Moods, Fights and Sex in Early Recovery: Three Essential Steps to Survival
Recovery is different for everyone.
Some people used alcohol or other drugs.
Some people used sex, or money, or food.
Or all of the above.
You’ll have your own challenges.
It takes a lot to survive early recovery.
Some people get help from 12-step groups.
Others use groups like WFS, Smart, etc.
Some stop on their own.
Some people can stop for a while
but can’t stay stopped
because they don’t know
how to survive life in recovery.
Life doesn’t stop when you sober up or quit.
It intensifies because we are seeing/feeling raw
with nothing to make us feel better,
nothing help us tolerate how weird it is
to not be using, drinking, smoking.
Some things will feel completely new and different,
some things will be better,
others things will just feel weird.
There is stuff you just have to get through
(without drinking, smoking, binging, or acting out)
such as your first fight in recovery,
or your first sex in recovery.
Or not having sex in recovery for longer than you expect.
Moodiness is common in early recovery.
To stay in recovery you’ll have to be able to survive fights,
and sex or no sex,
and mood swings,
stone cold sober.
Let’s look at moods and fights and sex first then I’ll offer three ways to help survive early recovery. The three ways I offer is stuff you can do no matter whether you are changing on your own or getting help from others. You’ll notice that my ideas are all about the physical body.
That’s because if you feel good physically,
you feel better mentally and emotionally
and everything else is easier to bear.
They say the first year is all about physical recovery anyway.
Here goes with the stuff you will need to get through in early recovery.
Lets start with moods.
MOODINESS. I was 29 and in college when I quit drinking. My grades went down at first and it was hard to think. It was scary actually. I didn’t know how I would feel from one minute to the next. At times I was extremely happy. Followed by really scared.
Fluctuating moods are common in early recovery.
Think about it.
Your brain is changing.
You are detoxing for the first year,
doing without the old stuff,
but you haven’t built new ways of coping.
Your brain is working on it.
You will build new ways of coping,
but for now you are in limbo.
And your moods will sway.
You may be excited one moment,
And scared the next.
Or happy in the morning,
then miserable by afternoon.
Optimistic about your future one day
then feeling doomed by your past the next.
They probably talked about this stuff in treatment,
but some of us never went.
Or didn’t listen.
Or were there but couldn’t take it in.
All I know is that mood swings are common in early recovery.
Mood swings contain anger and fear and confusion.
And most of us are moody in early recovery.
It’s no wonder we are hard to get along with.
If our partner is also in early recovery he or she is in the same moody boat.
If our family stuck with us through the dark downslide of our addiction
they probably have a lot of reasons to still be mad at us.
Either way we are bound to have a fight sometime.
My first fight was with Frank.
FIRST FIGHT. I had always hated arguments because I get weepy when I get mad and it blows the tough guy image I like to keep in place. If I don’t get weepy then I say something scathing and wish I hadn’t. My first sober fight was with my boyfriend, Frank. We were in a car on a long trip when we started to argue. He was driving and I felt trapped. God knows what we were fighting about. I remember vivid images of whiskey (on ice in a heavy glass) flashing before my eyes. It was so real I wanted to hit him with the glass.
I could taste the whiskey.
I wanted to jump out of the car.
My hand was on the door handle.
I didn’t want to get hurt so I took my hand off the handle.
I didn’t jump.
I just sat there.
I answered him in my head mostly because I couldn’t speak.
Eventually I said a few things out loud.
We both lived through it.
Fighting when you are sober is different then fighting when intoxicated.
I learned that I could live through immense tension without drinking, without harming Frank or myself.
I learned that pain dissipates eventually.
SOBER SEX. Frank again. I got involved with Frank in my first month of sobriety. I heard later that you should wait a year before getting involved with someone. By then I also heard you shouldn’t make any big decisions either so I stayed with Frank.
Sex was much more intense and intimate than when I was intoxicated. It was so intense that it was kind of scary. Having sex with someone who loved me was nearly overwhelming.
Sober sex made me cry. The combination of vulnerability and awareness opened floodgates of tears. I felt a deep happiness. I was sexually satisfied. I also felt a deep sadness for all the lousy sex I had the years that I drank. I felt shy about my tears and couldn’t explain them. I wanted to stop crying but it took a long time (more than a year) before they stopped. It wasn’t something I could talk about and it was all quite confusing.
Not everyone cries.
Not everyone starts a new relationship in the first month of recovery.
Some people wait a year.
Others are already in a relationship that they want to get out of, or to stay in, or they’re not sure.
Some people want to keep their relationship but don’t feel like having sex.
It can get confusing and hard explain to a partner.
