The Impossible Question: When Will I Feel Better?

When will I feel better?

When people first get sober, they often ask, “when will I feel better?” This is a very logical question because when people don’t feel good, they obviously want to feel better. And almost always, early recovery doesn’t feel good and people want to feel better right away.

Unfortunately, there’s no straightforward answer to this frequently asked question. Surely, if day 70 sober was the bookmark for feeling better in a recovery journey, more people would power through until then — and a lot more people would get sober. But that’s not the case. 

There’s no playbook to recovery, as your sobriety journey is as unique as your fingerprint. It’s different for everyone. It’s also contingent upon other factors like duration of use, severity of use, and overall mental and physical health. Those circumstances weigh heavily into a recovery improvement timeline. 

Early recovery can be an exhausting, painful slough. Aside from the pain of any physical withdrawal, people often feel depressed, anxious, fatigued, confused, and sometimes, like they’ve been punished. There’s also managing cravings and sometimes, early recovery boredom. Compound all this weight onto one little soul and a day can feel very long and unbearable. Stretched out over days, weeks, or even months and it’s no wonder people in early recovery are panicked about when they can expect to feel better.

Those who are brand new to recovery often assume that once they put the drink or drug down, everything will instantly get better. If things don’t quickly improve, impatience can lead to swift relapse, as people can give up when they don’t immediately feel better after a few, short days. 

Early recovery is also full of curveballs. Early on, you could feel absolutely miserable one day and catch a pink cloud the next. A pink cloud is a phenomenon that happens to some people in early recovery that makes them feel exhilarated, euphoric, and full of optimism about their sobriety. But while a newcomer should enjoy a pink cloud if they catch one, it can vanish just as quickly as it appeared. This can feel discouraging and deflating.

But, even though it may not feel like it, you are making progress toward feeling better every day you stay sober. The physical and mental pain some people experience is the beginning of the healing process. Behind all the noise, the brain is rewiring itself, the body is healing, and the spirit is growing back. It’s important to remember that recovery from a substance use disorder takes time. There’s an expression used in recovery, “We walked into the woods, we have to walk out.” Surely, a substance use disorder spanning years or decades is not going to heal overnight. 

It’s totally normal to feel bad early on in recovery, but perseverance is key. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and you will get there. Relapse rates are high in early recovery, because many people can’t tolerate the pain and get impatient with their progress. But you can and with some time, you will be feeling better. Just take it one day at a time, try to practice acceptance about your situation and have faith that you will be OK. 

How much time? Stay sober and find out how long it takes for you. Then one day, you’ll be able to triumphantly tell a newly sober person when you felt better, followed by everything I just said.

When did you start feeling better in your recovery journey? Let us know in the comments!  


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