May 5, 2015 was the last day I drank alcohol.
I don’t always remember a lot of specifics from my recovery journey, but I do remember the first 30 days.
I did a lot of things that I didn’t feel like doing in order to make it through the first 30 days of sobriety.
Everything in me told me to stay quiet, stay resentful, stay full of shame, or stay a victim. Something in me was resisting this change the entire time, and I had to push through it and do uncomfortable things.
Nothing in the below list “felt” good, except maybe the first and second actions. Those came naturally to me already. Everything else felt like learning to walk again. The feelings caught up later. I cried a lot. I slept a lot. I bitched and moaned a lot. I also laughed and felt peaceful a few times. It was interesting, to say the least. Learning to take sobriety (and everything else in my life) literally one day at a time, one moment at a time was a gift.
Frankly, I’m not sure what I expected when I quit drinking. All I knew was that my way wasn’t working anymore, and I had to do something drastically different if I wanted a drastically different life.
I guess I expected some weight loss. A clearer mind, definitely. No more panicky and shame-filled mornings, absolutely. Other than that, I didn’t have a clue. Living life without alcohol at all was a completely new experience for me. I’d abstained during all of my pregnancies, but that was temporary. I can do anything on a temporary basis. Forever? Oh, no.
It’s tempting to stand up on a soapbox and give advice. But I know how bad I was at listening to other people. I didn’t really want advice. I wanted somebody to fix my messes for me. Hold my hair back, straighten my crown, flush the vomit, soothe the irritated friends and relatives the next day, and let me keep drinking.
Nobody jumped in to do that for me. It turns out, that’s not anybody else’s job. Oh.
So without further ado, these are the things that I did to stay sober for those first 30 days.
As always, take what helps and leave the rest. Or take it all. Or don’t take any of it. We all have choices, thankfully.
Disclosure: links to products are affiliate links, which means I will get a small commission if you purchase. I love and highly recommend everything listed.
I read books, blogs, and stories from other people with long-term sobriety.
I can’t even remember who I started out reading 2 years ago, except one website. I mostly did random Google searches and read a lot of small anonymous blogs for a bit. The only “community” I found was the Soberistas community. I couldn’t afford the membership, but I could read for free for a while, so I did that. The different stories and experiences blew me away.
You’re reading this post, so I’m definitely preaching to the choir on this one!
Some of my favorites today (but by far, not all of them – there are so many good ones) are on my People to Follow page.
A few favorite books:
Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself, by Melodie Beattie
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg (not recovery specific, but life-changing for me nonetheless. Addiction is discussed in some parts)
Rising Strong, by Brene Brown (and pretty much all writings by Brene Brown)
I journaled alllll the thoughts.
This goes hand in hand with prayer and meditation for me, by the way. I journal while I pray. I pray while I journal. It’s all the same, sometimes. Writing my prayers and thoughts helps me to stay focused on the action.
I had, and still have, a private LiveJournal account. Only maybe 5 friends can read it, and I also wrote private, my-eyes-only entries all the time (both online and in a handwritten journal). Every thought in my head came out into that journal. Why did I drink? Why did I want to drink right now? Why was I feeling good and not wanting to drink right now? What is aggravating me? What is making me happy?
Anger, happiness, gratitude, fear, everything. The trauma. The blessings. The changes. My first sober night out to dinner, first sober vacation, everything. It’s so helpful for me to go back and read those first entries from time to time.
I visited my first AA meeting.
(I am not implying that you have to go to AA to stay sober. I can only speak for me and my experience)
When I was a little over two weeks sober, I visited my first AA meeting. I’m fairly certain I would not have stayed sober without AA. I was on shaky ground already, thinking, “Ok, this was a fun experiment, it’s time for a drink now.” I knew I needed to call in more reinforcements.
I did exactly what the people in that room said I should do.
Like I already said, I don’t listen to other people very well, especially when I think I know more than they do. That went out the window in my first 30 days. I showed up and sat there like a sponge, absorbing everything I possibly could.
