Sobriety and Chill: Relearning How to Relax in Sobriety

Relax in Sobriety

So you got sober, and now you don’t know how to relax. I didn’t know how to either. If you are anything like me, my substance was involved in every facet of my life. Whatever my mood and whatever the occasion, I drank. So, once the alcohol was gone, I was completely lost. Not only did I not know how to relax, I didn’t know how to do anything sober. 

I had a whole ritual around my drinking, and every day I went through the same motions. I went to the same stores, used the same favorite cup, sat in the same spot on the couch, etc. When the alcohol was gone, I was completely bewildered. I had spent most of my entire adult life drinking. Now what? What the fuck am I supposed to do now? 

In the twilight of my recovery, I remember feeling punished that I couldn’t drink — and I was angry. Any reminders of drinking made me furious, yet everything reminded me of drinking. I was even triggered by my favorite cup that I drank my beer out of. I got so mad at that cup that I threw it out. It was as if I was trying to erase all memory of my drinking. 

However, the biggest reminder of drinking was ME. And even though I may have wanted to, I couldn’t throw myself out with the fucking cup. So I had to get busy reconstructing my life without alcohol. And that started with changing damn near everything, including my concept of relaxation. But how could I relax without the tools I needed to do so?

A big part of my drinking ritual involved sitting on the couch and either watching TV or staring at my phone. That was my concept of relaxing. In reality, it was just the most convenient way for me to pour a ton of beer in my face while thinking I was relaxing. It wasn’t any of my surroundings or what I was doing that was soothing. My idea of relaxing was just getting drunk. 

When I first got sober, sitting on the couch didn’t feel so relaxing anymore. I was fatigued yet restlessly anxious and wildly bored all at the same time. This brutal combination made it pretty difficult for me to chill out. But it drove me to try different things. The couch didn’t work anymore, so I forced myself into bubble baths, walks, baking, riding my bike, etc.

But early on in my recovery, none of that seemed to calm me down. That’s because drinking had rewired my brain to believe that the only way I could relax was to drink. So there was a lot of internal noise when I tried to do anything but drink. However, I continued to take baths I couldn’t sit in, I continued to go on stupid walks for my stupid mental health, and I continued to poorly bake.

However, as time went on and my fried nervous system started to heal and calm down, I started to enjoy doing the things I forced myself into while my skin was still crawling. The baths started feeling therapeutic, the walks cleansing, the baking fun (and improving). And soon enough, I could sit on the couch and watch TV or stare at my phone and feel relaxed. 

It just took a little time for me to break the habit of drinking and for my brain to heal a bit before I could actually chill out. Of course, it was difficult at first because I knew nothing other than drinking and my brain was torched. So I had to learn how to relax all over again, without the booze. When quitting a hardcore addiction, the relief doesn’t come overnight. I drank like a monster for over twenty years, so of course I couldn’t relax in the early weeks of my recovery.

But eventually, I could. It just took some time and learning. Now, when I’m stressed out, I know I can fall back on the things I started doing early on in my recovery to relax — because while they may not have worked at first, they most definitely work now. 

And I wish I didn’t throw out that goddamn cup. I loved that cup. 

What’s your favorite way to relax in sobriety? Share with us in the comments! 


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