by Erin Gilday
Whether you are newly sober or just sober-curious, you’re inevitably going to have ideas about what you think sobriety looks like.
These ideas about sobriety and what sobriety looks like will come at you from all angles, whether you want them to or not.
Some of these ideas will come from friends, family, acquaintances, TV shows, addiction literature, self-help groups, or the dank basement that is your subconscious. Some are even going to reach you via the wisdom of crappy internet memes or late-night Facebook posts.
Not all of these ideas are helpful. Many of them aren’t even true.
You already know that your mindset is one of your biggest assets in getting sober. And if you’re mindset is being influenced by, well...bullshit...then it’s going to be tough to stay clean.
Here, in no particular order, are some of the most unhelpful and untrue myths out there about getting sober.
Sobriety Myth #1 - You Won’t Have Any Friends
This is a biggie.
By the time your life is semi- (or fully) consumed by addiction, pretty much every aspect of your life is tied up in thinking about, acquiring, and/or using your substance of choice. This very often includes what’s left of your social life.
It’s easy to let the friendship question make you second guess your decision to get sober.
The questions start: Who will you hang out with when you get sober? What will you even do together? How do you make friends sober?
Here’s the truth: you will probably have to get new friends when you get sober but they’re going to be better friends.
The friends you used to drink or use with are probably not going to know how to support your new lifestyle. Most of them aren’t going to get it. They’re going to feel attacked and threatened by your sobriety. They’re not going to want to suddenly quit using and join you in sober friendship mode. And being around people who are still using is probably not going to work for you - especially at first.
That’s the bad news.
Here’s the good news: You will make new friends when you’re sober, and they’re going to actually be better friends because of it.
These friends aren’t keeping one eye on the bartender or one eye on their cell phone, waiting for that text. These friends aren’t going to disappoint you when they lie to you or steal from you or use you. These friends are going to want to hang out with you first and foremost, and not just as an afterthought.
You’re going to make new friends because now that you’re sober, you’re going to have a ton of free time to do other things: join an exercise group, take a meditation class, attend meetings (of whatever kind), volunteer, go back to school, pick up ecstatic dance or learn taekwondo.
You’re going to meet people at these things and the vast majority of them aren’t going to be addicts. A couple of them might even be your friend.
Sobriety Myth #2 - You’ll Never Have Real Fun Again
You’re never going to have “fun” blacking out and waking up in your own body fluids ever again.
Addiction might not look like “fun,” especially as it progresses, but for a lot of addicts, the intention to have some “fun” (and enjoy the stress relief that goes along with it) plays a large part in using.
That intention just doesn’t usually work out for addicts.
Unfortunately, many “normal” people who use drugs and alcohol casually are able to have fun using, so it makes sense that our ideas about fun are tied up in drugs and alcohol. The mainstream version of “fun” - going out, taking a vacation, going to a party, watching the game, getting together with the girls - almost always involves substances of abuse.
You go out, you drink. It’s expected.
Here’s the truth: you will have to re-learn how to have fun without your substance of choice. Mainstream society isn’t going to really support you on this.
It will take a little while to remember how to have fun sober. If anyone is telling you otherwise, they’re not being totally honest. It’ll take a minute, but you will remember how.
Whether it’s painting or singing or playing with legos, we’ve all had fun in our lives without substances, even if it was a long, long time ago.
You’ll get that back. The fun you have will be reliable, safe, within your control, and pure. And you’ll remember it in the morning.
Sobriety Myth #3 - Sobriety Will Destroy Your Love Life
(A note for couples: If your significant other is active in their addiction and they’re not willing to get sober with you, see Sobriety Myth #1. Just like the platonic friends who you use with, you’re probably going to have to get rid of addicted significant others, and that is going to put a wrecking ball through your love life for a bit. I’m sorry. It’s worth it.)
For you single people out there, I know what you’re thinking.
How will I ever date sober?
Here’s the truth: There’s a lot of catches out there who prefer sober dates.
Congratulations! You have just dramatically improved your dating pool by weeding out people who don’t value sobriety.