Reinventing the wheel doesn’t work for me. There were people in there who looked happy, they laughed, they looked calm and peaceful. Some had a few months of sobriety, some had many years, and most were in between. I was a jittery, knee-bouncing huddled mess of a woman. It didn’t take a lot for me to convince myself to listen to them once I got in there.
They gave me a little red version of The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, and told me to read the first 164 pages. They also have free options on the AA website, and usually at meetings or the local offices. I read those pages immediately, probably within 48 hours. They said I should text one of the phone numbers on the little piece of paper they passed around.
I texted one lady the next day. I knew if I didn’t suck it up and do it immediately, I never would. They said to get a sponsor. One of those ladies became my sponsor that week. They said to start working the steps with a sponsor. That’s what we did. A lot of the other actions not listed in this post fall within this one.
I called my sponsor every day.
For those without a sponsor, or not working that kind of program, this is basically like checking in with a friend in recovery every day. Sponsorship is more structured and purposeful, but it’s all helpful.
This one was tough for me at first. Every day? I don’t call anybody every day. And not everybody has to do this, there are plenty of people who only talk to their sponsors from time to time. Bu, it’s like God knew exactly what I would need. My sponsor said that her sponsor advised it for her, and it helped her, so she suggested that I do the same. And I did.
Talking to the same person every day helped me get more comfortable sharing the ups and downs of every day, and it helped her get to know me and my triggers, fears, and joys. It gave me a focus point. If I called or texted her, and then got in bed sober, I was doing great.
Sometimes, we only talked for one minute. “Hey, it’s a good day. But it’s a busy day. I’m good, though.” “Ok! Well here’s a good passage from today’s meditations…” “Thanks!” “Talk to you tomorrow, call me whenever!”
Sometimes, she listened to me crying and crying about everything going on in my life, patiently working with me on learning what it meant to accept what I couldn’t control, and focus on what I could control. Filing for emergency custody was terrifying. After I filed, our case wasn’t going to be seen for almost 3 weeks. In the meantime, I had to move around and keep my children in different places.
The verbal and emotional abuse he hurled at me during that time was a lot for me to take. It wasn’t anything new, but coupled with early sobriety and full time parenting after previously having them just every other weekend, it felt like a lot. It wasn’t too much, though. I had help, and we were ok.
I called her every day to check in, even when I didn’t feel like it, and especially when the urge to isolate was the strongest.
It made a big difference. Now, I do something similar with other people. I have a different sponsor that I still talk to a few times a week, and I “check in” with other people as well as my sponsor in different ways. This blog is one of those ways. Instagram. And sometimes, I just text a sober friend and/or my sponsor if I want to check in somewhere to feel less like I’m out there on my own.
No, not running from my emotions. I laced up my shoes and ran, walked, just moved my body. It wasn’t consistent, and it wasn’t on any kind of structured program, but it helped me to get out and move my body. Especially after the kids went to school, and I was alone in my apartment, I went outside and ran.
I dabbled with yoga, bootcamp, and any other exercises.
Just like running, this was more about moving my body and trying to stay grounded than weight loss or any real healthy lifestyle change. Staying sober was my primary focus, not weight loss. I didn’t lose weight, probably because I gave in to the massive sugar cravings all the time. But, I enjoyed sunrises. I felt more energized, even if I just did a few squats, pushups, and a jog around my apartment complex.
Fitness wasn’t new to me, and I didn’t have the mental energy to put my all into it at the time. I might have, if I hadn’t had the custody thing going on. But I did move my body, and that helped a lot.
I wrote gratitude lists.
Lately, I’ve been calling them “happy lists” to help jumpstart my brain. It’s the same thing, though. It felt so cheesy at first, and I had a hard time coming up with different items, but it got easier. The more I wrote them, the more my brain opened up to gratitude. I started looking at everything through the lens of positivity, and how I could be grateful for something in every situation.
Filing for emergency sole custody = I’m sober and present to be here for my children. 3 weeks ago, that would not have been the case.
