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The Most Common Ways People Mess Up Their Recovery from Addiction


Losing our way in recovery is incredibly easy. Even if we have worked hard to build a good foundation for our new life, it is still possible for us to lose our way. The reality is that getting sober is not something you do and then forget about. In order to remain sober long term, you have to be willing to keep on doing this to strengthen your new life. This does not mean that staying sober is always going to be a struggle (it isn’t), but it does mean that the journey is never really over. Below are some of the most common reasons why people mess up when trying to recover from addiction.

We Can Forget the Pain of Addiction

They say that ‘time heals all wounds’, but this can actually be a disadvantage when it comes to addiction recovery. The problem is that as the pain of addiction gets lost in the fog of time, we can begin to wonder if it was ever that bad at all. We may decide that we must have been exaggerating our problems and that it will now be safe to give alcohol or drugs another go. It means we fall victim to another wise saying – ‘those who forget their mistakes are doomed to repeat them’. The way to avoid falling into this trip is never to allow ourselves to forget how much addiction hurt us. One way we can do this is by journaling our experiences of substance abuse while they are still fresh in our minds.

We Can Become Over Confident in Recovery

It usually doesn’t take too long in recovery before things start to improve significantly for us. Life becomes easier and staying sober is no longer the hardship we thought it would be. We start to really believe that we can make a go of this new life and our confidence soars – we may even experience the pink cloud syndrome, where we can start to feel almost invincible. The problem with becoming over-confident is it means that we begin to take our recovery for granted. This means that we no longer see the value of doing the things we need to do in order to stay sober, and we become at high risk of relapse. It is good that our confidence grows but we should never become so cocky that we stop doing the things that are keeping us sober.

We Do Not Have Enough Support Following Rehab

There have been a number of high profile cases recently of celebrities leaving rehab and then relapsing almost right away – usually with disastrous consequences. The most common reason why people do this is that they do not have enough support waiting for them when they go home. The transition from a protected environment like a rehab to the real world can be a huge shock to the system, and the problem is that most people in rehab underestimate how hard this is going to be. Therapists in these facilities will usually spend a great deal of time talking about this transition, but it is common for clients just to assume they will be okay. It is only when they are back in their own environment that they realise they feel overwhelmed, and many of these people will end up relapsing before they are able to get the support they need. Aftercare is just as important (if not more important) than rehab, and it is vital that people take this part of their recovery seriously – too much support is going to be much better than not enough support.

We Become Physically Sober Without Becoming Emotionally Sober

Dry drunk syndrome refers to a situation where people give up alcohol (or drugs), yet they carry on in much the same way as they did when they were addicted. The person may still be involved in unethical behaviour, and they may be full of negativity. The reason why this happens is that the person has made the effort to become physically sober, but they have not made any real effort to become emotionally sober. This means that they will either relapse or live a less than ideal life until they are willing to begin working on their emotions. It is usually because of their inability to handle their emotions that drives people into addiction in the first place, so dealing with these problems now is vital.

We Refuse to Let Go of Anger and Resentment

Anger and resentment have caused many people in recovery to relapse. These are the most dangerous emotions for anyone trying to overcome addiction problems because they can completely cloud a person’s ability to think rationality. When we first become sober, we may be full of memories about all the things we have done and all the things that have been done to us. We may become very resentful about people who have harmed us in the past, and we may become obsessed with this pain. This anger can then prevent us from finding happiness in our new life. If you find that anger and resentment is getting in the way of your recovery, it will be a good idea to speak to a therapist or find some other type of help.

We Continue to Use Mind Altering Chemicals

Many people who give up illegal drugs decide that it will be safe for them to use alcohol. There are also people who give up alcohol yet continue to smoke cannabis. These people will justify this by saying that they never had a problem with these substances in the past, so it is safe for them to use them now. The problem with this reasoning is that all people who fall into addiction will have a drug of choice – the drug they prefer to use to get high. When this drug is removed though, they will move to a new drug of choice and begin abusing this instead. If people continue to use mind-altering chemicals, they are not really building a life in sobriety.

We Turn to Addiction Substitutes

As well as turning to other addictive substances in recovery, we can also turn to maladaptive behaviours such as sex addiction, exercise addiction, workaholism, or internet addiction. The usual reason why people turn to these behaviours is they have become stuck in recovery, and they are looking for a way to escape their discomfort. The problem is that these new addictions can only lead to further pain, and they can lead right back to alcohol or drug use.

We Return to a Drinking or Drug Using Environment

In Alcoholics Anonymous, they say that if you spend enough time in a barbershop, you will eventually get your hair cut. This saying is pointing to the dangers of spending time in bars or hanging around with drug using friends. If we are feeling strong in our recovery, we may be able to handle these encounters, but it is just not worth the risk. The secret to success in this new life is to surround ourselves with the right people and to say away from temptation as much as possible.

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