Pressure and Expectation

Pressure and Expectation

If you are about to enter rehab or are already sober, you need to know the difference between positive pressure and negative pressure

Both pressure and expectation play a very important role in treatment. If you are currently participating in substance abuse, you likely feel some external pressure from others to go to rehab or to just stop doing drugs or drinking alcohol. The internal pressure you feel inside – your emotions, feelings and stress – might be numbed or even ignored by the substance abuse. When you feel bad about your situation you end up drinking more or doing more drugs. As you can see, this is a cycle where substance abuse continues to increase until you at last enter treatment. Once you start the treatment process, your body will begin to adapt to a life without substance abuse. You will participate in different kinds of therapy such as group therapy and individual therapy sessions with a counselor. In many cases you will talk about the challenges you face with substance abuse. When you complete your rehab program, your life will be very different from when you were an active substance abuser. What you focus your attention on has changed; instead of getting drunk or high, now you have other priorities such as your health, sobriety, your family and friends, your career and more.

Here are some specific kinds of pressure and expectation that you will likely face:

Positive pressure and expectation from your support network.

Your support network is made up of your friends and family, your doctor, therapist, sponsor and any other individuals that encourage your work toward sober living. As part of your recovery, you are expected to consistently communicate with your support network in order to best support your recovery. Some of these individuals may check-in with you more directly than others because of the nature of the relationship. For example, your family members may not directly ask about your sobriety as quickly as your doctor or sponsor. Yet you still have a certain level of positive pressure to stay sober and talk with your family. In these cases, the pressure may rest with you to keep communication open in these relationships. This is not a negative pressure but rather a form of responsibility you have to be mindful to support.

Accountability from your therapist, support group and sponsor.

When your therapist talks in depth with you about your addiction, you may feel uncomfortable at first. This is very common because in many cases, your addiction is something that you have kept secret. However, consistent therapy sessions establish accountability, which is a positive form of pressure and expectation that encourages recovering addicts to confront any positive or negative actions they have taken on a regular basis. If you have been making progress and you have been sober for an extended amount of time, these accountability check-ins build a positive momentum that strengthens your sobriety. Your sponsor and support groups will often ask you some of the same questions that your therapist asks, and this is positive too. You have been making progress in your recovery, and with all of these individuals looking out for you and encouraging your sobriety, relapse will become less and less likely.

Negative pressure from reminders of past behavior.

When you drive past the bar you once visited or the gas station where you used to buy drugs, you may experience negative internal pressure. Also called triggers, these visual cues can sometimes lead to cravings — that is, the feeling of wanting to do drugs again. You may run into an old friend who suggests you meet out for a drink. As harmless as his intentions may be, you know you cannot have just one drink, and decline in favor of a sober activity. Your mental willpower is finite, however, and the more you are tempted, the more likely you are to trip up. Each time you must confront a temptation like this scenario, your willpower gets worn down; after several more party invitation declines it is possible that you could have a relapse because of the nature of substance abuse addiction. According to the National Institute of Health, for those who have participated in treatment, between 20% and 50% relapse. For those who have not been in treatment, the remission rates range from 50% to 80% or more, depending on the severity of the addiction.[1] If you have relapsed, the good news is that you can still reenter treatment and develop a new and better plan for living a sober life.

You will likely face positive and negative pressure from life in general.

You will likely face different kinds of pressure from your job. There will be ups and downs. In many cases, it could even be seasonal and depend on what specific roles or duties you are performing. There will be both positive pressure and negative pressure from life in general. You may get sick or feel lonely or even depressed. The real question is what do you do when you are faced with negative pressure? Do you cope with it in healthy ways, such as exercise, or do you turn to drugs? It has been established that stress is a well-known risk factor in the development of addiction and in addiction relapse vulnerability.[2] You can always turn negative pressure into positive pressure when you make the choice to lean into your support network. Having a positive attitude based on sobriety and recovery permeates throughout your life.

No matter where you are right now, please know you can reach out for help. Even if you are facing serious challenges right now, you can call our helpline and speak to a counselor who wants to help. If you have any questions about recovery, our counselors would be glad to talk with you about the process. You do not have to live a life of substance abuse. Instead, you really can choose a life of sobriety.


[1] Rates and predictors of relapse after natural and treated remission from alcohol use disorders. Moos, Rudolph.

[2] Chronic Stress, Drug Use and Vulnerability to Addiction. Sinha, Rajita.

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