Once you embrace sobriety, everything seems a lot better. Finally you can wake up without a hangover. You can maintain normal relationships–relationships which benefit both yourself and the other person. Sobriety is being in touch with reality, and basing your decisions off real consequences and real benefits.
Sobriety for an alcoholic is self-honesty. It’s shutting down that little devil on your shoulder who says Have just one beer! again and again and again. With this triumph comes a sense of power, and from that, depression begins to lift. After all, addiction and mental illness—most often depression—are practically two sides of the same coin.
Sobriety and Depression
Almost any recovering alcoholic can recall how their “downward spiral” began: innocently, at first. Maybe they drank on the weekends—or most days, but just a beer or two. That’s how it can re-start, too. Alcohol dependence is a progressive illness. Either it awakens a predisposition for clinical depression or it speeds it up dramatically. Keeping depression at bay means keeping alcohol out of your brain. The urge to drink will come, especially toward the end of your treatment, when you’re feeling confident—confident enough to believe you can start drinking casually again. It’s insulting to think we need some form of aftercare to keep us on your feet, self-aware, and strong, but we do.
Sobriety and Aftercare
For every stigma attached to mental illness–clinical depression, anxiety, and alcoholism–there is another attached the treatment for that illness. AA is widely criticized for being a “cult.” Pharmaceuticals are mythologized as zombifying-slave-pills. Many just don’t realize that treatment for mental illness is a trial and error process; that they take some time and group effort from the patient, their family, and their healthcare providers.
No two individuals respond to the same prescription or psychologist the same way. The brain is complicated; brains are complicated, because they’re all so different. And that’s what the therapy, the group meetings, the sponsors, and the support network are there for: to provide you with individualized support through the sobriety journey. It’s an ongoing project.
Sobriety and Psychological Struggle
Sobriety won’t be easy. Cravings rarely vanish once rehab is complete; they can persist for weeks, months, sometimes even years. It’s not entirely impossible that you’ll be able to drink socially again sometime in the future, but it’s also up to you—and whoever knows you and cares—to make that call responsibly. Talk to your family often, make sobriety an open subject, and always keep a few outside voices in your head.