Getting sober is a challenging feat, to say the least, but maintaining sobriety is an entirely different kind of difficulty. There are a number of reasons why sobriety can be challenging, many of which are somewhat obvious. The inherent desire to consume the substance of choice is the first concern when it comes to maintaining sobriety, but there are countless underlying reasons why an addict may be tempted to relapse. Some of the most common reasons for this are:
- Physical withdrawal symptoms: When an addict stops using drugs or alcohol, they may experience a range of physical withdrawal symptoms, the most common of which are headaches, nausea, the shakes, and insomnia. These symptoms can be intense and can make it difficult for an individual to stay sober. The desire to give in simply to end the pain or discomfort can be overwhelming for many.
- Emotional and psychological factors: Addiction is often accompanied by underlying emotional and psychological issues, such as depression, anxiety, and trauma. These issues can make it difficult for an individual to stay sober, as they may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with their emotions.
- Social factors: Many people suffering from addiction have built their social lives around drug and alcohol use. Their friends and even family members may be actively using. Getting sober may mean cutting ties with friends and social circles that are associated with substance use, which can be incredibly difficult. In fact, many people struggle to end these drug-centric relationships, and this contributes to their relapses.
- Triggers: Triggers can be anything that reminds a recovering addict of their substance use. Typically, they induce a desire to use. From a psychological standpoint, this can be rooted in the brain’s association of the trigger with drug use or alcohol consumption. Neuroplasticity shows us that addicts can effectively rewire their brains and reduce the intensity of these triggers, but this does take a significant amount of time. Ultimately, triggers can be difficult to avoid and can make it challenging to maintain sobriety.
- Fear of failure: Many recovering addicts may be afraid of failing in their efforts to get sober, which can make it difficult to even start the recovery process. From there, the concern of relapsing can be another difficult obstacle to overcome.
- Difficulty with changing old habits and coping mechanisms: Alcohol and drugs have often been a coping mechanism for a long time, which can make it hard to change old habits and find new ways to cope with stress and emotions.
All of these obstacles present a significant challenge to recovering addicts, but each person’s specific experience will be different. For some, triggers may be almost completely eliminated, while others are forced to live in an environment that is full of them. Fortunately, there are quite a few tools available to help recovering addicts stay on track and maintain their sobriety. Below are seven helpful tools that can be used to support recovery.
Targeted Support Groups
Joining a support group like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) can provide a sense of community, accountability, and belonging. These groups offer a safe space for individuals to share their experiences and learn from others who are also in recovery.
Support groups also provide a structured environment where individuals can be held accountable for their actions. Members are encouraged to share their progress and any setbacks, which can help them stay on track and motivated.
A Strong Support System
Having a support system to lean on is crucial in any aspect of life, especially sobriety. You will likely need to vent or rely on friends or family frequently, especially at the beginning of your sobriety journey. This support system should be able to guide you, and lift you up, but also provide tough love when necessary.
One-on-one therapy with a licensed counselor or therapist can be an effective way to work through underlying issues that may have contributed to developing your addiction. Different types of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), can be helpful in addressing specific concerns.
Intensive Outpatient Rehab or Inpatient Rehab can also be useful in helping the addict learn the tools they need to develop a lasting sobriety.
Keeping a journal can be a helpful tool for reflecting on progress, identifying triggers, and tracking emotions. It can also be useful for sharing with a therapist or support group. Journaling is a great way to work through struggles in a constructive way. Rather than rushing out to fulfill a need and achieve instant gratification, you are forcing yourself to sit down and reflect. Over time, this habit can make a significant impact on your coping abilities.
Medication-assisted Treatment (MAT)
For those who are struggling with certain addictions like opioids, MAT can be an effective tool to help manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. Medications like methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone can be prescribed by a healthcare provider and used in conjunction with therapy and support groups.
There are countless smartphone apps available that can help support you in your recovery. Some apps provide daily inspiration and reminders, while others track progress and provide helpful resources. Having a sobriety tracker is a great way to build confidence and receive positive affirmations. This is beneficial for mental health as well.
Having a sober companion that provides support, mentoring, and guidance in the recovery process, can be a powerful tool for staying on track. In AA, this person is often called a sponsor.
It’s important to remember that recovery is a unique journey for everyone and that different tools may work better for different individuals. It’s important to be open to trying different approaches and to work with a therapist or counselor to find the best combination of tools for your recovery.
What To Do If You Relapse
Relapse is a common part of the recovery process and can happen to even the most dedicated individuals. If you do experience a relapse, it’s important to remember that it does not mean that you have failed. Instead, it’s an opportunity to learn and grow from the experience.
First and foremost, seek help as soon as possible. You’ll need to reach out to your support system, whether it’s a therapist, counselor, or support group. They can provide you with the support and guidance you need to get back on track.
Next, reflect on what led to the relapse and what you can do differently in the future. This can help you identify triggers and develop strategies to avoid them. It is crucial not to beat yourself up. Relapse can be difficult and can lead to feelings of guilt and shame. Remember that relapse is a normal part of the recovery process and that you are not alone.
From there, you can adjust your treatment plan if necessary. This could mean working with a therapist or counselor to develop new strategies for coping with triggers or seeking additional support through medication-assisted treatment. Remember that recovery is a journey, and relapsing is not the end of it. Get back on track and try again, it might take more time and effort, but it’s worth it.
New Dimensions Can Help!
If you or someone you know is struggling with alcoholism, substance abuse, or other mental health problems, New Dimensions can help. To learn more, contact us at 800-685-9796 or visit our website at www.nddtreatment.com. You can also access other therapy services at www.mhthrive.com.
Keywords: Sobriety; Helpful tools for sobriety; Recovering addict; Drug use
- Laudet AB, Savage R, Mahmood D. Pathways to long-term recovery: a preliminary investigation. J Psychoactive Drugs. 2002 Jul-Sep;34(3):305-11. doi: 10.1080/02791072.2002.10399968. PMID: 12422942; PMCID: PMC1852519.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Treatment and Recovery.” Drugabuse.gov, 2018.