Coping In Sobriety

Clean and Sober
Clean and Sober (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I first got sober, it was pretty easy for me.  I’m not bragging, but I had hit such a low point that I figured getting clean and sober might well be worth a shot.  The one thing I hadn’t discovered in my new sobriety was ways to cope with life on life’s terms. This was definitely something I needed to figure out quickly.

See, life just kept on happening to me. It didn’t matter that I was clean and sober, or that I was trying to do the next right thing.  It didn’t matter that I was making a valiant effort to see my kids, to stay away from people, places and things or that I was working a rigorous twelve-step program.

My car still broke down, I still got yelled at by my boss and I still had (very) bad hair days.

Of course I would go into the “poor me” cloud.  “Hey, I’m doing the right thing… what’s this crap all about?” I had this grandiose sense of self (huge ego!) that since I finally started to do the right thing (after years of doing very wrong things) that I should get a reprieve of sorts and nothing bad should ever happen to me ever again.  Ever.

Reality check: shit happens. I had to deal with life on life’s terms and I had to find out pronto how to do that.

The only way I could do that was to go to meetings, be around other sober people who had serious clean time and work a good program.

I learned that drinking or drugging was not a coping tool.  It just added fuel to the already out of control fire that raged inside me.

I learned that I should start writing again and that I am a pretty good photographer.  I learned my triggers and how to avoid them most of the time.  Sometimes triggers still invaded my head space (usually when my mind was idle) and I learned that the best thing to do in that situation was to call another alcoholic in recovery. Maybe they could help me.  Turns out, I was helping them just as much as they were helping me.

I couldn’t wrap my head around that one.  How the hell could I possibly help someone with years of sobriety when I was so new? Now that I have over six years clean and sober, I know how.  Because when I talk to someone new in sobriety it puts things in perspective and reminds me of the way I used to think. I no longer think that way.

Some of the ways I learned to cope:

  • Go to a meeting. Talk to another alcoholic in recovery.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Write.
  • Go for a drive.
  • Listen to music.
  • Go to a park.

I can always come back to the problem later.  Obsessing and keeping the problem at the forefront of my mind will not help me.  And trust me, I am huge on obsession.  After all, I am an alcoholic and everything is about me.

If I had a dollar for every time I asked someone “What’s wrong?” with the presumption that it had to be something I did, I would be retired and living in my dream cabin in the mountains.

See, another HUGE thing I had to learn to cope with was myself.  I had to learn that people pleasing was not a coping tool, rather a way to mask whatever guilt or remorse I was feeling. I had to cope with that.  I had to learn how to recognize the difference between actually coping and sweeping the problem under the rug or enabling someone or using other poor methods:

  • drinking
  • drugging
  • silent scorn
  • blame
  • defensiveness
  • ignoring the feeling
  • manipulation

None of these ways worked!  These were not coping tools, these were character defects that I used to hurt people to get my way, pretending I was right (when I knew I was wrong).  Because as long as I was sure other people knew I was right, I felt better, if only for a short time.

How do you cope with day-to-day life or problems that come down your road?

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Author: D. A. M. Steelman

I could get through life just fine quoting heavy metal lyrics.

9 thoughts on “Coping In Sobriety”

    1. Hey Renee… ah, the craving for external validation.. this has been my kryptonite for decades! Am working on it though. I think that is awesome you are learning how to meditate and learning about acting out… 🙂

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  1. I take things as they come (ODAT) and always try to apply a slogan. I also always try to stay positive and look at the plusses instead of the minuses. Great post, Darlene. Something tells me this is going to an awesome month!

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    1. That sounds like a great attitude Joanna!! ODAT is really the only way to live.. I mean, yeah sometimes I worry about the future, but that’s because I am human.. I just have to keep things in perspective..

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      1. Perspective–especially the How Important is it? part for me–is huge. Half or more of the battle, the way I see it.

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  2. Hi Darlene,

    I just wanted to drop by and give you a HUGE thank you for posting back to my blog (WordPress kindly sent me a pingback notice this morning… so helpful!).

    As you know from my blog post, my big ‘danger’ moment is when I feel trapped or helpless or overwhelmed – that is when I really want to run, escape, withdraw and go in to a small dark room in my head and regroup. I see now that for me, alcohol let me do all those things.

    So, when life is too much, I need to realise that, accept that I do not always need to be in total control, and count the seconds. Purchasing a watch with a second hand is the best thing I did, in some ways: seeing the physical passing of time helps me.

    I have been sober for just over 8 years, so now I have a life that is built on solid an healthy foundations, and I have good habits. I’ve done lots of hard work, and the worst in behind me. The danger now, oddly, is that I worry about being too complacent: that I forget how to cope with my urges to drink, because they come so rarely. But I have heard of people who have been sober for 20 years, 35 years, 50 years, going back to it. It never really lets go.

    So, now I focus on helping others, if I can, and that helps me cope with my own behaviours and patterns and character traits that are still my ‘go to’ door when stressed or tired or overwhelmed.

    And finally (holy epic saga, Batman!), I wanted to congratulate you on your 6+ years of sobriety. You must be so proud of yourself. It is so generous of you to share your experiences, and I very much hope that you help others.

    I’ll follow your blog, and I’ll drop by once in a while to see what’s going on.

    Take care,
    Michelle

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    1. Hey Michelle. my pleasure to stop by.. feeling trapped is definitely a trigger.. congrats on your eight years and never get complacent! I don’t hit as many meetings as I used to (working alot) but when I am starting to feel itchy or really emotional I always hit a meeting or call someone in the program.. You’re right about people with long-term sobriety going out… I don’t understand it either, but I’m glad they share those experiences.. I am only an arm’s length away from a drink (slogan in the rooms). Take care and thanks so much for sharing on my blog! 🙂

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  3. I used to do meditation and yoga when I found it hard to cope, but they kind of went by the sidelines the past few years. 2013 needs to see me bringing those methods of coping with everyday stress and more back into the picture.
    Your posts are really inspirational.

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