Getting through a Sober Night is not easy. For a lot of reasons.
Let me count the ways…
- I deprived my brain of it’s primary nutrient/drug. Simple chemistry can explain the problem there.
- Without being passed out/blacked out, I had to depend on my body’s ability to shut down. It had to re-learn how to do that. Even if I didn’t pass out or black out every night, my circadian rhythms were all messed up. Those needed time to recalibrate.
- All the thoughts and feelings that were stamped down/covered up by alcohol were now running free in my head. THAT WAS SCARY SHIT!!! I just let loose all my worst fears, biggest mistakes, narliest memories, and haunting nightmares. Gee…I wonder why I couldn’t sleep…
- Even though I broke up with the fiance and his best friend dumped me, I did have that DJ to sleep with. But, he was annoying and I didn’t really want him around. This meant that I was going to have to face the WORST part of sober insomnia…BEING ALONE!!!! FUCK!!!!!!!!!!!
- When I combined BEING ALONE with numbers 1 through 4, I definitely had some VERY UGLY Sober Nights and definitely did not get any fucking sleep!
So, what did I do about those wonderful FUN FIVE FACTS above? I got and listened to a lot of advice from people who had been there before me. Here’s some of what they (and I) tried:
- Bubble baths while listening to music that did NOT REMIND ME OF ANYTHING TRIGGERING FROM MY DRINKING/USING DAYS;
- Long showers while listening to music that did NOT REMIND ME OF ANYTHING TRIGGERING FROM MY DRINKING/USING DAYS;
- Calming teas (without caffeine) while reading a book (The Big Book helped later in my sobriety!);
- Talking on the phone with people in recovery until we both couldn’t possibly talk anymore;
- A lot of brisk exercise before doing any/all of the above.
…Most, if not all, of those tricks I listed above did not work for me MOST, IF NOT ALL, of the time (for the first several months).
This is because of the 5 reasons I listed above the 5 tricks.
It took time for me to undo what I did to my brain and body chemistry. And, time takes time. And that SUCKS when you’re really tired!
As an addict/alcoholic, I wanted a quick fix to this problem. I wanted to sleep when I wanted to sleep! When I couldn’t, I wanted a drink or a pill to fix it. That would only PROLONG my problem and push it off to another day. It wouldn’t SOLVE my problem.
Like everything else in my recovery: I had to GO THROUGH the discomfort. Period.
Luckily, so much more is known about how alcohol and drugs affect every system in the body today and how these mess with your sleep. (Actual professionals break it down for you in this article. Just click on it: Treating Sleep Problems of People in Recovery From Substance Use Disorders.)
In addition to the issue of sleep on a Sober Night, there is the issue of how I occupied my time in the evenings before I went to bed.
When I got home from work, I drank… A LOT and would spend time creating a lot of drama with a lot of guys. Even when I was working a full and part-time job, I managed to create a lot of problems for the people in my life. I competed with the women in my life for the attention of the men in my life, so those relationships were crushed.
On the weekends, I would sleep til 1 or 2 in the afternoon. Then, I would organize my drama for the day, obsessively clean something…or not…hook up with a guy, come home, pre-drink while getting ready to go out, get blitzed while out creating more drama, pass/black out, wake up, repeat.
When I got sober, I had to replace these behaviors…obviously. I did what my brother told me to do (see my last post: Sober Day). I got a sponsor. She created a daily schedule with me. That gave me a plan for every day and night. I followed it.
Every night, for the first few months, I went to a meeting. I went out with people after the meeting, or went to my sponsor’s house, or called someone who wasn’t drinking and hung out with them. We went to movies or sober dances. (Yes, there were sober dances. They were AWESOME! There are tons of sober events. You don’t have to go to ANY 12-Step meetings to go to these events either. I promise, they don’t check or card you at the door 🙂
If I couldn’t get to a meeting, I went to a meeting online, then called my sponsor or someone in the program.
I changed people, places, and things. I couldn’t hang out with the same people, in the same bars, drinking soda thinking I was going to stay sober. I needed to meet sober people, in meetings (or in cafes), drinking coffee or tea or whatever to stay sober.
If you don’t want to go to meetings, THAT IS FINE!! Talk to other people in recovery! Just please don’t feel like you have to do this alone.
Luckily, one Sober Night at a time, I caused less drama and started to get more and more sleep. Interesting how those two things went together. Hmmm…
I wish you all the best and many sweet dreams!