How to Survive Sobriety In Spite of The Explosive News Cycle

Last Updated: Sep 20th 2019

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

You’re ready to build your new life with strategies to help you succeed at sober living now that you’re back from going to 1st Step’s South Florida detox. Broward county drug rehab with 1st Step Behavioral Health helped you learn that the first step to sobriety, after detox, is understanding your triggers. While the different triggers you can have as someone struggling with chemical dependence on an addictive substance are as complicated as the individuals dealing with them, the news today is almost guaranteed to have something to challenge anyone on trigger management.


No matter your political or social beliefs I don’t think anyone can deny that the news cycles these days are absolutely full of stories that can take a serious toll on anyone’s state of wellbeing.  When you are a recovering drug or alcohol addict, you can be sure, withstanding the overbearing news cycle can be that much harder. Given the fact that many addicts have a dual diagnosis of addiction and mental health disorder, constant attention to atrocities taking place throughout the world and in your own community can really threaten an addicts grip on their hard fought sobriety. So how do you preserve your sobriety in the face of a nation and world that often feels like it’s exploding around you? You have to take breaks.


Sobriety Must Come Before Citizenship

You want to be an informed citizen, but sometimes the state of the things in the wider world and in your community right in front of you are demoralizing, and sometimes terrifying. How can you justify taking a break from the constant controversy and contention through the world when sometimes everything seems to be hanging in the balance? You can justify it because it doesn’t do you or anyone else any good for you to be an informed citizen if you are also falling back into your addiction and mental grief. If you don’t take care of your mental wellbeing you can not take part in being an active member of society.


The News is Everywhere

So how do you get away from it all when the news is everywhere in social media, podcasts, television, comedy – indeed anywhere more than one person is taking up space there will likely be political or current events based conversations and it is not unlikely that those conversations could end up extreme emotions and verbal outbursts. Politics are more divided than ever and political discourse has turned personal.


Social Media makes it very difficult to stay away from the trending news. Everyone from your elementary school camp counselor to your 12 step program sponsor is sharing all manner of controversial news articles and opinion pieces on Facebook and Twitter. You go on to check what time your friend’s party is and you see a headline telling you about the latest death toll for today’s devastating tragedy. It can cause some serious emotional whiplash.

Podcasts are equally as threatening although you have more control over which you consume. Some of the most popular podcasts are those that give you weekly or daily news updates and interpretation. These have become something of a ritual for many people. You get on the bus and you press play to hear what happened yesterday, every morning, like clockwork. You listen to while you make dinner or workout.


TV News is less popular than it was a generation or two ago, but cable news has enjoyed a boon with the uptick of major news stories. Or perhaps you get your evening dose of current events from late night comedy shows. Either way watching news in the evenings can be devastating to your sleep cycle. It can be hard to let yourself rest when your mind is still spinning from that thing your representative said in the house, or the breaking news of the latest senseless act of violence whether by a human’s hands or that of a natural disaster.


Stepping Back Can Be Healthy

There’s no end to the ways you can consume the comings and goings of every celebrity, the rise and downfall of political figures, and the devastation and heartache of warring nations. Sometimes it may feel like it’s just something you have to deal with to be a “good” person, but it’s not. Even taking a few days off from following it all can give your brain and emotions time to rest and reset so that you can successfully stay sober through it all. Try these strategies to take a break from the news, or find a different strategy that works best in your life.


    1. Stop the notifications! Do you have a news application on your smartphone? Do you get notifications from twitter or facebook  or any other social media platform when someone updates? It can be really stressful to have constant, real time updates on the world wide problems haunting society. The more technology advances, the more information speeds up, the faster we get our news. Stopping these motivations can do great things for mental health recovery, especially as you try to take a few days off of the news all together. But some people find it to be such a relief they don’t reinstate the notivations after a break from them.
    2. Consume other entertainment or distract yourself with a passion project. Conceivably you have other interests besides what is being reported on the news. For the few days you are dedicating to taking a break from the news, busy yourself with painting, or writing that movie script you’ve always talked about. Maybe you want to remodel your bathroom or start taking a class at a community college or local neighborhood center. Use the time to be active in ways that bring you life and don’t throw triggers or cravings at you.
    3. So what are you going to do about it? Even if the only thing you can think about is the brokenness of the world and how you have no control over where it will all go next, you need to find a way to process the ongoing eruption of difficult news in a healthy way. How about starting your news vacation by finding a place to volunteer that supports one of the issues at stake in the news cycle right now that you feel passionate about? Helping to contribute to a solution to the problem will likely reduce anxiety, help you gain confidence, and perhaps even lessen the news’s grappling effects it can have on your psyche and your struggle with chemical dependency on drugs and alcohol.



There is of course a chance that it kind of feel good to follow the news that closely. That isn’t to say necessarily that it doesn’t trigger you as well. People are always afraid of what they don’t understand. To someone struggling with drug or alcohol substance abuse, not understanding what is going on around them can really trigger their lizard brain. Maybe you take in the news as a way to stifle a control trigger you have, but then the news pulls other triggers you didn’t even realize you were either not expecting when you opened that article to read or started listening to the podcast. Knowledge is power, it’s true, but you have to take in that information only as quickly as your biological and psychological functions will allow you to digest them. It is okay to take a break. And you should take as many as you need to stay sober and safe in your mental health.


Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

Brittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is the Assistant Clinical Director at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.