What is the Most Challenging Aspect of Recovering From Addiction and How Do You Overcome it?

Oct 26, 2023

Taking your life back from substance abuse is no easy task and it will probably be the most challenging thing you have ever done. We asked addiction professionals from around the globe to share their insights on the most difficult aspects of seeking recovery and how to power through them. Here’s what they had to say:
Bayu Prihandito

Bayu Prihandito

Founder at Life Architekture & Certified Psychology Expert.

Addiction-Related Emotional and Psychological Issues; Mindfulness, Self-Compassion

The most challenging aspect is facing the deeply-rooted emotional and psychological issues that often fuel the addiction in the first place. Addictions are not merely physical dependencies; they’re often closely tied to coping mechanisms for stress, trauma, or other deeply-seated emotional challenges.

Overcoming this challenge requires a holistic approach that addresses not only the physical aspects of addiction, but also the emotional and psychological ones.

Here are a few strategies that I often recommend:
Working with a mental health professional can help one understand the underlying issues fueling their addiction. It’s a safe space to gain insight into one’s triggers and develop healthier coping mechanisms.

Mindfulness practices such as meditation or journaling can help one stay present, avoid triggers, and better manage stress, which often plays a significant role in addiction.

Support groups and networks can provide a sense of belonging and understanding that’s vital during recovery. It’s a reminder that one is not alone in their journey.

Self-Compassion involves acknowledging that recovery is a journey with its inevitable ups and downs. It’s crucial to treat oneself with kindness and patience throughout the process.

Resetting Your Body and Loss of Self-Respect; Therapeutic and Family Support

The most challenging aspect of recovering from addiction is getting your body to reset itself. Any kind of an addiction plays with the receptors in our brain in such a way that we want the drug or behavior. This drug-wanting replaces other healthy things in life such as family, job, etc. It isn’t that addicts don’t care about their families or their jobs, it is the drug-wanting that moves to the top of the list in our brains, replacing things like family. Depending on the substance being used and the length of abuse, this brain reset can take many months. Until the brain fully resets, the systems that regulate joy, sadness, hunger, love, etc., will be out of sync. This is often very hard for the addict to endure.

With the support of family, friends and treatment, addiction can be overcome. Recovering from addiction takes time and sustained effort. It is not a linear path and the individual needs help and accountability to continue through relapses. Treatment involves individual and group therapy. Depending on the addiction and comorbid conditions, other treatments can be used to accompany the addiction recovery (Ketamine, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), equine, etc.).

The second most difficult aspect of overcoming addiction is the loss of self respect. When an addict wants to stop but can’t, they feel like a failure. Addicts often lose family, marriages, jobs, etc. This further enhances the feeling of failure and strengthens the loss of self-respect. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is often used in addiction recovery because it helps the addict to validate themselves, balance the good and the in-progress parts of themselves, and learn to manage challenging emotions.

Each addict’s journey to recovery is unique. An addict has to be ready to change and no one can ‘make’ them ready. Loved ones should honor every step someone takes toward recovery, even if it is only one step.

Joel Touchet PhD, LMFT

Joel Touchet PhD, LMFT

Clinical Director at Fountain Hills Recovery.
David Seitz

David Seitz

MD, Medical Director at Ascendant Detox.

Dealing with Cravings and Triggers; Establish a Healthy Habits Routine

One of the most challenging aspects of recovering from addiction is dealing with the cravings and triggers that can cause people to relapse. These triggers can range from environmental cues, such as being around certain people or places, to internal experiences, such as feeling anxious or stressed out. Many times, it’s these cravings that lead a person back into the cycle of addiction.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to combat these cravings and triggers so you can stay on track with your recovery. One of the first things you can do is establish a routine filled with healthy habits and activities. This includes creating a structured daily schedule with regular times for meals, exercise, relaxation, and sleep. Routine helps to create a sense of structure and accountability that can be beneficial in managing cravings and avoiding relapse. Usually, following a routine may seem tricky at first, but with a little bit of dedication and commitment, it becomes easier over time.

It is also important to establish meaningful relationships with friends and family members who can provide you with the support you need to stay on track. Let them know your goals and how they can best help you. When you have a solid support system behind you, you can rely on them to provide emotional and moral support, keep you accountable when needed, and remind you of your goals if you stray from them.

In addition to creating a routine and having supportive relationships, make sure to also do things that bring you joy and make you feel fulfilled. This means participating in activities that you enjoy, such as hobbies, volunteering sports, or any type of creative outlet. Engaging in leisure activities helps to give your life purpose and direction, which can be extremely beneficial to the recovery process.

Finally, it’s important to practice self-care and be kind to yourself when you have setbacks. The road to recovery is not always an easy one, and it’s important to give yourself grace during times of struggle. It might help to still work closely with a therapist or join a support group in the first months or years of sobriety to make sure you’re on the right track. And then, gradually, you’ll be able to manage each day on your own with more confidence and assurance.

Overcoming Denial of Addiction; Willingness to Look at Yourself Honestly

One of the most challenging aspects of recovering from addiction is overcoming the denial that you have an addiction. Denial is one of the key aspects of addiction and can be very difficult to work through. Overcoming denial of addiction involves a willingness to look at yourself honestly, and to take in the observations of those closest to you of how your substance use is impacting your life.

Steve Carleton, LCSW, CACIII

Steve Carleton, LCSW, CACIII

Licensed Clinical Social Worker and the Executive Clinical Director at Gallus Detox.

Staying on the Path of Sobriety; Develop a New Routine and Have a Strong System

The biggest challenge of recovery is staying on the path of sobriety. Getting rid of a habit is not easy, especially if it has been part of your life for a long time. It can be hard to break old habits and replace them with healthier ones, but it is possible. The beginning is usually the hardest, as cravings and urges can be strong. But with persistence and the support of family members or friends, it is possible to beat addiction.

One of the most important things to do in order to maintain sobriety is to develop a new routine that helps you stay away from substances. This could involve going to support groups or therapy sessions, engaging in self-care activities such as yoga or meditation, and focusing on making healthy lifestyle changes. It is also important to stay busy and keep up with hobbies so that you don’t have time for cravings.

Another key factor for successful recovery is having a strong support system. This could include family members, friends, therapists, or fellow addicts in recovery who can provide support and be there to offer help when needed. Having people to talk to and rely on during difficult times can make the recovery process much easier. They can also help keep you accountable by reminding you of the goals you set and motivating you to stay on track.

This is a crowdsourced article. Contributors' statements do not necessarily reflect the opinion of this website, other people, businesses, or other contributors.