Why We Still Feel Tempted After Years of Sobriety

Published on May 21, 2020 by First Responder Wellness

Owning sobriety in this moment does not guarantee anything about the future. The constant struggle to work through urges of temptation shows how expectations differ radically from reality.

One minute we may feel as though we have locked our addictions in check, only to be utterly side-swept in the throes of relapse in the next moment. We can only control the way we react in the present moment, and that is essentially the extent of our personal control. Individuals in recovery can fall off the wagon after decades of sustaining sobriety.

Why is it that the pulls of alcohol and/or substance addiction can be felt with the same intensity regardless if three days, months, or years have passed?


For starters, a large part of addiction is the craving of unattainable feelings. The addictive mindset can be described less as a feeling and more of a yearning for something that can’t be reached.

Over time, this sense leaves an emotional vacuum that many fill with alcohol and/or substance consumption. The greater the sense of emptiness, the more likely it is for an individual to chase down the substance to fill this negative internal feeling.

No amount of alcohol or substance could possibly create the sense of fulfillment we seek or remove these unpleasant empty feelings. 


Part of addiction involves searching for satisfaction by self-medicating with drugs or alcohol. Yet, even after considerable time spent in recovery and sobriety, these urges might remain and be an internal struggle.

Humans naturally desire to have more: more understanding, greater connection, a higher level of feeling. This desire, although natural to human existence, is only one of the many reasons that those in recovery may relapse. Here are some of the others:


Pink Cloud Syndrome

Typically occurring earlier on in the recovery process, within about two to three months, pink cloud syndrome highlights yet another driving motivator behind relapse. For those who may not know, pink cloud syndrome refers to the positive mindset induced by staying sober for a sustained period of time.

The momentary contentment and excitement surrounding sober life are highly rewarding, yet getting caught up in these feelings can instill a false sense of confidence. 


Those in recovery can be lulled into a state of complacency by focusing on the “pink cloud,” when true obstacles may lurk just over the horizon. The elation experienced during the natural highs of recovery leads to increased sensations of temptation when individuals return back to reality, causing many to chase the recent batch of euphoria they wish to prolong.

The danger here is that we might drink or use in order to prolong the sense of freedom and escape of these “pink clouds.” When the highs roll through, try not to mistake their fleeting nature for permanence or stability. When you feel low, remember that these feelings also will pass.


In Recovery vs. Recovered

After long periods of sobriety, some are willing to claim that they are recovered. Not to discredit these claims, as they may hold true for some individuals, but try to remember that for most addicted individuals seeking recovery, it will not feel like the temptations of addiction have subsided for a majority of the time.

Recovery remains ongoing after weeks, months, and years. The afflictions experienced when we’re in the throes of addiction will continue through sobriety. It is important to remain proactive, acknowledging the efforts made to stay sober are present as opposed to having concluded sometime in the past.


Sobriety Is Limitless

The pursuit to stay sober for the rest of a lifetime can be lessened when dealing with anxiety, depression, and substance dependency. However, choosing to stay sober for right now empowers the individual’s freedom and honors the truth of one’s control, as finite as that is.

Sobriety is, for many reasons, the antithesis of addiction. Aside from the obvious, sobriety feels inverted from addiction as a resource, owing to the limitless nature of its supply.

Addiction encapsulates what amounts to be a dead-end, sooner or later. Many can identify with the inability to feel high and/or intoxicated in the midst of ample substance binging, while similarly being unable to feel sober after coming down. 


Addiction pushes users to go over the limit in exhausting the physical supply of drugs or alcohol, trying to reach that sense of escape and freedom. Sobriety, on the other hand, has no substances to exhaust and is limitless.

You will not limit another person’s ability to stay sober with your sobriety. It is the multivitamin you never have to restock, and you can take it daily. This is the reason it is referred to as recovery instead of a cure.

A cure can eliminate the problem, but recovery encompasses continuous healing. Stay strong, and continue tapping into the endless supply of sobriety.


Recovering from drug addiction or an alcohol use disorder is an ongoing process that can have its challenges. It isn’t uncommon for people to relapse in times of high stress or when faced with the things that may trigger urges to use the substance in question. At First Responder Wellness, replacing negative behaviors with positive ones is a key part of our programs. We make it our goal to encourage our clients in identifying new interests or developing those that may have been sidelined by substance abuse. If you or your loved ones are ready to begin living alcohol and substance-free lives, please call our admissions staff 24/7 at 888-743-0490.