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Overcoming the Challenges of Sobriety: Why Is It So Hard to Stay Sober

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Overcoming the challenges of sobriety can seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools, guidance, and determination, it is achievable. In this blog post, we’ll explore the complexities of substance use disorder, the role of mental health in sobriety, and why is it so hard to stay sober. We will also discuss various strategies for developing coping skills, support systems, and maintaining a sober lifestyle. Embark on this transformative journey with us and discover how you can conquer the obstacles of staying sober, rebuild your life, and flourish in recovery.

Short Summary

  • Equip yourself with knowledge and build a strong support system to achieve long-term sobriety.
  • Address psychological dependence, manage emotional triggers, and develop coping skills for lasting recovery.
  • Utilize cognitive therapy & mind-body relaxation techniques to recognize & prevent relapse.

The Complex Nature of Substance Use Disorder

A person struggling with substance use disorder, trying to stay sober

Substance use disorder, also known as substance abuse, is a chronic relapsing disorder characterized by continued drug-seeking behavior despite adverse consequences, making it incredibly hard to quit without addiction treatment assistance. It is also a brain disorder that can disrupt the body, create harmful effects, and last a lifetime, even leading to death if not treated. There are many exciting paths to successful recovery, such as:

Enlisting the help of a sobriety partner and managing anger is essential for maintaining sobriety, as they can provide support and guidance on the toughest days and keep detrimental effects on health and long-term sobriety at bay.

Understanding the complex nature of substance use disorder is crucial in navigating the recovery process. The journey to sobriety may be challenging, but with the right support, resources, and determination, it is possible to achieve long-term sobriety and live a fulfilling life free from the grips of addiction.

Brain Chemistry Changes

Substance use disorder can alter the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine, leading to an unpleasant state and changes in cognitive function. This change in brain chemistry makes it difficult to stay sober, as the brain is no longer able to produce the same levels of pleasure and reward that it did before the substance use disorder began. Medical detox can be helpful in managing the unpredictable withdrawal symptoms associated with drug and alcohol withdrawal, reducing the risk of life-threatening complications.

Understanding the changes in brain chemistry caused by substance use disorder can help motivate individuals to take steps to maintain their sobriety. By closely monitoring these changes and seeking professional help when necessary, individuals can better manage their recovery and overcome the challenges of staying sober.

Psychological Dependence

Psychological dependence involves the emotional and mental processes related to developing and recovering from a substance use disorder or process addiction. It can be difficult to manage, as intense cravings and emotional distress can lead to relapse if not handled properly.

Some important emotional and mental processes in developing and recovering from a substance use disorder or process addiction include:

  • Recognizing and understanding the underlying causes of addiction
  • Developing coping skills and support systems
  • Navigating withdrawal symptoms and post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS)

These processes are vital for individuals to successfully overcome addiction and maintain long-term recovery.

Using substances may provide temporary relief from social anxiety, but it’s essential to learn how to cope with it in a healthy way. By addressing the psychological dependence and tackling the emotional issues associated with addiction, individuals can better manage their recovery and maintain long-term sobriety.

The Role of Mental Health in Sobriety

A person talking to a mental health professional about addiction treatment

Recognizing the strong correlation between addiction and mental health disorders, it is essential to address mental health issues during addiction recovery. Untreated mental health issues can lead to heightened cravings, difficulty controlling emotions, and difficulty making decisions, all of which can impede progress in recovery and make it more challenging to remain sober.

The benefits of sobriety on mental health are numerous, such as increased clarity, lessened mental illness, and enhanced overall wellness. Improved mental health can result in making wiser decisions, strengthening relationships, and boosting self-confidence.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-occurring disorders are mental illnesses that can significantly contribute to substance use disorder and can be a major barrier to recovery. Substance use may seem like a helpful solution in the short term, but it will only make the underlying issue worse in the long term, creating a difficult cycle of trying to stay sober and falling into relapse. Therapy can be an invaluable tool that can help you build confidence and address co-occurring anxiety disorders.

Addressing both the substance use disorder and the co-occurring mental health disorder is essential for successful recovery. By seeking professional help and implementing coping strategies, individuals can tackle both conditions simultaneously and pave the way for long-term sobriety.

Emotional Triggers

Emotional triggers are powerful memories, experiences, or events that can spark an intense emotional reaction, prompting us to feel uncomfortable and elicit strong negative emotions such as fear, anger, or shame. We should be mindful of the following common emotional triggers:

  • Stress
  • Loneliness
  • Boredom
  • Fatigue
  • Triggers related to past trauma

Having healthy coping mechanisms can be incredibly beneficial as it can help us effectively manage our emotions and steer us away from potentially harmful behaviors, such as substance use.

