Updated: Jun 29
Over 30% of people who stop drinking alcohol relapse during their first year of sobriety. Staggering statistic, no? About one-third of people who stop drinking go back to booze within one year. Why is that?
There are plenty of reasons why someone could relapse, but it pretty much trickles down to the fact that sobriety is hard. You're faced with dealing with all the difficult things in life instead of numbing yourself to them. It's no surprise that we tend to run back to something that used to take the pain away.
If you've tried to quit drinking and you've relapsed, it's perfectly okay. You are learning, growing, and most importantly, trying. Sobriety isn't always linear. You should be proud of yourself for being brave enough to quit in the first place!
The good news is that though the first year of sobriety is the hardest, rates for relapse decrease over time. 21.4% of those in recovery relapsed in their second year, 9.6% relapsed in years three through five, and only 7.2% relapsed after five years.
I write this post today because I've hit a very difficult time in my sobriety. In two days, I'll be nine months sober. It sounds like it's been a long time, but the way that I feel inside makes it seem like it's only been a month.
I've read that sobriety is filled with highs and lows, but I didn't realize that the lows could leave me depressed and anxious. I also didn't realize that the lows could happen so close to a year mark. Now what?
I write this today with as many questions as answers. After all, I'm currently in the midst of recovery, and lately I've been feeling like a six year old who lost their mom in the grocery store. I'm terrified, and I don't know where to go from here.
Feeling in control makes me feel safe and secure. However, at this point in my life, absolutely nothing is secure. I just quit my job of 1.5 years, am about to start a different job for the summer, and I have LOADS of things to plan for. I have to find an apartment in August, plan my best friends bridal party in September, and organize a plan to Greece the week after. Not only that, but I have to start looking for a "big girl" job that I can start in October.
Mom? I'm lost and could really use your guidance through the produce aisle!!
In this time of transition, I'm in a dark place. I've been more tempted than ever to go back to drinking simply because I want to escape all of the scary things I feel inside. I find myself missing alcohol, and focusing only on the good times I had when drinking.
It's hard to see clearly when your mental health is suffering.
I recently explained all of this to my therapist, and what she replied made my bones shake. "The honeymoon phase of sobriety is over for you." She hit what I was feeling spot on. As usual, I tried to pry out answers from her on how to return to the honeymoon phase. But, like in any relationship, once the honeymoon phase is over, there's no going back.
What I realize is this: it's okay that I can't return to that part of sobriety. I'm onto a new chapter of the same book, but that doesn't make it any less important or beautiful. The reason I've left the honeymoon phase is because I'm ready for something else, something different. Even though it's scary and I don't know what to expect in this new season, I can't move forward without going through it.
I don't mean to write this as a way to scare people away from sobriety. Sobriety is transformative, empowering, and extremely wholesome. But it's also terrifying, taxing, and can leave you feeling lost. It's important not to glorify the experience, because the lows can be very very real.
A couple ways how I've managed to get through my doubts are by:
Re-reading or watching sober media. It's good to touch up on some of the reasons why you decided to quit drinking in the first place. Some of my favorite sober TV shows are Single Drunk Female and Mom on Hulu. A good movie on addiction is Four Good Days also on Hulu. Side note: It's actually insane how much I relate to the main character Sam in Single Drunk Female, never mind the name!
Allowing myself to feel what I'm feeling. Sometimes just accepting the fact that I'm sad or in a depressive state allows it to pass more quickly. Also, I've found that talking to people about my struggles with sobriety has been therapeutic and discourages me from self-isolating.
Giving myself what I need, when I need it. A lot of times when I feel depressed I beat myself up for not wanting to do anything. When I judge myself for not getting anything done, it only makes me feel worse. Recently when I was feeling low, I allowed myself to sit on the couch, listen to a podcast, pig out on some Dominos, and take a nap for a few hours. By giving myself what I needed without feeling bad about it, I was able to continue on with the rest of my day in a better mood.
Like I said, recovery is hard. I didn't expect to hit such a low point nine months in, but here I am. A lot of it is circumstantial, of course, but that's the flow of life - Sometimes you'll have good periods, and sometimes you'll have hard periods. Right now, I'm inching my way through an abnormally hard period.
My sober honeymoon phase may be over. But I'm trying not to fight the transition too much. I acknowledge the need for something new. I'm ready to settle down into my sobriety, and become more comfortable in it. I didn't travel all this way just to turn around!
This isn't like my other posts, where I boast about the benefits of sobriety. This post makes room for the hard truth - that sobriety isn't all rainbows, flowers and clear skies. Sobriety is also thunderstorms, heavy rainfalls, and cold seasons. Sobriety is both because you couldn't have one season without the other.
If you're in the honeymoon phase of sobriety, ride that sucker out. Embrace it. Breathe it in. Revel in it. Hold on to the excitement and passion that the phase brings. If you're transitioning out of the honeymoon phase like I am, keep going. There's more to learn in this season, you might just not know it yet. If you're in a completely different phase, please reach out because I'd love to know what to expect! (I'd say I'm kidding, but I'm totally not).
I'm here to tell you that I'm proud of you. You're doing great. You can get through the hard times just as much as you deserve to embrace the good times. Keep going. There's more to the book than the chapter you finished.
The Recovery Village Drug and Alcohol Rehab. (2021, July 21). Alcohol relapse rates: Abstinence statistics, how to avoid & deal with a relapse. The Recovery Village Drug and Alcohol Rehab. Retrieved April 3, 2022, from https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/alcohol-abuse/related-topics/alcohol-relapse-statistics/