There is a common narrative that goes something like this: ‘My life was terrible because of addiction. Quitting was hard at first, but now my life is amazing’. It’s a nice idea, but most people find the road a bit bumpier. Expecting life in recovery to be perfect is nearly as bad as expecting it to be worse. Having unrealistic expectations can make you feel discouraged when things get tough. Here’s why sobriety won’t solve all your problems.
Addiction didn’t create all your problems.
Addiction can cause plenty of problems in your life, and it can make pre-existing problems worse, but addiction itself is often a symptom of other problems. It could be a symptom of anxiety, depression, ADHD, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, PTSD or any number of problems. It could be a sign you have trouble handling stress or that you had a troubled childhood. None of that goes away automatically when you get sober. Often, when people talk about how much better their lives are sober, it’s because in the process of getting sober, they got all that other stuff under control too. They may have gotten therapy for the first time in their lives.
Addiction did create many of your problems.
Unfortunately, drunk you probably made a lot of messes that sober you will have to clean up. It could be damaged relationships, it could be debt or other financial problems, or it could be legal trouble. It may feel extremely unfair to face the regular challenges of recovery with these other problems hanging over your head, but there’s no way around it. Fortunately, you will be able to solve some of these problems while working the steps and the others will be easier to solve than they would have been if you were still drinking or using. Put another way, sobriety won’t get you out of the hole, but at least you will have stopped digging.
Sober people have problems.
Having problems is the normal state of things. People get sick, they lose their jobs, friends and family members die, and hardly a day passes without some kind of inconvenience. To expect an exemption because you’re sober is unreasonable.
The good news is that when you’re sober, you don’t automatically make problems worse than they need to be. On the other hand, there’s a lot more room for happiness too. By the time people decide to get sober, there aren’t many good days, but there can be good days in recovery. You can live on your own terms when you aren’t a slave to addiction.
Castle Craig is one of the most established and respected addiction rehab centres in the UK. Castle Craig provides consulting psychiatrists who diagnose associated mental illnesses like anxiety states, depression, ADD, PTSD, eating disorders, compulsive gambling, and compulsive relationships. For information, call our 24 hour free confidential phone-line: 0808 256 3732. From outside the UK please call: +44 1721 788 006 (normal charges apply).
Page last reviewed and medically fact-checked | January 29, 2020