Early Sobriety: Getting Past Your Ego to Rely on Support

Early Sobriety: Getting Past Your Ego to Rely on Support

A strange and dangerous thing happens in the mind of the recovering addict, the recognition of which can be a critical weapon in your sobriety arsenal. Just as your mind worked against you before you entered treatment by telling you that you didn’t really have a problem or any of the other mental tricks that kept you from seeking help, early in your recovery you will likely experience a time of overconfidence. The newly sober are often so thrilled to be free from drugs or alcohol that they can’t imagine ever getting drunk or high again. This euphoria, though based on a genuine emotional response to a new freedom from a long bondage, can be dangerous. As good as you might feel about being sober, it is extremely important that you stay grounded in the truth of your recovery and your need for ongoing support. Your main adversary in this particular struggle may be your own ego.

Ego and Recovery

In psychological terms, the human psyche is divided into the id (home of basic human instincts and urges,) the super-ego (where cultural and parental influences shape values and beliefs,) and the ego (a mid-level or mediating process through which a person chooses how to behave.) In casual parlance, however, when most people refer to the ego they usually mean a person’s sense of personal pride or self-esteem. Overcoming addiction is a major accomplishment, of which anyone should be proud. It is natural and good for a person’s self-esteem to improve upon the completion of detox and the first few weeks of sobriety. The problem, however, comes when your ego causes you to feel stronger than you actually are.

Successful recovery is a long-term process. In addition to the physical aspects of the disease, it creates deep psychological changes to the way the brain works. These changes happen in a part of the brain that is much more powerful in directing your behavior than rational thought. Addiction can significantly change they way you think. Even as you grow increasingly proud of your recovery work, the same psychological mechanism can be your undoing. Simply put, the addicted brain will do whatever it takes to get you to relapse. Your excitement and overconfidence can cause you to place yourself in situations of temptation.

Preparing for Overconfidence

The best strategy for maintaining your sobriety despite irrational or reckless overconfidence is to prepare for it ahead of time. It’s not a question of if your ego will tempt you to relapse, but when. If you understand the psychological process you can watch for the symptoms and pre-empt a relapse. The following is a rough example of the way your ego might work to derail your recovery:

  • Pride causes you to resist treatment in the first place, under the assumption that you can quit on your own
  • Once you do enter treatment your ego may cause you to resist rules and recovery work
  • When withdrawal symptoms end and you have completely finished detox you will feel physically and emotionally better than you have in a long time
  • You tell yourself that you’ll never relapse
  • After rehab you start to find recovery meetings and counseling sessions tedious
  • You begin to feel superior to the others meeting attendants who are farther behind in their recovery than you
  • As you start to experience cravings or triggers you find it difficult to share that struggle with others as you attempt to maintain your image as a strong, recovered person
  • Eventually your ego causes you to detach from your support network in all ways
  • You relapse
  • The vicious cycle continues as your ego works to prevent you from admitting to your mistakes

The process starts with the euphoria that is common in the early days of sobriety and then becomes increasingly subtle as it moves you away from the skills and transparency that you developed and are so critical to your recovery.

The Importance of Ongoing Support

There is no way to overstate the important of continued aftercare and recovery support to your ongoing sobriety. Attending meetings and counseling sessions helps in the following ways:

  • You stay connected to and reminded of the principles of recovery
  • Sharing your struggles with others helps you avoid secrecy and overconfidence
  • When you find yourself in a crisis of temptation you are never far from help

Ongoing support also helps you to continue to learn more about yourself and your disease. Some people find that they benefit from aftercare support for months or even years after completing rehab. Some simply make these meetings and relationships an indefinite and ongoing part of their life forever.

24-Hour Recovery Helpline

If you would like more information about how your ego might undermine your recovery please call our toll-free helpline right now. Let our staff members help you cut an emotional path through your ego and overconfidence. If you have yet to experience the benefits of high-quality inpatient rehab we can connect you with the best program for you particular needs.

It’s good to be proud of the work you have accomplished so far, but if your ego gets out of control it can mean the end of your sobriety. We can help. Call now.