10 Reasons You Can’t Stay Sober

10 Reasons You Can’t Stay Sober

By Kelly Fitzgerald 04/06/16

Why are some people ready to get and stay sober, but others are not?

10 Reasons You Can’t Stay Sober


I can’t say that I ever tried to intentionally get sober before May 7, 2013, but there were times when I attempted to not drink for a week or two, or just have a few drinks when I went out. It obviously didn’t work. Some problem drinkers return to drinking several times, even after having an extended period of time living sober.

What causes these relapses? Why are some people ready to get and stay sober, but others are not? There are plenty of reasons why sobriety might not stick the first time around. Here are 10 reasons you can’t stay sober.

1. FOMO (Fear of missing out)

This is one of the main reasons I continued to drink for so long, despite knowing that it was detrimental to my life. I was afraid that every party, night out at the bar, or concert I missed was me missing out on life. I was thoroughly convinced that there would be gossip and moments that would happen that I would never be able to experience if I wasn’t there and drinking. Internalizing that fear of missing out can keep you paralyzed for years. I have heard countless stories of people who return to using because they just can’t get over their fear of missing out.

2. “Why me?” Syndrome

It’s not unusual to have perpetual “why me” syndrome when getting sober. I constantly wallowed in self pity, asking myself why I was the one who couldn’t drink normally. Why did I have to be an alcoholic? Why do I have to be the one who misses out on having fun and drinking with friends? Sometimes these thoughts can weigh down on you so heavily that it causes you to drink again. Many people try to prove that they aren’t the odd one out and that they don’t have to be subjected to a life without alcohol. Sobriety requires you to accept that life is the way it is and drinking isn’t an option.

3. You haven’t been in enough pain

This is a big one. In active addiction we experience intense levels of pain, and sometimes we don’t understand how much pain we’ve been in until we find recovery and reflect back. I am often asked how I was able to just quit back on that day in May 2013. My answer is always the same: the pain was too great. I had truly experienced my moment of clarity and knew that I could not go on living how I had been living. I was spiritually, emotionally, and physically broken down. The pain was so great that I finally had to change. If your pain is still manageable, you might not be ready for sobriety.

4. You still believe you can drink in moderation

Obviously, if you believe you can drink moderately, sobriety isn’t in the cards for you at the moment. I’ve heard of many substance users who believe they can return to normal life, even after having some sobriety, and learn how to use in moderation. This may work for some, but I don’t think it will work for me. For me, it’s like playing with fire. I don’t want to find out how it could turn out. The back and forth of attempting to drink normally, of regulating and policing yourself, these could all be reasons you can’t stay sober.

5. Thinking about never drinking again scares you

Before I decided to quit drinking, sobriety was a concept I could not wrap my brain around. I didn’t understand it or want it, and frankly, never drinking again terrified me. Forever is a long time. I think this idea keeps people from sobriety every day. We automatically put time constraints on ourselves when we should really just be thinking about today. One of the most well-known sayings in sobriety is, “One day at a time.” And it’s true, we only ever have today. When I stopped drinking, I honestly didn’t know how long it would last, but I just keep going for one more day.

6. You are physically addicted

This can be a serious issue. If you are physically addicted to alcohol or other drugs, it can keep you sick for a long time because the vicious cycle of using will never end. That’s why it’s so important to understand the debilitating effects drugs can have on your body. If using drugs is allowing you to get through everyday life on a physical level, something is wrong. You do not have to live that way. There are treatment programs and professionals who can help you become free of these substances.

7. You feel unworthy

Addiction can break us down and tear our lives apart. I know when I was at my worst, I felt unworthy at my core. I felt unworthy of love, help, and recovery. It’s not unusual to feel like you don’t deserve a life of sobriety. But it’s imperative to know that this is untrue and it’s the result of your brain being affected by your addiction. It took a year for me to truly believe I was worthy of a better life and to really feel that recovery was for me.

8. Lack of tools

When I was actively drinking, my toolbox consisted of one thing: alcohol. Whether I was happy, sad, angry, or celebrating, alcohol was my go-to coping mechanism. It helped numb any emotion I was feeling. In recovery, I’ve had the opportunity to learn new, healthy coping skills that work. When we try sobriety but we don’t yet have these new skills, it’s possible that in our eyes, returning to use is our only option. But sobriety can offer you a way to deal with life on life’s terms, without drinking or using. It’s possible to stay sober through anything.

9. Unrealistic expectations

It would be silly of us to think sobriety will solve all of our problems, but when we’re lacking hope about life in general it’s not unusual to set some unrealistic expectations of how life will go once we find recovery. If we do this, we can become disappointed when life doesn’t go our way. Staying sober with this mindset is difficult. It’s important that we understand that life is still going to happen and we’ll feel pain, anger, and sadness, but that we won’t have to use in the midst of these emotions.

10. You’re not ready

Sobriety takes dedication and work. It’s a lifelong process that sometimes takes years to understand and sustain. If you can’t stay sober, it may mean you’re just not ready for everything that recovery entails. But that doesn’t mean you should stop trying. When you become ready and willing, sobriety is out there for anyone to grasp. I recommend you keep reaching for it, no matter how many times it takes to stick.


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