Why sobriety is difficult...

...I didn't give up alcohol because I saw a different life for myself. I gave up because I knew I would die if I didn't.

I spoke about the link between addiction and relationships in Part 1 of this series on Sobriety. Because relationships are our biggest triggers. 


"I was furious. As if staying alive just gave everyone else time to leave you." — Akwaeke Emezi, Freshwater.


Why sobriety is difficult...




Our childhood experiences shape up our brain's ability to regulate happiness, chemicals and stress chemicals. So when we have trauma, when we have disconnection in childhood, it disrupts the brain's ability to do that.

So in childhood, as we grow up, we learn our fight-flight behaviours from people around us.

In our teens, we begin to explore ways to get that pain relief and to get pleasure. Then, later on, these become destructive addictive behaviours.

And depending on what worked best, whether it's aggression or whether it's running away or whether it's addiction, we take that into adulthood.

In adulthood, those patterns make healthy relationships impossible. Unfortunately, those negative relationship patterns and addictive behaviours become our default go-to.

And it gets put on repeat, literally, like repeat, repeat. And that's the vicious cycle until you do something different. 


"The attempt to escape from pain is what creates more pain."

- Dr Gabor Mate. 

Photo by Uday Mittal on Unsplash


Because it’s not until we can shift something inside us that we can break free from those negative relationship patterns and addictive behaviours.And you can stop the addiction but may still have hangovers of habits that keep you from experiencing a full life where you can feel alive.

According to Dr Gabor Mate (psychiatrist and addiction expert), how our brain regulates our happiness, chemicals, and stress can be reversed.

He says: “In other words, those early childhood experiences are crucial. Fortunately, they’re not written in stone. The impact of early experiences can be reversed and transformed, but in order to reverse the impact of traumatic experience, and in order to reverse the impact of early childhood emotional loss, we have to provide the right conditions.” [Close Encounters With Addiction, Lecture in LA, in association with Writers in Treatment 2011.]

I’ve experienced this in my own life with compassion and love. And with time and patience because there is no quick fix.

I think so often people who have had that history of addiction, the hardest thing is to that thing on delayed gratification, the need for that instant, instant fix. So when something doesn’t bring the instant fix, you just move on next; let’s try something else.

Creating the right conditions meant two things for me personally. First, I had to take a hard look at how I was respecting myself. My spirit, my body and my mind. It also meant I had to face the choices I was making in my relationships. And do something about it. Making changes requires time. And allowing for the results of the changes takes patience. 

Most importantly, the belief that healing is possible. And I want to tell you that I quit every other day only to get back up on the third, and sometimes a day lasted for months.

But, I held on to the certainty that while I couldn’t control what had happened to me, I could control what I now did with it. The idea that I had that control, even when I didn’t know how — excited me. It excited me that I could learn how. That with practise, I could learn to do things differently.

So, yes, being sober didn’t bring me a new life in an instant. It amplified my negativity. It intensified the fact that I thought I was ugly, not worth loving. It exaggerated my sense of failure and just how powerless I felt.

I made a choice to do something about THAT.

It’s a lifelong journey. And I feel healthier every year.

Copyright Jo Ntsebeza 2019

Read Part 1 here.

Jo Ntsebeza is a qualified professional coach, facilitator, trainer and lay counsellor.

All works are copyrighted. You may quote me or use no more than a paragraph with a link to the article on my website. 

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Hi, I'm Jo, a qualified coach and facilitator. Host of the Dare To Love Club. Creator of The FreshStart Love Journey. I'm lover of love, a relationship explorer. You can find out more about my story and my professional qualifications and experience here.  xo, Jo

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