When Sobriety Sucks

Sobriety can be hard. Like, really hard. To me, a life of sobriety has meant a lifestyle of being awake. All. The. Time. It’s fucking exhausting. I’m tired. Meditation and yoga help to an extent. Quality time with friends and family can be relaxing. Work outs release endorphins. But those solutions are all temporary. When I’m alone on the train ride home, alone in my bed, or alone with my thoughts, anxious feelings that I chose to momentarily ignore manage to get all of my attention. I’m beginning to think that life may be a series of temporary events to get me through to the next one.

When I’m under high levels of stress, my mind still craves numbing. How easy it would be to just give in and drink heavily. To sip Jack Daniels from the bottle. To smoke a joint. To have meaningless, drunken sex with someone; our fleeting interest in one another being our only shared interest. Sometimes those behaviors sound much more attractive than dealing with my harsh reality of anxiety and depression and grieving and self-hate and not enough-ness.

My self-talk tells me that I’ll never be fit “enough”, successful “enough”, beautiful “enough”, or published “enough”. Logically, I’m actually OK with that. Mentally, I don’t know how to turn off that terrible voice that makes me so damn tired of constantly running. I’m in recovery from substance abuse, so I no longer abuse substances. But I’m still trying to figure out how to recover from a lifetime of mentally abusing myself. Here’s four tools that help me get by right now:

1. Instagram Deep Clean

The 24 hour news cycle only exacerbates my stress. I decided to minimize even more BS from coming into my brain by cleaning up my Instagram feed. I unfollowed accounts that make me feel inadequate. Adios to women who post before and after pics where their “before” picture looks better than me at my fittest. Hola to accounts like @bodyposipanda, a consistent stream of body positivity/self-love posts. Adios to corny motivation quotes like “If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough”. Hola to @thesoberglow, a realistic account that documents a strong woman’s sober journey, paired with helpful, grounded quotes like “Dear diary, fuck this shit”. Adios to people who posts anything criticizing The Resistance. Hola to @empoweringfeminists, a well curated guide to the nuances of intersectional feminism. Making a conscious effort to expose myself to grounding information helps me manage my mental health and let myself off the hook, even for just a few minutes of scrolling.

2. Non-Alcoholic Beer

This vice has become my saving grace lately. I hesitated for awhile because it still has a small amount of alcohol, but after doing research, I decided to give it a try. At less than half a percent of alcohol, one of these beers has the same alcohol content as Kombucha. I don’t drink one every day. Sometimes I don’t finish a full NA beer; sometimes I have three. As someone who genuinely enjoys the flavor of beer, there’s something quite soothing about holding the bottle and tasting something so similar. I understand why some people in recovery don’t mess with non-alcoholic beer. It can be a slippery slope. But for me, that’s just where I am in my recovery. Knowing that I have something to mimic “taking the edge” off helps me right now. Some may argue that needing to escape is not truly living a life sobriety. I disagree. Sobriety is messy. It’s imperfect. It’s nonlinear. We are all on different, difficult paths. Having one of these “beers” satisfies me enough to prevent me from going out and getting shit-faced, so I’m grateful for it.

3. Feminism

Yes, feminism helps balance me. I believe that being a woman in recovery can be tougher than people realize. Not only do we have the shared baggage that comes with sobriety (not being able to drink, being ever-present, dealing with the impact of past behaviors, etc…), but we still have the unfair, societal demands that only women face. Society wants me to be successful, but not too successful. Sexy, but not too sexy. Confident, but coy. Fit, but not skinny. I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. Living in a society where I’m constantly being told that I need to enhance my physical appearance is incredibly damaging to me, someone who already thinks she’s not enough.

I’m not saying being a man in recovery is “easy”, I’m just explaining how recovery can be different for women. Kristi Coulter wrote an excellent piece on this issue. The more I learn about feminism, the more I’m able to breathe. Feminism reminds me that I’m enough. It reminds me that, despite what society says, I’m doing just fine. When I’m at a grocery store and I see magazine covers telling me that I need to lose 10 pounds and shame my cellulite and get Botox, I look away and take a deep breath. I think about what’s important to me: writing, my health, and my loved ones. I remind myself that my recovery (and my sanity) are much more important than what society demands of me.

4. Ditching Self-Help Books

As someone who writes a self-help blog, I struggle with the self-help world. I used to binge on self-help books with a similar tenacity that I binged on Jack Daniels. I was reading book after book (and following motivational Instagram accounts), trying to change every aspect of myself. My unhealthy obsession with personal development got even worse when I was introduced to the concept of vision and goal setting and began attending intensive “development” seminars. I started to project my newfound “enlightenment” onto others, trying to change them.

My self righteousness made me just as much of an asshole as getting drunk did. I’m sure there are people out there who can read a self-help book here and there and not obsess over it. Just like there are people out there who can have a few drinks without turning into a jerk. I’m neither of those people. My addiction to personal development had the same roots as my desire to stay drunk and high: I hated who I was. Now I try to approach personal growth through weekly therapy, acceptance, and the whole “one day at a time” mentality. As far as reading goes, now I stick to reading rock n’ roll memoirs, politics, and well-vetted Instagram accounts.


I shared this list of tools because they help me navigate my less than perfect journey through recovery. Like I said before, sobriety is different for everyone. What helps me may not help others. What helps you on your journey?


photo credit: nonlinearknitting

edited by: Tracey Stubbs

2 thoughts on “When Sobriety Sucks

  1. brandonbenz

    Tawny,
    thank you for writing this deeply thought out blog about the struggles with sobriety even after being sober for almost two years. I have recently dropped the self help books and started to become more educated about human rights and social injustices, but recently I decided to read some buddhism/spirituality. Check out Against the Stream by Noah Levine, he was an addict turned buddhist and has some very powerful words.
    Sometimes I tell myself, “if I just had a drink, I could find a girlfriend,” or “Life would be so much easier.” I’m beginning to think this narrative in my head is just a way of the grass being greener on the other side. I had to remind myself last month after 19 months of being sober that I needed to get back to the roots of it all. I used to celebrate each month of sobriety in my own special way but I recently lost that habit. It’s time to acknowledge the dedication we put in to not consuming a liquid distraction, and celebrate the small steps that ultimately lead climbing the top of the mountain. Best of luck to you in your journey and thank you for writing this piece. I can sense some new waves approaching and you’re ready to surf them.

  2. Clare

    I hope no one throws you any shade for the N/A beer – you do you. I felt this post so much – mostly the part about being awake and in your body 24/7. It’s exhausting.

    Hugs to you!

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