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Sobriety Feels Like “Slowbriety”

By Amy Austin RN, Psy.D., LMFT

Congratulations on making the most difficult decision of your life: the decision to get sober.

The journey of addiction and dependency can be a long and arduous road fraught with challenges in every aspect of life. Long-gnarled tentacles take hold wreaking havoc and then, ah…the early days of recovery are the calm after the turbulent storm.

Not so fast. The addict/alcoholic wishes this were true, but many times feels as if they are barely holding on. One drink, one pill, one sexual encounter, one poker hand, one spending spree, one eating binge, one…Just one and the pain, fear, loneliness will disappear – only to reoccur, over and over and over again.

So, you think early recovery is a cake walk since rehab, for example, has been so supportive, caring, nurturing and insightful? You might think again.

Here are a few misconceptions about early recovery:

These positive, hopeful feelings will last. People in recovery often term the early days, weeks, and months of recovery as a “pink cloud.” “I don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner,” “I see the light,” “I’ve never felt better in my life,” are some common statements of early recovery. This isn’t to say that positive feelings aren’t experienced; they’re just part of experiencing all feelings which can sometimes be a struggle since the addict/alcoholic has used substances or addictive behaviors in the past to quell feelings temporarily. It’s important to recognize that it’s okay to have our feelings – all of them. We are not our feelings and don’t have to act on our feelings. As a wave ebbs and flows, so will feelings if you let them.

My relationships will be okay now that I am sober. Yeah, I wish. I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but sometimes family relationships get worse before they get better. This is termed, “negative family homeostasis.” When an addict/alcoholic gets sober, the former roles and rules of the addictive family turn topsy-turvy. Now the addict/alcoholic is no longer the “sick” one on whom everyone has been focusing. Family members who once had subconscious roles in the family, such as the peacemaker, caretaker, co-addict or enabler, no longer have these roles and may now have to look at their own accountability within the addictive family pattern. Family programs and Al Anon can serve as valuable resources during this hard time of transitions and adjustments.

I can do this by myself. Why would you want to? Because early recovery can be so daunting at times, isolation is not what the doctor ordered. Later on, you can explore the difference between isolation and much needed solitude, but later. Feelings of shame or the need to be strong are normal and should be communicated in appropriate settings where healing feedback can be heard and processed. In the first months of recovery, seek out support. It’s there! Whether it’s AA, Al Anon, Codependent’s Anonymous, NA, GA, sponsors or therapy. It’s there!

Early recovery can be challenging, but the gifts and rewards can last a lifetime! Time heals and you deserve this time.

Amy Austin is a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFC # 41252) and doctor of clinical psychology in Rancho Mirage. Dr. Amy can be reached at (760) 774.0047.

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