Getting sober is hard, but staying that way can be infinitely more difficult. A lot of people are able to muscle their way through detoxing without a ton of help. Some even manage to do it entirely on their own. However, once drugs and alcohol have fully left their systems, several surprising challenges invariably set it. Whether you’re just getting started on the path to recovery or have been abstaining from quite some time, struggling with sobriety is incredibly common. Addiction isn’t a short-term issue that can be fixed by simply staying away from your substance of choice. This is actually a complex and lifelong disease, and there isn’t currently a known cure. This is why those who are most successful in recovery are often people with ongoing support. These individuals might work with sober sponsors or they may be enrolled in formal relapse prevention programs.
Struggling with sobriety isn’t a personal shortcoming or a sign of weakness. Willpower alone is not enough to fight addiction. Periodic temptations and cravings are actually an expected part of the recovery process. Struggles with sobriety can also indicate a need for additional treatment, or a need for other treatment types. Even if you’ve spent considerable time in a top-rated rehab, there may be underlying causes of your addiction that have yet to be addressed. Understanding why you struggle with sobriety is an important step towards finding a solution, and establishing a long-term recovery plan that actually works.
Why Staying Sober Is Sometimes Hard
The challenge of staying sober is in large part a physiological one. Most substances that people abuse make them feel relaxed, euphoric, or confident by triggering chemical changes within the brain. Artificially altering your mood by upsetting your brain’s natural chemical processes has a long-term impact on its functioning. Getting high typically prompts the release of feel-good chemicals or neurotransmitters. These chemicals are part of your brain’s reward system, and in addition to making you feel good, they also control other aspects your general functioning. When substance users regularly get high, the brain stops producing and distributing these chemicals on its own. Over time, this disruption makes it difficult for substance users to feel motivated or even happy unless they’re high.
When detoxing, you probably experienced a significant amount of physical distress. One part of this distress can be accounted for by changes in neurotransmitter production and distribution. Absent of these chemicals, the body has a hard time regulating its temperature, its blood pressure, and even its blood sugar levels among other things. After several days of detoxing, these distress signals tend to peak, and all withdrawal symptoms begin to abate. The real challenge comes when post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) set in. This is the stage at which the psychological effects of altered neurotransmitter production manifest. These can include:
- Intense feelings of hopelessness
With some forms of addiction, PAWS can even include suicidal thoughts and an elevated risk of suicidal actions. Understanding the challenges of PAWS, detoxing is always best done in a professional rehab environment that can offer medical monitoring and medical interventions. This is even true when the physical symptoms of detoxing are relatively mild.
The Long-Term Management of Co-Occurring Disorders
It’s additionally important to account for why you started using drugs or alcohol in the first place. Many people abuse substances because they believe they feel better when doing so. For instance, people with:
- Chronic depression
- Chronic anxiety
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
and many other mental health disorders use drugs or alcohol as a form of self-treatment. Until issues like these are professionally diagnosed and properly managed, staying sober will always be unnecessarily challenging. Many addiction treatment programs include treatment for co-occurring disorders. When these treatments entail the use of medications for managing underlying mental health disorders, continuing to use them is an important part of keeping recovery on track.
Establishing a Solid, Long-Term Recovery Plan
Structured addiction treatment services also help patients deal with a variety of real-world concerns. These concerns are among some of the most common barriers to long-term recovery. For instance, if you’re facing homelessness, legal issues, loss of child custody, or other problems as the result of your addiction, having feasible ways to manage these stressors can keep cravings and temptations at bay. Rehab services offer life-planning and life-management courses, goal-setting workshops, and access to a vast range of support resources. They also help their patients establish solid, long-term recovery plans. Whether choosing to join a support group or aligning yourself with a reliable accountability partner, getting ongoing help is key. If you’re struggling with sobriety and need help rebounding from a relapse or avoiding one, we’re happy to provide it. Call us today at 844-903-2111
Our counselors are always standing by.