Woman sitting at the bottom of the stairs afraid to take the first steps to sobriety

The First Steps To Sobriety

Last updated: December 11, 2017

The first step to sobriety is always the hardest.

It’s important to remember two things when it comes to recovering from addiction – especially in the early days. Number one, addiction and instant gratification go hand-in-hand, and number two, when you’re addicted, you lose the ability to have rational thoughts.

These two things are important to keep in mind when you make the choice to get sober because the first few days are going to be messy. Many people relapse because they get overwhelmed. They realize not only how many responsibilities they have, but how much damage they’ve done. When you have an addiction, then your brain is focused on its next fix, so it’s not thinking about bills, friends or tomorrow. This however, makes the sober-minded you feel like the world is crashing down. Suddenly, there are late payments on bills, friends who have been screening your calls, and several complaints from customers to your manager. It can be overwhelming and many people turn to their crutch; their dependency; their addiction. Don’t.

Remember that no matter how bad it is right now, it’s your addiction that made it that way. Your worst sober day is going to be better than your best high day – by a mile. That said, some additional things to be aware of when you choose to get sober.

Physical Withdrawal Symptoms

Your body has built up a dependency to your drug of choice. You are what you eat, right? So, as with any dietary change, you can expect many of the same symptoms including:

  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Heart palpitations
  • Trouble breathing
  • Shakes/tremors
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Sense of unbalance
  • Muscle tension
  • Tightness in your chest

You feel sick because in many ways, your body treated that drug as medicine – you stop taking medicine, you get sick. But one of the primary differences between medication and drugs is that the sickness your addiction was trying to cure, was being human. Instead of curing an ailment, it was curing responsibility; instead of bandaging a wound, it was opening a more grievous one to keep you distracted from your other pain.

Again, addiction feeds into that immediate gratification. It’s the “feel good now” button that damns everything (and everyone) else. You will feel weak and sore, but you will get through it. It will get easier and you will get better.

Emotional Withdrawal Symptoms

On top of your physical withdrawal symptoms, you’ll be experiencing severe emotional withdrawal symptoms as well:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Sense of unease/dread
  • Insomnia
  • Increased irritability

Becoming sober is like awakening from a long sleep. You may have had – or thought you had – a pleasant dream where the sky was the limit, but now you’ve woken up, you can’t fly, you can hardly remember the dream, and suddenly problems have manifested that, in your dream were no big deal, but in reality feel very imminent and dire.

Where that metaphor breaks down is the fact that you can’t return to your dream. Once you awaken from a dream, you can’t go back – unless you’ve practiced some serious lucid dreaming. With drugs however, even though it feels like you’re coming out of a haze, you can return to the “dream” at any time. The drugs that dominated your life are still around you, likely no more than a phone call away. So now, while you battle the myriad of other withdrawal symptoms, you’re also having to wrestle with relapse.

First Steps To Sobriety

While you’re reacquainting yourself with rational thought and adopting the critical problems your addiction caused, you’ll be feeling physically exhausted and emotionally drained. However, if you push through that, you’ll start to see the big picture.

Your brain won’t be focused solely on the short term goals and quick fixes. Instead, it’ll start visualizing a future and setting goals. You’ll start to see others joining you along the way especially as trust is earned and sobriety grows. You’ll see your bank account grow and your problems lessen.

In some respects, the withdrawal period is like drinking from a firehose and while you may have been thirsty in the desert, but now you’re drowning. But relax because it’s going to get better. Taking the first step to sobriety means preparing yourself for the worst and hoping for the best; it means putting your faith in a future that you can’t see, but recognize that any future drug free than the alternative. “Well done is better than well said.” – Thomas Jefferson

Sobriety, one day at a time.

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