Getting sober will not mean living a life that is free of stress and challenges – this would be an unrealistic expectation. The goal is not for you to be free of stress, which is just a normal part of life, but to get better at handling it. If you are not able to manage your stress levels then it could easily derail your recovery – very often this inability to manage stress is what drives many into substance abuse in the first place.
Stress may be defined as a type of emotional disturbance. It means that you feel challenged, so your body transitions to a state where it is better able to handle certain challenges. In certain situations, this can be a good thing. For example, if you have an exam coming up and feel stressed, it can actually motivate you to study harder. If individuals never became stressed then it means they are never being challenged, meaning that they will not be developing properly as human beings.
The problem is not that people experience stress, but that they are chronically stressed. When you are stressed, your body processes speed up and there is a lot of tension in the body because you are ready to take action. This is perfectly fine in the short-term; however, if you are tensed up like this all the time, it can cause damage to your physical as well as psychological health.
One of the most worrying things about chronic stress is that you can be close to breaking point without even realising that it is this causing your suffering. This is because individuals feel as if they should be coping with things, so there can be a lot of denial around feeling stressed; this usually occurs unconsciously. Some of the signs that stress may be overwhelming you include:
- insomnia – worrying about things when you should be sleeping
- loss of libido
- unable to focus or concentrate – a feeling of ‘fogginess’
- racing thoughts – it can feel as if your thoughts are out of your control
- mood swings
- short temper
- always worrying
- stinking thinking – feeling negative and pessimistic
- feeling as if nobody else understands how bad things are for you at the moment
- a desire to escape your current problems
- nervous habits such as biting your nails
- a desire to spend a lot of time alone
- changes to your bowel habits -diarrhoea or constipation
- finding it harder to make good decisions.
The symptoms of uncontrolled stress can make life in recovery unbearable. If you are feeling this way continuously, you may no longer see the point in staying sober. This means there is a high likelihood of you relapsing back to addiction.
The reason why some people become overwhelmed with stress in recovery is that they do not have appropriate coping mechanisms for dealing with it. For years, the person will have been using alcohol or drugs to hide from stress; therefore, they need something effective to replace this. One of the benefits of going to rehab is that the person will usually have the opportunity to pick up some effective coping strategies, which will help deal with the stress issues.