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Why Is It so Hard to Stay Sober? Here’s Why

If you’re wondering why it’s so hard to stay sober, I feel you.

Maybe you’ve heard this before.

Surely he’d quit for her and his kids. Surely he doesn’t want to lose everything again. Surely he won’t let himself become a complete slave.

Come on bro — where is your willpower?!

Let me tell you, as a person in recovery, I have been asked a thousand different ways the same question, which is why the eff can I not seem to stay sober even when I am experiencing consequences of the extreme variety?

Reason Number 1 Why It’s so Hard for an Addict to Stay Sober

I was raised with the “you can do anything you set your mind to” type of thinking, and I will tell you that I managed to accomplish just about everything I set my mind to.

There was never a reason why I couldn’t figure out how to drink or shoot up meth like a normal person. No reason at all.

I think what probably kills us addicts and/or alcoholics quicker than anything else is surrendering to the fact that we are completely powerless over drugs and alcohol, that every single problem in our lives is a direct result of us using whatever our particular drug of choice might be.

I know that my drugs of choice have been drugs that many doctors never even knew you could get high off of. 

I let my physique and “nutrition” give me this false sense of power that often blinded me to how just about every other area in my life had become a total disaster. Until the day came when my body finally failed me.

This concept of powerlessness and surrender screwed me up to the point that, after injuries and overdoses, I was eventually taken to a psych ward in handcuffs — and I still somehow could not manage to figure out why it was so hard for an addict to stay sober.

We simply fail to come to terms with this as a result of oftentimes hearing that our pride and self will could get us through just about anything. Especially us men who were raised by men who also had issues with pride and accepting defeat at the time that mattered the most. 

In AA we read about those who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves and how they are not at fault but seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of living a lifestyle that demands rigorous honesty. 

Reason Number 2

Alcoholism and Addiction, believe it or not, is an actual legitimate disease of the spiritual variety and has been listed in the DSM-5 since the 1930s as such.

Many men spent years in psych wards with doctors banging their heads against the glass trying to figure out just what in the world was wrong with these people — why do they keep putting their hand in an open flame essentially?

The big book of AA literally compares the disease of alcoholism to that of a man who continues to jump out in front of a moving bus in hopes that this time he may just break a leg instead of his back.

Then that happens, and he eventually helplessly wheels himself out before that moving bus until he reaches his fatal demise.

Assuming most people’s demises come with a death that could have been easily avoided if only they stopped drinking or using.

This is why it’s so hard to stay sober. When you have the disease of alcoholism or substance abuse disorder — both of which are really the same disease — what separates you from others is that once the first drink or drug hits the brain and an effect is produced, an alcoholics brain experiences something Dr. William D. Silkworth called “the phenomenon of craving.”

Every choice and thought after that first hit is how you’re going to get another one, and another one — at least that’s how it is for real alcoholics and/or drug addicts.

He studied under Carl Jung and is a key contributor to the world of recovery, and especially the world of Alcoholics Anonymous. I encourage everyone to read “The Doctor’s Opinion” out of Alcoholics Anonymous if you would like a much better explanation of why it’s so hard to stay sober.

Your house can be burning down, but since you already had a beer, you could give a shit less about the house and are more concerned with getting another beer.

The house can burn, but that fridge will stand tall and proud and eventually rob you of everything you built up until the insanity comes over you that you can drink, that somehow this time it was going to be different.

Just like our poor friend in the wheelchair who keeps wheeling himself out in front of buses, convinced that this time it’s going to be different.

Reason Number 3

I can honestly give a thousand reasons as to why it’s so hard to stay sober, but I will say lastly that the most difficult reason for people understand I think is that alcoholism and addiction is a problem and disease that completely transcends the option of there being any ounce of human aid that could possibly help.

There is only one thing that can set us free, and that is a higher power.

This only applies to real-deal, bottom of the barrel, can’t stop no matter what alcoholics and/or drug addicts.

If you’re not the worst of the worst, you can just stay sober on your own. You can figure it out.

For people who can’t do that, they need a higher power in a bad way.

We must get so crushed by our disease that we are willing to completely abandon a life fueled by self-will and seek with the same desperation a drowning man has for help from a higher power every single day of our existence. 

Without a higher power, sobriety and recovery is a total joke, and if you think you’re like me and you want to quit and think you can do it on your own without a higher power and with your best thinking, then I’ll let your family know they should go ahead and probably prepare their hearts and bank accounts for your funeral. 

I can’t tell you how many brothers and sisters I have lost from this brutal shit. More than I can count on two hands, and all of them just had one weak moment where they thought they could take the reins back and steer the horse, that it wasn’t so hard to stay sober if they just tried really hard.

Because they were totally unwilling to admit that they were real alcoholics/addicts.

Staying Sober Requires Complete Surrender — And It can Be Deadly If You Don’t

It is so devastating when you are watching a loved one go through this process, and for reasons I’ve described, the dots just don’t seem to be getting connected in their heads, and they keep putting their faces in an open fire pit and still don’t understand why their flesh is boiled and melted off their skull.

It’s so hard to stay sober. I literally had a conversation with a dear friend who rented the room next to mine, warning him that if he took one more drink that it was going to kill him. 

You would not have thought this if you saw him. He was stacked, on steroids, kidneys still functioning, but my higher power put it on my heart that his time was near if the bottle was something he decided would be a good idea.

He ended up drinking, getting drunk, and then he let his girl shoot him up with heroin, and he didn’t wake up the next morning.

Self will run riot. He thought he could will himself to control his disease.

He couldn’t.

Self-will is never enough. It’s not a measure of your strength. There’s nothing you can take away that will be enough to make you finally admit defeat and tap out. This is why only 7% of people exiting treatment have a chance of staying sober for the next 30 days.

If You Want to Stay Sober and You’re a Real Alcoholic/Addict, You Need to Find a Higher Power, Period

I am so grateful that my higher power intervened and has continued to capture my attention, one breath at a time.

I am lucky. It’s so hard to stay sober that the vast majority of people just don’t make it and die from this disease.

Recovery has continued to bring me into deeper humility each day, and surprisingly, humility is the number one thing I pray for most on a daily basis.

Humility allows me to see the truth about who I am and what I am. When I am humble, I don’t think I’m stronger than my disease.

It would be like thinking I could control my diabetes just by trying really hard. It’s a disease. You can’t just try really hard and control it.

That’s why it’s so hard to stay sober. Are you struggling to stay sober? I want to hear your story. Let me know in the comments.

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7 months ago

Thanks for writing this Adam. I needed to hear it.

Adam Fout
7 months ago
Reply to  John

Of course! Glad it was helpful.


Ryan Henderson

Ryan Henderson is a magician and mental health advocate.

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