Overcoming Common Obstacles in Sobriety

Content reviewed by Karen Rubenstein, LMFT

For some, making the initial decision and commitment to sobriety is the most challenging part of recovery. For others, completing an initial treatment program may be the most challenging part, as it requires diligence, perseverance and access to recovery resources. Regardless, it is essential to remember that recovery is a lifelong journey filled with inevitable obstacles and challenges. Individuals that make a lifelong commitment to sobriety must recognize that the journey is not an easy one. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

Since there are several common obstacles that many people may experience during their sobriety journey, it is important to shed light on these obstacles and provide valuable suggestions on ways to overcome them. These obstacles are not only for individuals working to achieve sobriety but also for individuals working to sustain their lifelong recovery.

Tips for Navigating Obstacles in Early Addiction Recovery

Individuals in the early stages of sobriety and recovery will inevitably experience different challenges than those in the later stages of recovery. These challenges may surface before, during or after completing a treatment program.

1. Be aware of the people, places and things that may trigger the urge to use substances.

One of the biggest challenges that many individuals will experience during early recovery is learning how to navigate personal substance use triggers. Going through a residential treatment program can be especially helpful at the beginning of recovery. Residential treatment programs allow one to separate themselves from the people and environments that may have enabled their substance use. However, even during residential treatment, it is essential to reflect on the people, places and things that did enable past substance-seeking and using behaviors and to learn how to respond to those triggers healthily.

For many, navigating substance use triggers will include separating from relationships with individuals who enabled substance use, regardless of who the person may be. For example, if an individual working to achieve sobriety is living with someone who regularly uses alcohol or other drugs, this can be a huge trigger to relapse. Not only does it make substances more readily available within a living environment, but it can also glorify substance use in the mind of the individual in recovery. Individuals committed to recovery will have to try to locate healthier living environments, form relationships with individuals in sober communities and leave any triggers of substance use in the past.

2. Prepare to transition out of an addiction treatment program.

Another common obstacle for those in early sobriety is transitioning into and out of a given treatment program. When transitioning into a program, research thoroughly about the treatment facility and know what to expect. Research any therapeutic modalities the treatment facility offers and understand what goals you hope to achieve from treatment.

When transitioning out of a treatment program, it is essential to reflect on your substance use triggers once again. Evaluate healthier living options, such as sober or recovery living homes, and utilize healthy coping mechanisms learned during treatment when attempting to navigate distress. Some of these coping mechanisms may include:

  • Talking honestly with others
  • Physical exercise
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Yoga
  • Deep muscle relaxation
  • Attending support group meetings
  • Immersing oneself in nature

Tips for Avoiding Relapse in Long-Term Addiction Recovery

The main obstacles experienced during long-term recovery involve staying engaged and motivated. Specific advice for those in long-term recovery includes that one stays engaged and stays honest.

1. Work to remain engaged with long-term or continuing substance use treatment services.

After completing a treatment program, individuals may feel motivated to attend support groups and stay engaged with treatment for a while. However, over time, sobriety can lose its importance as it becomes more routine in one’s life.

During long-term recovery, staying engaged with long-term treatment services throughout one’s life is essential. This can include weekly or monthly meetings with sponsors, attending sober networking events, attending group therapy interventions such as alumni groups or utilizing relapse prevention resources. If being in recovery ever starts to feel like a chore, know that there is endless opportunity for excitement during sobriety. The trick is to seek these opportunities out, as they may not fall in your lap as readily as more destructive habits.

2. Avoid convincing yourself that you can regain control over your substance use disorder.

Another obstacle in long-term recovery is the intrusive thought that one can regain control over their substance use. This is especially significant for individuals who have been in recovery for years. People in recovery may wonder if they could try substance use over again and control their use in a way that prevents it from developing into addiction. However, it is essential to realize that once addiction develops, it is ingrained in the brain. Even after prolonged abstinence, it often only takes using a substance once for the brain and body to fall back into the cycle of addiction.

If fantasies of using a substance in a “controlled” manner are overtaking your thoughts, take it as a sign of emotional relapse. Preventative strategies must be used so that the emotional relapse does not develop into a physical relapse. Additional coping strategies may also be used to quiet intrusive thoughts.

Casa Palmera is a mental health and addiction treatment center familiar with common obstacles individuals will face during their lifelong recovery journey. Our treatment programs equip patients with the tools and resources necessary to reduce the severity of those obstacles. We offer several different treatment modalities and interventions to help individualize patient care. We offer family, alumni and aftercare programs to help our patients stay connected throughout their long-term healing journey. To learn more, contact us today.


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical advice. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and this content is to provide an overall understanding of substance use disorders. These disorders are very complex, and this post does not take into account the unique circumstances for every individual. For specific questions about your health needs or that of a loved one, seek the help of a healthcare professional.