Tips for Surviving Early Sobriety - Reward Yourself
Are you sober curious?
Thinking about taking a break?
Worried about getting through the early days (and weekends) without alcohol?
When I initially decided to give up drinking, I looked forward to the benefits: losing weight, saving money, better health overall, no hangovers, better moods, etc.
What I didn’t expect though was the empty feeling that would overcome me as Friday neared each week. Have you ever noticed that there’s a particular energy in the air whenever the weekend comes around? You can just feel that people are gearing up to let loose.
Clearly, I wasn’t though...and I had major FOMO (fear of missing out).
It was difficult to come to terms with at first, even though I wasn’t much of a party girl. But, like most, I always found myself drinking a bit more on the weekends – almost as if it were my permission to do so.
I realized that I suddenly lacked my usual reward for ‘good behaviour’. I thought back to how much I’d look forward to indulging at the end of a long day, or week, or during special occasions. I would feel weirdly giddy every time I had a reason to pick up an assortment of new drinks to try. I swear, a liquor store evokes the same emotions in adults as a toy store does for kids.
I’d look forward to summer holidays, relishing in the thought of finally being able to relax, and reassuring myself that ‘a vacation wouldn’t be a vacation without copious amounts of booze’. All these instances in which I would drink became seemingly imprinted in my brain as time went on.
Killing an old habit (especially an addictive one) is tough, but 100% doable. I knew that I needed something tangible to help me get through the trying early stages of sobriety without feeling like I was being tortured (or reverting back to my old ways).
Rewarding yourself is easily the best part of sobriety – because it has everything to do with indulgence, minus the shame, guilt, regret, and any other shitty feeling produced by drinking.
That being said, the following is a short list comprising ways to TREAT YO SELF in early sobriety (my Parks & Rec people will understand).
1. Buy Yourself Something
This one’s a no-brainer - start with something small. I say this simply because you should reward yourself often in the early days as it will keep you motivated.
Personally, for every week that I didn’t drink, I’d buy a new plant. I love plants; they look pretty, make me happy, are relatively inexpensive, and watching my collection of plants grow signified that I was on the right track.
Books are a great option as well if you’re a reader (stay tuned for a future post featuring my favourite ‘quit lit’ reads so far).
If plants and books aren’t your thing, think of something else that you’ve always wanted to collect. Maybe you’re into music, or there’s an art medium that you’ve always wanted to try, or a hobby you’d like to get into.
Alternatively, you could start saving the money you formerly spent on booze and booze-fueled activities to put towards something enjoyable – like a holiday, or a new vehicle.
2. Track your Progress
Keeping track of your sobriety serves as an important reminder of how far you’ve come. I use an app for this purpose, and it’s simply called, “I Am Sober”. With it, you can track your sober days, record improvements and changes that you’ve noticed in yourself over time, track your moods, and track the amount of money you’ve saved.
Maybe this doesn’t sound ‘rewarding’, but trust me, it is. At first, we can’t even fathom a week without a drink. As your sober days start adding up, it’s nice to see it on paper. And that, in turn, encourages us to set progressively bigger goals as time goes on.
3. Embrace the Sugar Fiend Within (for now)
When you stop drinking, your blood sugar levels go totally batshit, leaving you with a monstrous sweet tooth. While giving into every sugar craving is bound to be counterproductive in the long run, in the early days, I say enjoy it.
This is specifically why a lot of people gain weight in early sobriety! But…it’s worth it in the long run, and once you find your bearings, it’ll be easy to ditch the sweet stuff. Also, you're dealing with a lot. Show yourself grace, or else you'll start driving yourself mental and risk relapsing.
So, pick your poison – as long as it doesn’t contain ethanol!
4. Replace Alcohol
Finding something to drink other than booze is number four on the list, but nonetheless crucial to early recovery. Literally, one of the first thoughts to enter my mind mere seconds after dumping every ounce of alcohol in my house was “what will I drink, though?”.
It seems petty, but in the moment, it was a huge deal. I know I’m not alone on this one!
Most of us find ourselves obsessed with two drinks in sobriety: coffee and seltzer water. Don't ask me why...but I'm pretty sure its an unspoken rite-of-passage in sobriety.
Capitalize on the drinks you find enjoyable:
Try different coffee creamers if that’s your thing
Buy a coffee press and fancy coffee grounds
Go to TH’s or Starbucks eleven times a day if you need to
Invest in a mini fridge and fill it with nothing but flavoured seltzer water and whatever else piques your interest
Go all out! You fucking deserve it, babe!
5. Sit with Your Feelings
Finally, one of the biggest reasons we choose to drink to begin with: because feelings suck.
Oddly enough, the more time you spend avoiding your feelings, the worse things become. So, if you’re anything like I was and you’re also new to sobriety, prepare to feel everything and then some because you’re about to let go of a lot of emotional baggage.
It’ll be hard at first – in fact, you’ll probably be crawling out of your own skin. But, truly sitting with your emotions and accepting the things you can’t change is a magical thing. It does pass, and it ultimately pays off in ways you couldn’t imagine.
If you’re wondering how sitting there, sober as a judge, feeling everything you’ve worked so hard to shove down all these years will benefit you – I’ll tell you.
Facing your demons takes away their power. Quitting drinking takes away alcohol’s power. When something no longer has power over you, you can LET GO.
If you’re someone who drinks too much, like I was, then I am absolutely certain there are underlying emotions tied to why you drink the way that you do.
These emotions (the ones that haunt you) WILL come up when you’re newly sober. Don’t push them away – embrace them.
Just sit there…and feel. That’s all there is to it.
The reward lives in the fact that once you commit to the most difficult thing you could ever imagine yourself overcoming, everything else becomes easy.
Losing weight – easy.
Creating a healthy lifestyle – easy.
Learning something new – easy.
Becoming the best version of yourself – easy.
Find strength in your sobriety – it’s there, and you’ve got this!
Today, I’m 155 days sober.