Shakes, shivers, sweats…everybody knows that’s what awaits the newly-sober problem-drinker, right?
There’s enough information out there for any of us to pick up a good understanding of what happens when you quit drinking, but here’s the thing:
All that information barely scratches the surface
I’ve been sober for five years now, and in that time I’ve discovered all kinds of things that happened not just when I got sober, but when many of my friends got sober too.
Yet when you first quit drinking, nobody gives you any warning –or even the slightest idea- that any of those things are going to happen.
Earlier this year, I wrote about the 5 Things Nobody Told Me Would Happen When I Quit Smoking.
Today, I turn my attention to drink with a similar article, this one focussing on the five things nobody tells you will happen when you get sober.
Then let’s get to it.
1: The Nightmares Stop
When I was drinking, I would have these horrific, panic-inducing nightmares that would cause me to wake up screaming –literally screaming- and crying my eyes out.
I haven’t yet done enough research to be fully confident in calling these experiences actual night terrors, but I am 100% confident in telling you that they were genuinely horrifying and happened with some degree of regularity.
At least they did until I got sober.
Sometime after I’d stopped drinking, I realised that these terrifying nightmares/night terrors just didn’t happen anymore.
I’ve had bad dreams since I got sober. I may have even had a few nightmares, but none on the scale of intensity that I used to have.
Talking to sober friends, it turns out I’m far from the only one who has started to enjoy a much more peaceful night’s sleep.
2: The Pounds Pile On
If there’s one topic of conversation I have with newly sober people more than any other, it’s appetite and weight gain.
It’s no secret that, when you stop drinking, you’re likely to develop strong sugar cravings, but -weirdly- most of the websites I’ve seen that mention this also go on to tell you that you’ll lose weight.
I’m sorry to disappoint you, but that’s not the way things go for a lot of people, and it certainly wasn’t the way things went for me.
The combination of those sugar cravings, combined with the fact that I finally got a healthy appetitive back when I sobered up meant that I soon gained a bunch of weight.
I’m not the only one.
I’ve spoken to scores of people who have a similar complaint when they’re newly sober:
I can’t stop eating!
The good news, is that for most of us, this does pass.
Eating habits return to normal and the weight can be easily shifted with a little exercise.
The sugar cravings, however, may be something that stick around for a long time.
3: The Magical, Spooky ‘Spiritual’ Phase Happens
Seeing the world through truly sober eyes -often for the first time in years- can be a magical experience.
Everything that you once thought familiar to you takes on a new, vibrant quality. Landscapes, architecture, the very streets were we live come into sharp focus and you begin to notice more around your surroundings than you ever imagined.
Combining this whole new way of looking at the world with the spiritual element of a 12 step programme can produce some pretty interesting results.
All of a sudden, you begin experiencing spooky coincidences on a regular basis, going through things that can’t be explained via logical means and encountering new opportunities to transform your life that would never have occurred had you still drinking.
Don’t worry, you’re not going crazy. It happens to the best of us.
This magical spooky ‘spiritual’ phase happened to me in my first month of sobriety, and I’ve heard many more people sharing similar experiences.
For some, it passes. Life quietens down, things return to normal, and although ‘spooky’ things do occur from time to time, they’re nowhere near as frequent, nor as jaw-dropping as they were in early sobriety.
For others, however, this new found way of living proves so fulfilling and wonderful that they never trade it in for ‘normal,’ again. For them, sobriety becomes the catalyst for a new kind of spiritual journey, a journey which, in my experience, proves to be wholly rewarding and entirely life-changing.
4: You Realise Who Your Friends Are
Though it might sound obvious to you, it came as a surprise to me when I first got sober and realised that the people I had previously called friends actually weren’t.
Some of them were drinking buddies, random passengers that would jump aboard The Good Time Train for a while but quickly jump off again when that train turned into a runaway locomotive headed straight for disaster.
Some were people that I would have never have called friends had I been in my right mind, but who I hung around with simply because I believed that hanging around with anybody, even people who were bad for me, was better than being by myself.
Once I quit drinking and got sober, I didn’t need to be by myself to avoid hanging around with people who were bad for me.
I started to develop genuine friendships with genuine people who were on my wavelength.
The more time I spend with these people, the more I realise that most of the people I used to know are just that; people I used to know once.
Today I have real friends, and most of those friends will tell you the same thing:
Once you get sober, you develop real friendships like no other relationship you’ve ever had.
5: You Stop Fearing Things That Don’t Matter
After you’ve been to the depths of your own personal hell and lived to tell the tale, nothing seems quite as scary as it once did.
During my drinking days, everything from talking to women to dealing with finances would cause me to break out in fear-induced anxiety and run for a drink to calm myself down.
Needless to say, that wasn’t a successful approach.
Still, I’m grateful now for my problem with drink. As a result of my alcohol addiction, I sunk as far down in life as I ever wanted to go. I have been at my lowest, my darkest, and my most desperate.
I have felt the hopelessness of being drunk and the despair at seeing everything around me destroyed by my own hand or tongue, unable to control the drunken monster within.
Honestly, now that I’ve been through that, stuff like talking to women and organising finances doesn’t seem like a big deal anymore.
Surviving a drink problem brings about a whole new level of confidence. Every time I’m faced with something that causes me some level of fear – I remember that there’s no way it can be as the worst of my drinking.
That alone allows me to see any problem or challenge in a whole new life, and to tackle it with the new sense of hope and optimism that is truly the greatest gift that sobriety brings.