A common mistake many make when attempting to break free of addiction is failing to take continuous action to maintain their sobriety. Even if the person is motivated in the beginning, there is no guarantee of success unless there is a steady effort to remain sober. This is because the strong pull of the addiction means that this is the default behaviour, so you need to keep working to resist this pull.
There is No Graduation Day in Recovery
Would it not be wonderful if you could go into rehab, get your problems sorted out, and when you were finished the programme, never have to worry about addiction again. This would indeed be wonderful, but it is not the way things work in the real world. There is no graduation day at the end of rehab – or indeed ever in recovery. This is because you are only ever one drink or drug away from where you came from, and this does not change even if you have been one day sober or forty years sober.
The reason there can be no graduation day in recovery is that the addiction has created permanent changes in the way your brain deals with alcohol or drugs. You have trained this organ to crave the substance, so as soon as it is in the bloodstream again it triggers the addiction pathways in the brain. This is why most experts agree that it would never be safe to use alcohol or drugs again once you have become addicted.
There are many stories of people who have been sober for a long time but have relapsed and ended up in serious trouble. A good example of this would be Philip Seymour Hoffman who remained sober for 23 years but relapsed and died last year. It is examples like this that lead to the saying in the 12-step groups that the longest member sober is the one who got up earliest that morning.
Continuous Effort Does Not Mean You Will Forever be a Slave to Alcohol or Drugs
When individuals hear that staying sober requires continuous effort, they can see this as evidence that life in recovery will be one long struggle. This is not what is meant by continuous effort though. Keeping your teeth healthy requires a continuous effort, but this doesn’t mean that brushing your teeth will make your life a struggle. It just means that there is a routine you need to do for a couple of minutes each day and then forget about. It is the same when it comes to the continuous effort needed to stay sober.
Protecting your sobriety is all about developing healthy habits. In the beginning, it will take a conscious effort to stay sober, but after a few weeks and months it starts to become automatic. There are just these things you do on a regular basis that keep you on the right path. This could include habits such as going to fellowship meetings, journaling, reading recovery books, meditating, or doing some type of service. The secret to success in recovery is to find a bunch of activities that are going to keep you strong and make these become habits so you do not even have to think about doing.
What continuous effort also means is that you make staying sober your number one priority in life; in other words, you never allow anything else to get in the way of it. Always keep in mind that if you start drinking or using drugs again, there is the real possibility that you would lose everything anyway, so it makes sense for this to be your priority in life.