What If the Obsession to Drink or Use Doesn’t Go Away?

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For alcoholics and addicts, the mental obsession to drink or use is one of the most dangerous symptoms of our disease. It is a hallmark symptom, and one from which we have all suffered. In the same way that our disease is something common among us, so too is our solution. If the 12-Steps work for one alcoholic or addict, they can work for another.

Though we have the disease and solution in common, it is often the case that our recovery happens on a different timeline from person to person. This is perfectly normal. Just like with medicine, some people return to health faster and some more slowly. It doesn’t mean the medicine is bad or the person is bad — it just means that each person has their own unique and personal healing to do.

Early in sobriety, it is not uncommon for us to experience vivid dreams about our disease, persistent thoughts about old behaviors, or the point-blank mental obsession to drink or use again. Though most of us still find it unsettling, it might help to know that many others have experienced this as well.

As long as we continue to be honest with our sponsors and sober community at Jaywalker Lodge, attend and participate in meetings, diligently work the 12-Steps, and put forth effort in other healing activities like therapy or meditation, there is no reason to over-worry about the mental obsession lingering. Sometimes it simply takes longer for it to be relieved from some of us.

That said, mental obsession to drink or use can put us in jeopardy, or at the very least, be upsetting and distracting. Thankfully, there are some things we can do and keep in mind to hold us safe until the happy day comes when we realize the obsession has finally been lifted.

Communicate Openly

Whenever we are struggling with a persistent problem or a nagging negative feeling, it’s always a good idea to get it off our chest. Sharing and communicating openly at meetings, with our sponsors, and with our circle of sober friends can not only help alleviate the issue, but it can also help us acquire helpful advice through other people with similar experiences. A near-infinite amount of useful information can be gained from other sober people who have had similar experiences — but we can’t know who has walked in our shoes until we share where we are.

Open, honest communication prevents us from bearing the burden alone, and getting ourselves into a situation where we need to seek relief through old behavior. It is common practice for people in recovery to rally around someone who is struggling with the obsession, often taking them for coffee and conversation or additional meetings or even doing 12-Step work on the spot. But if the people around us aren’t made aware of what we’re dealing with, they may have a hard time knowing we’re in a tough spot.

Utilize the Spiritual Toolkit

The 12-Steps provide us with a huge amount of spiritual “tools.” These come in the form of tips, tricks, practices, sayings, actions, and activities. The spiritual toolkit is something anyone who enjoys their life in recovery turns to often. Whatever the situation or trouble at hand may be, there is a spiritual tool perfect for the job.

When we are struggling with the obsession or any persistent issue, it’s always a good idea to get working on the 12-Steps. It doesn’t matter which one — usually just getting into the work will often get us on a safer, more peaceful ground. And working the 12-Steps almost always requires that we meet with another alcoholic or addict, which is a safe place to be when our mind is running.

The spiritual toolkit also includes incredibly useful things we can do if we’re alone, like prayer or meditation, to carry us safely until our next meeting or visit with a friend. Even though we may be unfamiliar with them or unsure of their effectiveness, the experience of many in recovery tells us that prayer and meditation can help us make it through tough times, while uplifting our spirit, calming our mind, and centering us.

There are many other tools available to us, like calling a sober friend, helping another alcoholic or addict (or anyone who needs help), doing 12-Step writing, reading recovery literature, working with someone newer to recovery, and engaging in a healthy hobby or activity. Surely your own sober community has even more tools to add to the toolbox! Don’t be afraid to look for the right tool or try out a few until the obsession relents.

Trust in the Process

The mental obsession to drink or use can be scary, and it is a dominating, belligerent foe at times. Experience in recovery tells us that the 12-Steps do relieve us of the obsession — it’s only a matter of time, faith, 12-Step work, and trust in the process. In talking about all the wonderful benefits we receive in working the 12-Step program, the book of Alcoholics Anonymous promises us that relief, freedom, and other amazing things “are being fulfilled among us — sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.

They will always materialize if we work for them.” This comes in what is called the “9th-Step Promises,” but it assures us that all 12-Steps work, as long as we work them. In most cases, it’s just a matter of time. You are not broken, and the obsession will fall away from you if you persist in the solution. Just keep working the program.

Alcoholism and addiction have a three-fold nature, affecting a person’s body, mind, and soul. The wreckage of these diseases can present differently in each sufferer, and those who are early in sobriety or brand new to it can be far more susceptible to relapse. At Jaywalker Lodge, we specialize in bolstering men in early recovery, getting them through the precarious early months and helping them achieve their long-term goals. We are ready to help you to the finish line. To learn more, call us today at (866) 529-9255.

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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