I have no money, and no job prospects. = Time to reinvent yourself, woman. Let’s do this thing.
My kids are crying and fighting with each other all. the. time. = an opportunity to model grace, patience, and help them find some boundaries in their own relationships with each other.
He’s texting or emailing me every hour to tell me what a terrible person I am = a great opportunity to disengage from drama, practice restraint, boundaries, patience, and finally learn to use the “block” feature.
It could also be simple things. Waking up without a hangover just in time to watch the sunrise. Pancakes shaped like a heart. My daughter learning to cook scrambled eggs. Coffee. Pretty mugs. Friends who understand.
I went to bed early.
It’s amazing how much easier everything is when I go to bed before 10pm. If I could make it to 9pm, I could get into bed, read, and pass out sober. One more day. It didn’t matter how “bored” I felt. One more day.
“I have become an advocate for sleep. Not an advocate for recovery and addiction. And, you know what? It is the same dang thing. In my recovery, I gained sleep. I gained life. I gained everything that pills and alcohol would not give me.” – April, SoberUpButtercup.com
Yes. I can’t even add to that. It’s perfect.
I owned my decision to get sober.
Other than the few friends who read my LiveJournal, I didn’t tell anybody except my boyfriend (now husband, Jay) that I was quitting alcohol for the first two weeks. I asked him not to tell anybody either, because I wanted to get past the two week mark.
After that, we started talking about it. I didn’t control who he told or didn’t tell, because as far as I was concerned, it affected him as well. He was dating an alcoholic, and he struggled with that concept. He talked to his friends, his relatives, and he researched it. I didn’t tell a lot of people at first, though. Jay, my parents, and a handful of really close friends were the only ones that knew about me not drinking anymore.
There were awkward moments, of course. We went to the same restaurants and played trivia, and I think the bartenders thought I was pregnant. I got a few knowing nods and winks. Every now and then, somebody was sort of shocked when I ordered a Diet Coke. Mostly though, nobody cared. I said that I was cutting it out for a while to get healthier, and left it at that. It amazed me how little anybody really paid attention to what I drank.
I’ve since learned that the people who acted the weirdest about me not drinking tended to be the people who seemed insecure. That has nothing to do with me and my choices. Thankfully, those were few and far between.
Even though I didn’t tell the entire world, I told the people who could help me the most, and who I trusted to be there for me. If I had made this decision entirely alone, and not told anybody, I would not have had the accountability that I did. In a sense, I hated that accountability sometimes. I hated that because I told everybody that I wasn’t drinking anymore, and that it was really a bad idea for me to ever drink again, I couldn’t just start drinking at dinner and nobody bat an eye. They would bat an eye.
Setting up that accountability net was scary, but it was necessary.
After 30 days, I kept going. I’ve had my ups and downs. Yesterday, I hit 2 years, 4 months sober. Today, I’m 855 days sober. That’s…hm. That’s a lot of 30 day stretches. That’s a lot of 24 hour stretches. A lot of tears, a lot of joy, and a lot of prayers. Pretty cool.
I used the same tools and built on them. My sponsor helped me to feel ok about my feelings, and that I was normal. It was normal to be pissed off that I “couldn’t” drink anymore – but did I want to drink, really? And if I did, why? What good would it really do? It was normal to be so angry at my ex that I could spit nails, but what would drinking do to fix that anger? Not a damn thing. And on and on.
My feelings were normal, they were valid, and they were not worth throwing away my sobriety. I could feel all the feelings, and not react to them in the same ways that I had before. I could do something different. It was the most incredible experience, and still is. Every day that passes is still a new adventure, in its own way.
And yes – I drank a lot of Diet Coke. A LOT. I don’t anymore. But you do what you gotta do sometimes.
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Hi! I'm Ashley, and my sobriety date is May 6, 2015. I write to share my experience, strength, and hope in recovery. On any given day, you can find me developing websites, writing, or chauffeuring kids around. Read my story...
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