I have been sober for almost two and a half years, and for almost the entirety of the first two years, sobriety was something I thought about and spoke about every single day. It makes sense — I spent the last few years of my drinking career thinking about pretty much nothing other than alcohol, so something had to occupy all that time and mental energy once the booze was gone. Also, the work I put in — at the beginning to just stay sober, then to figure out how to live sober, and lastly how to enjoy being sober — took a lot of time and energy as well.
My first year, I was reading every addiction memoir I could get my hands on, listening to every sobriety podcast I could find, posting daily about my sober journey on Instagram, and reveling in all the positive change happening in my life while still feeling like I was in the middle of a major identity crisis.
I have been sober for almost two and a half years, and for almost the entirety of the first two years, sobriety was something I thought about and spoke about every single day.
Recently, I hit a point where I felt what I call “sobriety fatigue” or simply, I felt burned out on sobriety. I got sick of the podcasts, the posts, the constant of being a “sober person” every day. It wasn’t that I wanted to drink, but rather, this identity I had publicly taken on felt heavy, and it didn’t feel like I needed to dedicate quite as much time to feeding my brain alcohol-free content. To be honest, I was kind of sick of growth in general. I was exhausted, and needed a rest away from it all.
I was relieved when I saw a post on Instagram from my friend Millie Gooch, @sobergirlsociety, about feeling a similar way. We got sober around the same time, so it makes sense that we’d be feeling comparable growing pains. Her post inspired me to chat with her about this sentiment further, as well as check-in with some of my other sober friends who have passed the one year mark.
“I think when you first stop drinking, being sober feels like such a big part of your identity but, as time goes on, it just becomes the new normal,” said Millie. “For me personally, I now feel quite removed from the person I was when I was drinking, and sometimes constantly having to put myself back in the headspace of the lost girl who used alcohol for confidence can actually be quite exhausting and painful.”
Sarah Link Ferguson went public about her sobriety on Instagram when she was three days sober and ended up with almost 2,000 followers who started following her journey by the time she hit her one-year soberversary. While Sarah hasn’t experienced long periods of sobriety fatigue, she has experienced the vulnerability hangover that can sometimes come with being public about your recovery online.
“At a certain point after I’d hit one year of recovery, I grew really exhausted from sharing so much of my life and my recovery with so many people online,” said Sarah. “I also cared a lot about how my posts looked aesthetically and the content I was creating.”
“At a certain point after I’d hit one year of recovery, I grew really exhausted from sharing so much of my life and my recovery with so many people online.”
Crystal Rosales, @murdamex on Instagram, said she started to feel sobriety fatigue a little after her one-year milestone as well.
“For accountability purposes, I decided to be very public and vocal about my sobriety journey on social media from the beginning,” said Crystal. “It was great to receive all the support and even have others relate, but it also became overwhelming to get messages asking for advice on how to deal with their relationships with alcohol, or sobriety being all people wanted to discuss when they saw me. It slowly started to become a struggle of wanting to be open and proud about my sobriety, but also not letting it define me.”
For Allie K. Campbell, @alliekcampbell on Instagram, who has been sober for over three years, sobriety fatigue began in the last 14 months.
“While I still HIGHLY value my sobriety, it’s more like software running in the background of my life keeping things running smoothly, not letting anything malfunction too terribly,” said Allie. “There’s so much more to me than being alcohol- and drug-free. I still care about curating tips for people in early sobriety, but I’ve focused more of my attention on the nuances of being a person who is living life and just so happens to be sober, rather than a sober person who just so happens to be living a life.”
“While I still HIGHLY value my sobriety, it’s more like software running in the background of my life keeping things running smoothly, not letting anything malfunction too terribly. There’s so much more to me than being alcohol- and drug-free.”
So how do we overcome the feeling of sobriety fatigue, without letting go of our sobriety completely?
“The first thing I do when I experience this feeling is to remind myself that it’s normal and okay to want to escape,” said Allie. “Getting sober hasn’t made me any less human, and we all crave escape in one way or another. I have a handful of things I do to make sure I don’t act on this feeling, including reminding myself that it, like all feelings, is temporary. One of my best tools for dealing with it is taking a nap or just allowing myself some intentional rest. [Resting] rejuvenates my body and my mind and, when I wake up, I feel like I have fresh eyes and a fresh heart. I mean we are calling it ‘fatigue,’ so it makes sense that rest would be helpful.”
When Crystal starts to feel the fatigue, she puts down her phone, gets outside with her dog, or reaches out to a sober sister to talk about what she’s feeling.
“Sometimes, admitting to someone in your sober circle that you’re feeling completely overwhelmed about sobriety and identity is the best way to center yourself again,” said Crystal.
“I still talk about my recovery from time to time because it is core to the life I have built, but I have a solid recovery program and community and don’t really look to social media to fill that space for me anymore.”
For Sarah, the answer was creating a new Instagram account where she allows herself to be less focused on creating content and instead just shares the reality of her life.
“I still talk about my recovery from time to time because it is core to the life I have built, but I have a solid recovery program and community and don’t really look to social media to fill that space for me anymore,” said Sarah.
However you choose to navigate feelings of sobriety fatigue that may come up for you, it’s important to remember that an alcohol-free life is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s OK to, as Allie says, continue to let the software run in the background while giving yourself some space, grace, and some breathing room to just be.
Listen to what your body and mind needs, set boundaries for social media if you don’t already have them in place, and allow yourself to rest and recharge. Above all, remember you’re never alone in this journey… and no feeling is final.