Recognizing and managing emotional triggers is a crucial aspect of maintaining sobriety. By developing healthy coping mechanisms and seeking support from professionals or support groups, individuals can prevent these triggers from leading to relapse and jeopardizing their recovery.

Developing Coping Skills and Support Systems

A group of people in a support group, helping each other to cope with withdrawal symptoms

“Addiction is a significant public health concern in the United States, impacting millions, as evident from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reporting around 19.7 million Americans affected by substance use disorders” (The Road to Recovery from Addiction, Parker et al., 2021.) Constructing a solid support system and developing new coping strategies are invaluable for sustaining sobriety as they equip individuals with the necessary resources and tools to remain sober. Seeking help is essential in staying sober as it provides individuals with access to experts and resources in their local area.

Practicing healthy living in sobriety is essential to prioritize self-care and build the strength necessary to stay sober. There’s usually only a small portion of life that needs to be altered, and it can be done over time. Follow-up care is essential for giving life meaning again – it’s quality and consistency that really makes the difference.

Support Groups

Support groups are inspiring gatherings of people facing similar issues who come together to exchange experiences, feelings, coping strategies, and information to offer emotional and moral support to one another. They can be facilitated by a professional or casual, and they strive to assist members in managing their situations and enhancing their mental health. Mutual support groups can be just as effective as 12-step programs and may provide you with the extra support you need to reach and maintain your goal of a lifetime of total abstinence.

Support groups can provide numerous benefits, including:

  • Creating a strong sense of community and connection
  • Keeping members motivated and responsible
  • Offering emotional and moral support
  • Helping members develop new coping strategies
  • Providing insight into their own behavior

Joining a support group can be a powerful tool in maintaining sobriety and staying on track in recovery. By connecting with others who share similar experiences, individuals can gain encouragement, motivation, and valuable insights to help them overcome the challenges of staying sober.

Professional Help

Seeking professional help from institutions like Lantana in Columbia, SC, is incredibly beneficial for individuals in recovery as it can offer the essential support and guidance needed to stay sober and reach lasting sobriety. Professional help can be invaluable in helping you navigate complex issues in a variety of fields, such as:

  • medical
  • legal
  • financial
  • mental health

The types of professional help available include therapy, counseling, and outpatient treatment programs to help you achieve your desired outcomes.

By seeking professional help, individuals can develop the coping skills and strategies necessary to manage their recovery effectively. This support can empower them to overcome the obstacles of staying sober, rebuild their lives, and achieve long-term sobriety.

Navigating Withdrawal Symptoms and PAWS

Withdrawal symptoms can be quite challenging to manage, as they can vary depending on the substance and the severity of dependence. Common symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia
  • Confusion
  • Tremors
  • Flu-like symptoms

It is important to note that these symptoms can be difficult to cope with, so it is important to seek help if needed.

PAWS can last anywhere between six months to two years after quitting drugs and alcohol. This will ensure that a person gets back to their optimum health. PAWS stands for post-acute withdrawal syndrome. This is a condition where individuals may experience withdrawal symptoms long after detoxification. It’s important to be aware of this so that you can take the necessary steps to manage your recovery.

Acute Withdrawal

Acute withdrawal is a well-defined set of signs and symptoms that occur when someone suddenly stops taking or decreases the dosage of a psychoactive substance. The signs of acute withdrawal can range from physical symptoms like nausea, vomiting, headaches, tremors, and insomnia, to psychological symptoms like anxiety, depression, and cravings – all depending on the substance used.

The symptoms of acute withdrawal can be intense and overwhelming, making it a challenge to stay motivated to remain sober. Despite this, focusing on the long-term benefits of sobriety can help keep you on track and prevent relapse.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

PAWS (Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome) is an important set of symptoms that may arise after a person has ended their use of drugs or alcohol. The most common symptoms include:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Sleep issues
  • Fatigue

These symptoms can have a huge impact on daily activities. Sobriety fatigue can last for a few weeks to a few months, and in rare cases of post-acute withdrawal, it can even extend up to two years.

It’s essential to stay motivated and keep fighting. If your PAWS is severe or if you’re experiencing prolonged symptoms, seeking help from a medical professional can help you stay on track in your recovery journey and avoid relapse.

Overcoming Personal Consequences and Rebuilding Life

A person repairing relationships with family and friends after addiction recovery

The personal repercussions of addiction can include financial hardship, damaged relationships, and physical and mental health concerns. However, exciting opportunities await when rebuilding one’s life after active addiction, such as rebuilding relationships, finding employment, and managing cravings.

Research indicates that continuing toxic relationships can put your recovery at risk and increase the likelihood of relapse. Excessive guilt and shame can become incredibly toxic and, if not addressed, can potentially lead to relapse.

