Learning how to cope with life sober takes effort and requires you to surround yourself with people who are on the recovery path. Addicts (including alcoholics) use drugs and alcohol as their primary coping mechanisms for life.
Whether they are feeling happy, sad, angry, or excited, getting high is always the answer. If you’re an addict (or think you have a problem with abusing substances), feelings are probably pretty uncomfortable for you.
What happens when the drugs stop working and your life becomes completely unmanageable? Getting sober starts to sound like a good idea. However, you can’t imagine a life with or without using. Who will you hang out with? What will you do for fun? How will you exist?
Many people find that they are ecstatic about being sober for the first few months to a year (or more). This is known as being on a “pink cloud.” Being happy in early sobriety doesn’t necessarily mean you are on a pink cloud, but it’s something to be aware of.
In this article, you’ll read about:
- Coming off of a “pink cloud”
- Making new friends in sobriety
- Employment and adapting to a regular work schedule
- Loneliness and dating in sobriety
If you or someone you know wants to know how to cope with life sober, keep reading.
Coming Off of a “Pink Cloud”
Many addicts who are “sick and tired of being sick and tired” tend to grab on to recovery like it’s a life vest. Their recovery journey usually starts in an inpatient treatment facility. Here’s a scenario that will give you an idea of what a “pink cloud” experience is like.
Jeff has been addicted to meth and heroin for the last 10 years. His family hires an interventionist to persuade him to go to inpatient treatment. Jeff decides to go to treatment and give it his best shot.
After about a week, Jeff starts getting really excited about recovery. He does everything that is asked of him:
- Gets to lectures on time and sits in the front row
- Completes all his counseling assignments on time
- Gets a sponsor
- Starts to work the 12 steps
Jeff gets out of treatment and continues to rigorously work his program. He’s ecstatic about recovery and can’t get enough of it.
Fast-forward 9 months. Jeff has almost been sober for a year, but he’s not as fired up about recovery anymore. He’s tired of going to meetings and hanging with recovery friends. He begins to think he doesn’t need his recovery tools anymore.
He thinks, “Do I really have to do this stuff for the rest of my life?”
This is a common scenario, and many addicts relapse when the “pink cloud” gets lifted. When you feel yourself drifting away from your recovery, it’s time to get back to the basics. Commit to calling your sponsor every day and hit another 90 meetings in 90 days.
Addicts tend to struggle with resentments and fears. If you haven’t taken inventory in a while, it’s very likely that resentments and fears have piled up. This can be an opportunity to delve deeper within yourself by doing another 4th and 5th step.
If you haven’t carried a meeting to a hospital or institution lately, commit to doing that regularly.
As you stay sober for years, you may start to experience “recovery burnout.” It may seem like your whole life is recovery, and you wish there was more variety. You may want to look into different types of recovery than you’re used to.
If you are mainly a SMART recovery person, go check out an AA or NA meeting. If you are tired of attending meetings that discuss God, find some meetings that are agnostic or atheist.
Making New Friends in Sobriety
You’ve probably heard that addicts need to change their people, places, and things. This is necessary if you want to stay sober long-term. However, it’s possible that when you were in your active addiction, all of your friends were getting high.
Leaving all of your friends behind can be heart-breaking. Many addicts have extreme social anxiety when they’re sober. Getting high is a common way to cope. Making new friends can seem very overwhelming.
Sobriety is about getting out of your comfort zone. Commit to a few simple things that will help you break the ice:
- Get to the meeting 15 minutes early
- Stay at the meeting for 15 minutes when it ends
- Offer to make coffee
- Greet people at the door
As you develop friendships in sobriety, you will realize there are responsibilities associated with being a friend. Being a good listener, keeping commitments, and making time to text/call back are important for maintaining good friendships.
These responsibilities will produce benefits that will help you cope with life sober. Life can get busy when you’re sober. Juggling jobs, children, romantic relationships, and more can get hectic. You will need friends to lean on when you feel overexerted.
Your friends can remind you that self-care is vital to long-lasting recovery. Self-care activities could include:
- A bubble bath
- Early morning walks on the weekend
- Going to the gym a few times a week
- Doing yoga
- Practicing breathing exercises
- Reading a book (recovery or non-recovery)
- Doing something nice for yourself
Many addicts isolate themselves when they are actively using. When you feel like isolating yourself in sobriety, it may be a warning sign. Your friends can be there to check in with you and encourage you to be more social when you feel like isolating yourself.
