From the outside, achieving sobriety from drugs or alcohol may seem as easy as stopping your use, going to rehab, and attending regular meetings. However, addiction is a complex, life-altering disease that looks and acts differently for everyone affected. This means that recovery is also a lifelong journey, requiring commitment and a willingness to change.
Some people think that sobriety is a goal that you reach — and then you’re finished. In reality, it’s a continuous pursuit with milestones along the way that include the day you quit using, possibly a rehab program, often participation in a recovery community, and many more throughout a lifetime.
While the path may be different for each person, many may have in their mind, or may hear from friends or even the general public, some common misconceptions about what sobriety “is.”
Sobriety is not a temporary thing.
Getting sober is the goal, but it isn’t the end goal. Breaking free from addiction is an immense achievement. However, sustaining recovery can be another challenge.
Recovery is a lifelong process, not a switch that you can one day just flip. Many people may have setbacks in their sobriety, and as with anything, some days and situations are more challenging than others. Forgive yourself for any doubts that creep in or setbacks you may face, and keep working towards a healthy, substance-free life. With the right mindset, support, and perseverance, you will find that it gets easier as time goes on.
Sobriety is not the same for everyone.
There is no single path to sobriety. Addiction is a highly personal, chronic disease that affects each person differently. It makes sense that recovery, then, must also be personalized. Each person has unique challenges, situations, and needs, and their recovery must follow the path that addresses them best.
While most people have inpatient rehab programs in mind when they think of treating addiction, there are actually multiple levels of care available. Treatment is most effective when tailored to the person, and the treatment plan is followed as recommended by clinical professionals. Many find success in following through with several levels of care, moving from one level to the next when ready. Your journey to recovery might include detoxification, inpatient treatment, residential treatment, and various outpatient options and support groups.
However, a linear progression may not be the best course for everyone, which is why it is important to consult medical and clinical professionals to develop and adjust your treatment plan according to your progress and needs. The important thing is to remember that your path is yours alone. It may not be a straight line through treatment, but the end result is always worth it.
Sobriety doesn’t mean you can go back to how things were.
Staying sober will require you to make changes in your lifestyle. When you look back at your addiction from a place of sobriety, you’ll recognize that there were situations, places, and people that contributed to your addiction. If you resume life as it was before treatment, you’re in danger of responding to those stressors the same way you did before.
In treatment and throughout your recovery journey, you’ll learn new ways to cope with triggers. Discovering new interests or re-engaging previous healthy hobbies can help keep your mind focused and define your purpose. New friends or renewed friendships can help you socialize in ways that don’t center around using substances. You can’t go back to the way things were before, but you can build something better with the proper support.
Sobriety does not rid you of your past.
Sobriety is a fresh start, but it’s not a blank slate. It can’t change your past behaviors or erase the damage that addiction caused your relationships. Recovery can guide you through taking responsibility for your past actions and making amends with others you may have wronged.
You can’t carry the guilt and shame forward into your new, sober life.
For good reason, acknowledging your mistakes and making amends is one of the most significant parts of recovery in a 12-Step program. Making amends with people you’ve hurt isn’t always easy, but it gives them a chance to heal and aligns your intentions with your actions. Most importantly, it helps you forgive yourself.
Entering treatment is not the end of your “life.”
People are often worried about the stigma of addiction – worried about what friends, family, or coworkers will think if they find out. Yet, people from every walk of life are affected by addiction. It might also help you to know that healthcare professionals recognize addiction as a disease. It’s not about making bad decisions, as was a common societal belief in the past. Like many other diseases, there are some aspects of addiction that you have control over and many that you don’t.
Medical organizations and treatment providers have made significant progress in educating the public about the disease of addiction, chipping away at the stigma surrounding it. Chances are, the people in your life will be caring and supportive. They want you to be happy and healthy. And if your friends or family have a desire to help but don’t understand how there are organizations, programs, and literature to help them learn. The people who genuinely care about you also care about your recovery.
Sobriety is not the end of socializing.
While in active addiction, you probably had some “friends” that supported or even encouraged your substance use. These friends may have drank or used with you or might have supplied you with drugs or alcohol. You may find that some of those friends do not support your sobriety because it changes your relationship. It may make them look too hard at their own substance use. While you may lose a connection with these friends that you had in active addiction, sobriety will bring new friends and acquaintances into your life.
As you work through recovery, you’ll make new friends who understand your struggle and will be there to support you in your sobriety. You will also rebuild relationships damaged by your addiction and may find that you have more people who love you than you ever realized while in active addiction. Additionally, many areas have thriving recovery communities, making support in sobriety not only available but also fun!
Sobriety is not something you can do half-heartedly.
Getting sober is an accomplishment, but it is not the end of your disease. Completing treatment is a significant achievement and shows that you are taking steps in the right direction. However, when that initial treatment is over, you’ll still experience challenges to your sobriety from day to day. That’s why recovery can’t stop when treatment does. Sobriety isn’t a one-time event. It’s a lifelong process that takes effort and commitment. Participating in an addiction treatment program can give you the support and tools to help you every step of the way. As with any chronic illness, to maintain recovery, you will need to effectively make use of those tools – attending meetings, finding and engaging with a sponsor or mentor, sticking with a program, meditating or praying, among others – through the rest of your life.
If you’ve struggled with addiction, achieving and maintaining sobriety isn’t easy – but it is always worth the effort. Sobriety is not a one-time event. It is a lifelong commitment, a promise to yourself to be as healthy as you can be. Life will constantly challenge your commitment, but when you’ve armed yourself with the proper support and tools, you can overcome addiction. The prize is your life.
Ready to change your story? Start by talking to a Bradford Recovery Advisor. Call 888-SOBER-40 (888-762-3740) or Live Chat for a free, confidential consultation 24/7.