Repairing Relationships

Acknowledge the problem, take responsibility, initiate a conversation, practice transparency, and show love through actions – these are the steps to repairing relationships.

Recognizing and naming our emotions is key to improving relationships. It’s essential to release any lingering anger.

Establishing a Sober Lifestyle

A sober lifestyle can offer you the opportunity to lead a healthier and more productive life free from the dangers of drugs, alcohol, and other addictive substances. Here are some ways to maintain a sober lifestyle:

  • Finding new hobbies like painting, playing an instrument, or learning a new language
  • Setting goals like getting a job or going back to school
  • Keeping a structured routine, such as going to bed and waking up at the same time each day
  • Learning about how long it takes to sober up and stay sober

These strategies can help keep you on track and maintain a sober lifestyle. Setting goals can help you stay on track and stay motivated on your sobriety journey. Maintaining a structured routine can help reduce stress and anxiety, while also providing a sense of stability and control.

Recognizing and Preventing Relapse

A person identifying triggers and warning signs of relapse

Financial challenges and difficulty finding and maintaining employment are key triggers for relapse. The best advice for newcomers to recovery on how to stay sober is to “Take it one day at a time and commit to not drinking or using. Attending meetings can be a great way to stay on track and get support.

Learning strategies can help you identify triggers and cope with stress. This, in turn, makes it easier to stay in control of your new sober life and prevent relapse. There are three phases of relapse that you should be aware of emotional relapse, mental relapse, and physical relapse, all of which can be avoided with the right knowledge and strategies.

Identifying Triggers

An image showing a person struggling to resist alcohol with the text 'Why is it so hard to stay sober?' written in bold letters.

Triggers can be powerful – they can cause a person to relapse into addictive behavior by stirring up memories of past drug or alcohol use, as well as feelings, thoughts, or emotions associated with substance use. Identifying personal triggers can help us create a plan to prepare for or avoid them and ensure we stay on track and prevent relapse.

By recognizing our triggers, we can develop strategies to manage them and stay on the path to recovery.

Relapse Prevention Techniques

Relapse prevention techniques are effective strategies to help individuals stay away from addictive behaviors. Cognitive therapy can help you recognize and shift negative thought patterns and behaviors, empowering you to take control of your mental health.

Mind-body relaxation is an effective practice that combines physical relaxation techniques with mental relaxation techniques, such as meditation and visualization, to help you achieve ultimate relaxation. Some effective strategies for relapse prevention include:

  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Being mindful of your triggers
  • Prioritizing self-care
  • Building a positive support network


Overcoming the challenges of sobriety is a multi-faceted journey that requires dedication, support, and the development of essential coping skills. By understanding the complexities of substance use disorder, addressing mental health issues, building a strong support system, and learning to navigate withdrawal symptoms and PAWS, you can conquer the obstacles of staying sober and living a fulfilling, healthy life. Remember, every step you take on this journey brings you closer to a brighter, happier future – you are worth it!

Frequently Asked Questions

Why can I not stay sober?

It seems like you have a diagnosable substance use disorder, making it difficult to stay sober. Breaking through denial and seeking professional help in a designated addiction treatment center is the best way to address this issue.

What is the hardest thing about sobriety?

Staying sober can be a challenge, as it often requires breaking habits and making lifestyle changes. It also means saying goodbye to familiar coping mechanisms and learning new ways of dealing with stress.

Despite these obstacles, sobriety can bring many positive changes and ultimately lead to a healthier life.

What percentage of people who get sober stay sober?

89% of people who complete alcohol treatment stay sober for the first month after rehab, with a success rate of 68% for those entering detox beforehand.

This is a great statistic that shows the effectiveness of alcohol treatment programs. It is important to note that the success rate is higher for those who enter detox before treatment. This suggests that detox is an important step in the recovery process.

Why is it so easy to relapse?

It’s easy to relapse due to stress, having unrealistic expectations of sobriety, socializing with drinking friends, and trying not to drink in familiar environments, making it difficult to stay sober.

All of these factors can contribute to a higher risk of relapse.

What are some common triggers for relapse?

Financial hardships, difficulty finding employment, and social isolation can all be strong triggers for relapse. Making sure to stay connected with a strong support system is crucial to overcoming these obstacles.


Warren Phillips

Warren is a Licensed Master Social Worker, who specializes in substance abuse and mental health treatment. Clinically, Warren has developed a therapeutic skillset that utilizes a strengths-based perspective, Twelve Step philosophies, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Motivational Interviewing.

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Charleston South Carolina

Charleston South Carolina

Located on the historic peninsula of Charleston, South Carolina, Lantana Recovery takes a modern approach to Substance Use Disorder treatment, offering intensive clinical care while also immersing our clients in local Charleston culture.