Employment and Adapting to a Regular Work Schedule
Every day can be chaotic in active addiction. You wake up sick without any money, figuring out what you have to do to get high that day. You could spend all day coming up with the money to get high, and the next morning you have to do it all over again.
When you stop getting high, there’s a lot of time to fill. Boredom and complacency are the enemies of recovery, so try to get a job as soon as possible. It doesn’t have to be a glamorous job.
Employment is key for long-term sobriety. You will gain stability knowing where you’ll be every weekday. A job can keep you from wandering around aimlessly where the likelihood of encountering triggers and using buddies is higher.
It may not be easy to find a job at first. Work on your resume, look for volunteering opportunities or consider additional job training. These activities will foster a positive mindset, and when you do gain employment, you’ll already be motivated.
Here are some other reasons that having a job is so important:
- Income: With sober living comes financial responsibilities. Income will help you pay for things that you haven’t been able to pay for in a long time. Maybe you owe child support or are making amends to a family member. Thinking of others is a vital part of a recovery mindset.
- Self-Esteem: Active addiction can beat you down. You do things you never thought you would do just to get that next hit or drink. This can cause immense amounts of guilt and shame. When you get a job and show up to it when you’re supposed to, your self-esteem will improve. Feeling a sense of purpose is important.
- Community: Many jobs involve working with other people. Once again, isolation is dangerous for an addict in recovery. Having a job where you’re around other people can help you not isolate yourself.
Loneliness and Dating in Sobriety
Many people discourage dating in early sobriety. Many times when an addict stop using, they look for that person that’s going to “fix” them. Substance abuse can warp how you see yourself as well as the people around you.
When you first sober up, you may have no idea who you really are. Lacking a sense of identity, healthy connections with others is not likely.
However, people get into relationships in early sobriety all of the time. “Rehab romance” is definitely a thing. You may wonder, “Why is getting into a relationship when you first get sober so enticing?”
Getting sober can mean losing your favorite coping tools — drugs and alcohol. Since so many addictive substances affect the pleasure center of your brain, depression is quite common when you stop abusing them.
A brain starving for dopamine will look around for the next place it can get it — sex will do just that. Sex can become a major distraction for addicts, especially if they’re at an inpatient treatment center.
Instead of focusing on themselves and what they need to do once they get out of treatment, they are focused on having a sexual/romantic relationship. This can be dangerous because both addicts may get out of treatment, relapse because they are no longer focused on staying sober but rather on each other, and die.
In early sobriety, it’s important to find healthy ways to cope with loneliness and depression.
As far as depression is concerned, more often than not, addicts have co-occurring disorders. Finding a good psychiatrist who knows about addiction is important. They can help you get on medication if you have another mental health disorder besides addiction.
However, you have to give the medications time to work, and addicts are not always the most patient people.
Before you start dating in sobriety, it’s important to cope with loneliness in other ways.
- Going to recovery meetings
- Being active in a group text with other people in recovery
- As much as possible, hanging out with friends you aren’t sexually attracted to
- Getting involved with sober social events in your area
- Volunteering at a homeless shelter
After spending a good amount of time on yourself, you may then be able to start thinking about dating. It’s good to seek the counsel of other members in recovery regarding this. They can share their experience, strength, and hope with you.
Many people are already in a relationship or marriage when they get sober. This can be difficult as well. When you get sober, you may find that you don’t like being around your partner. This is not uncommon.
It may be wise to separate for a period of time and get couples therapy if you want to try and make things work.
Going to Therapy
Almost everyone can benefit from seeing a therapist. Regular appointments with a therapist can help you develop coping skills that will help you stay sober. Having recovery friends such as a sponsor is key for long-term sobriety, but they are no substitute for a good therapist.
A therapist is a 3rd party that is not directly affected by your decisions and actions. They can give you unbiased feedback that you may not get from anyone else.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has proven to be a great treatment for people struggling with substance abuse. Abusing substances can lead to warped perceptions and faulty thinking. CBT techniques can help you address your thinking so that you can replace negative thoughts with more positive ones.
Coping with life sober isn’t always easy. Many people abuse substances so they can avoid reality completely. Recovery encourages you to confront reality and take constructive action.
Having a good life in recovery requires lots of hard work, and doing what it takes to stay sober isn’t always fun. You get what you put into it.
It’s important to know that you don’t have to cope with life sober alone. You have people that are going through the same thing as you are and want to help.
IOP at ASIC Recovery
Are you looking for substance abuse treatment in Texas?
At ASIC Recovery, our Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) is dedicated to helping individuals develop healthier coping skills and build a recovery supportive network in all aspects.