The saying goes that your worst day in sobriety is better than your best day in addiction. While it is easy enough to look back and see the truth in that statement after the fact, when you are having your worst days in sobriety, feeling miserable and wondering why you ever started your journey into recovery in the first place is the norm.
Unfortunately, for someone in recovery, feelings of discontent are dangerous. It doesn’t take long for thoughts to become words and words to become actions. Before you know it, a lousy day in sobriety can quickly turn into your last day in sobriety if you turn to drugs and alcohol to ease your emotional discomfort.
The good news is that you have choices. You are not a slave to your emotions or your addiction. You can choose to sit where you are for a moment, assess, and figure out a way forward. Here’s how.
1. Know That You Are Not Alone
There are millions of other people in recovery, all at different stages, and many are having a bad day just like you are. There is a lot of stuff to process as you build your life in recovery every day, and that isn’t always going to be easy.
Instead of isolating and giving into feeling bad, reach out and connect with others who might be going through the same thing. Go to a 12-step meeting, find a sober group online, or call a sober friend who understands.
2. Notice Your Pain Points
What exactly is getting you down? Did something specific happen that you are having a hard time letting go of? Is there an ongoing stressor in your life (finding housing, paying a bill, or finding a job) that you can’t stop thinking about?
Are you just not feeling right physically or mentally? Are you tired, in physical pain, depressed, or anxious?
Take a moment to assess how you feel mentally and in your body. Write it down. A simple bullet point list that includes all that is weighing on you will help you to clarify your next steps.
3. Fix What You Can Right Now
Sometimes, it is the little things you may not realize are having a significant impact on your ability to cope.
If you are hungry, even if that is not your main issue, get something healthy to eat. If you are feeling exhausted, refresh with a quick walk outside or a coffee nap if you can.
When you handle the little things that are within your immediate grasp, you have an easier time handling other stressors and taking active steps to address them rather than getting bogged down in an emotional response.
4. Give Yourself Space
Isolation is never a good idea in recovery when you are having a tough time, but giving yourself space from a specific problem or stressor can give you the clarity you need to better understand the situation and see what needs to be done.
Get coffee with a friend to take your mind off relationship problems. Ask for extra hours at work if you’re having a hard time with roommates. Head out of town with some sober friends for a few hours to get a change of scenery.
5. You Have The Power
You are not a victim. You have the power to make changes that will improve your life, make sobriety more interesting, and connect with awesome people who can help you enjoy your life in recovery.
Everyone faces difficult situations, ranging from getting a rough night’s sleep to dealing with a death in the family or an unexpected divorce. Choose to recognize that the choices you make directly impact your experience. Even if things feel like they are beyond your control (a difficult boss, terrible landlord, legal problems, or financial difficulties), you always have the option to take the first step toward improving the situation.
6. Ask For Help
Because you are not alone in the process of building a new life for yourself without drugs and alcohol, you are also not without resources. People have written books on the subject of handling different issues in recovery. There are treatment providers who have spent years studying how best to support you in this process: mental health treatment providers, addiction treatment specialists, and more.
The other people next to you at group therapy sessions and support group meetings all have experiences that can help you. They want to be there for you when you are struggling. All you have to do is ask for help.
7. Choose A New Healthy Habit
You can always improve how you fare in sobriety by looking at where you can improve your quality of life.
If you immediately think of something that you know you “should” be doing but haven’t yet done, that is a great place to start. If you can’t think of anything, here are a few options:
- Quit smoking.
- Drink eight glasses of water a day.
- Replace fried foods with vegetables.
- Go to bed early.
- Get up early.
- Walk, run, swim, dance, or otherwise engage in physical activity regularly.
Anything you can do to improve your overall health and wellness will serve double duty and improve your ability to stay sober.
When you feel better, your mood is elevated, you’re more likely to ignore the little annoyances, and you’re less likely to feel like a relapse is your only way out of any uncomfortable situations that may arise.
8. Take Action
Now that you have identified your pain points, chosen a new healthy habit, or reached out and asked for advice on your situation, it’s time to act.
Knowing what you should do isn’t enough. You have to motivate yourself, schedule it in, and consistently do the things that will help you improve your life in recovery.
9. Track Yourself
As you get going, keep a simple chart or use an app that tracks your progress. If you are trying to address underlying mental health issues, write down your schedule of appointments, the medications you are taking, the lifestyle choices recommended by your doctor, and how you feel each day as you begin to take steps toward feeling better.
Even if you are making one small choice to improve how you feel each day, like working out more or eating better, track it. You can then consistently look back, see how far you’ve come, and assess what you have accomplished along the way.
10. Be Patient With Yourself
You have already accomplished so much by choosing to stop using drugs and committing to sobriety. Staying sober every day is an incredible feat. Every minute that you avoid relapse, you are proving to yourself that you have the power and capability to make your life what you want it to be.
You will have ups and downs. You will have days when you don’t necessarily make the strongest choices to improve your well-being or strengthen your recovery. No matter what happened yesterday or even five minutes ago, you can choose to be patient with yourself, reassess, and pivot as needed.
11. This, Too, Shall Pass
Feelings are huge in recovery. They can feel overwhelming and like they will never end. But feelings are not the truth.
Just because it “seems” like things will never change, that is not actually the case. The nature of life is change, no matter what. How you feel today — no matter how boring, stifling, angering, or depressing it may be — will be different tomorrow. Your feelings will look different in a day, a week, a month, and a year, so look to the future with optimism.
12. Ask For More Help
Yes, asking for help was already listed, but it is so important that it is worth repeating. Getting through recovery’s ups and downs requires you to do more than just occasionally show up and interact with people who may be able to support you.
It means continually checking in with yourself, continually reaching out to new people who may have ideas you haven’t tried before, and continually asking questions that will help you improve your life.
No one has to go through sobriety alone. If you feel like sobriety sucks, you need more support. You can find the balance in recovery you need. Reach out for some help today.