What Does “White Knuckling” in Sobriety Mean?

What Does “White Knuckling” in Sobriety Mean?

The path toward alcohol sobriety looks different for every person. They have unique breaking points, responses to treatments, and means of asking for help that can vary wildly from person to person. While some people may seek out professional help and treatment for their alcoholism, some remain stubborn and will try to “white knuckle” their way through their recovery. But what exactly does “white knuckling” in sobriety mean, and is it a sustainable path forward?

Defining “White Knuckling”

Regarding alcohol and drug recovery, some people may not want to admit they need help and believe they face the challenges independently. They decide to stop using and will face the prospect of recovery without any support. They stare their addiction in the face, grit their teeth, and through sheer force of will, work towards beating their addiction. This type of recovery is commonly referred to as “white knuckling.”
Similar to how you grab onto the safety bar during a roller coaster with all of your might, during white-knuckle sobriety, people grip onto their willpower with everything they have to stay sober. They hold onto their desire to stay sober and try to ensure that’s enough to keep them on the path to recovery. However, white-knuckling your way through sobriety is often not sustainable over the long term.

What White Knuckling Doesn’t Offer

While a white-knuckle approach to sobriety can often be the first step towards leading a healthier lifestyle, it usually doesn’t present a sustainable path forward. Consistently saying no to temptation, avoiding potentially triggering situations, and trying to navigate the changes in your brain chemistry without support can wear a person down quickly. They spend so much time and energy trying to stay consistent that they fail to address any underlying issues that set them on this path in the first place. 

Trying to tackle your sobriety journey without a support system can lead to relapses and similar destructive behavior. White-knuckle sobriety might address alcohol use, but there is more to your recovery than simply quitting drinking.

Failure to Address Additional Symptoms

For people dealing with alcoholism, failure to address how you live your life outside your drinking patterns often doesn’t get addressed with the white-knuckle approach. The person in question remains solely focused on not drinking anymore so that they can fail to address the other negative behaviors that may have driven them to drink in the first place. 

These behaviors often remain a prevalent part of a person recovering from alcoholism. Without facing these actions and routines head-on, you stay on a similar trajectory and continue with the behavioral patterns. Studies have shown that people who have taken a white-knuckle approach to their sobriety may feel intense anger and resentment because their new life away from alcohol isn’t what they envisioned.

Get the Support You Need From a Trusted Alcohol Rehab Center

When someone has tried to white knuckle their way through their alcohol recovery, they can feel like they’re muddling through life, doing everything they can to stay sober. They may lack the support, resources, and people they can rely on in times of crisis and stand a higher risk of relapsing. If you or someone you love has grown tired of trying to stay sober on their own, Silver Pines Treatment Center is here to help.

Our experienced staff has offered the support, treatment, and aftercare programs that have helped people stay on their personal road to recovery. We work with each patient to determine what treatment program works best for their situation and provide personalized treatment services to address their needs. Contact our team today at 267.209.7313 if you or a loved one needs help with their alcohol recovery.


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