Yes, dating can be awkward and doing it sober makes it slightly more awkward. But you’re able to get a much better read on people when you’re sober and you’re able to spot the red flags you would have missed while using coming a mile away.
The intimacy you built with your date over dinner? You’ll know it’s real because you’re building it sober.
The decision to go home with your date? You’ll know it was a clear-headed, consensual one because you made it sober.
The adult fun you have at their house? You’ll know you were at peak performance because, yep, you did it sober.
Sobriety Myth #4 - You Won’t be Able to Handle the Stress of Life Sober
Drugs of abuse trick us into making us think that they are helping with stress. They’re not. They’re actually altering our brain chemistry to produce more stress in the long-term.
In reality, addiction is making our stress worse and leaving us less equipped to deal with life as it comes without turning to drugs and alcohol.
Here’s the truth: Consistently dealing with stress in only one way - by using - robs us of the opportunity to learn how to deal with it in new ways.
Whether it’s mindfulness, exercise, counseling, artistic expression, music, conversations with a friend, going for a walk, doing breathing exercises, working on a fun project, or watching ASMR videos on Youtube, there are literally hundreds of ways to deal with stress that you probably haven’t tried.
Learning a new skill is tough but you can do it. You’re stronger than you think.
Sobriety Myth #5 - You’ll Have to Become a Completely Different Person
A lot of people have an idea of a “sober” person in their mind.
For some, it’s that preachy aunt who has been rabid about NA since the early 80’s. For others, it’s that dry drunk coworker who is sober now but is still a pain in the ass at staff meetings. Some people think of that “perfect angel” they know who does hours of selfless volunteering at the church thrift shop now that they are born again and sober.
It’s no wonder some people can’t see themselves getting sober. With role models like these, who can blame them?
Here’s the truth: You can get sober and still be yourself. 100%. You’ll actually become MORE like yourself as you get sober.
There is no one way to get sober. Forget the ideas you have about what a sober person looks like. You don’t need to become someone else to get sober. Yes, you’ll learn some new tricks, but you’ll actually expand into who you really are once you let drugs and alcohol stop calling all the shots.
You’ll find that some people in early sobriety do try to “be someone else” as they try to adjust to their new identity and reality. From the outside, this can look and feel forced and it can turn sober-curious people off.
Others will be a bit too overzealous in their total adoption of group think. Whether they’re part of a religious institution or some self-help organization, these people will appear to lose of bit of their old selves in the process of getting sober. This is usually temporary and by no means universal. For some people, it works best this way. If that doesn’t work for you - skip it.
In sobriety, YOU DO YOU.
Sobriety Myth #6 - You Don’t Deserve Sobriety
You don’t hear a lot of people say this one out loud, but, boy, is this a doozy.
Being caught in the spiral of addiction sucks. You disappoint other people - but especially yourself - a lot. You have a massive amount of negative self-talk brewing on the daily. You’re sure to criticize yourself before someone else beats you to the punch.
If you’re dealing with other mental health issues - and most of us are - you might be getting an extra helping of self-loathing.
It’s easy to start feeling like you, not the drugs, are the problem.
Here’s the truth: We all deserve a life free of addiction. We all are capable not only of learning how to function but actually THRIVE without drugs and alcohol.
You’ve made some mistakes, sure, but don’t believe the hype. You’re a human and you’re no better or worse than the rest of us.
There’s nothing written in the stars that says your life has to be this way. You won’t always feel this way. It’s temporary. Millions of people just like you have come back from this - and worse.
Bust Your Own Myths
This list is a start, but it’s not exhaustive. There are so many other sobriety myths out there that stop people from pursuing sobriety.
If you’ve got any other myths holding you back, write them down. Sometimes just looking at them on paper is enough to realize they’re ridiculous. If that doesn’t work, share them with a friend or counselor and see if they can help bust them for you. Sometimes an outside perspective is all you need.
As you continue on your journey, I hope you keep finding more myths to bust - and surprising yourself about how awesome sobriety can be!