We all need support. And yes, the best support usually comes from people who have walked in your shoes and really understand what you’re going through. But what about the other important people in your life? What if they don’t seem able or even willing to support you? Maybe they feel threatened by the changes they see in you or maybe they feel annoyed by the inconvenience or discomfort it brings them. Maybe they feel confused by the fact that such a seemingly simple endeavor (stop. drinking. alcohol.) appears to require a whole slew of secondary changes along with it. What then?
How do you explain what kind of support you need and why you need it? How do you help them understand that to maintain continuous long-term sobriety, you have to change other aspects of your life?
I think it goes a little like this:
This sober thing is a process. In the very beginning, it’s both terrible and fantastic. Both frightening and a huge relief. Then things even out and it’s mostly good but still sometimes terrible. The problem is that the terrible parts keep coming back. You get sad or bored or scared or angry and you begin to think a life without alcohol is unrealistic. You question your choice to be sober. This can be scary. But after a while you start to figure out how to avoid these thoughts by heading them off at the pass. You make changes to your routine, your coping strategies, and how you choose to spend your time. And it helps. A lot. But these changes are bound to affect other people, and you know it. And this makes it even harder.
The thing is, most of us who’ve found ourselves in some sort of misery regarding alcohol got to that place via a long slow journey along a road paved with unhealthy routines, maladaptive coping strategies and alcocentric pastimes. And so these things have to change for us if we’re going to sustain our new sober lifestyle for the duration.
What does this mean for the people we care about? Well, we need them to try to be patient. And understanding. Invite us to things, but don’t take it personally if we don’t go or if we leave early. Understand that you might see a little less of us for a while, but it won’t be this way forever. We need some time to figure out what needs to change and what doesn’t. Eventually it will be easier. In the mean time, please try not to compare what we are doing (or not doing) with someone else you know who has quit drinking. We each have our own issues to deal with and it’s hard to know by looking at someone what’s really going on with them.
All we really need is simple support. Ask us how we are. Tell us you care about us. Say you’ll always be here. And pretty soon you’ll see that our relationship is healthier and stronger than ever before. And we will be so very grateful that you stuck around.
Happy Sober Tuesday,