Staying sober, particularly during the initial stage, is a huge challenge. Besides the powerful urge to drink, environmental factors such as negative thinking and strong emotions can make it difficult to attain the person you wish to be.
“Reparenting yourself and then, conversely, policing yourself in sobriety is no mean feat,” explains Dr. Howard Samuels, psychotherapist, author, and contributor to Huffington Post. “Men and women who are new to recovery face challenges that for normal people seem small and easy to cope with, but for the alcoholic or the drug addict are almost overwhelming.”
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The crucial thing is to focus on the end result: a life that’s not controlled by alcohol addiction. Start by identifying your key risk factors associated with staying sober.
Here are some of the most common items that make staying sober so hard.
1. Fear of Missing Out
This is a familiar reason so many people who struggle with an alcohol addiction continue to drink. They feel like going to a bar with friends, to parties, concerts, and other alcohol-centered events are where the best things happen. They don’t want to miss out on the experiences their friends are having.
As you’re recovering, remind yourself that these environments are detrimental to your health. Instead of thinking about what you’re missing, think about what you’re gaining by staying away.
2. Toxic Friends
Having firm support at the beginning is absolutely crucial to staying successfully sober. People who drag you down in any way will inhibit your sobriety.
“It is not a simple or easy decision to cut ties from someone completely, but there are a number of indications that it may be the best choice even if that person is a parent, sibling, or spouse,” advises an article from American Addiction Centers.
“Culturally, we may feel compelled to maintain an active involvement with people to whom we are married or related, but the fact is that if it is not a healthy relationship and interactions with this person cause you anxiety, anger, high stress, or other emotions that make it more difficult to stay, it is time to move on.”
3. Believed Strength
Many recovering addicts in the early stages of sobriety believe they’re stronger than they honestly are. They assure themselves they can go to a bar or a party and not succumb to the desire to drink.
Even the strongest people will face serious temptation when surrounded by alcohol and people drinking, though. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re stronger than the countless other recovering addicts who have walked into a bar and failed.
4. Depressed Feelings
Sobriety is difficult enough when you’re feeling normal, but when you’re depressed, it feels almost impossible. Depression is one of the most common triggers for recovering alcoholics.
“While alcoholics may find it hard to get through social occasions without a drink, those alcoholics with a depressive disorder may find it even harder,” declares Dr. Richard Zwolinski, contributor for Psych Central.
“If you are depressed, a happy occasion like a birthday or a holiday can trigger thoughts and feelings that precipitate thoughts such as: ‘Everyone else is happy, what is wrong with me that I can’t be happy on special days?’ Therefore, feeling bad about being depressed itself can be a trigger for a drink – and create additional anxiety about whether recovery is really possible.”
When you’re feeling depressed, find ways to cope in a healthy way. Talk to a therapist, call a friend, do something you love, or pamper yourself. Don’t let it drag you back to your previous addiction.
5. Lack of Tools
Alcohol is a typical tool used to combat depression, anger, sadness, and other negative emotions. It’s a numbing agent many alcoholics turn to.
When you’re on the path to sobriety, you have to replace alcohol with more productive tools. You can’t ignore your emotions anymore, so you need coping tools to handle them.
When you’re feeling sad, call a supportive friend. When you’re angry, try meditation or breathing practices. Fill your toolbox with coping mechanisms that will make the need for alcohol obsolete.
6. Unrealistic Expectations
Though you don’t want to lose hope, you shouldn’t presume you can go from addiction to sobriety in a week or even a few months. The majority of recovering alcoholics require years to truly become sober.
Recognize that sobriety is a marathon and not a sprint. Learn to celebrate the small victories, and don’t get too discouraged when you relapse or experience weak moments. Lean on your support group and stay positive, even when things aren’t going the way you planned.
Addiction recovery is attainable for anyone in the throes of it, but you can’t move forward without the right tools. Know which triggers increase your need for alcohol, and know how to get out of a tight spot.
You have more control over your addiction than you might think, especially when you have the proper tools.