Difficulties of Staying Sober in Early Recovery and How to Overcome Them
Whether you are new to recovery or an old veteran, certain obstacles may get in the way of your sobriety. Being prepared for and knowing how to handle these situations will help you on your path to long-term addiction recovery.
You have probably heard that staying sober in addiction recovery is difficult. And while it does definitely have its challenges, knowing what to expect and understanding how to overcome these difficulties before they happen can be the difference between success and failure.
Below we have put together a few of the most common hurdles you can expect in addiction recovery along with a few tips on how to more easily overcome them.
7 Things that Make it Tough to Stay Sober
1. Unrealistic expectations.
Upon leaving addiction treatment, it is not uncommon to feel the desire to boomerang your life back into order immediately. You may be thinking about a new career, buying a house, or meeting that special someone. Having goals for your first year in sobriety is great, but you need to keep it realistic. After all, you are recovering from an illness that took away years of your life. Staying sober and healthy is your number one priority, and if that is “all” you accomplish in your first year of sobriety, then you should give yourself a pat on the back! Recovery is hard work, and you should be proud!
2. New feelings.
All those feelings that you had kept masked underneath drugs or alcohol will come flooding to the surface. Especially for the first few months in recovery your feelings will be intensified, and it can often be scary. But the best thing to do is acknowledge them – and then let them go by engaging in activity. Allowing yourself to get lost in the rabbit hole of your thoughts can lead to relapse. When you are feeling intense negative feelings (this will happen a lot in early recovery) get active by calling your sponsor, going to the gym or taking a walk, meeting up with a friend for coffee – basically doing anything you can to get yourself ‘out of your head’. While it is important to come to terms with your feelings, take it slowly. It has been a long time since you allowed your feelings to come through so strongly on a regular basis, and it will take a while to get used to them!
3. New responsibilities.
Activities such as paying bills or applying for jobs may seem incredibly foreign and difficult. During the time that you were using, these activities may have been done under the influence, or often completely neglected. Getting used to these “new” responsibilities can seem like a huge undertaking and can create stress. Stress is one of the biggest relapse triggers, so make sure you reach out for help. Talk to your sponsor, friends and family when you feel overwhelmed – they are there to help you get through the tough times and stay sober.
4. Not fully committing to recovery.
This is incredibly important. Getting and staying sober is a task that cannot be completed overnight. Recovery is a long and winding journey that you must be committed to in order to be successful. It is so important to understand that you and only you are responsible for your own recovery – while family, friends and your sponsor can help you along the way, you will not be successful unless you are willing to make serious changes in your life and work on staying sober each and every day.
5. Lack of positive thinking.
Positive thinking can go a long way when it comes to successfully staying sober in early recovery. Many people go into recovery feeling as though it is a jail sentence or some sort of punishment. It is important to remember the positive changes that recovery has brought or will bring to your life, and remind yourself of these things each and every day. It also helps to keep a gratitude journal, a gentle reminder to yourself of the things you can be grateful for each day.
6. Forgiveness (or lack thereof).
In order to be successful in addiction recovery, you must forgive yourself. This is very hard for some people, especially for those who were involved with dishonest or hurtful situations during their addiction. There are many alcoholics and addicts who were responsible for taking another person’s life through motor vehicle accidents or violent acts while under the influence. No matter what you did when you were addicted, you need to forgive yourself. You need to understand that those actions were caused by your illness, and now that you are in recovery you are able to act as the person you truly are. Beating yourself up over the past will only lead to depression, anger and other negative feelings that will more than likely send you into a relapse.
7. Undiagnosed co-occurring disorder.
As many as 6 in 10 people with a substance abuse disorder have at least one other mental health disorder, often referred to as a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. Common mental health disorders that accompany addiction include stress or anxiety disorders, depression, personality disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among others.
If you have an underlying mental health disorder that has not been properly diagnosed, chances of staying sober will significantly decrease. It is important that your addiction treatment provider is experienced in dual diagnosis. If you believe that you may have an underlying mental health disorder that has not been properly diagnosed, talk to a mental health professional immediately, before your disorder causes you to relapse.
Be Successful in Recovery
No matter how much you think you are prepared to be successful in recovery, there will always be curveballs headed your way. One of the most important things that you can do is to surround yourself with an amazing support group – fellow recovering addicts, your sponsor, and family and friends who you trust to support you in your journey – and open the lines of communication. Reach out to your support network when times get tough, or when you feel scared, sad or anxious. Attend a meeting if you are feeling lost.
At The Cabin Chiang Mai, we offer a unique and effective addiction treatment method that includes relapse prevention and an intensive aftercare programme. If you are struggling to stay sober, reach out to one of our addiction counsellors to see how we can help.