Recovery Complications–When Sobriety is Uncomfortable
Recovery complications come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some are simply irritants and other can be catastrophic. Like many people say, sometimes you clearly wonder if there is ‘another relapse’ left in you. It’s unfortunate, but many have made multiple efforts–earnest, hard-working efforts–to get sober but return to using anyway. Something makes using substances far more comfortable than sobriety. And, tragically, some get to the point of fearing they won’t return to sobriety after another relapse.
What puts us in such a dire circumstance? Why do some seem to be ‘lucky’ enough to get it, make it stick, and others do knot? There are lots of opinions about that, and unfortunately, some are based on misinformation and a lack of understanding. All too often, for example, the person who can’t beat addiction even with heroic efforts is blamed.
Of course, there are people who pretend interest in overcoming their substance use and do so for multiple reasons. Typically, it is often the desire to please others or to at least ‘get them off your back’. In any rehab program, you will find people motivated to be there by some sort of coercion. It may be the courts who have offered rehab vs. jail time; it may be a spouse that says rehab or divorce… or an employer who is willing to give you one chance to get it together… Coercion of that sort comes in various guises, and there are many stories with different such scenarios.
It’s true in the bigger scheme of things that it doesn’t really matter how you get to treatment as long as treatment gets to you. If you have an addictive illness and your life is unraveling, who cares what the motivation for wellness and happiness is? However, there is a danger for everyone who is coerced to treatment, or who feels coerced, and that is that resentment becomes more powerful than the commitment to change. This is one of the most common recovery complications at work when others have been a motivating factor in someone’s choice to go to treatment. It can be too easy to get angry with whoever is holding you to the task, and you may choose to be defiant by using again.
Naturally, this is just one of many possible recovery complications but it is a classic one and illustrates the many and often unconscious dynamics at work for people who relapse. For those who have relapsed more than once, it’s helpful to identify the underlying dynamics at work when hard-won sobriety becomes a relapse process. Finding why your sobriety is uncomfortable will give you the key to changing that.
Relationship Issues and Uncomfortable Sobriety
Relationship issues can complicate life in a variety of ways. Sometimes it is as simple as being in a love relationship that is no longer working–something most of us will experience. Also, common relationship problems involve conflict or tension in a range of interactions–from more intimate to more casual–perhaps with coworkers or friends. Then, too, relationship issues can be complicated by early experiences in our lives that create chronic and even lifelong problems with others if we do not resolve them.
Among the most difficult relationship issues are those born in early life that are traumatic and affect how we view ourselves and others in all areas of life. For example, if we suffer childhood abuse at the hands of someone like a parent who is supposed to love and protect us, we may erroneously expect any significant attachment later in life to be abusive too. This can be unconscious, but we can react, even when it is not warranted as if someone close will harm us. Or, we may also make deep attachments to people who will abuse us.
Such issues are frequently the reason people have an uncomfortable sobriety. Even without chronic relationship problems caused by unresolved trauma, relationship problems can be very disorganizing. And, it is likely that after active addiction, one will have strained or damaged relationships that need to be healed. It is important to work on such issues in treatment–at least setting the groundwork and making a plan for further work before leaving treatment. If there are traumatic issues lingering that affect one’s ability to be close, then a plan for addressing that also needs to be in place.
Poor Stress Management and an Uncomfortable Sobriety
One of the most common reasons people suffer and struggle in sobriety is that they do not adequately manage stress. Stress is a daily event and is best handled as it arises. Otherwise, there is a cumulative effect and a series of ordinary events can lead to chronic and toxic loads of stress.
Many people who use substances do so for quick stress relief. It is the most basic of attempts to self-medicate with substance use. And, since some stress is a daily event, and periods of high stress to be expected in the normal course of life, there are countless opportunities to use substances. Consequently, substance use becomes tied to daily life and many triggers.
Treatment and recovery efforts have to address stress management in order to give the best chance of sustaining sobriety. These are simple skills to learn, but they have to be practiced to become a natural part of one’s daily life. Those who are ill-equipped to improve their stress management in sobriety are at high risk for relapse.
Unresolved Mental Health Symptoms and an Uncomfortable Sobriety
A common reason people cannot be comfortable in sobriety is that there are mental health symptoms that need to be addressed. There may be a disorder such as a Depressive Disorder or an Anxiety Disorder with a full cluster of symptoms that need to be managed, or there may be just a few troublesome issues. However, in either case, unless they are resolved, they can pose risk for relapse.
Many people have protracted withdrawal symptoms. That is, their brain chemistry continues to adjust long after detox and doesn’t stabilize as quickly as some others’ will. Protracted withdrawal can include depression, anxiety, sleep problems and mood swings, for example, among other issues. Since these occur in early abstinence, they need to be addressed in treatment so one can successfully navigate the relapse prone period of early sobriety.
Life Stressors and Discomfort in Sobriety
Everyone has life stressors. These are the challenges of life. However, there is a point where challenges can overwhelm our abilities to cope psychologically. They can also overwhelm our resources. Some classic examples are excessive debt, unemployment, housing problems, divorce, grief events, illness and injury. And, in early sobriety even manageable stressors can feel overwhelming. Consequently, it is important to work out a plan for resolution.
It is important in your treatment and recovery efforts to address the life stressors you must go home to. Of course, rehab cannot cure those, but a good recovery plan needs to make note of them and create an action plan of coping. It is important to establish good support using professional help and others, for example. It is also important to identify step by step and reasonable plans of action for each such problem. And, finally, one must identify resources for help. Having a plan of action with achievable steps and support along the way is invaluable.
Lack of Support and Discomfort in Sobriety
Isolation from others is a basic threat to one’s well-being and ability to sustain abstinence. Everyone needs to be proactive in establishing a good support system and using it regularly. People tend to think that support just happens, and perhaps for some, it does spontaneously occur through their life circumstances. However, addiction recovery is in many ways starting from scratch. One hasn’t had the good fortune of associating with supportive people during active use. ‘Using buddies’ are simply that. They share your worst and do not lift you up in your pursuit of life goals. And, more than likely the people related to you in close bonds have pulled away during your active use.
Proactively creating a recovery support system can be done like any other important task set before you. You put forth the effort and you follow up on your efforts. Fortunately, there are professional supports that you will need anyway–a counselor, and perhaps a doctor, for instance. While the professionals on your ‘team’ can’t fulfill other aspects of your need for people, they can be profound support within their scope of interaction with you.
Also, fortunately, there is a wealth of recovery support built into self-help support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. It is there for the asking and the willingness to attend meetings and make support phone calls to others. Cultivating these relationships is as easy as chatting with others before and after meetings, and collecting phone numbers to make daily calls to say hello and chat.
When You Are Ready to Overcome Your Addiction
When you decide it is time to tackle your addiction, we can help you and be a valuable resource as you commence your efforts. We offer a free consultation service to clarify your treatment needs and match those with effective treatment programs accessible to you. We also clarify your insurance coverage to make sure our recommendations are viable financially for you.
Begin building your recovery skills today by giving us a call, reaching out for help, and finding valuable resources. Recovery is possible. Countless people can attest to that, and you can overcome your addiction just as they have. Reach out and we will take it from there to help you get to the next important step.