young lady with 9 months sober

9 Months Clean and Sober: Benefits, and what to expect

02-09-2024Recovery Tools

Staying sober for 9 months is a big deal. In many ways, by this point we usually feel that we’ve done it – we got sober! However, there are some specific things we always like to mention to folks with 9 months clean and sober, as this chip is often regarded in 12 step recovery as “the hardest chip to get.”

By the time you’ve got 9 months sober, you will have experienced a profound transformation. Without drugs and alcohol, you’ll have clarity of mind, improved physical health, strengthened relationships, and a newfound sense of purpose.

At this point, you’re continuing to build on the benefits you’ve experienced by getting 6 months of sobriety.

What to expect at 9 months sober

By the time we’ve been sober for 9 months, we’re knocking on the door of long-term recovery, and looking forward to reaching one year of sobriety. This is a truly amazing time, but like all other periods of time in your recovery, there are some unique challenges present.

A feeling of normalcy

By the time we’ve hit 9 months of sobriety, a feeling of normalcy should have returned to our lives. We’ve settled into our work or school lives, we’ve got a stable place to live, we know which meetings we go to, and we've likely completed whatever substance use aftercare programs we were a part of.

Staying sober no longer feels difficult – we know we can do it. We feel generally good without drugs in our lives; it’s been a long time since we’ve had to deal with nagging post-acute withdrawal symptoms. Many of the basic fears we had when we were going through our first 90 days sober will have subsided.

Lots of distractions

9 months into recovery, it’s likely that we’ve begun to put a life together and think a little more about the future. We may be:

  • Working full-time jobs
  • Going to school
  • Participating in social events
  • Being invited to family gatherings again
  • Picking up hobbies

In general, these are all good things. The potential downside here is that we’ll be dealing with more distractions in our recovery than ever before. The 6 to 9 month period in recovery is very much about learning to manage these priorities while keeping a focus on our recovery as the most important.

Leveling out of physical health

By the time we’ve got 9 months of sobriety, it’s been a long time since drugs and alcohol have caused us to neglect basic hygiene or caused us an immediate health problem. Though some individuals may be dealing with long-term health conditions resulting of drug and alcohol use, the majority of them should have subsided by this point.

The result is that we’re generally doing better mentally and physically. Our immune system is recovered, any short-term weight loss or gain has leveled out, and many of the symptoms of heavy drinking and drug use are a thing of the past.

The tendency to forget where we came from

Though the 9 month sober mark is incredible, it’s also the time in recovery where we’re surrounded by so many blessings that we will often struggle to “remember where we came from,” so to speak. This is why the 9 month chip in AA has become known as the “hardest chip to get”; it’s extremely common for us to lose touch with our first step and the memory of what it was like to hit rock bottom around this time.

We often hear people in the rooms talk about being 9 months sober and depressed, or more emotional after 9 months sober. Though there is absolutely the possibility that some underlying mental health issues are surfacing, it’s often the case that the person has simply let off the gas, so to speak, in their recovery journey.

We wrote about this elsewhere in our article on what to do when sobriety loses its priority; feel free to check that one out if you feel this applies to you.

The Solution: Focus on keeping recovery as your number one priority

There’s much that could be said about how to maintain a focus on recovery and staying sober, but the gist of it is that we need to retain a vital connection with our first step: the reason we got sober in the first place.

There are many ways to accomplish this, but the biggest difference makers will be sticking with the basics:

Have regular contact with newcomers

Whether we’re sponsoring newcomers, chairing a “Hospitals and Institutions” (H&I) meeting, or sharing our story in newcomer’s meetings, having regular contact with newcomers is one of the most surefire methods of remembering why we’re in recovery in the first place.

The longer we go in recovery, the harder it can be to summon in our own minds the memory of the shame and guilt we felt when we got sober. It can be hard to remember the sleepless nights, the worry about the future, the financial and familial woes.

Having a heavy conversation with a newcomer is a surefire way to connect to this feeling. We don’t do this so we can beat ourselves up: we do this because it fills us with gratitude for the progress we’ve made, and inspires us to continue.

“… nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, pg 89).

Continue to attend meetings regularly!

Folks with 9 months of sobriety are often getting busy again. As the old saying goes, “we’ve got problems in areas that we didn’t used to have areas!”

This is a good thing, but when there’s not enough hours in the day, which part of your life gets cut out? For many people, it’s regular meeting attendance that begins to slide.

There’s nothing wrong with being flexible, and sometimes it’s inevitable. However, it’s important to watch yourself when you miss a meeting, and make it up later in the week if you can. The reason for this is not because we’ll drink if we don’t; it’s because every meeting we miss makes the next one we miss easier.

Just because we’re not doing a 90-in-90 commitment anymore doesn’t mean we won’t benefit from keeping a regular meeting schedule. Here’s a common AA one-liner we’ve all heard: “The more I miss meetings, the more I miss drinking!”

Finish the 12 steps and maintain contact with your sponsor

If you haven’t finished your initial run through the 12 steps by this point, now would be a good time to double-down on that commitment and work through them with your 12-step sponsor. Additionally, your sponsor should know you very well by this point.

As we continue to realize the 9th and 10th step promises in our lives, we become more and more concerned about looking forward to the future, and more and more aware that if we don’t stay sober, there’ won’t be a future to look forward to!

9 Months Sober: Benefits

If you continue to pursue recovery, one day at a time, there is plenty of good news for you going forward:

A feeling of purpose

At 9 months sober, we’re fully “in” the recovery world: we may be sponsoring others, we likely have service commitments, and for the first time in a long time we may be thinking about the future in a positive light.

This can bring with it a sense of serenity and purpose that we previously had not known.

General stability in life

At 9 months of sobriety, it’s likely that you’re out of treatment (if treatment was part of your journey), you’ve finished your Aftercare process, you’ve been working for a few months, and you’re paying bills and generally living an honest lifestyle. You’re likely also well known in your home group and your experience is frequently used to benefit others.

At this point, a sense of normalcy and stability has returned, even if you’ve still got some lingering worries about financial or legal issues. By this point, many of your basic fears in early recovery have turned out to be false evidence appearing real: you’re no longer wondering if you can stay sober, you know you can.

Strengthened relationships

Whether we’re discussing improved relationships with family members or a strong foundation and sober network, our relationships will have improved by this point.

It’s common for family members to vary by individual as far as rebuilding trust is concerned, but by the time we’ve got 9 months sober from alcohol and drugs, most of them will have begun to have some faith in our resolve to stay sober.

In terms of our sober network of friends, it’s likely that you’re viewed as a regular in your chosen support groups and are often invited to outings and gatherings as they happen. At this point, you’ll generally be viewed as a reliable source of experience, strength, and hope.

9 Months and Beyond: There’s no top to the mountain!

Having 9 months of sobriety is a truly amazing achievement. By this time, we’ve put some real distance between ourselves and our last drink, and our “spiritual piggy bank” is filling up with good experience.

If your life seems like it’s becoming full of new blessings, know that there’s much more to come for you as you maintain your sobriety, deepen your understanding, and continue to walk this road one day at a time!