Stress and Sobriety


The Connection Between Stress and Sobriety


In today’s hectic world, it is vital to understand the connection between stress and sobriety.

If you are trying to stay sober, uncontrolled stress can make your goal much harder to achieve.

On the other hand, if you know how to manage stressful situations, you will have a much easier time keeping your recovery on track.

Stress is a natural response to certain types of everyday situations.

You may also experience extremely stressful emotions during certain kinds of traumatic events.

If you are recovering from substance abuse problems, stressful situations can trigger a relapse.

In the past, you may have turned to drinking or taking drugs in an attempt to cope with strong, unpleasant feelings.

Now, however, you desperately want to maintain your hard-earned sobriety.

Fortunately, there are effective ways to manage your stress without relapsing back into substance use.

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Understanding Stress


Stress is your body’s physical and emotional response to challenging situations.

No matter who you are, you must deal with some kind of stress as part of daily life.

Common sources of day-to-day stressful feelings include:

  • Your school or workplace responsibilities
  • The need to manage your money
  • The give and take of important relationships

You may also have to cope with unusually stressful situations such as a divorce or a death in the family.

In addition, you may have been exposed to some kind of sexual or physical trauma as a child or adult.

Sometimes, stress only lasts for a short time, then fades away.

It is relatively easy to handle this kind of short-term challenge.

However, you may find it more difficult to adjust to stressful situations that last for longer amounts of time.

Long-term stress is also known as chronic stress.

Chronic stressful feelings are much harder on your brain and body.

When these feelings linger, you never get a chance to reset and catch your breath.

Over time, this lingering situation can affect everything from your digestion to your heart rate.

It can also increase your chances of trying to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.

Stress and Sobriety Emerald Isle - A woman stands in the middle of a crowded street with her hands up to her face. Everything around her is blurred out but she is in focus. Her stress has got the best of her. Usually she would self medicate with Benzos but now that she is sober she needs to use the coping skills she learned at rehab.


Effects of Stress and Addiction on Sobriety


Research clearly shows that chronic stress is a risk factor for alcohol and drug addiction. Why? If you rely on substance use to manage stress, you can easily find yourself drinking or taking drugs more and more often. In turn, this increase in consumption can speed up changes in your brain that support addiction.

Things would be different if drug or alcohol use actually lowered your stress levels. However, that is not what happens. In fact, substance use makes your brain more vulnerable to stressful feelings. This means that you make things worse, not better when trying to self-medicate with addictive substances.


Stress and Substance Abuse Relapse


It takes bravery and effort to complete an alcohol or drug rehab program. Even in the best of circumstances, you will go through plenty of ups and downs on your journey to recovery. In a perfect world, all of your work would be done once you completed addiction treatment. However, in reality, you must continue to work on your recovery every day as you move forward.

The big concern for everyone recovering from substance problems is the possibility of a relapse. It is easy to think that a relapse only happens when you break sobriety and take a drink or use drugs. But experts know that relapse happens in stages, not all at once.

The first stage of relapse is emotional. At this stage, you have no conscious desire to return to substance use. However, you start doing things that set you up for future problems. Examples of these actions include:

  • Isolating yourself from others
  • Not remaining active in your support group
  • Failing to eat well or get enough sleep

The second stage of relapse is mental. When this stage begins, you start actively thinking about returning to substance use. At times, you still want to remain sober. But at other times, you just want to start using it again. In the final stage of a relapse, you return to drinking or taking drugs.

What effect does stress have on this process? Research shows that it makes you more susceptible to a relapse. This makes sense, since stressful feelings may have motivated you to start taking addictive substances in the first place. The situation does not change when you get sober. If you are not careful, the impact of stress can put you right back where you started.

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Important Factors in Stress and Sobriety


Chronic stress is not the only type of stress that can increase your addiction and relapse risks. Your risks also increase if you experienced high-stress situations early on in your life. In addition, some young people exposed to stress have genetic backgrounds that increase the danger even more.


Drug Addiction Treatment and Rehab Options


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Most high-quality drug addiction treatment and rehab programs show you ways to manage you stress. One common option is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT. CBT gets its name because it helps you change your unhealthy patterns of thought and behavior. The therapy also helps you learn how to cope with everyday pressures to drink or use drugs.
This is crucial to learning how to cope with stress and maintain your sobriety. Why? Sooner or later, you will be exposed to things that triggered your substance use in the past. Such things may include:

  • Stress itself
  • Places where you drank or used drugs in the past
  • People you once used drugs or drank alcohol with in the past

The coping skills you gain from CBT will help you deal with these risky influences. The therapy will also help you spot changes in your thinking or behavior that make a relapse more likely. In addition, it will help you steer clear of relapse risks whenever possible.

Many alcohol and drug rehabs offer CBT as part of a continuing care program. Continuing care is a vital resource for anyone trying to stay sober after going through primary treatment. It allows you to check-in with your doctor and get an update on your condition. It also allows you to start a new therapy or return to a therapy you received before.

Stress and Sobriety Emerald Isle - During group therapy several people learn life skills such as coping skills and time management so they can self regulate once they leave rehab.

Additional Recovery Strategies

You can also take other steps to manage your stress and avoid a relapse. These steps include such things as:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Taking part in other activities that relax you or improve your mood
  • Maintaining your social connections
  • Talking to your doctor right away if you feel that stress is overwhelming you

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Why Choose Emerald Isle for Drug Addiction Treatment and Rehab


After working so hard to gain your sobriety, the last thing you want to do is to relapse back into heavy drug or alcohol use.

But this is simple to avoid this possibility; you must learn all you can about the things that increase your risks.

One of the most significant factors is stress.

Unless you take proactive steps to protect yourself, stress exposure can leave you much more likely to relapse.

This fact holds true, no matter how long you have been drug- or alcohol-free.

Fortunately, you can do things to safeguard yourself from the damaging effects of stress.

A treatment like cognitive behavioral therapy will help you learn how to manage your thoughts and emotions.

In turn, this ability will help you avoid drinking or using drugs.

You can also do things on your own that help keep your stress levels under control.
To learn more about staying sober in the face of stressful situations, contact Emerald Isle today.

Our staff of specialists will put you in touch with the resources you need to maintain substance abstinence.

We also feature programs that provide long-term support for your ongoing sobriety.