So, you’ve decided to get sober. Congrats! One day you might look back on this as the best decision you ever made. But right now, you might not feel thrilled about it. In fact, you might feel scared, lonely and overall, like hell. But you’re not alone and you can survive these first 24 hours unaltered by drugs or alcohol, like so many of us have before you. Here are a few suggestions on how to do it:
- Check out a meeting or support group: AA is pretty easy to find since it’s the most popular of support groups and has the biggest offering of meetings—in some cities, you can find them nearly around the clock. There are telephone and online meetings as well. It’s a great way to connect with other people who have been in your shoes. If you’re looking for a non-12-step alternative, groups like SMART Recovery or Rational Recovery take different approaches—such as being less spiritual, more secular—and are also full of supportive people. They often have online or phone meetings too. Even if you find that one particular program isn’t for you, it might initially be helpful just to be around people who have been where you are and know what you’re going through.
- Stay busy: Starting a new chapter in your life can be confusing and even scary. But activity can help keep you distracted during that vital first 24 hours—whether it’s work, a hobby or exercise. Some newly sober people will find solace on the running trail, or—if that seems extreme—just by taking a walk to the grocery store to stock up on seltzer and microwave popcorn. It might be tempting to lie on the couch all day (and this is fine for a few hours!), but keeping your body and mind occupied might help you ease the transition.
- Reach out: Your first day sober can feel lonely, but you don’t have to go through it alone, whether or not you choose to attend a support group. Some of us tend to isolate ourselves when we’re drinking or using. Friends and acquaintances might be wondering why they haven’t seen you. So even if the idea of social interaction on your first day is terrifying, it probably won’t be nearly as bad as you think, and might give you some vital encouragement. I highly recommend picking up the phone—or if that’s too daunting, firing off a few emails and texts to reconnect with the people you care about and who care about you. You’re probably not as alone as you think.
- Learn about recovery, the fun way: You’re certainly not the first person nor the last to go down this road. In fact, you’re in esteemed company: It’s no secret that Hollywood and the music industry are full of recovering addicts. (Google it if you didn’t know!) And even if these celebrities’ lives look different on the outside (for example, they can afford to spend Day One at a spa), you may find that your struggles with drugs and alcohol are pretty similar. There are also tons of books, movies and TV shows on the subject of recovery. You might find comfort in Sandra Bullock’s rehab drama 28 Days, or timeless classics like Jack Lemmon’s 1962 Days of Wine and Roses and Michael Keaton’s Clean and Sober, some of which are available on Netflix. Time to microwave some of that popcorn you bought and make yourself comfortable. You’re in for a ride.
If you’re looking for a non-12-step alternative, groups like SMART Recovery or Rational Recovery take different approaches…
Practice self-care: Your tendency might be to criticize yourself for mistakes you made when you were using and boozing. But beating yourself up on Day One won’t help anything. Instead, if possible, do something nice for yourself: Take a hot bath, schedule a manicure or go for massage. Now would also be a good time to treat yourself to a delicious meal. Some newly sober people find comfort in ice cream—but if you’re worried about developing a sugar habit, you can always stock up on fruit, tea and gum instead.
You might find comfort in Sandra Bullock’s rehab drama 28 Days, or timeless classics like Jack Lemmon’s 1962 Days of Wine and Roses…
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