Sobriety Does Not Have to Make You Miserable

So Much Depends on Your Attitude

Shouting Man
You Can Choose to Be Happy. © Getty Images

Most people who find their way into recovery from alcohol and drug abuse are happy that they are free from their addiction and no longer a slave to their drug of choice. After years of being obsessed with seeking and using, they are grateful that they can live more productive lives.

Now that they no longer spend so much time and effort focused on their addiction, many in recovery find they have time for other activities - hobbies, educational pursuits, recreation, or simply spending more time with their families.

But, for others, sobriety can be miserable. Usually, it's because they were forced to stop drinking or using drugs. Perhaps their spouse threatened to leave, their boss threatened to fire them, they got into trouble with the law, or their doctor told them they had to quit.

That was the case with Dave H., a visitor to the Alcoholism site who submitted his story below. His doctor ordered him to stop drinking and eight years later he's still angry about it.

I Had to Stop Drinking

I was functioning alcoholic. Never missed a day of work. Never called in sick. Was the go-to guy when help was needed. My doctor told me I had to stop drinking. I picked up my 8-year chip this week. That is 2,920 days of misery.

I am now just a shadow of my former self. Fun, happiness, joy, friends, family, and neighbors have been replaced with anger, resentment, and bitterness. I am aware of the dry drunk syndrome. However you put it, sobriety sucks.

Replace alcohol with family time? Go to a restaurant? Watching everyone else order drinks is like rubbing salt into a wound. Start a garden? Seeing all my neighbors barbecue and drink is another zinger. How about a sporting event? Get your beer here, ice cold beer! Another waste. A vacation? It is real relaxing as all else on the board can order drinks galore.

No place on the ship to hide.

Standing in line behind several shoppers explaining what fun they will have the rest of the day drinking the alcohol in their cart. This is where I am supposed to be joking along? Here is where they invite me to come along.

It is embarrassing to have to admit drinking is forbidden and please do not feed the animals. Being less than normal is a heavy weight to bear.

Holidays. Mankind could not have come up with a better curse. Listen over and over happy, joy, good times. These words have no meaning anymore. Being happy is no longer my problem.

Keep your comments to yourself. I wonder why the word sober and happy do not appear in the same sentence anywhere in the Bible. God must know something I don't. Friends are the best. When everyone else in the free world is out and about usually with an adult beverage one friend always brings you a glass of water just so you don't feel left out! What a guy.

I have not learned the art of being glad of the number of sober days accumulated. It is a number I'm not proud of or want the entire world to know.

-- Dave H.

Being Happy Takes Effort

There is a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln that says: "People are just about as happy as they make up their minds to be." Being happy takes effort. Staying miserable is a choice.

If you are recovering from alcoholism or drug addiction and you find that being clean and sober is boring or depressing, perhaps the best thing to do is to do something different. It might not matter what it is, just as long as it is different.

Take Up a Hobby: There are a million things that you can do that can take your mind off your situation. Learn how to cook, take up container gardening, try your hand at do-it-yourself projects around the house, or try painting, sewing or woodworking.

Improve Your Health: Your former substance abuse probably had some effect on your health, so developing some kind of exercise program or activity would probably benefit you.

Try running or jogging, or at least walking. Take up yoga or pilates and get the entire family involved in a fitness program.

Learn Something New: You've got more time on your hands now. Take some continuing education courses or find out more about distance learning. Go to business school or even graduate school. Improve your mind and enhance your career possibilities by increasing your education level.

Increase Family Time: Your family relations probably suffered during the years you were addicted. Begin to rebuild those relationships by intentionally spending more time with your family members. Plan projects or activities in which the entire family can participate.

The world is full of things that you can do rather that sitting around being miserable.

If you find that no matter what you try, you still are miserable, you may want to consider psychotherapy which may be able to help you determine what is holding you back from fully enjoying your new sober life.