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The Meaning of Sober October & Tips for Living Sober Beyond October

The months are getting colder, and as we move closer towards the new year, many of us are looking to get back in touch with ourselves – to get stronger and healthier, both physically and mentally, to gain awareness of our health, and to start making more positive decisions as a result. Enter, Sober October.

What is Sober October?

Sober October is a widespread trend in which thousands of people stop drinking alcohol, using drugs, and smoking for the 31 days of October. Originally called “Go Sober for October,” this campaign started out as a fundraiser for Macmillan Cancer Support in the United Kingdom. Now, it is a global initiative, serving as a way for people to gain awareness of their drugging and drinking, and to give their bodies “a break” from its negative effects.

It’s important to mention that Sober October doesn’t sit well with everyone. There has been some controversy around the topic in the recovery community, as those battling substance addiction do not always believe that sobriety is a choice. For many of these people, it is a necessity in order to survive. Those in recovery don’t believe in getting sober; they believe in living sober. So, for someone to choose to get sober for a month – to easily turn their substance use off and on – can (rightfully) be a hard pill to swallow. It is not the same as living sober, which requires you to step back and understand why you drink, why you use drugs, and why you want to give that up, even temporarily.

However, we encourage everyone – those in recovery and outside it – to think about Sober October as a positive initiative. Because for many people who have been working to stay sober this month, this is just the beginning. Sober October can be a gateway to many more months sober – a period of recognizing the negative effects of drinking and drug use, understanding the benefits of sobriety, and for realizing real change. For many, Sober October is the door closed on binge drinking and drug use, and the entry point to a healthier, more fulfilling life.

Tackling Sober October

Some people may have found Sober October to be pretty easy so far. As we’re now more than halfway through the month, you may be ready to give it that final push and celebrate as soon as November begins. For others, however, you might have found Sober October to a bit more challenging. Perhaps you know in the back of your mind that you are a bit reliant on your substance of choice, whether that’s alcohol, marijuana, or something else. Maybe you are very dependent on it, and Sober October made you realize that more than ever.

If you are in the first bucket, we congratulate you for making it this far, and we encourage you to think back on the many benefits you experienced while sober over these last few weeks. Perhaps you slept better, worked out more, had more meaningful dates with friends and family, and were able to remember all the memories you made. Keep those tucked away in your pocket, should you ever want to do the Sober October (or Dry January) challenge again. Also, keep in mind that, for many, getting sober is not always easy. For some, drug use is a compulsion and sobriety is a necessity. Sober living is a necessity. Maintain respect for people in recovery.

For those of you in the second category, we also congratulate you for getting this far. Getting sober is not easy, and staying sober can prove to be even more difficult. As we near the end of the month, this is the perfect time to reflect on your “why.” Why are you here? What led you to want to get sober this October? What things were you unhappy with, and what made you recognize it was time for a change? Why do you want to change?

Also think about your experience being sober so far. What have you enjoyed? Have you noticed a difference? What have you struggled with, and what else would you like to conquer? Do you feel like you have accomplished something, or do you feel there is more to do?

If you would like to extend your sobriety beyond October, into November, December, and beyond, know that there are resources to help you in this direction. There is support available, even if you do not feel like you have a “clinical” addiction or substance use disorder. Read on for some tips in starting your journey of living sober.

How to Live Sober Beyond Sober October

As Olivia Pennelle, a journalist and coach, explained on The Fix, committing to sobriety only gets better. She momentously writes: “I’m here to tell you that life only continues to improve in sustained sobriety. Truly. I am not going to tell you that it’s easy because it’s not. But it sure as heck is worth it. As a woman who has been in recovery for over six and a half years, my life is immeasurably better: there is less drama, I have fun, I don’t have to sell my belongings to get four bottles of wine on the way home. I feel great most days, and I can’t imagine a life so painful that I have to numb myself every day. Today I want to be present and I want to show up.

Like Pennelle, you have the power to show up. Here are some tips for living sober beyond this season:

  1. Self-reflect. Ask yourself the questions above. Take a step back to assess your relationship with drugs and alcohol, and whether it is problematic. Do you experience negative consequences after drinking or using drugs? Think, any regrets, black-outs, violence, or mental health issues (like anxiety or depression)? Then, take time to get to the heart of why you are using drugs and alcohol. Is it a coping mechanism for something deeper? By understanding this, you can start the healing process.
  2. Pursue therapy or join a support group. Sometimes, these questions aren’t easy to answer on your own. Seeking therapy or a sober support group can help you get to the root of your issues, and help you understand what you need to conquer inside before you can live a substance-free life. Look into your local AA, NA, or other self-help groups, or contact your physician to seek a therapist who can help.
  3. Build a social support system. In addition to professional help, it’s important to find friends who are not surrounded by drugs or drinking all the time. Build sober relationships where you can create memories and remember them. Build relationships that will help you become the best possible, healthiest version of you – and who will respect you if you say “no” to a drink or drug.

Please note – If you are a heavy drinker or drug user, it can be dangerous to suddenly stop using or drinking without medical supervision. Going cold turkey alone, as we detail here, can cause serious complications and painful withdrawal symptoms. Please contact Turnbridge if you need help during this time. We are a recognized drug treatment center for young men and women in Connecticut, with clinical staff specializing in drug abuse and mental health disorders.