5 Ways to Overcome the Hurdles of Getting Sober Young
Getting and staying sober at a young age isn’t without hurdles. But it’s also one of the most rewarding and beneficial things you can do for yourself.
When I was 20 years old, I was given an ultimatum by my parents: Get sober, or get kicked out of the house. I chose to get sober, but I wasn’t happy about it. I didn’t think people got sober before they turned 21. I didn’t think I could have developed a drinking problem at such a young age. I didn’t think I was an alcoholic.
But as I went to treatment and time passed, I realized that getting sober was the right option for me. Sure, I never drank daily, and I didn’t lose anything significant at the hands of alcohol. But I was on the path to both of those things. By admitting I needed help, I was able to save myself a lot of hurt.
I won’t lie — getting sober at any age is difficult. But getting sober at a young age really holds challenges of its own. It’s easy to feel left out or left behind when friends take part in activities that involve alcohol. It can be hard to decide how to celebrate a 21st birthday without going out. It takes time to learn how to be around alcohol and people who are drinking. But it’s possible. Just because you’ve gotten sober young doesn’t mean that your social life is over.
These are just a few of the methods that helped me overcome the obstacles of getting sober young.
1. Rather than thinking, “Poor me,” try thinking, “Lucky me.” Yes, this is easier said than done sometimes. It can be all-too-inviting to have a pity party and feel bad for yourself because you can’t go out and do the same things as your peers. But rather than focus on what you think you’re missing out on, focus on the benefits. Remind yourself that you are lucky you are sober because you are in control of your actions. Tell yourself you won’t have a debilitating hangover the next morning. Remember that you won’t have to apologize for actions you don’t even remember. Really, there are numerous upsides to staying sober. You just have to shift your mindset and allow them to be the focus.
2. Connect with sober peers. I can’t stress how important this is. Being sober isn’t easy. Being sober young is especially difficult. But here’s the thing — you’re not alone. There are many young, sober people out there. You just have to make the effort to connect with them. The internet is a great resource for this. A quick Google search can turn up certain 12-step meetings intended for young people only. You can also discover a plethora of blogs, many written by people who got sober at a young age. Sober peers don’t have to be in your geographic area, either. With social media, it’s easier than ever to connect with people all over the world. There are numerous groups to join online and social media connections to make. Sober peers will understand you in a way that others in your life can’t necessarily understand. They will pull you through the rough times.
3. Be honest with the people in your life. Admitting you’ve gotten sober is tough, I know. Especially early on. But the more honest you are with the people in your life, the more of a chance you give them to understand what you are going through and what you need from them. It’s only through being open with them that you can communicate your needs. People will often surprise you and do everything in their power to make you comfortable and practice kindness. More often than not, you will be met with grace and understanding. And if you’re not, it may be time to re-evaluate that relationship. The people in your life should want what is best for you and do their best to understand that.
4. Figure out a self-care routine. This looks different for everyone, but the idea is the same: You have to take care of yourself in order to maintain your sobriety and be in a good headspace. Maybe self-care means 10 minutes to yourself in the morning, without a TV or phone or distractions. Maybe it means a bubble bath to end the day. Maybe it means making time each day to work out. The way you take care of yourself is up to you. But don’t be afraid to experiment and discover what works best for you and makes you feel the most grounded. You may discover something you didn’t even know you’d enjoy and then be able to incorporate it into your daily routine.
5. Do what works for you rather than what you think you should do. This was by far the toughest for me in early sobriety. At that point, I was under the impression that there was one way to recover and that it involved numerous 12-step meetings per week. But in the end, that method didn’t work for me. I didn’t feel connected. Once I realized that people can choose to recover however they please, I became happier and surer of my recovery. The bottom line is that there is no right way. There is no one way. Every single person’s recovery will look different. Every person will need different things. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. And that’s perfectly OK. At the end of the day, you need to do what you feel is the most beneficial to your recovery.
Getting and staying sober is one of the most rewarding and beneficial things you can do for yourself. In sobriety, you’ll discover parts of yourself you would never have had you still been drinking. You’ll ignite passions that would have been overshadowed by alcohol. You’ll cross paths with people you’ll later not be able to imagine your life without. Recovery has so many benefits. You just have to open your mind and be willing to look for them, even on the tough days. Staying sober will always be worth it.
Beth Leipholtz is a Minnesotan girl, navigating sobriety in her early 20s. She writes often and about an array of topics on her website, lifetobecontinued.com. She graduated from the College of Saint Benedict with a degree in communication and is currently working as a full-time reporter while doing freelance design and writing on the side.