Navigating the Challenges of Sobriety: Understanding the Toughest Years
Recovering from substance addiction requires you to embark on a journey that could last anywhere from a few weeks to several years. In the Alcoholics Anonymous program, for example, some individuals become active sponsors who frequently attend meetings and collect multiple bronze chips for their years of sobriety. Psychology researchers estimate the average length of time people stay active in AA and similar programs is about 18 months, and this period coincides with the hardest years on the journey to sobriety.
There’s No Timeline for Sobriety
Many physicians and mental health specialists refer to timelines based on what’s known about the neurochemical mechanisms of addiction. In the case of problematic alcohol use disorder, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recommends a minimum of 90 days of treatment. In the case of opioid use disorder, the minimum recommendation is six months, but these general guidelines don’t take into account other factors, and they don’t guarantee sobriety. They only estimate how long it may take the brain to reset its reward system.
There’s no one-size-fits-all timeline for sobriety because you cannot estimate the time and effort it will require. What matters in recovery is how you navigate the journey, regardless of how long it takes you to get there.
Dealing with Acute Withdrawals
When substance abuse devolves into chemical dependence, treatment plans may include detoxification and withdrawal management. Many patients feel these are the worst times in their lives, particularly if their cravings are exacerbated by health issues.
If withdrawals result in lapse and relapse episodes, getting back on the right path to continue the journey can be emotionally draining. This is more likely to happen during the first year, which is why many patients enter residential programs, such as those that provide Solana Beach sober living, where they can develop adequate coping skills to manage withdrawal symptoms.
The First Year Is Always Hard, but It’s Not Always the Hardest
In 2019, reality television star Jack Osbourne, the son of heavy metal legend Ozzy Osbourne, celebrated his 16th year of sobriety with an Instagram update explaining that it had been the hardest. Jack was 17 when he started recovery, but going through divorce at the age of 33 was rather difficult because he was tempted to use again. Thankfully, he didn’t fall off the sobriety wagon due to the support network he has built over the years. He also didn’t hesitate to reach out to friends he had made at various rehabilitation clinics and AA meeting rooms, and they helped him get over the sudden cravings.
Reaching Emotional Sobriety
Similar to the “moment of clarity” most addicts experience when they realize they need treatment, there comes a point in the recovery journey where you can see yourself arriving in the land of emotional sobriety. This coveted state of being is when you can manage emotions healthily, positively, and without resorting to substances or addictive behaviors. Once you get there, all the preceding years of the journey will suddenly seem more difficult in hindsight. Emotional sobriety is like the “satori” concept of seeing your true nature as it relates to the rest of the world. Getting there requires serious introspection, the kind recovery counselors can guide you through.
If you’re newly sober and you need help with avoiding relapse, call on the compassionate team at Casa Pacifica. Along with providing sober living housing for men in Solana Beach, we work with our individual residents to develop customized plans that integrate treatment, aftercare, and recovery support. Our services include sober companionship, coaching, and mentorship for those who are recovering from addiction to alcohol and other drugs. For more information about our sober living facilities, call us today at (760) 230-2996.