Staying sober, avoiding relapses
For recovering alcoholics who have succeeded in truly understanding themselves and their alcohol addiction, preventing relapses is at the very heart of their recovery. Relapses are a huge threat to their sobriety and the new life that has been built. It’s a threat that never goes away – whether you’ve been sober for a few hours, days, months, years or decades.
The truth is that alcoholism cannot be cured. It’s an addiction that will always be with you – but it can be managed and treated as long as you value your sobriety and respect how persuasive alcohol addiction can be.
Right now, it might seem almost impossible to picture yourself returning to drinking. After all, alcohol almost ruined your life and left you out of control. Yet it’s surprisingly easy for the bad memories to fade over time and to question the need to stay sober and away from alcohol. Many recovering alcoholics slowly convince themselves that ‘they’re so much better now’ and that ‘it’s only one drink – just like everyone else has’. Convincing yourself that you can handle a couple of drinks is easy when so many of us are surrounded by alcohol and other people drinking. A glass of wine in a new London bar or try out one of the new fashionable gins? Alcohol is everywhere we turn – but for an alcoholic, believing a couple of drinks would be OK is half way towards an addiction relapse.
Avoiding risks and triggers
It’s clear that there are risks everywhere if you’re recovering from alcohol addiction. Being aware will help you stay strong and sober. Watch out for the following triggers while maintaining the longer term elements of any recovery programme you’ve been through:
Boredom – sometimes sobriety can seem very dull. Many people recovering from alcohol addiction miss their previous ‘party’ lifestyle. Don’t let alcoholism fool you into believing you were better off when you were drinking. Focus on your bad experiences caused by alcohol and all the things that you have in your life to be grateful for.
Self-pity – feeling sorry for yourself is very common in people recovering from all kinds of addiction including alcohol. It’s easy to blame others and turn yourself into a victim. Try to deal with what’s really caused your alcoholism to prevent turning back to drinking to make you feel better. Introspection is a poor state of mind for most alcoholics – try to look outside of yourself and consider how others might be feeling.
Being over confident or complacent – your sobriety is the most important thing in your life. Everything else – relationships, family, work, money, security – depend on staying sober. For an alcoholic, there is no such thing as one drink. Don’t allow your addiction to convince you otherwise. If you sense these thoughts or feelings, stay away from tempting situations such as bars and restaurants and remind yourself of how far you’ve come.
Loneliness – feeling alone can lead to self-pity and a belief that you’re better off with alcohol. It’s also possible to convince yourself that the real problem lies with your mental health rather than alcohol addiction. Make sure you eat well and get some exercise as this can really impact mood in a positive way. Tell yourself the truth – alcohol addiction can only lead to losing the people in your life.
Perhaps the biggest risk is having unrealistic expectations of what recovery will be like. Things don’t change overnight and you have to work hard at sobriety to get the most out of it. Your alcohol addiction was progressive, getting worse over time. Recovery really can get better over time. Try to take each day as it comes then you’re less likely to be overwhelmed by feelings of frustration, boredom or doubt.
Stay away from other potential addictions
It’s really important not to replace alcohol with other substances. Drugs (including the abuse of prescription medicines) are never safe. The addiction lies within you, rather than in the substance. You know you have addictive tendencies, so stay away to avoid any other forms of addiction.
Take care and look forward
There are so many benefits to being sober. Remind yourself of them every day to keep your alcohol addiction under control. Think about what would happen if you gave in to your addiction. You might not get the chance to recover again and the consequences for family and friends would be devastating. Take the time to understand your addiction and value your sobriety – and always reach out if you need support.