Sex and relationship stuff can add to moodiness and to fights which can make us want to drink or use or eat or act out.
That’s why we need a plan to get through early recovery.
Something more than
Meetings can help. Having friends in recovery helps. But not everyone has that all in place.
HERE ARE THREE ESSENTIAL STEPS YOU CAN TAKE TO HELP YOURSELF SURVIVE EARLY RECOVERY
Step One: EAT PROTEIN
I like doughnuts. Why should I eat protein?
Eating protein provides building blocks for neurotransmitters like serotonin.
You know, serotonin—the stuff antidepressants try to make more of.
Eating protein = more serotonin = less depressed or anxious = HAPPIER.
If your brain gets what it needs (protein) you will feel happier (serotonin).
How to eat protein. (Meat, eggs, tofu, etc.) Eat 8 grams of it (for instance 2 eggs, or a piece of meat or tofu the size of a deck of cards) for breakfast within an hour of getting up. Repeat: eat 8 grams of protein within an hour of waking. Then eat more protein for lunch or dinner. To really eat well add some fat (butter, olive oil etc) to your meal and some fresh veggies. For snacks eat fruit and nuts or cheese. Repeat daily. Eating every 3 or 4 hours will keep your blood sugar stable so your mood is stable.
Some mood swings aren’t really about what is happening in your life- it’s about blood sugar.
How did you know I just had coffee and doughnuts for breakfast at noon?
Or what’s happening in your brain because of low blood sugar.
Blood sugar is what all the cells in your body live on.
Blood sugar goes up or down depending on what you eat.
Blood sugar goes down if you don’t eat.
If you eat something too sweet blood sugar goes up fast then crashes too low.
When your blood sugar drops your brain sends a message to release adrenalin
which raises your blood sugar. Adrenalin is the fight or flight hormone.
So you feel angry or afraid.
You start a fight or run away.
You want to drink or do something
all because you ate something weird.
Or you didn’t eat at all.
If you don’t want to have blood sugar mood swings
If you don’t want to feel mad or afraid for no reason
If you don’t want to have cravings
eat a balanced meal
(that’s proteins, fats and carbs).
every 3 or 4 hours
A snack before bedtime will help you sleep.
So to avoid moods and cravings eat one good meal at a time.
Step Two: START MOVING: or If You Don’t Start Walking You’re Gonna Be Mad.
Leave me alone. I’m watching a video.
Exercise improves mood.
We get more oxygen to the brain.
The heart beats faster and circulates more blood.
If you move you feel better.
If you walk you feel better.
It’s that simple.
Walking is a safe way to start exercising. If you haven’t been exercising at all, start slow. Walk a bit, see how it goes and add a few minutes each day. Aim for an hour of exercise a day. Build up to it. You can do it in 5 or 10-minute chunks over the course of a day. Aerobic exercise (walking, biking, swimming, running) is the fastest way to change mood. Exercise means any kind of movement. Stretching counts. Throwing rocks counts. Any kind of exercise will change how your body and brain feel and will support a happier mood. Plus you will sleep better and sleep is important in recovery.
Step Three: SLEEP 8-10 HOURS A NIGHT
I can sleep when I die. Why would I want to sleep that much now?
Here are a few reasons in favor of sleep:
We are cranky when we are tired.
We get more done when we are fresh.
It’s easy to get tempted to use or act out late at night.
We stay out of trouble when we are asleep.
Sleep is when our body repairs itself.
You were mean to yourself when your addiction was active.
It was hard on your body.
It was hard on your brain.
Now that you are in recovery your body deserves to get enough sleep.
Your brain loves sleep.
Sleep is when our body repairs.
Sleep is when our brain rests.
If we get a good night’s sleep we feel better than if we slept badly.
Aim for 8 to 10 hours sleep a night.
You need that much a night.
Sleep was hard for me at first. I was drinking a lot of coffee. I was restless and had weird dreams. I learned to cut off the caffeine by 4 p.m. and to drink water instead. I learned that my body likes water better than pop, energy drinks or coffee. A doctor told me to go to bed at the same time each night. What a strange concept. I tried it and it did help.
I learned that if you eat enough protein, get an hour of exercise each day and sleep well at night you have a better shot at making it thought early recovery.
You’ll stay in recovery long enough to have sober sex, to live through a fight, and to manage your moods swings.
So eat protein,
exercise an hour a day,
and have a good night’s sleep.
Because recovery can be excellent fun, and if you take care of yourself you’ll survive the early stuff and get to see why recovery is worth it.
One last thing, if you need help with this stuff, click here and I will find you an affordable professional Recovery Coach who can walk with you through early recovery.