Those struggling with alcoholism can develop the belief that all of their problems would disappear as soon as they quit drinking. This hope can turn to disappointment when the individual achieves sobriety yet still finds there are significant problems to face; the person may use this disappointment as an excuse to relapse. The reality is that physical sobriety is just the first step to a better life and, although it is a crucial step, it is not usually enough by itself to ensure happiness.
The Reason Physical Sobriety is Unlikely to Be Enough
Alcoholics will have typically turned to drinking as a means to escape something in their life. This obviously means that there was something in their old life that was not right, which is what drove the substance abuse. The reason people drink so much is to avoid facing their problems, which ultimately means these problems are never resolved. The problem is that when the individual becomes sober, the problems are likely to be still there, waiting. All physical sobriety really does is get the person back to square one, which might not be such a great place to be.
It is common for alcoholics to begin abusing alcohol at an early age. This could lead to them failing to progress through adolescent development as normal and not picking up the coping strategies for dealing with adult life appropriately. When the individual does become sober, therefore, he or she is trying to deal with the adult world using the coping mechanisms of an immature teenager. The person would no longer have alcohol to keep them hidden from life challenges, so things could become very painful.
The pain of addiction can generate some initial enthusiasm for sobriety, but it is not usually enough to keep people sober long-term. Just returning to square one will hardly be a satisfying outcome, which is why so many end up relapsing. To really build a strong sobriety, it would be necessary for the individual to build a great new life away from addiction.
Recovery is a Process and Not an Event
The idea that physical sobriety is not enough is summed up by the saying that ‘recovery is a process and not an event’. There can be no progress without giving up alcohol, but this is only the cost of admission and not enough by itself. By becoming physically sober, the individual would then be in a position to start doing the things that are required to build a good life away from alcohol. It is just the beginning of the project and not the end of it. Another important saying is that the goal is ‘progress and not perfection’ because there will always be more work to do.
In order to find happiness in recovery, one needs to begin eliminating all those things that have been causing unhappiness. This could mean getting rid of beliefs, bad habits, and strategies for dealing with life. In order to make progress, people need to acknowledge that their way of dealing with the world is flawed, so they need to remove the deadwood. The secret of a successful recovery is not so much about taking on new beliefs and ideas but in letting go of those things that are unhelpful.
The process of recovery is never-ending – there is no graduation day. This is not a bad thing because it means the individual will always have meaning and purpose in his or her life. As long as these individuals keep on making progress, they can expect their life to keep on improving.