When you first get sober, the thought of staying away from a drink or a drug for a whole day seems difficult or impossible. After a while, you get the hang of how to get through life one day at a time without picking up a drink or a drug. Before you know it, days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months and months turn into years. Years start to pass and you are still sober. You no longer struggle to avoid the people, places and things that used to set off cravings. But just because your life doesn’t revolve around your next high anymore, does that mean you are safe from relapse? Does it mean you are cured?
Using the Tools That Have Kept You Sober
Certain things have helped you live a sober life. You have probably spent quite a bit of time going to different meetings and getting to know a wide variety of sober people. You may have worked with a sponsor or counselor and you may have gotten into the habit of asking for help by calling people on the phone, texting them or reaching out at meetings. As time has passed and your urge to use has subsided, you may start to attend fewer meetings. You may start to wonder why you are still going to meetings at all because you have learned how to handle life on life’s terms. After all, it’s been years since you have picked up. This is a dangerous attitude. Many people who pick up after long-term sobriety find that they pick up right where they left off and can’t stop. If you have been abstinent for a long period of time, your body is less able to handle large amounts of alcohol or drugs, and you may be setting yourself up for major health problems sooner rather than later.
Learning From Others Who Have Failed to Stay Sober
One of the reasons that going to AA or NA meetings works is because you are surrounded by people who are willing to share their experience, strength and hope with you. Some people will share stories that include relapse. When they share these stories, you will hear that people who relapse became complacent in their sobriety. Staying sober wasn’t as much of a struggle as it once was, so they gradually stopped doing the things they knew would work to maintain their sobriety and serenity. Many of them found out that relapse started long before they physically reached for a drink or drug. When they weren’t using the tools of recovery, they started to get uncomfortable in their own skins. They began to have mood swings or felt mad at the world all the time. They may have started to isolate and felt reluctant to talk to other people in recovery. Even if they had long-term sobriety, eventually they picked up a drink or a drug. Listen to what these people are telling you. Pay attention when you hear stories on the news of sober celebrities who relapsed and ended up dead. Addiction is a deadly disease that can be fatal. It’s important to keep doing what you know you have to do in order to stay sober and resist the urge to be complacent.
Recovering Doesn’t Mean Cured
Just because you have successfully avoided picking up a drink or drug for a long period of time doesn’t mean you have been cured. You have to remain aware of the possibility that at some point in your life, you may once again feel the urge to pick up. If you give in to that urge, the price attached to it may be very high. You will probably experience deep shame, guilt or self-loathing. You may lose the things you have worked to gain in sobriety. Resuming active addiction may even cost you your life. Remember that it is much easier to stay sober than to get sober. If you relapse after long-term sobriety, you may have a hard time coming up with the willingness to start over. Your recovery journey is ongoing, and that’s not a bad thing. A sober life is much better than a life of active addiction.