The transition from drug use to long-term sobriety is not easy, and recovering addicts face their fair share of challenges along the way. And while everyone has unique obstacles to overcome, there are several common roadblocks that stand in the way for nearly anyone seeking to emancipate themselves from their addiction. Learning to deal with sobriety in the long-term is easier said than done, and it helps to know what to expect, and how to get by.
Beat the Boredom
The excitement and luster of freedom from addiction wears thin quickly, in what many recovering addicts describe as a ‘pink cloud’ of hope and optimism. After that, it becomes difficult to find any words to describe the basis of early sobriety other than ‘monotonous’. Successful recovery is built on structured schedules and effective routines, but to a mind craving psychoactive drugs and struggling with urges and other memories, finding effective distractions becomes incredibly important.
Sobriety in and of itself doesn’t cure a person’s addiction, because addiction cannot be cured. Recovering addicts will always be ‘addicts’ in the sense that the effects of addiction on the brain linger, but they can avoid drug use and live fulfilling lives by adapting to their condition and fighting back against any urges to use again – essentially rendering their addiction moot. One of the ways this is accomplished is by slowly learning to focus on other things for pleasure and recreation. Take up a new hobby, try out an old hobby, get competitive, learn an instrument, exercise your creativity, or spend more time exploring the world around you. Whatever it is that best floats your boat, pursue it.
One of the more effective ways to deal with newfound sobriety and maintain it in the long-term is to set up ways you can hold yourself accountable, and quickly adapt to the responsibilities of sober living. Many recovering addicts who are on the road to recovery after months spent struggling with severe addiction must readjust to the responsibilities of sobriety, from covering living costs and dealing with monthly bills and annual tax reports, to being accountable to others, avoiding tardiness at work and at social gatherings, and making an effort to be around others again.
Maintaining employment can be a big challenge for many who spent enough time out of the job market, and one of the struggles of newfound sobriety is juggling the many responsibilities that sober living requires with the challenge of staying clean in spite of the psychological and physical long-term effects of addiction. But because work is something we have to do day in and day out, week after week, it is a helpful path to utilize the effectiveness of consistency and routine as a way to quickly adapt to sober living.
Learn from Relapses
Even for recovering addicts with weeks or months of sobriety under their belts, relapses are a risk that never completely disappears. Yet instead of fearing a relapse, it’s important to recognize it as an invaluable tool for discovering weaknesses and effectively addressing them throughout the recovery process.
Learning from your relapses can help you recommit to sobriety in a more effective manner, by finding out what it is that led you to relapse to begin with, from long-term pressure and stress (indicating the need for better stress management and fewer sources of pressure), to a single, difficult event (revealing the need for better ways to deal with life-changing upsets, a stronger support system, and potential psychiatric aid).
Consider Sober Living
Sober living homes present a unique solution for recovering addicts struggling with the challenges of early sobriety for the first time, by giving them a drug-free environment wherein they can learn to adapt to their new situation and overcome any roadblocks without the fear or temptation of a relapse.
Sober living environments are also very conducive towards recovery, with group activities and recovery-oriented rulesets helping tenants and clients maximize their efforts by encouraging maintained employment, strict curfews, evenly distributed chores, and regular group therapy sessions.
As the months and years pass, it becomes more and more important to take the time to reflect and look back on how far you’ve come, and how you’ve progressed. Reflecting on the progress you’ve made is important, especially because we often tend to get caught up in the present and in the challenges we are yet to face, to the point that we forget how much we’ve already gone through, and how much we’ve changed in the process. Change is the purpose of addiction recovery and witnessing your own transformation over time can help give you the motivation to keep pushing forward in your commitment to sobriety.
Other than being motivated by your own progress, a retrospective also gives you the chance to feel grateful for the help you’ve received along the way and can give you the opportunity to express your gratitude to those who were there with you. Expressing gratitude not only helps those who cared for us know that they’re appreciated, but it also helps us feel better as well.
Gratitude also reminds us that despite the challenges we face, it’s ultimately important to focus on the positive changes and improvements we’ve made over time, rather than homing in on our mistakes and dwelling on past and forgiven errors. It’s important to learn from one’s mistakes, but it’s a mistake in and of itself to focus only on the bad, and not take the time to celebrate the good.
Newfound sobriety can be exciting, thrilling, and daunting. It’s normal to feel anxious or overwhelmed, and it’s normal to make mistakes, slip up, or even relapse. It takes time to effectively adjust, and while outpatient programs and sober living arrangements take a great deal of that initial pressure off a person, and help make the transition much easier and smoother, it’s important not to underestimate the power of patience and perseverance. Much of the fear and giddiness of early recovery will pass, and with it, you’ll find your own ideal routine and recovery plan. Surviving those first few months may be the most critical challenge.