding us that it's okay to mourn the loss of the "relationship," toxic though it may actually have been.

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  8. I it is so inspiring to women everywhere that people like you tell your story. Too many women and especially mothers tend to feel ashamed and are in fear of social stigma. I am an addict in recovery and a writer. I have a memoir about my personal struggles with addiction & depression which was released this month, called "As the Smoke Clears; a Memoir". It is in ebook & paperback. I too hope to inspire people and touch peoples' lives, let them know they have support and that they are not alone in this. It is a tragic disease with too many voices silent. Thank you for being so honest and open, I am still helped tremendously every time I read a personal story such as this. I am just sharing the link to my book and I am here to talk to ANYONE, who may contact me via facebook under the book's title page or my personal page. I am here to support anyone!!
    Erika Cormier
    http://www.amazon.com/as-smoke-clears-Erika-Cormier/dp/1492149624/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1393539130&sr=8-1&keywords=as+the+smoke+clears

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  9. Thank you for this. I'm at day 2; I've been here before many times. And it is hard, I really struggle with how can I never drink again, how can I be sober always. This is the first time I have tried to stop with resources. This site, the bubble podcasts & some links & blogs. It really helps to know I'm not the only one. I've spent 20 years with alcohol and/or drugs (minus the pregnancy abstinence) and I would really like to greet 40 sober.

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    1. just stumbled upon what you said. My story is so similar. I'm 38 and a half, and I keep telling myself " When I turn 40 I'll stop". I'm afraid that that might be too late. Good luck with your struggle because I know what a struggle it is

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  10. Thank you for this expression of your grief. I know what grief is and I feel for you, having to learn how to 'be'. You are a new person, now. You are special and lovable and have so much more capacity to pass on your love to other people. They are waiting; you can make them feel better. Do it.

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  11. thank you, beautiful and poignant. Not sober but hope to be soon with help

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  12. Thanks so much for writing this post! Getting sober is a grieving process. I have just begun accepting I'm an addict and I feel overwhelming sadness, anxiety and panic that I won't survive without the drug

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  13. I feel exactly like that...grief...imagining how I will be able to cope without something to numb myself. Encouraging to hear you made it through the process.

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  14. i am Mrs mercy i am hear to give testimony of how i got back my husband, we got married for more than 2 years and have gotten two kids. thing were going well with us and we are always happy. until one day my husband started to behave in a way i could not understand, i was very confused by the way he treat me and the kids. later that month he did not come again and he called me that he want a divorce, I asked him what have i done wrong to deserve this from him, all he was saying that he want a divorce and that he hates me and do not want to see me again in his life, i was mad and also frustrated do not know what to do,i was sick for more than 2 weeks because of the divorce. i love him so much he was everything to me without him my life is incomplete. i told my sister and she told me to contact a spell caster, i never believe in all this spell casting of a thing. i just
    want to try if something will come out of it. I contacted Drehiaghe for the return of my husband to me, he told me that my husband have been taken by another woman that she cast a spell on him that is why he hates me and also want us to divorce. then he told me that he have to cast a spell on him that will make him return to me and the kids, he cast the spell and after 3 days my husband called me
    and he told me that i should forgive him, he settled to apologize on phone and said that he still love me that he did not know what happen to him that he left me. it was the spell that the Drehiaghe shrine casted on him that made him come back to me today,me and my family are now happy again today. thank you DR.ehiaghe for what you have done for me i would have been nothing today if not for your great spell. i want
    you my friends who are passing through this kind of love problem of getting back their husband, wife , or ex boyfriend and girlfriend to contact ehiaghespellhome@gmail.com and you will see that your problem will be solved.

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  15. Thank you. With your story I am able to understand my dad - if just a little.
    And those around the alcoholic are just as afraid of seeing their loved one sober because we don't know the real person behind the alcohol anymore. We're just as afraid.

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  16. Thank you for this post I totally relate to the emotion and have only just started really grieving now a month before my 3rd anniversary suddenly those tears are starting to flow, it took the suicide of a dear friend who had relapsed and was trying to come back but I'm here I'm sober and I'm emotional but greatful

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  17. What a heart-warming post! Some people deny or hide their grief at the start of their journey towards sobriety. Sometimes, they become angry and feel deprived. Some bargain for another glass or another sip. Depression is, indeed, normal at that early point of your journey. However, after accepting the fact that being sober will you make your life better, you'll see the benefits and pursue sobriety. Thanks for sharing that article, Andrea! :D

    Donnie Benson @ Midwest Institute for Addiction

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