What's YOUR plan?

If you hang out on Talking Sober long enough, you will undoubtedly see someone, usually one returning from a relapse, being asked, “What’s your plan (to staying sober)?”. While this question may often be rhetorical, it is an important one to answer for yourself.

I feel that sobriety has 4 distinct phases that you should plan for.

  1. The Pre-quit phase (days/weeks leading up to quitting)
  2. The Withdrawal Phase (Day 1 to Day 30)
  3. The Post-Withdrawal Phase (Day 30 to Day 90)
  4. The Sustain/Recovery Phase (Everyday thereafter)

It’s important to note that while each phase may have a specific plan, there are some plans that transcend into all phases, like joining a recovery program (AA or SMART recovery, etc.) for example.

The Pre-quit phase

This phase is the weeks or days leading up to quitting. You’ve known you have a problem for a while and now it’s time to do something about it. Maybe you’ve circled a quit date on the calendar, maybe you’re going for one last hurrah - whatever the case, you need a plan.

What the plan might look like:

  • Commit to not buying more alcohol/drugs
  • Start the detachment process from “friends” and places you associate with your DOC
  • Stocking up on supplies for the first few weeks
  • Finding and/or Attending AA or similar meetings
  • Find a mentor, an accountability buddy, a sponsor (if you’re going the 12-step route) - Plenty of people here will be willing to help you along the way!
  • Understand why you want to quit; write down the negative things that your DOC contributed to, compare to all the wonderful things your DOC provided you (if any) and honestly weigh the differences.
  • Learn about the withdrawals from your DOC. Knowing what to expect and being prepared is the best way to cope with the unpleasantness of withdrawals.
  • Consult your Doctor before quitting, especially if you are a heavy drinker. Quitting alcohol cold turkey can be life threatening and if you are physically dependent on alcohol, you should seek medical intervention.

The Withdrawal Phase

This phase is the most physically unpleasant part of sobriety, it will test your mettle like none other. Now, the tricky part of this phase is, it’s virtually different for everyone. Some people have severe withdrawals to the point they need medical intervention, some have hardly anything at all, however, most will fall in between of these 2 extremes.

In my experience, the first week was the hardest, by day 6 it seemed to get better and a little better each day thereafter.

To make it through this phase, you may want to:

  • Take time off work and/or other obligations
  • Stay hydrated, stay fed
  • Get your hands on some quit literature - Alan Carr, Annie Grace, the Big Book comes to mind
  • Rest as much as you can
  • Journal your days: write down how you feel, how you sleep, how your emotions are (read it if you feel like giving in)
  • Communicate with your sobriety pals, sponsor, or mentor often.
  • Ask for help: Chances are, you may not be up to cleaning or caring for yourself too much in the first few days, ask for help with your basic needs so that you are comfortable and not overwhelmed.
  • Listen to your body, it will tell you what it needs.
  • Start Vitamins early, if you haven’t in the previous phase (B complex & magnesium is good). Vitamins take 3 to 4 weeks to fully get absorbed and start working, so the sooner the better.
  • Listen to Quit related podcasts and/or videos on YouTube.

Know that you will likely not sleep much in this phase and your emotions will be all over the place, so rest is important!

Always remember, as bad as it is, you only have to go through this once!

The Post-Withdrawal Phase

It’s been a month and you’re feeling good, sleeping better and you feel like you’re out of the woods!

Not so fast friend! Most relapses happen within the first 90 days, so this phase is when the real work begins. This is when you want to really dive into your recovery program. The more you work your program, the higher chance of success you will have.

What is a Sobriety/Recovery Program exactly?

To me, the simplest definition is: Following a set of principles in order to free yourself from addiction and addictive behaviors.

There are several out of the box programs available to choose from, or you could create your own program. The choice is yours.

  • Many people find that AA is a good program; it’s free, it’s nearly everywhere, there’s variety, it’s self paced.

  • Many people find 12-step alternatives to be a good program, like SMART recovery, for the same reasons mentioned above.

  • Many people also find the Talking Sober community to be a good program or supplement to their existing program.

The Pink Cloud

The pink cloud refers to the euphoric feeling one gets in early sobriety. You may feel energized and full of juice. Your outlook on the future is optimistic. You feel like you’ve captured lightning in a bottle and are on top of the world. You’re finally doing things and going places… It’s a great feeling, however…

The pink cloud has caused people to believe they are cured, and so they begin to neglect their program and a neglected program is a fast track to relapse. Keep working your program, even (and especially) on those good days.

