When someone decides to get clean and sober, it may at first be painful and scary.
After the initial period of detox, you begin to feel better physically and emotionally. This is the time that the “pink cloud” sets in. You feel great, are proud of your sobriety, and feel as though you can accomplish anything.
When I first got sober, I was terrified. I was so accustomed to using alcohol as a crutch that I did not know how to live without it. I listened to people in my AA support group and did 90 meetings in 90 days. I got a sponsor. I’m not exactly sure when the pink cloud set in, but I do remember that after the sickness and bad feelings passed, I felt exceptionally happy.
I wanted to make amends to everyone I had hurt. I wanted to do all of the steps and be done with them so I could get better.
By the first week, I was working on the first step: admitting my powerlessness over alcohol. I started running again, planning to run a marathon. I started writing a novel, wanting to get my story out there. I took on more responsibilities at my jobs. (At that time I was working three jobs and was a single mother of five children). I wanted to be the best that I could be at everything.
This was probably not the best thing to do with a few months sober. I am so grateful that I had a good sponsor who helped me achieve balance and aided me in setting more realistic goals for my life.
Making unrealistic goals for ourselves while in recovery from addiction can make us stressed out. Not accomplishing what we set out to do can make us feel bad about ourselves and put us in a negative frame of mind. In our addiction, we did not make good choices. Living a clean and sober life is more than putting down the drug or the drink. It is about learning how to have emotional sobriety so that we can have a happy, content life. It is learning how to have balance and achieve goals without getting ourselves frazzled.
Here are some tips to help achieve more manageable goals:
- Work – Some of us put so many things on our plate that we get exhausted and resentful. Spending our time and days doing things that we really do not want to do, but that we think have to get done right now, can put us in a self-pitying frame of mind. The ‘poor me’ attitude can set up the stage for ‘poor me, pour me a drink’. We have to mop the floors, we have to do all of the laundry, we have to paint that room, we have to clean the windows, the list can go on and on. We may look at others going out, having fun, and enjoying their lives while we work nonstop. If you find yourself getting resentful at all of the work that you have to do, take a step back and assess the situation. How much of this are you putting on yourself? What can you delegate to others? There are many ways to lighten your load. We do not have to do it all right now.
- Lists – Making lists helps to sort out the priorities that we need to accomplish in our daily lives. Keeping short-term and long-term goal lists helps to keep things in perspective and gives a sense of accomplishment when we cross off completed tasks.
- Progress not perfection – Realizing that we are not perfect and that life is a journey goes a long way in keeping realistic goals for ourselves. Having high expectations is not a bad thing in itself, but when we fail to meet them and then berate ourselves, that is not good for recovery or our sense of self.
- Acceptance – When we have done the very best that we could have done at any one thing that we were working on, that is all we can do. Accept whatever the outcome may be. Accept that there are only twenty-four hours in the day. Accept that circumstances may come along in life that may put you behind in your goals.
- Fun – We often get so caught up trying to make up for lost time, trying to be the best person that we can be, trying to achieve all of our goals, that we forget to have fun. Maybe we were using for so long that we do not even know what we like to do for fun. Setting time aside at least once a week to do something enjoyable is healthy. We do not have to be working on our goals every waking minute of every day. We did not get sober to be miserable. We got clean to enjoy life!
If you find yourself overwhelmed with all that you have to do, talk with someone about it. Get another’s opinion on what things are priorities and need to be done immediately, and what can wait. Sharing this with someone who has been sober longer than you have can help immensely. They have been there and have worked through it. Listen to suggestions, and give yourself a break! Life is too short to constantly sweat the small stuff.