It may seem outrageous to suggest that staying sober is easy when it is obvious that so many people fail in their attempt to do this. The statistics for some programs suggest that relapse rates may be as high as 75% in the first year, and the majority of these will return to addiction within the first few weeks of their recovery. These failure rates would suggest that staying sober is anything but easy, but this is not the case. The reality is that such statistics do not demonstrate the difficulty of staying sober, but instead highlight the need to approach things the right way. Those individuals who do manage to build a life away from addiction are not in a daily battle to stay sober – this is just a myth.
There are a number of reasons for why recovery may be viewed as difficult including:
* Those who relapse after a period away from alcohol or drugs may describe how it had been a real struggle for them. They blame recovery instead of examining where they went wrong.
* The relapse statistics paint a dismal picture.
* In order to stay sober the individual will be expected to make significant changes to their life. This can appear to be an overwhelming challenge and there is the fear of the unknown.
* Those individuals who were ambivalent about their recovery will have found it a struggle to stay sober. This means that the individual had not fully given up on the idea that they might find pleasure in substance abuse.
* If people choose a recovery path that is not suitable to their needs then this will make things harder than it needs to be.
* Some individuals will find life away from alcohol or drugs difficult because they have an untreated dual diagnosis. This means that they may be dealing with depression, or some other mental illness, alongside their addiction.
* Cognitive dissonance means that those who are trapped in recovery will develop a highly critical view of life in recovery. They justify their unwillingness to enter sobriety by claiming that it would be too hard for them.
* The individual can develop the belief that they are always on the verge of relapse. This mean that it feels like they are constantly struggling to stay afloat and they cannot relax.
It is not necessary for addiction recovery to be a daily struggle. In fact if the individual is finding it a real hardship to stay sober it is almost certainly a sign that they are doing something wrong. This is not to say that there is no work involved in staying sober, because there certainly is, but it should never become more than the person feels they are able to manage. The individual will be expected to completely change their approach to life and develop new ways of coping. If they approach things the right way though, such changes will never involve excessive discomfort. The fact that the individual is willing and motivated will mean that they do what is needed. It is only when people struggle against such changes that the real discomfort arises. When people are on the right path in recovery everything will just seem to fall into place – they know they are on the wrong path when things seem to be deteriorating.
There are a number of reasons why staying sober feels difficult including:
* The individual is not fully committed to their new life. They still hold onto the hope that they might one day be able to return to alcohol or drug use and this means that they can treat recovery like a prison sentence.
* The individual has expectations that are unreasonably high. This means that they are pushing for immediate results that are not realistic, and their efforts can only lead to disappointment.
* When people take sobriety for granted they will stop doing the things they need to do, and this usually leads to a bumpy ride.
* If the individual expects life in recovery to be difficult they can create a self fulfilling prophecy. Their expectations of difficulty means that things do feel difficult – in other words, if people go looking for trouble they will usually find it.
* The individual has selected a recovery option that does not fit their needs.
* The person has given up alcohol or drugs and not made any other changes to their life – this means that they are back where they started prior to addiction. If people fail to find a new approach to life in recovery they will continue to struggle.
* When people are addicted to alcohol or drugs they will use these substances to help them cope with life. If they do not develop new and more effective coping tools when they get sober they will feel defenseless and overwhelmed by life.
* Some people have a white knuckle approach to addiction recovery. This means that they view it as something to be endured and not enjoyed.
* If people struggle against the changes they need to make to stay sober then the process is going to feel much harder.
* If people do not take responsibility for their own recovery they will find things harder than they need to be – it can lead to learned helplessness where the individual becomes completely dependent on other people. Nobody else will be able to do the work for the person trying to build a life away from addition.
* If people fail to make use of available recovery resources it is going to make things much harder for them. By learning from the success and failures of those who have gone before the individual saves themselves from unnecessary discomfort and wasted time.
* Those individuals who are closed minded and arrogant will struggle to find success in recovery. This is because the process of developing sobriety demands an open mindedness to try new things and humility enough to learn.
* If people treat challenges in recovery as negative and undesirable it will make life for them more difficult. This is because life in recovery is all about facing and overcoming these challenges – it is what all human life is about.
There are things that people can do to ensure that their progress in sobriety is easy such as:
* Attending a rehab will allow the individual the opportunity to pick up the tools they need to stay sober. Going to rehab is not enough to ensure an easy life in recovery unless the individual makes use of the available resources during their stay.
* It is vital that the person rids themselves of any ambivalence they have towards recovery. This means fully eradicating the idea that they will ever be able to benefit from drinking alcohol or using drugs again.
* If people are willing to do whatever it takes to stay sober their success is guaranteed. So long as they maintain this attitude they will never relapse.
* In order to make life smoother in recovery the individual needs to be aware of all the common relapse triggers and develop strategies for dealing with these.
* By taking control and responsibility for their own recovery the person takes responsibility for their own comfort levels in sobriety.
* An effective support network can make all the difference to people who are beginning their life in recovery. This support can come from a recovery fellowship or from other sources such as family and friends or a therapist.
* Helping other people in recovery can be of great benefit to the person offering such help. It means that they are not solely focused on their own problems, and this has the effect of making their own problems appear less significant.
* The person has a positive outlook and is not expecting recovery to ever become more difficult than what they can handle.
* Rather than viewing challenges as a threat it is best to view them as a chance to grow. When people have the right attitude to difficult in life it can mean they can feel comfortable in even the most difficult situations.
* Ignore the relapse statistics – all that matters is that the individual is able to overcome their own addiction.
* If life in recovery becomes too difficult it is a definite sign that the individual has taking a wrong turn. They need to retrace their steps and get back on track – this can be easier with the help of a therapist or a friend who has more experience in sobriety.
* Humans are influenced by those they spend time with. By spending more time with sober friends the individual will be inspired and motivated.
* There are different programs available that help the individual build a new life for themselves away from addiction. If they can find an appropriate program it will make things much easier – it means that they do not have to reinvent the wheel.
* Information is power and it is helpful to understand the key information available about how to build a successful recovery. It is also recommended that people familiarize themselves in regards to information about relapse prevention.
* If people have a dual diagnosis they will need to get this other condition treated.