Getting through withdrawal and early sobriety is no small task. Once you get through it, you might think that must have been the hardest part. But life will continue to present you with new challenges. It’s time for the work of learning to live sober one day at a time. That sometimes sounds easier than it is.
It would be great if going through detox and residential treatment was all that you had to do. Leaving treatment would be like reaching a graduation date and from there you could move forward, living happily ever after, always knowing what to do and how to handle life for the rest of your life. But it doesn’t work that way. Staying sober requires first that you admit to yourself that you are an addict or an alcoholic who can’t drink or drug in safety, and then that you attain the willingness to do whatever you have to do to hang on to your sobriety.
The Challenges Continue
As an addict or alcoholic, you will sometimes be faced with challenges that may endanger your sobriety or make you uncomfortable in your own skin. Family members or your boss or some kind of disappointment or loss may make you feel like you want to pick up. The reason you feel that way is pretty simply explained: you don’t want to have to feel your feelings. You may even get the urge to pick up when you suddenly feel extremely happy or excited for whatever reason.
When you least expect it, people, places or things may trigger the urge to pick up a drink or a drug. The nature of addiction is that you have had a habit of looking for something outside yourself to make everything better. In the past, you might have reached for drugs, alcohol, food, sex or gambling. Even now, you may sometimes yearn for a way to escape or numb your feelings. At times the feelings you are experiencing may seem to be too much for you and you revert to wanting to cope in the way that is most familiar, by turning to mind-altering substances or behaviors.
This doesn’t mean you are hopeless, or that what you have learned in treatment doesn’t work. It only means that you have a disease that requires that you stay on top of it if you truly want to continue to recover.
Overcome Triggers With Awareness
Getting past the triggers that make you want to pick up requires dedication and commitment to recovery. You have to want to be sober more than you want to drink or drug, no matter what happens.
Sobriety is all about living in reality. The key to taming triggers is awareness—awareness of what your triggers are, awareness of the insidiousness of the disease, and awareness of what you need to do to stay sober. Pay attention to the things or people that make you want to use or abuse drugs or alcohol. You may have to make a decision not to hang around with your drinking buddies any more, or you may have to avoid get-togethers with family or friends where you know people will be drinking or drugging.
Making Important Life Changes
Remember, the disease is bigger than you are. Take the time to learn about the nature of addiction so you will know what to do when you feel a trigger coming on. Go to a lot of meetings. Talk to a lot of sober people. Read recovery literature. Ask for help.
Fill your life with healthy, sober activities. Instead of feeling sad that you can’t hang around the nearest nightclub, learn a new hobby or get physically active. Preparing for triggers is kind of like training for a marathon. The more you fill your head with healthy thoughts such as slogans and other recovery tools, the more prepared you will be to cope with life’s difficulties.
Don’t beat yourself up for sometimes having the urge to drink or drug. Having feelings that trigger the urge to pick up is natural for addicts and alcoholics. The fact that you want to pick up doesn’t mean you have to. You just have to learn to tame your triggers.