A person is sober when the effects of alcohol and other drugs have worn off. Most addicts spend a lot of time sober, although they might not prefer to. But unlike the state of sobriety, a sober life doesn’t come on its own.
Many addicts struggle with the idea of recovery because it would mean going back to a state of living that, to them, might just not be worth it. Not only does addiction rob you of the ability to choose to stop using drugs, but an addiction can leave you hopeless and apathetic to the idea of a better life. And when that life entails letting go of the one thing that helped you cope with problems better than everything else, genuinely seeing the ‘upside’ can be very difficult.
To recover from addiction, you have to want to recover. You need an incentive to go sober. Something that genuinely makes you feel like staying clean is worth it. For some people, that incentive is their legacy – they’re motivated to be a better person so their lasting memory in the eyes of others was that of someone who did their best. For others, it’s to do better for their children and their family – to get clean for their sake. However, to get clean, you have to come to terms with the pros and cons of what it’ll mean to stay clean.
What Does Sobriety Mean to You?
In this sense, sobriety refers to a long-term state of sobriety in the face of a past addiction. It’s not easy to stop using drugs after you’ve been through physical dependency, because even on a small level, both the body and the mind distinctly remember what it was like to be addicted, and it isn’t uncommon to continue to crave a relapse when you’re under stress, even years after going clean.
Maintaining sobriety in the state of continued potential cravings means having a good reason not to want to return to a past of addiction. Because the brain is wired to seek out and repeat behavior that feels rewarding, you need ways to keep yourself interested and entertained without relying on drugs. Drugs can help you cope with issues, but they also just generally feel great – for a short time, at least. Beating that high means finding a passion of your own. It could be your career, or it could be a sport, or it could be a creative and artistic outlet. Explore your abilities and find out what it is that really drives you.
Purpose matters as well. We all need a few things we can identify ourselves with – things through which we can realize our own value and determine how much our life meant to those around us, and what kind of an impact we had throughout our time alive. Living for the sake of living isn’t much of a life at all and living all for yourself gets very boring and hollow very quickly. Whether you live for family, for country, or for an altogether different aim, it’s important to do something you genuinely believe is worth doing. It might be grassroots politics and volunteer work, or helping animals, or becoming the best in your city or region at a certain skill or raising your child to be the best version of themselves.
It Doesn’t Have to Be Boring
A lot of people fear that going sober would not only tear away from them the one thing they’ve been using to deal with the pain they feel, but it would leave life feeling empty without anything that’s really ‘fun’. But the truth is that addiction makes life incredibly dull, reducing a person’s life to little more than a cycle of desperation.
Recovery will help a person realize how beautiful life can be, and that despite its hardships, there are countless ways to live life to the fullest. Life after recovery doesn’t have to be boring.
Staying on Track (for Years)
One of the greatest pitfalls in recovery is the belief that staying clean after an addiction is about willpower – the thought that you have to rely solely on yourself and your own commitment to a better self to stay sober. However, that’s impossible. Not only will multiple relapses deter you over time from believing in the process, but they will also deter you from believing in your own potential. You need people around you to help out when you’re at your lowest point, to convince you to stay clean, to support you when you struggle, and encourage you to seek out recovery when you’ve slipped and relapsed.
The key to staying on track isn’t just determination – it’s having a good support network. Regularly visit and stay in touch with a professional therapist, meet up with a group of local recovering addicts or stay in touch through the internet, meet up with sober friends and make plans to stay in touch, and talk to your family about your progress in recovery and don’t be afraid to call them when you really need someone around to keep you on the straight and narrow.
Finding Alternative Ways to Cope
There’s no question – drugs are the fastest and arguably the strongest coping mechanism for any kind of pain. But they don’t last long, and they have serious negative side effects, including making the pain worse. An addiction is sometimes the result of a ‘maladaptive coping mechanism’, or a form of coping with pain and suffering that leaves a person ill-equipped to deal with the cause or source of the pain.
This is why early recovery is one of the hardest parts of staying sober. On top of the physical hardships of withdrawal, many people struggle emotionally after going clean because their lives have dramatically changed for the worse since getting addicted, and without the drugs to numb the pain, the only choice they have is to face it.
Recovery and long-term therapeutic treatment can help an individual deal with the aftermath of their addiction. But we all need coping mechanisms. Whether as a way to prevent stress from building up too much or as a way to blow off steam after something particularly difficult, we need ways to cope with what life might throw at us. After an addiction, turning to anything else can be difficult. But with professional help and the support of family and friends, you can find a healthier way to deal with life’s challenges.