Stress. The one word in my vocabulary I probably mutter about ten times a week. However, since becoming sober, I say the word, considerably less than when I was drinking every day. I only now try and use it, when I truly mean it. Instead of using it as a cover-up, for feeling hungover.
What is stress?
Mind.org states that stress can be difficult to pinpoint, despite us all knowing what a certain level of stress feels like. It can include:
- Situations or events that put pressure on us – for example, times where we have lots to do and think about, or don’t have much control over what happens.
- Our reaction to being placed under pressure – the feelings we get when we have demands placed on us that we find difficult to cope with.
We all live a fast-paced life now. Our commute to college, University and work is filled with networking, checking social media or catching up on e-mails and meeting deadlines. We scroll, like, tweet and screenshot. Do we have an off switch? or do we just continue going at a fast pace, until we eventually get stressed. We need our brains to relax, to switch off and to give us a sense of escapism away from the busy lives we lead.
When I was drinking every day, I used to use the fact I was stressed as an excuse to buy a bottle of wine , and obviously just one extra in case I ran out, on the way home. I could have had the most minimal amount of stress that day, but it was a catalyst in fuelling my desire for a drink. If anyone questioned why I was buying wine on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday etc. My go to phrase would be: “I’ve had a really hard day, I’m stressed”. Norma from the local shop, would look at me with disbelief, concern and judgement, each night I bought the wine and reeled off that phrase. I could have had a great day, filled with creativity and positivity. However, I would not really have cared to notice that, because drinking and being stressed was an acceptable combination, or so I thought.
The start of sobriety is hard. There’s no sugar coating it. It’s really hard. I expected to wake up on day three, and experience overwhelming feelings of contentment, and a sense of freedom. I did to an extent, but physically I also felt extremely lethargic, agitated and at a bit of a loss. This is normal. It is just your bodies way of realigning and readjusting itself. It is slowly but surely normalising, and unfortunately you have to go through a state of withdrawal, before it gets better.
There were times in my first couple of weeks of sobriety where I was stressed. Like, really stressed. I was in the process of buying my first home, working well over my full time hours and trying to fit in seeing family, friends and my hobbies at the same time. I felt overwhelmed, but kept strong and focused knowing that sobriety would be worth it. That I would reap the rewards of the state of being sober.
How do you relieve the stress in the first few weeks and going forward without the wine?
- READ – Anything, and everything you can get your hands on. I specficially focused on ‘quit lit’. I searched for books that would inspire, and feed my mind with what I needed, an excuse not to drink. Even if you immerse yourself in someone else’s story for thirty minutes, you can relate to their high’s, lows and level of expectancy and escape your own mind, at least for a little while. You need to change the habit, to break the habit. I chose to sit and read, when I felt triggered, and when I craved alcohol. I poured my passion into the pages, and it worked. Reading other peoples perspectives about how giving up alcohol changed their lives, has a big impact. Maybe it could on you too?
- BATHE – In my first couple of weeks of sobriety I bathed. Oh, I bathed. An impactful part of Catherine Gray’s ‘The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober’ is the prompt to have a bath, when you feel like having a drink. It may seem small, or even necessary, but it is really important. If you popped the cork at seven o’clock every night, you are going to feel at a loss when that time comes around when you are first sober. If you form a new habit, by taking a bath every night at the time you would be drinking, you will start feeling relaxed. Believe me, it works. The first few weeks of sobriety is all about self-care and self-appreciation. You are vulnerable, and the warmth and comfort of a luxurious bubble bath evokes memories of being a child, free and relaxed. It is an instant stress reliever, and makes your skin silky soft too. Bonus.
- TALK – Social interaction is important for mental health and wellbeing, and also stress. You have so many feelings bubbling away inside you. Do I feel happy? Do I feel sad? Am I going crazy? We have all been there after a stressful day. We feel enraged with emotion, and we want to relax with our friend, the mysterious Merlot. Merlot doesn’t talk back, she just makes us feel better, instantly. She is warm and silent. She is also extremely self-destructive, when in the company of constantly. Talking is a great stress reliever. At first, you don’t even have to physically speak words, to talk. There are so many online communities sat behind a screen who are willing to listen, give great advice and create a safe space of empathy for you. Even if you just want to type loads of expletive words about how you are feeling inside, guaranteed, someone sat at the other side of that screen will relate and comfort you. It’s good to talk.
“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers”
– Fred Rogers
Happy Monday, I am now going to go and bathe and read.