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6 Unexpected Changes in Your First Year Sober

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Sobriety can be really daunting. If you’re like me, the prospect of staying sober a whole year can seem downright impossible.

When I first got sober, I spent many hours with a Styrofoam cup of coffee in my hand—filled half way so my shaking hand wouldn’t spill it—thinking about what life will be like sober. I can admit that I didn’t think much of the sober lifestyle. I thought being sober would mean retreating to the Himalayan mountains to live some monkish existence removed from my fellow man.

I wish I were exaggerating here. But I literally could not imagine living alongside other human beings without resorting to drinking and drugging to cope.

It turns out that sobriety was nothing like I thought it would be. It was so much more.

1. Sobriety makes you more social

I was the guy who snuck a few drinks on his own before pregaming with friends.

If you don’t know—I might be dating myself here—pregaming refers to the party before the party. It’s when you meet with your closest friends to loosen up before going to the larger party. I thought I just needed a little more of that social lubricant than most.

It made sense at the time because the majority of my social hours revolved around drinking. It was what I did to feel most comfortable around other people.

The idea that I could no longer drink made me think I could never be social again, never crack a good joke or banter with a friend or flirt with a woman.

The truth is that staying sober at parties gives me the use of all my faculties and intelligence. I’m a much funnier person than I ever gave myself credit for, more witty than I ever knew.

The effect of alcohol was largely in my perceptions, not in reality.

2. Knowing when to leave

One thing that has changed is I don’t stay at parties as long. This is voluntary. Observing the course of a party is more of a science than it is an art. There is a threshold, after which, if you are sober, the party just isn’t that much fun anymore.

The main qualifier for passing that threshold is the level of drunkenness in the room. If your party is full of relatively sober friends, you could stay till the end! But for the most part, when people get too drunk, they start repeating themselves. And they never, ever, act as funny as they think they are acting. It’s for this reason that I usually leave around midnight, when, like Cinderella’s spell, the magic of the buzz is spoiled by the bore of the drunken.

3. Expect to become comfortable in your own shoes

The gift of the sober identity is part of the fun sober social life. I quote my friend and author Lisa Neuman here. “I choose to love myself today… I can get sober out of desperation, but I stay sober out of love. Love is the missing piece.”

I never thought I’d like the person I became sober, mainly because I didn’t know or hang out with any sober people.

I was surprised that sobriety did wonders for my self-confidence. I think this has something to do with actually remembering most of what I say and do. It’s hard to be too confident in yourself when you honestly can’t remember the way you behaved the night before.

4. Everyday life is much more enjoyable

I write a blog called “The Miracle of the Mundane.”

I try to capture in my writing the incredible experience of re-discovering the joys of daily life. I imagined growing up and having a family as surrendering in some battle. How could I possibly deal with the boring minutiae of adulting without a drink or drug in my hand?

I was surprised to discover that what I thought was minutiae is actually wonderment. Sobriety creates these incredible moments of joy that I never want to miss. I grow more invested in domestic life each year, and my life continues to grow more rewarding.

5. Expect to be inspired

Alcohol and drugs are not the gateway to creativity I once thought they were. As it turns out, the sober mind is capable of great creative feats.

There was a time when I needed a certain level of toxicity in my blood before I could sit down to write. It was a lie. I didn’t need it, no matter what my stinking thinking told me. Addiction is a monster. Monsters learn how to survive and grow. But they can diminish if you stop feeding them.

I not only have more frequent creative inspiration in recovery, but sobriety allows me the discipline to prolong projects. It took me five consecutive months of waking up at 4:30 in the morning to finish my novel. In doing so, I achieved a level of consistency and routine I never could have accomplished drunk.

In reflection, the more I drank and drugged, the less I was able to write. As proof: I was writing a screenplay while I was at my lowest point. While much shorter than a novel, I took the same five months of time and was unable to complete it. I didn’t even finish half of it.

6. You will be entertained

Okay, maybe it’s just me, but I never dreamt of finding enjoyment at concerts or movies without a buzz or a high. Going to concerts sober was sacrilege. How boring!

Watching live music or going to the movie theater were activities that needed enhancement. I thought drugs and alcohol brought these experiences to life, gave them a finer texture. Yes, I was the person who, while high, wanted to theorize about The Matrix.

In truth, I’ve come to enjoy movies and music on much deeper levels while sober. My conversations about art have become more informed and richer.

In short, I can go see a movie like Inception and enjoy it more because I can follow it better. What’s more, I don’t need to see it again to try and understand what the hell is going on.

Mark David Goodson is a writer whose debut novel is in the works. He maintains a popular recovery blog called the Miracle of the Mundane, which celebrates the simple sober life. His writing has been featured in The Fix, After Party Magazine, and Recovery Today. An English Teacher by day, he lives with his wife and soon-to-be three children in Maryland.

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