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I distinctly remember the first morning I woke up sober. I felt triumphant, overjoyed and ecstatic that I had made it through my first night without reaching for the booze! I realized the power I had to control what I put into my body and recognized that alcohol didn’t deserve a place in it.
I was proud of my resolve to take the first step into my new life free from alcohol abuse. I knew deep down that if I could just make it through that first night without drinking, I knew I would be able to show up and do it every single night after that.
What I caught me off guard, however, was the deep fatigue that overtook my body. The tiredness, aches, and brain fog that came over my body was overwhelming!
Upon waking that first morning, I specifically remember feeling like I had run a marathon in my sleep. My body ached from the base of my neck all the way down to the bottom of my feet, and my brain felt foggy. My body felt like it was full of lead and super sluggish.
”I must still be feeling slightly hungover from two nights ago….” I told myself this but was unsure if that was truly the answer. This just felt different from a hangover.
Too many nights before this point, I had run myself ragged during the day, only to give in to the rum bottle at night, get a crappy night’s sleep and wake up to do it all over again. So this sudden fatigue didn’t really add up since alcohol had been removed from the equation!
Either way, I was so proud that I had made it through my first night sober that I didn’t really give my depleted energy levels too much thought.
Fast forward a few weeks into sobriety and I was still extremely exhausted at times, finding any and every reason to take quick cat nap during the day and just needing to go to bed at a reasonable hour (which for me is early because I am normally a night owl in every sense of the word!)
So what gives? We make the choice to give up alcohol and instead of having newfound energy to attack ALL THE THINGS that we let fall to the wayside when we were drinking heavily, we instead feel the need to rest and sleep….all the time.
This my friends, is early sobriety fatigue.
What is Early Sobriety Fatigue?
Early sobriety fatigue or recovery fatigue is your body’s response to beginning the healing process from heavy alcohol use. Your body worked hard for years (or in my case, decades) to keep itself functioning and alive despite the daily alcohol abuse.
When we are deep into our addiction, we do not realize just how exhausted and overtaxed the body is. Our body works really hard to detoxify and remove alcohol (remember, alcohol is a cancer-causing carcinogen!) from itself so that we can continue living.
So, when we get sober, the body goes into overdrive to heal and repair systems that were harmed and strained from the alcohol. And this process is exhausting!
How To Deal With Early Sobriety Fatigue
Just like dealing with early sobriety, simplicity is key. Be gentle with yourself. Take the time to slow down, go to bed early, take day naps if you can, make yourself deliciously hydrating water with cucumber and lemons, take epsom salt baths, do low maintenance activities with your kids and family (or by yourself!) such as going for walks or playing at a park or playground that you all are familiar with. If you feel up to it, move your body and break a sweat to help flush toxins. Keep it simple!
I found that keeping an uncomplicated routine for myself and my family made this time a little easier to get through. For example, I would let my husband know, especially on weekends, if I needed to sleep in so that he would take over breakfast duties for the kids who are early risers.
Being an introvert, I also know that social activities are a source of stress and overwhelm for me, so I was mindful of what I planned for myself or at times, my family, in order to help with my fatigue and recovery. However, for those who are more extroverted, planning and attending social activities might give you energy, but still be mindful of that energy drain that happens in early sobriety!
Use this time to give your body every opportunity to begin the healing process. Along with these physiological symptoms, you might also notice that you begin to experience many strong emotions, both good and bad. This is all part of your body working hard to make itself whole again.
My Experience With Early Sobriety Fatigue
In my experience, it took me several months to stop experiencing early sobriety fatigue on a regular basis. At the beginning of my sobriety journey, for weeks on end, it would first hit me in the morning. I would wake up tired, sore and exhausted. Getting out of bed and not pressing snooze on my alarm three or more times was a whole event!
Then, the fatigue and exhaustion would find me in the middle of the day. I could feel my body beginning to feel dragged down, especially around lunchtime. At this point, I physically could only bring myself to grab a quick nap (yes, there were many times where my kids just had their way with ALL THE TOYS in the living room while mommy took a quick nap on the couch!)
As the weeks and months progressed however, I found I was tired and sore less and less, and eventually the brain fog began to clear a bit as well!
Final Thoughts on Early Sobriety Fatigue
Remember to take it easy and be gentle with yourself, both physically and mentally. Take time to slow down, and be proud of the huge decision you have made to ditch alcohol from your life! Don’t let the fatigue get you down, and remember that your body is working hard to heal itself and this is all part of the process of recovery.
You are doing an amazing thing!
If you are still considering getting sober or if you’re like me and love getting your hands on as much info as you can to help you stay firm in your decision not to drink, I found this book, This Naked Mind by Annie Grace an extremely helpful resource. Also, you can read more here for some helpful tips for early sobriety.