Updated: Feb 9, 2020
So here you are. Possibly on a 2019 hangover. Day one of sobriety. You might be thinking it is not possible. Or you might be excited for sober January. If you are reading this and continue past this point, you are curious about what might lie ahead of you.
As a former wine connoisseur, lover of all alcohol crafts, here is what laid ahead of me, during my very first 30 days of being alcohol-free.
1. A puffy free face. The puffiness around my eyes began to diminish. My cheekbones started to lift. The redness around my face faded. My eyebrows began to shine. My lips glowed with moisture. My physical change happened reasonably quickly, and it was dramatic. At the end of my first 30 days, I started to hear, “you look great."
2. A good night's sleep. No more 3 a.m. anxiety attacks. No more crappy nights with less than six hours of sleep. No more tossing and turning my life around in bed as my spouse slept peacefully. I needed a sleep aid because I had been binging for some time. What worked for me during the early days of recovery was 50mg of Seroquel and 100mg of Hydroxyzine. Talk to your doctor if you have trouble sleeping when you stop drinking.
3. A good day’s rest. Mostly from the consent obsession of “what should I drink today? Is it too early for a cocktail? I should start with vodka. Should I drink before or after my run? If I drink beer, I can use the calories during my run, but if I drink tonic and smoke weed, I’ll be high several miles ahead of my runner’s high. Fuck it; I need a drink!” I finally had a good day’s rest from this constant, endless, self chatter.
A good day’s rest also consists of sleep. Although I did not see day time sleeping like a good thing in the early days, I am glad that I slept for twelve hours a day for the first 90 days. I needed it. I literally needed to reboot my brain. I also needed to veg out on Netflix and listen to audiobooks. I was not ready to read, as I could not keep my focus for long periods, but I was lucky to be in-between jobs during my first 90 days and was able to binge on Netflix, HBO, and Amazon Prime like a true junkie.
4. Consecutive hangover-free mornings! No more dreadful self-loathing and anxiety drenching mornings. No hangovers! Enough said.
5. A pink cloud. Being sober after long periods of intoxication is new, different and can be exciting. Sobriety felt like a new drug. After the jitters began to pass, the actual detoxing felt damn good. The fog started to lift, and the storm began to give. My body odor improved drastically. I began to feel the best I ever had in years.
The Not So Good:
1. Depression. It came on hard for me. Towards the end of my drinking, I was not able to feel any better with more alcohol. I drank to feel normal. I had to increase my antidepressant dosage, which helped with the restless thinking. With time I was able to reduce the dosage of the SSRI. I was also terrified by the idea that I would never be creative or fun again. Scared to lose my friend (the vino), my relief, my only sense of joy (or so I thought). I had built an identity around boozing, and I was utterly depressed to let it go.
2. Weight gain. Yes, you heard me right. Not only did I not lose weight in early recovery, but I gained ten pounds. I traded in my daily two bottles of red and half a bottle of gin or vodka (towards the end of my drinking I barely eat. I drank all of my calories.) for chocolate cake, carrot cake, cheesecake, everything cake. I had a great excuse to eat endless amounts of chocolate and sweets. As long as I did not drink alcohol, I allowed myself to eat and drink whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I will never do this again. So my suggestion to you is to ENJOY IT! GUILT FREE!
I also had the early stages of fatty liver, which made it increasingly difficult to lose weight. What eventually helped with losing weight was working with a nutritionist and making a two week Ayurveda wellness retreat. You might need to rebalance your gut. Find out what works for you.
3. Reckoning with the wreckage. I did a lot of damage towards the end of my drinking. I destroyed relationships and burnt bridges with long time friends. This was not easy to face. It took time, support, therapy, A.A. meetings, and time. You might not be able to salvage everything, but if you stay sober, you will reckon with yourself.
4. Loneliness. Getting sober can be incredibly lonely. I did not know myself well and was scared by what I could find. I was no longer able to fill my voids with booze. Constant streams of consciousness can be lonely and exhausting.
Memoirs to read in early recovery by female authors:
The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath by Leslie Jamison
The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray
Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp
The Sober Diaries by Clare Pooley
Mrs. D is Going Without by Lotta Dann