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Recovery can be a tough process, often with ups and downs. Alcohol is a chronic and relapsing disease, and it can feel difficult to remain sober – especially when you don’t seek professional support.

If you’ve just started your sobriety journey, you may be wondering if it gets easier. The answer is yes – although recovery is a lifelong process and doesn’t happen overnight, staying sober can get easier.

However, it’s important to seek help, have a secure support system in place, and set the foundation for lasting recovery.

Why Does It Feel So Hard To Stay Sober?

There are many reasons why it may feel challenging to stay sober. As you achieve sobriety, your life changes – your friendships and relationships may change, and your mindset changes.

Withdrawal Symptoms

One of the main reasons that sobriety can feel difficult – especially at first – is withdrawal symptoms. When you first quit drinking alcohol or taking the substance you’re addicted to, your body isn’t used to functioning without it.

You may experience a combination of both physical withdrawal symptoms and psychological withdrawal symptoms. There are several reasons why you may experience withdrawal symptoms during alcohol detox.

A key reason why you feel unwell after stopping drinking is that alcohol increases the effects of GABA – a neurotransmitter. Alcohol also decreases glutamate levels, which lowers your excitability.

When you abuse alcohol in the long term, your body gets used to these changes, producing more glutamate and less GABA to make up for the changes. When you stop drinking or lower your amount, your body continues producing these amounts of GABA, which can leave you feeling hyperactive, restless, shaky, and anxious.

Withdrawal often involves flu-like symptoms but is considered much worse as you may feel tempted to return to substance use to ease the symptoms. The length of time it takes for withdrawal symptoms to ease can vary, but typically, withdrawal symptoms peak within a few days.

It’s also important to consider the psychological aspects of addiction. When you are addicted to alcohol or drugs, your brain often associates the substance with reward. This can cause cravings, and make it difficult to feel positive emotions without the substance.

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It Can Be Hard to Address Trauma and Negative Emotions

Addiction recovery involves addressing the reasons why you may have turned to alcohol abuse. Many people tend to abuse alcohol or take drugs to deal with trauma or negative emotions such as shame or depression.

In rehab, you’ll be encouraged to address these issues, which may make the trauma feel raw again. However, it is an integral part of recovery. It may feel scary dealing with these feelings without the aid of alcohol or drugs – it requires determination, motivation, and bravery to confront and address these issues.

Recovery Can Feel Lonely

Not all people find recovery lonely, but it is a completely normal and natural emotion to experience when recovering from addiction.

One of these reasons you may feel lonely is that alcohol or drugs may have been your previous support system, and you may have surrounded yourself with others with substance abuse issues.

When you’re recovering from addiction, it can be helpful to spend time with loved ones. It can also be beneficial to spend time with others in recovery.

If you have burned bridges with previous relationships (for example, family and friends) whilst in active addiction, you can work to rebuild these relationships in therapy.

Staying sober requires support, so it’s important that you build healthy relationships and surround yourself with people who are good for you when trying to stay sober. Making sober friends can make recovery feel less lonely.

Relapsing Can Set You Back

Recovery is not always a linear path – and chances are, you will experience ups and downs. Addiction is a relapsing disease. Factors such as anxiety, stress, and of course, cravings can increase the chances of relapsing when you’re trying to stay sober.

Rehab and ongoing care can be helpful in keeping you on track. It can also be helpful to develop a peer support system to keep you sober.

Relapsing is a part of recovery, and slipping up doesn’t mean that your recovery journey has ended. Nobody is perfect, and complete sobriety takes time.

Your Life Changes

When you stop taking drugs or drinking alcohol and strive for long-term sobriety, your life as you know it changes. Although it’s for the better, it may feel scary at first.

Rehab encourages you to develop new and effective coping strategies to help manage cravings, boost your confidence, and improve your general well-being. However, it can be challenging to both learn and implement these strategies in your life.

You may also stop seeing certain friends or people you previously associated with whilst in active addiction, as previous drinking buddies may be considered a temptation. Many aspects of your life change while you’re in recovery, but it’s important to remember that staying sober is the best possible outcome.

Does Staying Sober Get Easier?

Recovery can be difficult, especially at the beginning. There is no universal experience when it comes to staying sober, and your experience may differ from somebody else with the same addiction. You may experience different challenges and meet different achievements.

At first, you may be experiencing symptoms of withdrawal and strong cravings. It can take some time to adjust to your new, sober life – and implement the healthy coping strategies you learned in rehab or therapy.

Staying sober can be much easier if you replace a destructive social circle with a healthy and positive one. This can not only prevent loneliness but help to prevent relapse – and get you back on track if you do relapse.

Your life staying sober does get easier with time – but seeking support is key. With the right support system in place, as well as perseverance and motivation, you may find it easier and easier to remain sober as you progress through your recovery journey.

Typically, once a person has been sober for a couple of years, and has adjusted to a sober lifestyle, it’s much easier to remain sober. That being said, people who have been sober for years or even decades can have at least one relapse – but they have often developed the skills to get back on track quicker.

What Support Is Out There For Alcohol and Drug Recovery?

You don’t have to deal with your addiction alone – there is help out there for you, including rehab addiction treatment and groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

Detoxification

Detoxification aims at dealing with the physical aspect of addiction. During the detox stage, you’ll have no access to drugs or alcohol, in order to free your body from the physical addiction.

Depending on the severity of your addiction, you may benefit from a medical detox with detox medication, supervised by a medical professional.

Therapy and Counselling

Once your withdrawal symptoms have peaked, you may move on to the second stage of treatment – addiction therapy. Therapy aims at dealing with the social, psychological, and behavioural aspects of addiction. Attending therapy can give you a strong foundation to begin your recovery journey.

Different rehab centres offer different types of therapy, but almost all centres offer CBT – cognitive behavioural therapy. During therapy, you’ll learn lots about yourself and your addiction – you’ll learn your addiction triggers, and root causes, as well as healthy coping skills to manage cravings and prevent relapsing.

Counselling and therapy can not only be an effective form of mental health treatment but can be extremely beneficial when it comes to addiction recovery. It can help to build your resilience and your general well-being – especially if you have a dual diagnosis.

Support Groups and Sober Programmes

Support groups can be helpful at preventing relapse. There are many mutual support groups for alcohol addiction – and one of the most popular support groups for recovering alcoholics is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

AA is a 12-step program that was founded back in 1935, designed to help those with alcohol use disorder. It encourages life without alcohol, promoting a sober lifestyle. In a typical AA meeting, you’ll be encouraged to share your story with others and listen to what other people have to say.

Recovery International is a group that promotes a cognitive behavioural system that can help you gain control over your addiction, including negative thoughts and impulses.

Another group that follows the AA framework is Narcotics Anonymous, although, instead of for those with alcohol problems, NA is for people with a drug problem, whether it be drug abuse or drug addiction.

Some other groups you may wish to join if you are recovering from alcohol addiction include LifeRing, which is a social support network – or SMART Recovery, which can help you maintain motivation and deal with urges. It encourages resilience and self-change.

Begin Your Recovery Journey With Help4Addiction

At Help4Addiction, we can help you overcome your addiction. Whether you have alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder, trust our team to find the most appropriate treatment options for you.

We’ll listen to your needs, circumstances and preferences, and find the right treatment plan and place for you to receive addiction treatment.

Call us today for a free addiction assessment, to chat with our friendly team, and to begin your journey to a better life.

About Author

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.

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