Peeling Back The Onion: “Isms” + 5 Tips for Early Sobriety

Peeling Back the Onion: "Isms" | >> Click to Read!*Bonus: 5 Tips for Early Sobriety – Below!*

Yes, I know that “peeling back the onion” is a widely used cliché. But it’s also a phenomenon in new sobriety that no one warned me about. In this scenario, I was the onion. And the layers represented the real issues {the “isms”} fueling my addiction.

For example, every time I’d make what felt like substantial progress, every damn time I thought that I was clearing the forest, another ism would arise. One that required me to get honest and vulnerable. One that required deep self-reflection. And one that tested my coping methods.

The onion peels at its own rate and in its own time. Each new layer presents itself when we become mentally strong enough to {somewhat} handle it. Hence the saying, “you’re right where you’re supposed to be.” If I had a dime for every time those words were spoken to me…

New sobriety was kind of like childbirth. I generally remember it better than it was. It truly was the most difficult time of my life, but because the reward was so great, my mind glorifies it. And despite the struggle, a better me was born.

What I typically recall, and share with anyone who will listen, is that “I fell in love with self-growth” during that time. I then, of course, go on to share the reason why: weekly psychotherapy sessions, 90 A.A. meetings in 90 days, and then 90 more. I also had a sponsor and diligently worked the 12-steps. All of which is true.

But what I sometimes fail to mention is that I hated myself. I had regular panic attacks. I’d get these PTSD flashbacks of things I did while in active addiction. And my primary coping tools were cutting and anorexia.

Perhaps I subconsciously left that last part out in hopes of swooning people into choosing sobriety. Or maybe I was simply trying to forget. I’m not sure. But it’s my opinion that sugar-coating never helps anyone. The honest and painful truth is what set me free, and that’s exactly what I want for everyone else.



There is beauty in early sobriety, hence the “pink cloud” that people find themselves upon. It’s full of self-discovery and self-growth. It can be invigorating at times. But, it’s also hard. And not many people make it. All of the issues you’ve been running from suddenly hit you in the face. You’re forced to confront them or learn to cope as best you know how. This is on top of maintaining all of your responsibilities while your body and mind re-learn how to function without the alcohol it once depended on.

But I promise that it’s absolutely worth it!

Getting sober is not just about quitting drinking. Nor is it as simple as learning to live without alcohol. Don’t get me wrong, life is hard. But typically, alcohol abuse is a big red flag signaling much deeper issues. It’s the outward display of what’s going on under the surface, of what you can’t see.

Getting sober required me to honestly work through the painful issues feeding my addiction, and to learn how to cope in more self-serving ways. Even though I was a miserable hot mess, I was working my tail off to change that. I knew that a drink may have provided me the temporary illusion that my pain didn’t exist. But I also knew that alcohol wasn’t the solution to my problems. Since getting sober I learned that the answer was within me, not without. Asking for and accepting help was just the beginning. I had to face the truth I’d been running from all along, myself.

5 Tips for Early Sobriety!

  1. Find a Guide. Find someone to guide you through, such as a sponsor, mentor, and/or therapist. We all need a home base in early sobriety. That one person who we can count on to be honest with us and who has our best interests in mind. A person who will be there for us at a moment’s notice when cravings or panic strike, or when we just need to talk.
  2. Build a support group of more people than you could ever possibly need. Get to this as soon as you get sober. Make sober friends and collect lots of phone numbers early in sobriety. Oh, and then pick-up the phone and use those phone numbers when you need support. But also plan on the support being a two-way street. Helping others strengthens our sobriety.
  3. Get to know yourself and your triggers. Practice mindfulness. This will help you get more in-tune with your body, emotions, and sensations. It will help you better identify your triggers. Knowing our triggers makes it easier to modify our reactions to them. At the very least, it makes us more prepared to handle them when they arise. Awareness is the starting pointing for growth.
  4. Build a coping toolbox full of more coping strategies than you could ever possibly need. Many of us have never learned effective coping strategies, thus we turn to alcohol and other self-harming behaviors. This is a time to focus on learning and implementing new ones. Acquire as many tools as possible. Because sometimes coping tools that were helpful last week, for example, aren’t as useful this week. So you want to have more than you need so that if one doesn’t work, you can simply put that one back and grab another.
  5. Just buckle down and do the hard self-work now. Just imagine what your life will be like if you go ahead and do this difficult work now, versus putting it off another six months, a year, two years. That is, if you make it that long. You can go ahead and do this work now and get it over with. A year from now you will be so thankful. Believe me, I know it’s hard, but just consider it.

All of that difficult work made me and my sobriety stronger. If you want it, it’s yours! You deserve it! Don’t give-up! Relapse does not equal failure. Just start again.

What was early sobriety like for you? What early sobriety tips do you have for others?

Stay Strong Friends,


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