There are many well-meaning people in the world who are all too ready to provide you with some bad advice when it comes to addressing a substance use disorder. These folks may be members of your family. Or they might be your friends—sometimes even your close friends. Or they could be members of your faith community. 

No matter who the person might be, their message is likely to be some variation of what we will call the “willpower myth.”

People who subscribe to the willpower myth believe that struggles with drugs or alcohol can be attributed to…well…a lack of willpower. If you just put your mind to it, the argument goes, you could give up whatever substance you have been using and get on with your life.

Sometimes the person who is making this kind of argument might not use the word “willpower.” Instead, they might suggest that a person of good character should be able to help themselves turn things around. The implication, of course, is that you want to be a person of good character, so you will simply give up the drugs or alcohol once you are reminded that using them is a sign of “bad character.”

In your faith community, the argument may take a slightly different form. Those of a religious bent might suggest that if you simply had more faith, you would be able to walk away from drugs or alcohol. There is arguably a place for spirituality in the lives of those who are in recovery from a substance use disorder (though it is certainly not a requirement). But the idea that more faith—a tricky thing to calculate, to be sure—unlocks lasting sobriety is misguided. 

So, if willpower or character or faith is not enough to enable recovery from a substance use disorder, what is? We would argue that some key intentional decisions underpin lasting sobriety. The first of those decisions? Getting yourself into treatment.

Residential Treatment is the Route to Sobriety

Trying to get sober on your own is extremely difficult for a whole range of reasons—including withdrawal symptoms and cravings, ongoing access to substances, and peer pressure. Residential treatment offers solutions to those problems.

Medically supervised detoxification helps you overcome the rigors of withdrawal while ensuring you do not have access to drugs or alcohol. The rehabilitation process—which includes both individual and group therapy—provides strategies and resources for maintaining sobriety while also connecting you with peers who know what you have gone through. That community of support provides a kind of positive peer pressure. Then, a treatment center’s commitment to a continuum of care provides ongoing support once your time in treatment comes to an end.

We can’t overstate just how important the decision to get treatment is. Once you have regained your sobriety, there are additional intentional decisions that can help you maintain it.

Good Decision-Making Supports Sobriety

Here are some decisions you can make that can help you stay sober after treatment:

  • Decide to attend 12-Step (or other recovery program) meetings regularly
  • Decide to eat a healthy diet and limit your sugar intake
  • Decide to get outside and to get regular exercise
  • Decide to create a routine that allows you to get enough restful sleep
  • Decide to practice mindfulness and gratitude

We could list many more of these intentional decisions, but we suspect you get the idea. Committing yourself to good decisions related to your recovery provides a firmer foundation for your sobriety.

Even so, there is always the chance that you will experience a relapse. So there is one more intentional decision we urge you to make well before a relapse occurs.

Decide in Advance to Return to Treatment After a Relapse

A relapse can, of course, be incredibly discouraging. That sense of disappointment can cloud your decision making about what you should do next. It can be all too tempting to give up and decide you just can’t stay sober. 

To avoid that problem, we encourage you to decide—right now—that in the event of a relapse, you will return to treatment. That is the best way to regain your sobriety, and it provides an opportunity to consider what went wrong and what strategies might prevent it from going wrong again. 

Having this plan for dealing with a relapse should one occur can make it easier to do what needs to be done to regain your sobriety. 

The Aviary Recovery Center is Ready to Help

Getting sober is not about willpower or character or faith. It is about getting the treatment you need to regain and maintain your sobriety. At The Aviary Recovery Center near St. Louis, MO, we offer care grounded in evidence, expertise, experience, and empathy. When you make the decision to get the help you need, we will be here to provide it.