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The Reasons You May Still Continue to Struggle After You Give Up Alcohol


Struggle in recoveryIf you are expecting your life to become perfect after you break away from your alcohol addiction, you are likely to be in for a huge disappointment. If you can give up drinking, it will lead to some significant improvements in your life. It will take time for you to create a solid sobriety, and you may have to make it through some challenging times – especially in the early months of your recovery. So long as you keep working on your recovery though, things will continue to improve for you; but it will not happen overnight.

Some of the Reasons You May Continue to Struggle after You Give Up Alcohol

Below are some of the most common reasons why you might continue to struggle after you have given up alcohol:

  • It is common for individuals to experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) in early recovery. This can include things like the inability to concentrate, fuzzy thinking, insomnia, low enthusiasm, tiredness, mood swings, and anxiety. The symptoms of PAWS should lessen over time, but you could still experience these negative effects for anything up to the first two years in recovery. There are steps you can take to lessen the post-acute withdrawal symptoms and it can be reassuring to know that they are not going to last forever.
  • When you first give up alcohol, it typically means that, in at least some ways, you end up back where you were before you began abusing this substance. This is because there is no real personal development while you are trapped in addiction. When you become sober, you may find it difficult to cope with life initially; all the same reasons why you turned to addiction in the first place are likely to still be there.
  • It is important to understand that recovery is a process and not an event. By giving up alcohol, you have taken the crucial first step – but it is only the first step. In many ways, the real work only begins after you break away from addiction. There are going to be plenty more challenges ahead and life is going to feel like a struggle at times.
  • When you first become sober, you will need to begin sorting out the wreckage of your past. You may have caused a great deal of suffering to other people because of your drinking, damaging your reputation and financial situation. It may be some time before you are able to win back all the trust lost and be forgiven for your past transgressions. There may even be individuals not willing to forgive, so you will have to learn how to live with that.
  • The fact that you have been trapped in addiction means that you will have picked up some unhelpful beliefs and behaviours. When you first become sober, you can still struggle because of these thinking patterns. This is why you have to work on removing these unhelpful beliefs and habits during the first few years of recovery; the more of these you eradicate, the better your life is likely to become, but it takes time.
  • A minority of people may have a dual diagnosis. This means that they have been dealing with a mental health problem alongside their addiction; maybe something like depression. It may have been this other problem that drove the individual into addiction in the first place – even if they didn’t realise it at the time. If the mental health aspect of the dual diagnosis is not treated then it is likely that the person will continue to struggle even after they have become sober.
  • Some individuals break away from addiction after hitting a very low rock bottom. They may have done a great deal of damage to their mental and physical health, having messed up their life completely. It would be possible for the person to turn things around, but it requires effort and persistence.

The Dangers of Not Being Prepared for the Struggles of Early Recovery

It is important that you feel optimistic and positive about life in recovery because you need to feel this way in order to develop the motivation to quit. Things are definitely going to get better for you but it is important to have realistic expectations. The danger is that if you have unrealistic expectations it would mean that you later become disillusioned; maybe even deciding that recovery was not what you expected, so you relapse back to addiction.

The fact that you have given up alcohol does not give you a free pass in life. Every person on the planet has to deal with bad days as well as good. The whole point of recovery is to be sober enough to enjoy the good days and strong enough to manage the bad days. It is important to keep in mind the vicissitudes of life are what make it so interesting.

How to Deal with the Challenges of Recovery

Challenges are going to come in recovery and you have to be ready to deal with them. Here are some suggestions for how you can do this:

  • Every time you face a challenge, you will need to use some type of coping strategy in order to overcome it. In many cases, you will already have an effective tool for doing this, so it shouldn’t take you long to get beyond it. You will also have times when you are faced with a challenge that is unlike anything you have faced before. When this happens, you will to need to find a new coping strategy. It is very important at these times to get the help and support of other people who have faced similar challenges.
  • It is always better to look upon challenges as a chance to grow and develop; every time you overcome one of these obstacles, it makes you stronger going forward in your life. Each time you pick up a new coping skill, it makes you more competent for dealing with future challenges. Eventually you could reach a stage that you have so many coping strategies that you can deal with practically anything. This is when you begin to experience deep levels of serenity.
  • It could be a great help if you belong to some type of recovery fellowship. This means that you would always have people to turn to when things get hard. The good thing about groups like Alcoholics Anonymous is that you have people in different stages of recovery; some member will have been sober for decades. This means there is likely to be someone who could offer advice about every stage of your journey.
  • If you are really struggling to find happiness in recovery, it could be that you have an undiagnosed dual diagnosis. It is vital that you speak to your doctor because you will not be able to make any further progress until this other condition is treated.
  • You need to keep working on eradicating any unhelpful beliefs or attitudes that may be holding you back in recovery. The more you chip away at these negative attributes, the better your life is likely to become.

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