Sometimes even after 21 years of sobriety I just don’t feel like I have a whole heck of a lot of advice to give people on how to stay sober. I guess what I do know doesn’t seem so sage to me. I often feel like I only know a few things but those things are very important. I will try and talk about some of the important things you need to know if you are trying to stay sober.
To me the most important thing one can do to stay sober is to work a thorough first step. Our first step in the 12 steps is admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable. What my sponsor had me do was write what we call a drunkalogue. Basically I just wrote a history of my drinking life. This made me look my alcoholism square in the eyes and come to grips with it. When I was made to think all of the drunken encounters and the motives behind them such as fear and anger it helped cement the sincerity of my problem. I did not like the results of my drinking but more importantly I did not the motives behind them.
There are many different ways to stay sober and I don’t think AA has the copyright on how to get sober. There is AA,there are recovery homes there is smart recovery and other methods as well. I believe that there are many way to achieve and maintains sobriety but what I have first hand experience with is AA so I will stick to that because I can speak authentically about it. The important aspect to maintaining sobriety is to go to AA meetings regularly. There are two important things you experience quickly, the first is learning that you are not alone and the second is that you always get reminded of who you are by hearing others tell of their alcoholic experiences. Sometimes when it is convenient to us we tend to forget about our powerlessness.
My third suggestion is to read our manuscript what we affectionately refer to as The Big Book. There are several editions and it doesn’t really matter which edition you get but the older editions may have some unfamiliar verbiage because the book was written in the late 30’s so some terms such as John Barleycorn might seem strange to you. Why I suggest reading The Big Book is because there is a profound psychological effect knowing that there is a solution to your problems. More importantly knowing that you have found a solution provides much needed hope and without hope we are lost.
The fourth suggestion that I have is stay away from new sexual/romantic encounters. If you have broken up with your girlfriend and now decided that you want to get sober stay broken up. If you are newly divorced because of your drinking and you want to get sober stay divorced. Whatever is done let it be done. You are not ready to renew any love interests. If none of these apply to you and you decide early on in sobriety that you want to date and/or pursue sexual relationships don’t freaking do it. No dating, no casual sex, none. Don’t even make new friends of the sex that your’re attracted to and think to yourself well I won’t let things get out of hand, asshole, if you were good at self-restraint and controlling where things went you wouldn’t be in this situation to begin with. This is so important because relationships are a huge trigger for all of us. Do not tempt your fate. It is way too important to take chances with. I have 21 years sober and when I see a girl newcomer I usually just completely ignore her and if she talks to me I keep it real short. I do everything I can to not even put in her head that maybe just maybe I am thinking inappropriate thoughts towards her, She don’t need that, nobody needs that stressor when they are getting sober. This is my longest paragraph because I think it’s the hardest one to grasp and follow for newcomers. Generally speaking I recommend a year sober before you pursue romantic interests.
My fifth and last suggestion for those new in recovery. Stay the hell away from bars. There comes a time in your recovery that you will be able to distinguish between what is an acceptable time to get to a bar and what is not. There comes a time when you have the strength to learn a new habit at a bar such as drinking coffee or soda. There comes a time when you can see others drink and not be jealous of the fun they are having and not be remorseful that you can no longer drink. The first two years in recovery is not that time. But there is hope, one day you may be able to re-visit a bar for occasions such as a friends birthday party or to sing Karoake but not today. You will fail that test and you will not be able to handle all of the feelings that come up when you are at a bar and watching others drink. Be patient and find other activities.