Many of us in recovery started drinking or using drugs at a young age—meaning when we get sober, we have a lot of “firsts.” This means the first time you experience each life event without drinking or using. It might be the first time you go to a party sober, or date sober—or even feel a particular emotion sober.
A Year Full of Firsts
The first year or two are full of these experiences, and that’s a good thing. These are opportunities to grow, face fears, strengthen your sobriety, and practice healthy coping skills. In fact, the firsts are often what help you build these skills, as you might rely on them to help you prepare.
Some of my fondest memories of early sobriety are of firsts, even if they felt challenging at the time. I remember those moments most because they were crucial for my growth. In a few months I’ll be six years sober, and I know I might continue to go through sober firsts occasionally.
For instance, last year was my first time coping with a health crisis sober. Life continues after you get sober, and you learn how to live it fully, without drinking or using drugs through it.
Practicing Coping Skills
Now I know I have the tools to handle firsts. If you’re in early recovery, don’t worry if you feel overwhelmed by each new thing. That’s normal. You’ll learn what works best for you in every situation by going through it and trying different ways of coping.
Finding time to meditate regularly is a great way to up your emotional resilience, so that when the next nerve-wracking sober experience arises, you can feel more centered. Regular meditation changes multiple parts of the brain, including areas involved in emotional regulation.
Experiencing Firsts on Your Timeline
That said, some firsts should only happen when you’re ready. Some you may not be able to control, but others—like going out to a bar or party—may need to wait. A therapist can help you build awareness of your emotions and boundaries so that you can understand whether you’re ready.
Journaling in the days before the event—with specific questions about how you feel emotionally and physically when you think of going—can also help you gain clarity. It’s important not to push yourself before you’re ready; everyone’s timeline is different.
Even if you aren’t in recovery, doing anything for the first time can be scary. Add to that coming out of a period of your life where you used drugs or alcohol to cope; facing anything for the first time sober can be terrifying. But it is also a gift that brings a lot of strength and growth.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you building skills to cope with anything sober. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.