Let’s face it: we living in a drinking culture. Whether we’re sad, depressed, happy, anxious, celebrating or commiserating, alcohol is usually invited.
When I quit drinking in January 2020, I had to rethink all of that.
Why had I turned to wine for comfort? For celebration? What had been the result almost every time?
When I had a glass or three of red wine because I was sad or anxious, while it may have helped for about 20 minutes, I almost always ended up feeling worse and more anxious in the long run. My anxiety increased and the feelings of shame I felt about drinking overshadowed everything. Not to mention the hangovers. As I got older, even 2 glasses of wine left me with a headache and remorse.
And for celebration? Well, we all know how that story ends. There’s nothing like “celebrating” with champagne only to forget a lot of what happened and to pay for the celebration the next morning. Turns out that’s not quite what a celebration should be.
More than two years ago, I removed alcohol from my toolbox. Trick me once, shame on you. Trick me 26406 times, well…
Today, my sobriety toolbox is overflowing with tools that I can rely on to help my situation, rather than sending me into a hole of anxiety and despair. Helpful, right?
Some things in my sobriety toolbox might be obvious, but that’s OK. Sometimes things are so obvious that we tend to overlook them or discount their importance. Whenever I’m feeling down or anxious or just “off,” I turn to these tools. Generally, I only have to get through one of them before I begin feeling like myself again.
MY SOBRIETY TOOLBOX
Maybe the most obvious one of all, but also the most often overlooked. I’m all about getting a full night’s sleep, but I’m also all about NAPS. That’s right. There’s not much better for my mental health than a close-the-curtains, shut-off-the-noise, middle of the day nap. When everything feels hard and my brain tries to convince me that life will always feel this way, generally a nap is all it takes to work out the kinks. It’s pretty amazing. If hustle culture is getting in the way of allowing yourself to throw the covers over your head when it all feels like too much, try it one day.
Exercise is my next line of defense against anxiety and overall feelings of HOLY SHIT THINGS SUCK. When I start feeling like life is falling apart and I’m waiting for the next shoe to drop, I tie up my own and hop on the treadmill to sweat it out. Peloton runs are my go-to lately. They’re tough and leave little room for my mind to wander to the “what if” territory. I’ve never, ever regretted a workout or felt emotionally worse afterwards.
I put this in a different category than exercise because it provides me so much more. Everything that happens for me on the yoga mat, helps me off the mat in my daily life. I’m able to sit in discomfort just a little bit longer. Toddler tantrums don’t ruffle me as much as they used to. A sassy remark from my 7 year old doesn’t set me off. Yoga helps me feel everything and constantly reminds me that I’m strong enough to withstand it all.
It’s amazing how much of my brain was freed up when alcohol and the anxiety it always brought with it was out of the equation. You guys! It’s like a whole new world in there. I’ve been writing a lot lately and even have my sights set on a book. Whoa. (Also: EEEK. Did I just type that out loud?)
Sobriety brings up ALL the feelings. Feeling them is the first step and the next is figuring out what the hell to do with them. Therapy has helped me tremendously. I generally dread going, but once I’m there and settled in, I’m almost always grateful I went.
Whenever anyone sends me a message asking for advice on how to get through the early days and weeks of sobriety, I always suggest listening to This Naked Mind by Annie Grace. (Please remember I only share what works for me. If you’re addicted to alcohol, I highly recommend you seeking out the advice of your doctor.) I shared an entire post detailing how I spent the first few weeks of my sobriety. (You can read that post here.) I listened to audiobooks on sobriety NON STOP during those early months of sobriety. I preferred listening to them rather than reading them because when I say I listened to them NON STOP, I literally mean it. I had one AirPod in one ear almost at all times. Yes, even when I was playing with my kids. When I was cleaning the house, doing laundry, making dinner, all of it – I was listening to audiobooks on sobriety. Here are my favorites:
- This Naked Mind by Annie Grace
- We Are The Luckiest by Laura McKowen
- Quit Like A Woman by Holly Whitaker
- The Unexpected Joy Of Being Sober by Catherine Gray
- Sunshine Warm Sober by Catherine Gray
- The Sober Lush by Amanda Eyre Ward and Jardine Libaire
- A Happier Hour by Rebecca Weller
- Blackout by Sarah Heppola
This is a new one for me, and I’m so excited to have discovered it! Lived is an app that uses the power of a person’s lived experience to help champion and transform other’s relationship with alcohol. The Guides share their real life experiences with alcohol and how they’re living alcohol-free. I love that there are NO LABELS and no judgement. If you’re newly sober or sober curious, take a deep dive into the app. It’s a gold mine.
I know, I know. This probably isn’t “supposed” to be in my toolbox, but this is real life. I’ll work on my sugar addiction some other day. (I’m actually trying currently, but sometimes it’s just not worth it, you know?)