If I’d known #3, I would have gotten sober years ago…

In sobriety, we often hear the phrase “play the tape forward” when considering the long-term impact of our actions, but sometimes it also helps to rewind the tape back, to reflect on critical moments in recovery. Maybe we missed something important the first go. Maybe through this process of reflection, we can hit the pause button to illuminate a pivotal scene:

Ladies and gents, if you look closely,  you’ll notice how the main character’s perceived friend was secretly plotting her demise all along; look at how she taunts her for skipping blackout brunch, I mean, bottomless brunch.

Sobriety is becoming more and more mainstream thanks to the emergence of alcohol-free bars, Dry January, and delicious mocktail recipes splashed all over our social media discovery pages.

In the words of gen z, sobriety slaps (this is good). And yes, while sobriety slaps, I also don’t want the complex realities of sobriety to slap someone dead across the face.

If sobriety was as simple as sometimes social media makes it seem, one could ration, more people would be sober!

I want to follow this by saying people have different reasons for not drinking.

I consider myself a sober woman who chooses not to drink because of my unhealthy, complicated history with alcohol and other substances. I have no plans to drink again because I’m happier and healthier without alcohol.

So, when presented with the question: what do you wish you would have known before getting sober? Three things came to mind: 

1. Drinking is everywhere.

Once I got sober, I became hyper-aware of how much alcohol shows up in society– apparent places like bars, clubs, parties, sporting events, concerts, etc.; But also in less obvious places like professional events, baby showers, and even workout classes (some gyms serve post-workout alcoholic beverages as part of their work hard, play harder company ethos).

Be prepared for your sober antenna to go off whenever you hear people talking about booze as well.

My favorite conversations are the ones that I used to deem intellectual: pontificating on the best white wine to pair with fish or the appropriate length of time to age good whiskey. Snooze.

In early sobriety, I felt triggered by alcohol or conversations related to drinking. Now, I try my best to suppress an eye roll and secretly feel sad for how one-dimensional these conversations are.

2. Your relationship with others will change.

Relationships are meant to evolve with time. It’s a natural progression of life.

Losing people in sobriety is to be expected but doesn’t necessarily lessen the pain.

While you may lose acquaintances or people whose company you kept solely based on drinking compatibility, I’d like to caution you to think thoughtfully before severing ties with people that truly matter to you.

In the early days of sobriety, I was not easy to be around; I was severely sensitive (and emotional) and did not know how to communicate well with others, let alone explain how I needed them to show up for me.

This may be an unpopular opinion, but I wish I had known to give people some grace (or a grace period) to get used to this new (and improved?) sober version of me. 

If you’re the only person that has gotten sober in this relationship (romantic or platonic), you’re the one that’s changed.  I think the deterioration of relationships occurs when the other person stays the same.

The personal changes you experience in early sobriety, i.e., fluctuations of moods/emotions, grieving the loss of alcohol, or romanticizing the person you were before-sobriety, take time to process.

It’s only fair to reason that others may also grieve the ‘old’ you, especially if much of your time together involved drinking.

Last note, perhaps their changed attitude towards you is a projection of their inner conflict: if (enter your name here) is no longer drinking, and we were drinking partners, what does this mean about my relationship with alcohol?

3. Your relationship with yourself will change.

This is my most favorite thing I wish I would have known before getting sober. If I would have known how much better I would feel about myself, I seriously would have gotten sober years ago.

I wouldn’t have started drinking a depressant that *surprise, surprise* triggered years of depression.

I’m not alone in this sentiment, I polled people on Instagram asking what they wish they would have known before getting sober, and an overwhelming number of responses were related to self-love, self-esteem, gratitude, and overall improved mental health. 

Check out episode 202 of The Sober Butterfly Podcast to hear more lessons!

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