Stopped Drinking but Still Sad? How to Find the Joy in Sobriety!


Many people feel sad in sobriety – the first day, the first week and even the first 10 years. There are many reasons for this, and the main reasons have to do with brain chemistry, happy hormones and changes in life – social, environmental, physical, economic and geographic.

Remember that when you quit drinking, you go through a period of very real mourning, of grief, for giving up that friend that stood by you in life, for years, every day, there for you. Now gone. This is a huge trauma in your life and you need to develop the skills to deal with the loss and the pain. Along the way, you will also experience those overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame too, so get help to deal with your sadness if you find it all too much.

Sadness in Sobriety

According to the American National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “Alcohol produces chemical imbalances in specific neurocircuits and can be neurotoxic. Chronic heavy drinking can, for example, damage brain regions involved in memory, decision-making, impulse control, attention, sleep regulation, and other cognitive functions….

The brain mediates our motivation to repeat behaviors that lead to pleasurable, rewarding states or reduce uncomfortable, distressing physical or emotional states. In this context, drinking alcohol can be motivated by its ability to provide both relief from aversive states and reward. These dual, powerful reinforcing effects help explain why some people drink and why some people use alcohol to excess. With repeated heavy drinking, however, tolerance develops and the ability of alcohol to produce pleasure and relieve discomfort decreases.”

A lot of the feelings of sadness in sobriety are related to dopamine issues. Did you know that “ when you quit drinking, you deprive your brain of its primary source of dopamine? With fewer dopamine receptors in the brain, it becomes significantly more difficult to experience pleasure or joy” Sober.ish also notes that people who quit drinking often experience Anhedonia. They feel constantly low, they cannot feel pleasure, forget to laugh, don’t like intimacy and just do things for the sake of doing them, feeling nothing at all.

People in early recovery experience anhedonia because of the way alcohol changes the structure of the brain. If you have felt this sadness, or are feeling it now, please research the reasons, and find natural ways to regain that ‘high’ in life – it means that every day is a challenge and that means we can set new goals to motivate us to be happy in our new sober lives!

Beat the Blues the Natural Way!

So, let’s look at 10 natural ways to beat the sobriety blues!

1.    Create a routine that you love every day

This will help you to stay on track with you, your own needs. Routine helps you get past the blocks you created when drinking – such as that need for a 5 pm glass of Chardonnay. Your new routine will help you to destress, enhance self-belief and help you look forward to every day. Set up creative ways to improve your self-esteem such as starting an art project, walking the dog, volunteering somewhere, trying a new diet and starting a garden.  You want to set up self-trust and train your brain in a can-do way to avoid depression and relapse.

2. Create fascinating and achievable goals every day

Being sober is challenging and should be fun – but we all know that depression looms constantly due to brain changes, releasing our false beliefs, setting up new beliefs and just trying to fit into a world where you don’t drink but everyone else seems to be drinking. Goals could therefore include meeting new sober friends and volunteering at a place where food is served, animals are cared for, children are educated or people need you and your kindness. Set up goals that make you leap out of bed every day so that you can enjoy them and feel useful and loved. We all make mistakes but the trick is to let them go and move forward. Tick off your goals every day in a diary or journal.

3. Volunteer somewhere local that is fun and loving

Make time to do something for others that is not paid. We all work for money and sometimes that work becomes unbearable, overwhelming and boring because it is a daily grind. If we love what we do, we get through every day easier and if you don’t love your work, maybe you will love a volunteering project in your area. This could be a weekend thing, an evening thing or a once a month thing but it is useful to have a project where you give of your very best and people recognise you and appreciate you. This removes the depression from your day and helps to rebuild your self-esteem and lightens your mood too. Move the focus from you to others.

4. Try aromatherapy one day

Many of us don’t experiment enough with natural plant medications and oils – nature’s bounty. Aromatherapy is known to cure many moods, depression and anxiety. Plant oils in their concentrated form are so beneficial but can be dangerous too so we need to know how to use them. Visit an aromatherapist in your area to find out how.  Shehan Karunaratne says that “essential oils such as clary sage, basil, ylang-ylang, lavender, sandalwood, patchouli, geranium, and chamomile all have healing properties and are commonly used in the treatment of depression and anxiety.”

5. Change the way you eat every day

Become aware of what you are eating everyday and research what it is that could be making you feel sad. Foods can affect our moods and if we are not getting the right nutrition, we can get depressed. Adding too much sugar or caffeine to our diets can add to feelings of stress, anxiety and depression as we are fiddling with our blood sugar levels and our brain chemistry. If we add good vitamins and minerals like zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and folic acid to our diets, we can then fight those feelings of sadness. Eat nutritious whole foods from mother nature – fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains, lean meats, and lots of water can make you feel more energized, happy, and healthy.

6. Create your own exercise programme every day

Boost those happy hormones with activities that you love doing – it could be running, going to the gym, playing a team sport, yoga, kickboxing, hiking, rock climbing, dancing, deep sea diving, swimming or other – whatever it is, just do it and do it every day. “Regular exercise and physical activity produce endorphins, chemicals that reduce stress, relieve pain, improve sleep and cognitive abilities, and elevate depressed mood.” Get outside, get into nature, and feel the difference in your mood and attitude right away!

7. Find the sun and stay in the sun for a good hour or more

The sun is a panacea and if we get outside, we immediately feel brighter, better, warmer and happier. Be careful of burning in the sun so wear a hat and suncream if it is really hot but don’t let that stop you from enjoying the sun. The sun affects the body in so many ways, regulating our sleep patterns, helping us to digest and use foods for energy, stabilising weight and fitness levels and more! We get Vitamin D from the sun which builds bones and teeth and helps us fight disease by strengthening our immune systems – so get outside every day.

8. Get a pet that you can love unconditionally

Having a pet adds value to your life in that you now have to care for something needy and something that loves you for who you are, no questions asked, no conditions attached. Pets snuggle with you, keep you warm, love you, and are always there for you as a sure presence in your home. People with pets are less depressed and have more purpose in life to walk their dogs, feed them, and be there for them, not out all night or ‘out of it’ on alcohol!

9. Connect with similar people – find your tribe

Find a group of friends or even one or two friends who are like you – sober and healthy and keen to try new things every day. Find someone who you can be out with and trust and have fun with – male or female, old or young, it simply does not matter, just connect with someone every day and share your feelings openly. It is good to feel part of a group so if that means starting a new group or joining a new group, just do it! It could be a hiking group, diving group, writing or art group, a sports team or a few friends at the gym. It could change your life into a happy one!

10. Listen to music every day

You may love classical music, rock or jazz, hip-hop or reggae but whatever music you love, play it every day and it will lift your mood and provide an emotional release. Create your own playlist to listen to when you work, run, shower, or whatever but it can really help you to beat depression. Some people choose to meditate every day which is extremely beneficial so try that too, to music if you will.

Getting sober and staying sober is a challenge, creates a new lease on life and changes who we are. Be ready for those changes, tackle them head on and take up the reigns of your new life wholeheartedly. Avoid being a victim and be a hero!

How is your mental health today?

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The 11 Year Fact

Did you know that the average dependent drinker will struggle alone for 11 years before reaching out for help?

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