For most people, there is a sizable gap of time between the moment you first decide you should probably start taking the idea of going clean seriously and taking the first step to going clean. The hours and days between those two moments are speckled with moments of anxiety, frustration, and fear.
And all of that is perfectly normal. It’s generally difficult to break an addiction, for a number of biopsychosocial reasons. From physical dependence to emotional problems, mood swings, and social perception, any number of reasons can halt a person from committing to that first step of recovery. In that sense, it is important to mentally prepare yourself for the journey ahead and get ready for sobriety. Thankfully, it’s a straightforward path. But there will be many challenges along the way.
First things first, you’re ready to get started. Everybody who thinks about sobriety is. The moment you begin considering going sober should be the moment you commit to sobriety. When it comes to treating an addiction, the best time will always be before drug use even begins. The second-best time will always be right now.
It might take you some time to feel comfortable with your newfound sobriety, and mistakes will be made along the way, but consider at least making a personal commitment to beating your addiction the moment you realize you should quit using. That personal commitment can be very powerful with the right intentions. Instead of committing to definite success, commit to the journey.
The path to lasting recovery rarely goes the way we plan it, and many struggle with challenges they couldn’t have foreseen. Many relapse. Some relapse more than once. Understand that no matter what happens in the future, your commitment to sobriety on this day stands even if in the face of tremendous setbacks and serious hurdles. And with time, you will honor that commitment, and find your way to lifelong sobriety and freedom from addiction.
But you have to start somewhere. And that somewhere could be right this moment, or any moment before it.
This is not something you should tackle on your own, mostly because it’s not something you need to tackle on your own. Addiction is a beast that has its claws deep inside a person’s brain and body, affecting us more deeply than we often care to admit. Overcoming an addiction isn’t quite as simple as locking yourself in a room and brute forcing your way through the cravings and the sweats. Addiction recovery comes with periods of potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms, emotional upheaval, constant mood shifts, overpowering cravings, and an inner voice that consistently and progressively urges you to cheat and lie your way to the next fix, in any way possible, the longer you stay sober.
With time, all that does come to pass. But for most people, simply deciding to get clean isn’t enough to actually get clean. That is where help comes in. Whether through professionals, loved ones, outpatient programs, rehab clinics, and sober living communities, addiction recovery depends not only on your will to improve and overcome addiction, but it relies on you being open to getting help from others. A friend or loved one along the way can help make life a lot better, even in the darkest days.
Temper Your Expectations
No, sobriety does not guarantee a better life. But it guarantees the chance at a better life. It provides recovering addicts with the much-needed freedom to make choices that ultimately benefit them and those they love. Sobriety in and of itself is not the end goal, but a major and necessary element of a much more important goal – to live a fulfilling life.
It might not feel that way at first, though. Early sobriety is often a mishmash of positive and negative emotions, with many consecutive challenges. The transition from drug use to consistent and long-term sobriety also involves several sudden and drastic lifestyle changes, as well as a series of responsibilities. This is compounded by recurring urges, thoughts of drug use, and a fragile mental state owed to the neurological effects of long-term drug use, and the difficulties of transitioning from using to being completely clean.
Recovering from addiction is never ‘too hard’, and it is certainly never impossible. However, there may be a propensity to believe that going sober is like flipping a switch, when it is more like growing and grooming a plant. On the other hand, you have nothing to fear about the recovery process. While difficult, there is no such thing as failure in recovery.
There Is No Fail State
There is a certain level of anxiety surrounding recovery and relapses, and the fear that despite the effort put into getting and staying clean, some series of events might still trigger an inner demon and set us on a wild bender of binging and indulging. Be that as it may, the best way to deal with the fear of a relapse is to stop fearing relapses, and instead embrace them for what they are: signs that something is still missing.
Every instance of recovery is unique and different in its own way, and we all have our own mistakes to make and learn from. Relapsing doesn’t mean that your efforts of sobriety have been for naught – instead, consider it an opportunity to reflect on the events and factors that led to your relapse, so you can further improve how you deal with your addiction to drugs, and continue to fortify yourself against future mistakes.
Perseverance Is Progress
As long as you don’t give up on your recovery, you will never ‘fail’ at fighting against addiction. While addiction feels like an unyielding foe, it really isn’t. Your perseverance can be much greater than that of an addiction, especially if you’re being supported by your friends and loved ones.
No matter how long it takes, no matter how many challenges or hurdles you face, no matter what setbacks might occur, if you resolve to get back up, learn from what happened, and persevere, you will eventually feel confident in your own sobriety, leaving your addiction behind.
To mentally prepare yourself for the journey ahead, all it takes is the will to start.