Learning how to be sober is tough, especially when you’ve been drinking/using for years or decades, but surviving early sobriety doesn’t have to be as difficult as you think.
Addicts and alcoholics are survivors, but nothing takes survival skills quite like recovery.
Getting off drugs and alcohol is so hard. Getting that first step down can take years or decades. Anyone who thinks this stuff is easy is either still smoking something or is flat-out stupid.
Honestly, I consider my first 2 years sober to be my early recovery. That was the most difficult time of my life, even more difficult than the months of hell that came before, because I didn’t have substances to wipe away the pain of life.
I just had to live it, and I had not lived in a very long time.
To get through those first 2 years, I had to work hard—really hard. I can look back today and say that it was worth it. I was given these tools by a variety of people, and they helped me to make it to the point where the fire was put out and the emergency was over.
Here’s what helped me survive.
1. How to Be Sober—Meetings Helped Me Survive Early Sobriety
I know it’s a little cliche, but I can honestly say that going to meetings saved my life.
But the reason they helped me to survive early recovery is more than just the spiritual aspect of the 12 steps. Sure, that’s there, but to me, it was much more about the support I got there, the understanding of other alcoholics and addicts who understood what I was going through and were there to help.
Meetings honestly changed my life. I moved to Texas and knew nobody outside my family. My youngest brother was the only person I hung out with while I was using, and he was in his teens.
When I started going to meetings and trying to get sober, I met people my age who were doing the same thing. Seeing peers who wanted to change their lives as much as I did gave me a lot of hope.
Seeing people my age with years of sobriety gave me even more hope.
But more than all that, it gave me a supportive community. People I could hang out with, talk to, who were understanding and who were there for me.
Without them, I don’t think I would have made it.
Which brings me to my next tool.
2. Calling Friends—a LOT—Has Helped Me Survive Early Sobriety
Hanging out with people in person is ideal and what I did a lot of in early recovery, but with COVID ravaging the world, we have to be more creative. But even when I got sober in 2011, I still called my friends a LOT.
I couldn’t find a job when I was in early sobriety because of my criminal history and some pending charges, so I had a lot of time on my hands.
Time to an addict like me, especially in new recovery, can be poisonous. I get antsy. I’m the kind of person who always needs to be doing something. Sure, it’s good for me to relax, but I’m just not good at relaxing, and I certainly wasn’t when I had 30 days sober. I tried to get back into my hobbies, but that was really hard to do because my brain was still fried, and I associated a lot of my hobbies with drinking and getting high.
One of the best ways I found to occupy my time was not just to hang out with friends but to call them. Regularly.
Now I was also calling my sponsor, and that helped tremendously, but that poor man couldn’t be expected to talk to me all day long. I needed more people to talk to if I wanted to get out of my head.
They were also calling me to get out of their heads, which leads me to my next tool.
3. Helping Wherever I Can Is a Big Part of Surviving Early Sobriety
As an addict, I caused a lot of harm. I hurt the people I loved and the people I hated in equal measure.
I was told by my sponsor and by people in meetings who knew what they were talking about that one of the best ways to get out of your head (where I found myself spending way too much time in early sobriety) was to be of service.
It was a funny phrase and still sounds a bit funny to me, but being helpful made a weird sort of sense.
Plus I’d never done it much in my addiction, and I believed earnestly that it would work because I was so desperate to stay sober, so I tried it.
It worked wonders.
I honestly believe that trying to help other people has kept me sober the last 9 years. For me, that meant going to rehabs and sharing my story early in sobriety (I started when I had 45 days).
But it wasn’t just helping other addicts. I helped wherever I could. I helped at my homegroup. I helped my teachers at school (I went back to college since no one would hire me). I helped my parents and my friends.
I was of service, and it kept me out of my head, which was the most dangerous place for me in early sobriety. This is how to be sober guys.
Sobriety Is Tough—Here’s How to Be Sober Long Term
These are just a few of the tools I still use today to stay sober. I got sober in 2011, and they’ve served me well.
I made a full list of all the stuff I do to stay sober today that you can download for free.