Anyone who is clean and sober will undoubtedly experience periods or moments in which the desire to drink or use comes back. This is to be expected. Experiences such as using dreams, emotional highs/lows, and emotional landmines set off by life experiences are par for the course. Someone who is newly sober may experience these things so often they wonder if life will ever normalize. Rest assured, the ups and downs of life become less intense the longer you stay sober, but life still happens! Generally speaking, as someone begins accruing more sober time they are able to get through the struggles more gracefully. The path we travel is turbulent at first, but it does smooth out.
So how does someone who is living a sober life prevent themselves from being derailed when these inevitable difficult life situations occur? Every person is different, and what works for one may not for another, but there are some general things a recovering person can do that are considered effective for sustained sobriety.
Let’s list four practices out.
- Reaching out to someone you trust who understands what you’re going through.
- Redirecting your attention to something/someone else.
- Reframe the way you look at a situation
- Recognize what you can do to better the situation or take care of yourself.
1. Reaching Out
This is hands down the most important step someone with an addiction issue can take! Most of the time it is also the most difficult. It may be less difficult for someone who has been sober for a long time then it is for someone who is newly sober, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Reaching out for help to get perspective on a life situation invites a more objective party into the situation. Connecting with another human being who has dealt with a similar issue is invaluable!
2. Redirecting Attention
This is an action that may well be the crux of maintaining sobriety. Step out of your world and into someone else’s. Do so with no conditions! Just listen to someone else and what kind of help they might need. Do so with the sole intention of seeing how you can be helpful. Sometimes this may be helping someone else who has issues with addiction, but this can be practiced in every aspect of life from family and work to our social lives!
3. Reframing Perspective
Many people with addiction issues have a tendency to catastrophize things. Defaulting to spinning life situations in a negative light is common. A helpful practice is to reframe the way we look at things. Shedding a positive light on something can work wonders for the energy we bring into a situation that is difficult/depressing/overwhelming. This doesn’t mean we just think happy thoughts, or wear a smile all the time! Changing perspective is hard! It may be as simple as looking at challenges or setbacks as temporary situations that are opportunities to grow stronger.
4. Recognizing What You Can Do
In any situation there are things we can and can’t control. Those of us with addiction issues frequently swing from extremes of thinking we need to control everything to believing we can change nothing. This is something that most of us struggle with to some degree. There is a balance between these two extremes that is not easy to find, and frequently we must go back to Reaching Out for some assistance in determining what is in our power and what is not. If we have not done our part to change something we should take that action. If we already have, and are not satisfied, then we should probably just let it go. Letting go of the things we can’t change is not easy, and if this is especially difficult then Reaching Out one more time could be useful.
The Bottom Line
By no means does getting sober mean we are exempt from the ups and downs of life. Everyone is still subject to experiencing the struggles, hardships, successes, celebrations and moments of malaise that come with being a human being. The gift of sobriety is that WE GET TO EXPERIENCE THESE THINGS, and we grow from them in ways we couldn’t when actively using! Sobriety allows us the opportunity to start over, and to have a new experience with life. When we list the problems have now and compare them to the problems we had before getting sober we see that they are quality problems. Certainly there are exceptions, but most of the day to day struggles/triggers we experience pale in comparison to the ones we dealt with in active addiction.
Utilizing all four of these practices can help us to get through the inevitable struggles that come with living a sober life. It should also be noted that you cannot touch one without touching the others! Someone who puts them into practice will find that they rely on one another. They are tools that can be especially helpful for those of us with addiction issues, but they can be useful for anyone struggling with a life situation. The most important thing to remember is that regardless of what you are going through, you can get through it sober!