Living with substance use disorder can be challenging, but with treatment and a strong support system, recovery is possible.

Substance use disorder can affect anyone, regardless of age and economic status.

Some people mistakenly believe substance use disorder is a character flaw or caused by a lack of willpower. They may even think that recovery is as simple as “just saying no.”

You may have heard this so much that you begin to believe the reason you can’t stop using, or that you even have a substance use problem, is because you’re weak.

You might ask yourself, “Why can’t I stop?” “Is there something wrong with me?”

Living with and managing substance use disorder isn’t as easy as willing yourself to stop.

But there are ways to make the journey of recovery a little less difficult.

People with substance use disorder continue to use alcohol or other substances, regardless of the negative effects it may cause in their daily lives. This continued use can lead to physical dependence. Other symptoms can include:

  • urges or cravings
  • spending a lot of time using
  • giving up once-enjoyed activities to use

Recovery can seem challenging for some and almost impossible for others. Trying to do it on your own can make it even harder.

If you have substance use disorder and are working toward recovery, consider reaching out to a loved one for help and accountability.

Many treatment and rehabilitation programs for substance use encourage having a sponsor to provide accountability, empathy, and support. One effectiveness study found that nearly 69% of participants reported having a sponsor at least once.

In this study, those who had a sponsor and a strong sponsor relationship were more likely to participate in a 12-step program and practice abstinence from substance use.

The more people you can turn to for support, encouragement, and a listening ear, the better your chances of recovery.

Try to find out what prompts your substance use.

Maybe you reach for that drink only when you’re with certain friends or at a specific restaurant or bar. Perhaps you crave that substance only when you’re bored or stressed.

Preventing recurrence of use by being aware of the places, people, or emotions that cause you to reach for that substance can be an important part of your recovery.

Prolonged use of substances can change the brain’s function and structure. It can affect parts of the brain responsible for:

  • reward
  • learning
  • memory
  • behavior control

Experts believe that continued abstinence from substance use might give the brain the time it needs to recover from those changes and return to its regular function. Frequent use recurrences, on the other hand, may make recovery longer.

Once you’ve identified what causes or prompts your substance use, consider developing a plan to manage them and practice avoiding them.

If you think you might have substance use disorder, consider reaching out to a trusted healthcare professional for an evaluation and to discuss your options.

They may be able to refer you to a mental health professional or treatment program that best fits you. Treatment might include a variety of options, including:

There’s not a one-size-fits-all treatment for substance use disorder. Every person is different, and what works for one person might not work for another.

A mental health professional who specializes in substance use disorder will be able to tailor a treatment plan that is best for you and your needs.

Here are some resources that may be able to help:

  • SAMSHA. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a national helpline (1-800-662-4357) that’s free, confidential, and available 24/7. They may be able to point you in the right direction for help and support near you or online.
  • National Harm Reduction Coalition. The NHRC is an advocacy group that provides support and resources for people with substance use disorder.
  • Drugs and Me. This organization was created by a group of educators, scientists, and analysts. Drugs and Me offers a list of educational materials that might be helpful.

Research shows that peer-delivered support groups, including 12-step programs, can be helpful when recovering from substance use disorder.

These groups are designed to help you stay sober through mutual support provided by people who are also in recovery. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are two well-known peer-delivered groups for individuals recovering from substance use disorder.

Though helpful, 12-step programs aren’t for everyone. If they aren’t a right fit for you, consider searching for recovery support groups near you.

Taking up new activities to replace ones that may be more harmful might help you on the road to recovery.

A review of 59 studies found that physical fitness and mind-body exercises can be helpful in the sobriety process.

Another study found that mindfulness meditation can also improve mood and self-control and reduce stress, which can be helpful for people with substance use disorder.

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we return to old patterns.

Making any lifestyle change is hard, and maintaining that change over time can be even more challenging.

You can be prepared if your treatment plan fails. Here are some things you can do:

  • having a sponsor or trusted loved one you can call when cravings strike
  • avoiding places or people that may make you more prone to use substances
  • having another activity you can do, such as taking a walk or jog, when craving hits
  • rewarding yourself for reaching your goals, even little ones

Recovery from substance use disorder is possible, but it requires a strong commitment.

This can be challenging, but you’re not alone.

It can be helpful to surround yourself with trusted family and friends because their support goes a long way in recovery.

If you need additional help, reach out to a mental health professional to discuss other treatment options, which may include residential or inpatient treatment.