A Life on Hold

You’ve worked so hard to get to this part and you feel great now, but trust me, putting your life on hold is probably one of the most important things you can do to protect your sobriety. Avoiding social outings where alcohol or drugs is involved is important, while you may feel invincible, the first 90 days is the most dangerous, as far as relapse is concerned. Stay home, it will be worth it.

This part of sobriety is where a lot of people get bored and idle hands are the devil’s playground, as they say, so this is an opportunity to pick up that old hobby you had or a new one. Personally, I spent my days cleaning and decluttering my home; that kept me super busy. The possibilities are endless!

Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS)

Prolonged drug and alcohol abuse changes the chemistry of the brain, when we quit, it takes a while, up to 2 years, for that chemistry to get back on the right track. As the brain goes through the repair process, you may experience bouts of these latent withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms like, Brain fog, cravings, irritability, insomnia, depression, anxiety, fatigue, headaches. Sometimes these bouts last hours to days. They tend to be less intense than the acute withdrawals and also are less intense and less frequent over time. If you wake up feeling hung over and it’s been more than a month since you quit, this is why. There’s not much you can do but treat yourself and ride it out.

The Sustain/Recovery Phase

You have made it past the 90-day hump and now what? You guessed it, work your program! This is when you settle into your new life and just start living. You will have ups and you will have downs. Working you program will help you manage those tough times, and the more you get through, the easier they become to manage and cope.

The Pink Cloud has evaporated

Usually, the pink cloud has evaporated by 90 days and it’s back to real life, the daily grind. There’s not much you can do, just work your program. I think knowing that it’s temporary will help when reality sets in. It was nice while it lasted!

The First Year

Every day, in your first year, you are experiencing it for the first time sober, so take it easy!

Birthdays, Parties, Holidays, Weddings, and Funerals - you need to be cognizant of what you can commit to and what you should avoid. It’s okay to say no and it’s okay not to go!

When you become comfortable and complacent, it’s time to step up your work in your program. Growth is uncomfortable and when you are no longer uncomfortable, you’ve stopped growing. The idea is that you are making yourself better today, for an easier tomorrow, every day.

PAWS still??

Bouts of PAWS may still happen, but they should be less frequent and less intense. Be kind to your body and treat yourself!



I think that’s about it, having a plan is paramount to success in sobriety and has been proven time and time again.

if you’re still reading and you think this is helpful, click the heart below!

If you have something to add, let me know!! I’d love to get other’s opinions, feedback, experiences etc. on this topic.

227 Likes

Thanks for this, it’s a super helpful read even to me. Good reminders, and clear considerations. Can it be pinned for newcomers as I would have really loved to read this at the start of my journey!

19 Likes

Thanks Dan, that’s just amazing :blush::pray:

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A great thread to bookmark and refer to!!!

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I’d like to add that the one requirement of every plan is the willingness to follow through!

25 Likes

Thanks, Dan. Great stuff. Already bookmarked.

11 Likes

Thank you Dan - this took a lot of time to and effort to create and i appreciate you doing so. It is very helpful indeed. Bookmarking and will be re-reading it many times.

15 Likes

Great post and so clear.
No pink cloud and im week 3, my PAWS is diabolical as im so so sick yet in a funny way its motivating me . Years of alcohol abuse, stress and pushing its like my body has the floor to tell me how unimpressed its been with it all.

14 Likes

Thank you Dan for creating this remarkable post. :pray:
It’s straight and clear and incredibly helpful!!!
Thank you so much!

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AyBee’s PLAN

  1. Make plan
  2. Talk about plan
  3. Ignore plan
  4. Wonder why nothing’s working
  5. Cry
  6. Make plan
39 Likes

Thanks for this well-crafted and well-written thread; it’s already reminding me to stay focused. Bookmarked.

10 Likes

This post is fantastic!!!

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Love this Dan, so well thought out.:+1: Only thing I could think to add,( unless I missed it). Is check your ego at the door and ask for help when you need it. I was always to proud, tough, embarrassed, or scared to ask. And it got me nowhere but relapse and worse off. Ended up in rehab and begged for help. And I got it from people who know a hell of a lot more than I do.

26 Likes

Thanks Dan.
Great post!!
Very well thought out and put together.
:pray::heart:

8 Likes

Wow! Thank you for this! Great explanations and breaking it down. Helps to know what’s going on with our brains during those times

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Awesome post

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Merci beaucoup Dan for an utterly brilliant
‘if you know…you KNOW’ thread, this is gold :sparkles: :ok_hand:

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This is gold. :trophy::medal_sports: Well said!

7 Likes

Very comprehensive and well-formatted. Nice work. :+1:t2:

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Wow ! So true. So helpful. And such a great resource !! This is extraordinary.:pray:

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