What do you mean there’s more to sobriety than just not drinking?

Physical sobriety comes first. You cannot seriously pursue a recovery program while you’re still drinking. I know that sounds obvious, but you would be surprised at how many people show up drunk to meetings. The next step is mental sobriety. The three parts of addiction are physical allergy, mental obsession (craving) and spiritualmalady. While physical withdrawal is painful, the mental withdrawal can make you feel like you are utterly insane. Many people will relapse at this point because the obsession is so overwhelming. Just like with physical withdrawal, this too shall pass… but it takes longer and it will come at you from all angles.

Imagine the first time you drank: probably at some party where everyone was all happy and having a great time. Alcohol has now been associated with happy, fun time. A day comes along that is simply miserable and you think back to how great you felt at that party & how you want to feel that way again. Now, when you take that drink, alcohol is also associated with the dark days. Pretty soon, you are drinking because you’re happy, because you’re sad, because it’s Wednesday, etc., and alcohol has been associated with all of those times. In recovery, we have to retrain our brains to remove alcohol from each of these times. The everyday obsession should lift within a matter of weeks – after you get a couple of sober Wednesdays behind you Wednesday is no longer a trigger. Those things which you encounter less often, though, will take longer to dry out. Weddings are especially hard as these celebratory moments are often times that even folks who never drink will take a glass of champagne.

The closer something is associated with the drink or drug, the more likely it is that encountering it again will trigger the craving, even after it has been lifted. A friend of mine had been sober for some time when she called me freaking out about a sudden craving that came from nowhere. I asked her to go back over the moments before the craving started and tell me anything abnormal she encountered. She had been walking down the street and passed under a bridge. She had bad alcoholic memories associated with being under a bridge. It was a completely subconscious association, but it triggered her craving. I call moments like this “ghost busting.” In getting sober, we leave behind the ghosts of our addiction everywhere. When we encounter these ghosts and are able to walk away still sober, the ghosts lose their power. There are places where I still have bad memories, but they have no power over me anymore. There are also those places that I have no business going back to because those ghosts are too strong and frankly there is no good reason I can imagine for ever going there.

My name is Laurie and I am an alcoholic. It still surprises me the way addiction took over my brain. I had to use every trick in the book to overcome the mental obsession. Tomorrow, we can talk about some of those useful tricks. If you have a special one that worked for you, you can comment here or inbox it to me so I can include it in tomorrow’s post. (And no, I will not disclose who said what, so you don’t have to worry about all my friends knowing you’re a drunk.)

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