We all have those days. You know the kind – where work was awful, you and your spouse had a fight, or you’re having money problems. For someone struggling with an alcohol addiction, it’s days like these when you notice your hold on sobriety becomes just a little bit more difficult. Some days are good ones. But on those days, you long for the numbing escape that a drink or drug-of-choice could bring.
Maintaining sobriety is a lifetime struggle. But fighting addiction will not only save your life, it will also build your sense of self-worth, restore relationships, and give you purpose. Being sober changes everything about you – for the better.
We asked four people, three recovering addicts and a Certified Drug & Alcohol Counselor, for their advice on maintaining sobriety. Here’s what they shared:
1. Has recovery been an ongoing struggle? How have you been able to cope with it?
SUPER STAR (writer of Sober Super Star): I truly never thought that I would be that guy who would turn to drugs to quiet my mind. And I didn't think I'd turn into a monster to feed that addiction. But I became that guy. Recovery is a lot of work. But I learned that my addiction can only win if I allow it. Being in recovery is the most difficult thing I've ever had to deal with. Learning to live a life without the use of drugs isn't easy and the struggles I face to stay clean is something I wish for no one. But that’s the beauty of recovery. This is where I find strength. I did it! And through doing it, I have found a passion and a purpose that fuels my soul and enriches my life.
BARB (owner of Fill Your Cup): As I worked through the Twelve Steps (Alcholics Anonymous) over the course of a couple years, I realized how lucky I was to find this organization. Not only had my life been saved but also these steps provided me with a guide on how to live my life. The work's not easy. I needed to put on my “big girl pants” and start taking responsibility for my actions. And I needed to get real about what part alcohol had played in my life. More importantly, I was going to live without it. I had to learn to listen to inner wisdom, not the “addict” voice and know that I had worth and that I wasn’t alone.
2. How does the family dynamics change when a person becomes sober? How does the family change their patterns?
LISA (therapist at Lisa Bahar Marriage and Family Therapy): It starts with psycho education. It is is very important to help families understand the addictive substance-abusing patterns of alcoholics and addicts. It's never easy and there may be some resentment toward the substance abuser. Some may feel embarrased having a family member who is an alcoholic or you may have a hard time not being a couple who socially drinks together anymore. Doing this together as a family is hard, and sometimes they may potentially drink again. But the only way to avoid falling into a cycle is to maintain consistency where sobriety exists.
It's tough, but there tends to be a tremendous amount of hope in families who feel that once they address the problem everything will be okay. It's a day-to-day challenge and a life-long shift.
3. What are some common stumbling blocks you've witnessed on the way to long-term sobriety? How does one avoid them?
ANN (recovering alcoholic): Some of the stumbling blocks that I encountered were the people in my life who were definite triggers of my disease. Recovery has helped me re-examine those relationships and to handle situations very differently. My program has given me the daily strength to stay sober and to speak out publicly about this disease that a lot of people didn’t know I had. One of the biggest roadblocks I see for people is worrying that other people will judge them if they sought out help. I have found just the opposite.
BARB: People use chemicals for many reasons – escape, withdrawal, to fit in, feel more confident – which all boil down to avoiding their feelings. When they stop using, they start to feel the emotions they tried to avoid. This can be incredibly painful and scary. However, feeling the feelings and moving through them is an essential part of becoming the person you truly are meant to be. Alcoholics typically don’t want to put in a lot of effort or deal with the emotional baggage. Here’s the irony – there’s always going to be emotional baggage. Recovery isn’t for the faint of heart, but neither is addiction. There’s only one you can live with.
4. How has being a mentor to others helped to strengthen you in your sobriety?
BARB: As I tell the women I sponsor in AA, I learn from them just as much as they learn from me. I feel the same about my clients. Each situation I help them explore and navigate, gives me the opportunity to check-in with myself to make sure I’m present, real, and engaged. The connections we make are priceless and it’s further proof that living a life without alcohol has been one of the greatest blessings of my life.
SUPER STAR: Sobriety has awakened the dreams within and allowed me to convey the importance of achieving them to the masses. I wish I would have understood its significance sooner. It has brought clarity, provided fuel for pursuit and shaped me in unfathomable ways by allowing me to find value and purpose.
5. What hope can you offer people looking for help?
LISA: Do a lot of self-care. Maintain a realistic stress-free life style and create a structured plan to maintain both your mental and physical health. Consider the value of being with your family without a substance being the glue to keep you together and connected. Create gratitude lists. Consider at the end of the day, how valuable it was to be “present” at an event for one of your family members. Take one moment at a time, ask for help and remember – you are a very courageous person to address and face this problem.
ANN: You're not alone. Regardless of where you live there are groups, organizations, and programs that will support your recovery. Many of us relapse, but even then we all have the ability to pick ourselves back up and start again. Step One is admitting to yourself and to others that you have a problem; Step Two is finding the help, support and guidance that you need to get well.
SUPER STAR: As the years continue and my days in sobriety increases I have now become the person I had always felt I would be. Gone are those words that others used to describe me — drug addict, thief, broken man. I’ve replaced those words with recording artist, role model, author, and professional. And I did it by avoiding the excuses and jumping into learning and exploration. For me it was the only way.
A better ending
The battle for sobriety requires the will to fight. It may be hard but you can do it. You can be stronger and more engaged with family and friends, and connected to your life purpose. It’s always worth it!
- Super Star is a recovering addict and outreach specialist at Sober Super Star. He is a Professional Dream Catcher Coach and a motivational speaker.
- Barb Churchill is a life coach for alcoholics, mentor, and a recovering addict. You’ll find her at Fill Your Cup.
- Lisa Bahar, MA, CCJP, LMFT, LPCC, is a licensed marriage and family therapies and a drug and alcohol counselor. Her business is Lisa Bahar Marriage and Family Therapy.
- Ann Baldwin is a long-term recovering alcoholic from Newington, CT.