5 Essential Tips to Navigating Your Feelings in Early Sobriety
I once heard that the best part about sobriety is that you get to feel your feelings again. However, the worst part of sobriety is that you get to feel your feelings again. Maybe you can relate?
I remember being 20 days sober and just feeling consumed with anxiety. My mind was racing. I felt painfully alone trapped in a sea of swirling thoughts. I didn't know how to self-soothe without a drink.
I drank for same reason you drank. I liked the effect. I didn’t want to feel the feelings that come with life: anxiety, sadness, grief, and loss and alcohol provided me a way out. If I had a bad day at work or was feeling lonely, a glass of wine (or should I say a bottle of wine) allowed me to escape just for a bit. Being an empath, I feel everything so deeply. There was a part of me that liked being numb. It provided a momentary reprieve from all my feelings. While I didn't drink every night, there was some part of me that felt I needed alcohol to function and couldn't imagine my life without it.
As the saying goes it works until it doesn’t. Self-medicating my feelings did work for a long time. However, slowly but surely I started to unravel. I could no longer control how much I drank or my feelings for that matter. Sometimes I was fine. I could go out and have only one or two drinks. But more often than not, one would turn into two and two into three and I’d wake up feeling ashamed, full of regret, and consumed with anxiety. I no longer trusted myself. The alcohol that had once helped me was now making things so much worse.
In twelve step rooms, they talk about hitting rock bottom. I didn’t hit an obvious rock bottom. But I didn’t need to. There was this inner knowing that I couldn't escape. If I kept drinking the way I was, it would only get worse. It was just a matter of time. I felt like I had this big secret I needed to hide. When I finally stopped drinking, for the first time in a long time, I felt a sense of relief. I was scared yet hopeful about my future.
Early sobriety is hard many reasons. The hardest being when we stop drinking we no longer have our escape route. We no longer have a way to buffer our emotions. We have no other option, but to learn how to navigate all the feelings we have been numbing for years.
If you are struggling to navigate your feelings, please be kind to yourself and trust that you are right where you are supposed to be. As a friend of my likes to say, you aren't bad at this. You are a beginner! Early sobriety is an emotional rollercoaster, not just for you, but for everyone. Learning how to navigate feelings takes time, practice, and a lot of self-love. Just focus on not drinking and trust that in time you will learn how to navigate your feelings.