Kate's Blog

How to deal with your emotions, sober

We are obsessed with being happy. Magazine headlines are always promising to tell us ‘how to become the happiest person you know’. The whole wellness industry is saturated with mood booster foods, juices and quick tips to keep us in a constant state of elation. Our Facebook feeds ooze news of other people’s constant joy. Do you know what the most successful song of 2014 was? Happy by Pharrell Williams, of course.
So it’s no wonder that when sadness, disappointment and loneliness set in, the feelings are deeply uncomfortable. No one taught us how to deal with these emotions at school. We live in a culture that conditions us to avoid such unpleasantness. As a result, we have become masters in dodging our own feelings. When it comes to numbing out and escaping ourselves, alcohol is a pretty efficient tool. There’s a reason why we call it ‘drowning our sorrows’.
When we stop drinking we lose our numbing shield (alcohol) and enter the rollercoaster world of real emotions. On the whole, this is a good thing. It makes the fun, happy times better, clearer and more joyful. There is a deep satisfaction in knowing that what you’re feeling is the truth; that your emotions have not been altered by a chemical substance. But sobriety can also bring those slightly less pleasant, squashed down emotions bubbling up to the surface.
So how do you ‘feel your feelings’ in early sobriety without spending a week in bed, crying? If you’re trying to calm your sober psyche, here are some healthier fixes:
1: Sleep
Naps are not just for babies. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, upset or just plain tired, make sure you’re getting enough sleep at night or take a power nap during the day. Studies show that a 20 minute nap can give you an energy boost and reduce stress. And there’s something about sleeping on an issue that puts everything into perspective when you wake up.
2: Exercise
This is about the saintliest kind of fix there is because it improves your mental health whilst getting you a killer body in the process. Even mild exercise makes a difference. If the idea of getting on the treadmill turns you off, then keep experimenting until you find something you really love. Weights, dance classes, walking, yoga and tai chi all hit the spot.
3: Talk
You know what they say about a problem shared? As drinkers, we tend to be very good at isolating. Whilst it might be tempting to hide at home with the phone off, you’ll feel better for spending time with people you like or talking to a friend.
4: Meditation
It will help you be calmer, happier and less emotional. Don’t dismiss meditation as something that’s just for hippies – it’s become very mainstream now. Think of it as a work out for the mind. If you treat your head right, everything else will follow.

5: Massage 
Human touch, in a context that is safe, friendly and professional, can be incredibly therapeutic and relaxing. But it does more than ease tired muscles and help you to relax – a study in the International Journal of Neuroscience found it can ease anxiety and depression too.
6: Laughter 
They say laughter is the best medicine.
It’s been scientifically proven that laughter can boost immune response, increase blood flow, lower blood sugar, and promote relaxation and sleep. Plus, you get the same benefits when you make other people laugh. So next time you’re feeling down, make time to hang out with your funniest friends, or stick on your favourite comedy box sets.
So there are six suggestions – but what works for you? Let me know what your healthy sober fixes are in the comments below 😇

Hi, I'm Kate

I founded The Sober School to show you there’s another way out of your shame that doesn’t involve AA or rehab. 


10 responses

  1. Write it down. maybe one day there’ll be an article, or a book, there- if not it’s a reminder to your future self about how far you’ve come and why you’re not going back. I cherish a letter I wrote to myself in the first days of sobriety. Walking is good, too

  2. Reading, journaling, cooking, cleaning, running, coloring (they have adult coloring books now!), spending time with a pet – the list is endless. Calling someone is especially helpful as you said – just telling another (safe) person helps so much!

  3. Could anyone recommend an online forum for sober beginners to talk to others struggling with a drinking problem? I’m not ready to face a room of addicts but would appreciate speaking to others like myself online.

  4. Last month was the first time in a long time I had to deal with my emotions sober. Truthfully, I hated every minute of it. However, I decided to let myself feel my emotions and rediscovered my love for reading, journaling, meditating, and of course, coloring.

  5. I am so happy I found your website Kate! I’m a 24 year old college student and I’m struggling to quit drinking every night. Like you said I use alcohol to mask my emotions, but its starting to catch up with me physically and emotionally. I’m ready for a change!

  6. The article really hit the spot this morning. I find myself searching the web on work days to find my inspiration for action. It so happens that as I leave the office homeward bound, I’m wondering if I will go out tonight… Most times I do. Tomorrow.
    I hope that I can carry statement below home with me for ‘Today’.
    “There is a deep satisfaction in knowing that what you’re feeling is the truth; that your emotions have not been altered by a chemical substance”.

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