The 3 Biggest Enemies of Sobriety

Guest post by Ed Latimore

Dana Leigh Lyons
Sober.com Newsletter
6 min readJun 10, 2024

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When I first stopped drinking, I counted the days. After 30 days had passed, I counted the months. After 12 months, I counted the years. Now that 10 years have passed, I’ll stop counting.

To make it this far, I’ve battled with the three-headed beast and emerged victorious. I plan to continue this winning streak and reap the benefits of sustained victory.

As a result, I know the enemies of sobriety well. I also know that you’ll encounter them on your journey. I’m sharing about them here to help support your success. After all, an enemy you can’t see is an enemy you can’t attack.

Being impatient

Impatience is the first enemy of sobriety. The first few times I tried to get sober, I expected to wake up and feel like a million bucks the very next day. Moreover, I expected people to admire my decision and anticipated their congratulations would instantly wash my guilt away. I thought my life would suddenly improve, the bad memories would vanish, and everyone would instantly forgive me.

A few of my attempts to stop drinking were motivated by extreme guilt. I remember a time when a group of people who I regarded as friends were warning potential dates about my drunken behavior. My reaction was to feel betrayed and angry, but I was also embarrassed and knew I had earned this treatment. If people felt motivated enough to warn a stranger about how I acted, I clearly had a problem.

At that moment, I decided to stop drinking because I felt terrible. While sobriety was a good idea for me regardless, I did it because I wanted instant relief from the discomfort that this recent revelation brought me.

I don’t remember how long my discomfort lasted, but I do recall being drunk the very next week on a beach. There is a lack of discipline and commitment here, but part of this was my impatience and pursuit of instant gratification. I expected the opinions of people who issued warnings about me to change overnight. Since they did not, I did not change when I should have.

Getting sober is only the first step of a long, arduous journey. Due to years of self-destructive behavior, my health and habits were atrocious. This lifestyle and the late nights and caffeine-fueled early mornings took an incredible toll on my body. I didn’t sleep when I was tired and was exhausted when I should have had energy.

Sleep is vital to maintaining a healthy mental and emotional state. Chronic alcohol abuse disrupts sleep, disrupting your physical, cognitive, and emotional health. The cruel reality is that these disruptions not only make it more difficult to stop drinking, but they also make us more likely to abuse alcohol.

I am not telling you this to discourage you. You’ll feel better — probably sooner than you expect — but you won’t feel better immediately. You’ll have to take it one day at a time.

Denying our weakness

Denying our weakness is the second enemy of sobriety. You have a problem, and if you’re trying to get sober, you’ve finally admitted this to yourself. Do not underestimate the difficulty of admitting that you have a problem. The sooner you can admit this, the better off you’ll be.

I didn’t take the process of recovery seriously for almost three years because I believed that my behavior was normal. Society enforced it, my immediate environment enforced it, and my closest friends enforced it. My friends aren’t bad people. They gave me tremendous support when I began to take my recovery seriously, but you must remember something: very few people can spot the signs of alcoholism or alcohol use disorder. Even fewer are bold enough to confront you about it — especially if they regularly drink with you.

Most people will not be told they have an alcohol problem by an external entity. People are afraid of appearing hypocritical or being accused of ruining the fun. It will be up to you to admit that you have a problem and stick by your decision to do something about it.

Of course, no one takes your decision seriously until you do. This nonchalance greatly surprised me. However, it is human nature. Although I expected the world to honor my decision, it didn’t until I did.

People will believe in your sobriety less the younger you are. The standard wanton claims most people make to get sober after a rough night of drinking partially cause this problem. This phenomenon has become a meme of young adult behavior. During my first few attempts at sobriety, I partially believed that my social circle would implicitly honor my decision by not having booze around and not offering it to me.

Our general society, our environment, and perhaps even our closest friends will try to convince us that we don’t have a problem. Now is the time for you to be strong. Your health, reputation, and life depend on it.

Resisting change

Resisting change is the third enemy of sobriety. It can also be the most difficult to overcome. Abstaining from alcohol is not what’s difficult about sobriety. We’re not addicted to the taste of alcohol or even how it makes us feel. We’re addicted to the everyday rituals and practices of drinking. Sobriety is more than just not consuming alcohol. It represents dismantling everything we know about relating to the world around us.

As social creatures, humans don’t do well with prolonged periods of isolation. Even the most devoted misanthropist needs to be around people at times. This desire is even stronger in younger people who are drinking as part of their social routine.

Social events in our society are so reliant on alcohol that people feel the need to specify whether or not an event is “dry.” Sobriety will distance you from many social events. Many people can’t navigate the new life they must lead, so they don’t bother starting or drive themselves back to alcohol because of the isolation they experience. It’s easier to resist change than to build a new identity.

Persistence over time is the only thing that works.

Sobriety does not mend a broken life any more than a cast mends a fractured bone. It is merely the first step in recovering from the damage.

While I do not believe that recovery lasts our entire life, I do feel that it takes as long as anything worth acquiring. Generally speaking, the best things in life are a function of time. Getting sober is no different.

Sobriety requires a commitment to a goal that runs counter to the agenda of the most powerful industries in society that profit from alcohol consumption. It’s not an accident that it is so challenging to change our habits and lifestyle if we want to stop drinking. Marketers do their best to ensure that we continue spending money on their product, and the legal system loves it when we get in trouble and must pay to fix it. As a result, society and the pressure it exerts on us can be an opponent of sobriety.

I hope these challenges inspire rather than discourage you. When we know the task we face is difficult but necessary for our success, we are more likely to treat it with the seriousness it deserves. But if we don’t believe it’s important, we won’t even try.

I already know that you think sobriety is important. The fact that you’re here reading is evidence of that. If you don’t believe it’s challenging, you will not summon your full faculties to take it on. You will rush, you will falter, and you will refuse to do the steps. But if you respect this problem and you truly want your mind, body, and soul back, you’ll diligently take things one day at a time.

This is a lightly edited excerpt from my book, Sober Letters To My Drunken Self. I published the book on the 5th anniversary of my sobriety. Now, I’m 10 years sober. If you or anyone you know is struggling with putting the bottle down, you can purchase my book here.

Your turn!

We’d love for you to share in the comments:

  • What are your biggest “enemies” or obstacles in sobriety?
  • Have these gotten easier or shifted over time? If so, what helped?

And if you found this article helpful, please leave a clap or 50. It lets others know there’s something useful here and will help us grow this community.

Ed Latimore is an author and former heavyweight boxer with a degree in physics. He shares “insights, perspectives, and practices gained from a childhood in the hood, a mindset forged by boxing, and humility shaped from overcoming addiction” in his newsletter: Stoic Street Smarts.

Want to be published on Sober.com? If you’re a sober writer, we invite you to contribute! Reach out to hello@danaleighlyons.com for details.

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