First Year Sober: What to Expect in Sobriety

The first year sober can be exciting and terrifying at the same time. For some, just the thought of not having to use or drink is liberating, and for others it’s a prison sentence. The good news is that no matter how you feel you a. don’t have to pick and b. you too can recover and stay sober long-term. Here are some things you might expect in your first year sober.

Super Excited vs. Total Bummer

You are one fire! The first few days to weeks (sometimes even months)  you may feel like you are on Cloud 9, and then all of sudden “BAM” you just realized you can’t ever drink or use again. Suddenly, you feel as though your entire world has come crashing down. Others may find themselves on a roller-coaster of these emotions throughout the year, so do not be surprised if you are all over the place with the acceptance of not being able to drink or use again. This part takes time to really accept and be OK with.

Identifying, not Comparing

You may feel like you don’t belong anywhere and find yourself not like those around you in your first year sober. In some ways you know you should be in the rooms, but there is this side of you that wants you to be different. Try identifying with others’ stories, rather than comparing, and you will be amazed at what you can learn about yourself.


You may hear people in the room say, “no major changes,” yet you are also told you have to change everything. This can be confusing in your first year sober, so lets clear things up a little. Changes are happening daily and early recovery is all about change. Changing things in your life for the benefit of recovery is a good thing. Impulsively changing things that could jeopardize your recovery is what they mean when they say, “no major changes.” This is why sober support and a sponsor are crucial to have when building a program of recovery. You will need others who have gone through life sober to bounce ideas off of before making any life changing decisions.

Post-Acute-Withdrawal Symptoms

Expect to have some post-acute-withdrawal symptoms pop up for at least the first 2 years of your sobriety. This is actually a great relief, because all those “feelings” you are having can be identified and you are not alone in feeling them. Working a program of recovery, talking with sober supports, eating balanced healthy meals, lots of water, and rest will help alleviate these symptoms.
Relapse Warning Signs


  • Irregular and unhealthy eating habits.
  • Irregular and inconsistent sleeping habits.
  • Lack of energy and motivation.
  • Overwhelming craving for a drink or use of a drug.
  • Sweats, shakes and nausea.
  • Hyperactivity and restlessness.
  • Frequent pains, including headaches.
  • Rapid heartbeat, anxiety attacks, poor concentration, confusion, poor coordination.


  • Doubting yourself or a lack of confidence in ability to stay sober.
  • Denial: “I can just do one.”
  • Extreme thinking and overconfidence: “I will never use again!”
  • Defensive attitude.
  • Compulsive behavior.
  • Impulsive behavior.
  • Living an unbalanced life-tunnel vision-taking on too much (for example, all work and no fun).
  • Daydreaming: wishful thinking.
  • An attitude of everything going my way.
  • Immature desire to be happy without working for it.
  • Hot tempered; angry.
  • Careless: I don’t care attitude.
  • Hate; resentments.
  • Self-pity: “poor me.”
  • Too hard on yourself; no self-forgiveness.
  • Dissatisfaction with life.
  • Feeling of helplessness, powerlessness.
  • Dishonesty; lying.
  • Loss of or even a lack of self-confidence.
  • Overly sensitive and easily frustrated.
  • Overwhelming feelings of guilt and remorse.


  • Attempts to force or control another person’s sobriety.
  • Going on a 12 step calls too soon or alone.
  • Loneliness and isolation.
  • Irritation with friends and family.
  • Open rejection of help.
  • Loss of or lack of humility: “I am better than or less than they are.”
  • The attitude of “I don’t care” and “They do not care.”
  • Blaming others or projecting.


  • Lack of realistic or constructive planning.
  • High expectations of others and self.
  • Doing nothing because you feel nothing can be solved.
  • Taking on too much at once.
  • Loss of or lack of daily routine and structure.
  • Slaking on meetings or irregular attendance.
  • Stopping treatment. Believing we are cured.
  • Excuses for inappropriate or irresponsible behaviors.
  • Ignoring mental health problems.


  • Not meditating any more.
  • Thinking we can recover alone.


Source: Levatas (Reprinted with permission)