Knowing and Using Good Sobriety Advice


After months of dealing with substance abuse and recovery, you may be up to your ears in sobriety advice. When you still didn’t want to hear it, everyone advised you to cut down or quit. When you began to seriously consider quitting, everyone recommended a different approach. And still, everywhere you turn, people air their opinions-disguised-as- infallible-solutions on what offers the best program for sobriety and a healthy life.

It’s enough to give you a headache that rivals any hangover—and it calls to mind the old saying, “Free advice is worth exactly what it costs.”

You Don’t Have to Buy It

There’s another saying, “The only thing worse than never taking advice from anybody, is following everybody’s advice.”  Sobriety advice is easy to give, not so easy to accept. Even less easy to use responsibly. More often than not, it bounces back out of a mind already full of opinions—or displaces the current lead opinion only to be displaced in turn when something fresher is shoved in.

If most advice-receivers lack the self-confidence to evaluate new ideas carefully, many advice-givers aren’t particularly self-confident either. You can tell this type by their tendency to check up on whether their sobriety advice is being followed, and to become indignant when it isn’t. Ask why they think their ideas will work, and you’re likely to get a reflex answer along the lines of “it worked for me” or “everyone knows it.” Or you may get a purely defensive response from someone whose pride is tied up in getting others to accept her as expert.

In such a case, advice is bound to be oversimplified, and unconcerned with the specific needs of your situation.

You Do the Thinking About Sobriety Advice

That’s not to say that all free-and-casual sobriety advice is bad, just that it should never be followed unquestioningly. If you think it might have some merit, you find the evidence on why it should work. Dig through reference books and case histories, ask your support group, ask your therapist, check major websites on the topic. And if that sounds like too much work—either your better instincts are telling you this isn’t really for you, or you’re looking for the lazy way out, hoping that someone will come along with perfect instructions and save you the trouble of thinking. To decide which, ask yourself:

  • Does this involve an issue that’s significantly affecting my everyday life or long-term dreams?
  • Do I have any alternate ideas under consideration or in progress?

If you answer “no” to the first question and “yes” to the second, it’s probably safe to let the advice go in one ear and out the other.

And Think Again

More qualified advisors—credentialed therapists, supporters with personal experience, discerning friends—are likely to be less free with their advice and to spend a lot of time digging into your personal issues and asking what you think. Especially if you’re paying for their time, you may find this as annoying as being subjected to a barrage of unwanted free advice. You’d hoped they would tell you how to solve your problems quickly, not make you write your own program. And now they’re practically saying that the only person you can really trust to advise you, is you.

Actually, that’s right. You don’t know every detail of what makes the human brain tick, but you know best what goes on in your own mind. You don’t always know what’s best for you in the immediate moment, but you know deep down what purposes you were made for. You’re not above reproach or correction, but you’re intelligent enough that others shouldn’t have to be at your side constantly to keep you from making a wrong move.

And just because you don’t know everything, and can’t always get everything right, doesn’t mean that everyone else always knows better. The person who takes everyone’s sobriety advice (or who unquestioningly accepts the criticisms of an emotional abuser) is letting an inferiority complex rule her life: she doesn’t trust herself to get anything right and doesn’t have much hope of learning better, so she’s willing to believe any suggestion that comes from elsewhere. Even when the advice is good and the results successful, she makes little overall progress because she never knows the triumph of implementing a solution that’s truly hers.

Make Their Idea Your Own

That’s why advisors who “nag” you to find your own solutions actually have your best interests at heart. They aren’t out to feed their own egos or get the problem out of the way quickly for everyone’s convenience; they care about you enough that they want to see you become a fulfilled, productive member of society. Even if it takes more than ten easy lessons.

Remember, the best advisors don’t just throw their ideas at you and check back at their convenience to see if you’ve “done it yet.” Even if their advice costs no money, it’s never “free”—they invest time and effort in walking beside you, rooting for you, encouraging you, and (the hardest part) finally swallowing their pride and watching you modify their ideas to succeed or fail without their supervision.

If it’s hard to be a good advice-giver, it’s even harder to be a good advice-taker—to discern, research, and implement; to admit that what you’ve “always” done or been told might be wrong; to take a good basic idea and turn it into something truly effective in line with your own purpose and temperament. If you can do all that, you’re well on your way to a lifetime of healthy contribution and interaction.

But don’t take my advice as gospel. Test it out for yourself.

Expertise from Kemah Palms

When it comes to your health and wellbeing, it’s best to find your primary guidance from the professionals. Kemah Palms’ therapists are qualified to give you the best sobriety advice and guidance through addiction therapy services such as:

If you or a loved one is seeking help, call Kemah Palms today at 855-568-0218 for more information on treatment options.