Addiction recovery burnout is a common experience that can make you question whether getting sober was the right choice. But if you follow these simple steps, you can reverse or completely avoid the experience of addiction recovery burnout.

Achieving lasting sobriety isn’t always easy, but the rewards of recovery are worth the effort. If you’re struggling to keep on the path, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help.

Understanding Addiction Recovery Burnout

Addiction recovery burnout is the feeling of boredom or fatigue that people can experience in early recovery. Breaking free from a substance use disorder is no easy task. It typically requires intensive therapeutic work, addressing physical withdrawals, and making substantial lifestyle changes.

Making such holistic lifestyle changes is inevitably a taxing endeavor, and the rewards of achieving recovery are often in the future rather than right now. While many people start their journey toward abstinence with an abundance of motivation and hope, they can start to feel worn down by the massive changes if they don’t take appropriate measures to avoid burnout.

Factors That Contribute to Recovery Burnout

There are dozens of reasons that the experience of addiction recovery burnout is so common. The road to recovery often has many challenges that people need to overcome, from withdrawal symptoms to changing social circles, repairing damaged relationships, and so much more.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list, some of the more common and significant factors for recovery burnout include:

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) is a set of symptoms that people experience after achieving sobriety. To fully understand the effects of PAWS, it’s first important to recognize the effects of acute withdrawal. While each substance has a unique set of withdrawal symptoms, common symptoms include:

  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Shaking
  • Intense drug and alcohol cravings

Acute withdrawal is typically treated through medical detox, which can alleviate many of the uncomfortable symptoms. It is an intensely uncomfortable experience, but it is temporary, typically taking less than a week or two to fully resolve.

PAWS, in comparison, has a much lower severity of symptoms, yet it can last for months. While the exact cause of PAWS is unclear, many leading researchers believe it to be the result of the brain healing from substance use disorders.

PAWS is difficult because it can feel as though there is no end in sight. The symptoms of PAWS typically parallel the symptoms of depression, leading to a feeling of low motivation, tiredness, and difficulty enjoying pleasurable experiences. People will recover from PAWS, but it takes time.

Taking on Too Much

So many changes need to be made in order to achieve a lasting recovery. People typically need to engage in intensive emotional therapeutic work, change their daily habits, and build new networks of social support. You may have also started participating in a support group or in regular group therapy sessions.

While these changes are vital to your continued recovery, they take time, energy, and commitment. Taking on too many things at once can sap you of your energy reserves and leave you feeling drained.

Co-Occurring Mental Health Conditions

A significant portion of people recovering from a substance use disorder have a co-occurring mental health condition, such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Often, the symptoms of these mental health conditions don’t appear until you’ve achieved abstinence. Drugs and alcohol can often mask the underlying symptoms, and many people lack effective coping mechanisms if these conditions are left untreated.

The Healing Process

Breaking free from a substance use disorder is both a physical and mental healing process. Not unlike recovering from an injury or illness, the healing process can take up a significant portion of your energy reserves.

Starting a life in recovery starts with healing from the physical symptoms of withdrawal. But even months into your sobriety, your brain continues to repair itself, internal organs such as the liver can be in the process of cell regeneration and repair, and healthy habits such as sleep or proper nutrition are only just starting to be put back into place.

And while the result is a healthier and more energetic life, it often means feeling fatigued and unmotivated.

8 Ways to Avoid Addiction Recovery Burnout

Though addiction recovery burnout is common, it can be avoided. Using the methods listed below, you can prevent yourself from feeling burnt out in recovery and can ultimately improve your chances of long-term abstinence and a better quality of life overall.

1. Don’t Overwhelm Yourself

The first step to avoiding burnout is not taking on too much. People in early recovery face a common dilemma: on the one hand, there are an abundance of different services and activities that can help you stay sober. On the other hand, you only have so much time and energy.

Avoiding burnout while still getting the assistance you need is a delicate balance. If you’re starting to feel a bit overwhelmed by the number of recovery activities you engage in, it could be time to take a step back so you don’t feel overwhelmed.

This often requires a bit of a cost-benefit analysis. What do you find brings the most value and helps you deal with cravings or other substance use symptoms? What recovery activities are you participating in that you feel have little benefit?

Focus on the pieces that work, and don’t feel like you need to do every little thing in your journey toward recovery.

2. Learn to Say No

Similarly, learning to set boundaries and say “no” can help you avoid the feeling of burnout. While by no means a universal experience, many people new to recovery struggle with setting boundaries.

They feel as though they need to accept every offer that comes their way, or they feel pressure to engage in activities that they wouldn’t have been able to while living with a substance use disorder.

While having the opportunity to participate in family events, social gatherings, or new activities can be incredibly positive, sometimes, you need to take your own energy levels into account. If you already feel worn out, learning to say “no” can go a long way toward preventing burnout.

3. Focus on Enjoyable Activities

Too often, people fall into the trap of only seeking out the things that they feel address their underlying problems. But a life in recovery is about more than focusing on problems alone. You should also make sure to spend some time on things that you truly enjoy to fully reap the rewards of recovery and prevent burnout.

Therapy, support groups, and giving back are all great. But it’s okay to take time to go to the movies, spend time with your friends, or participate in team sports as well. Whatever it is that brings you joy, making time for these activities can help you from feeling constantly worn down by problem-focused work.

4. Take Time for Self-Care

Self-care activities play an important role in the recovery process. Whether it be massage, exercise, immersing yourself in nature, or spending time with your friends and loved ones, self-care activities help you find stress relief and make you feel more prepared for the days ahead.

Self-care doesn’t remove the stressors of everyday life. But it can help you to build your capacity for stressful events and provide a space for you to at least temporarily take your mind off of the challenges you face.

5. Celebrate Your Achievements

Celebrating recovery milestones and personal achievements is an important way of maintaining your motivation for recovery. A recovery milestone is not only a momentous achievement on its own, but it can be an important time to reflect on how far you’ve come in your recovery journey.

It’s easy to lose energy for recovery if you start to lose sight of what you got sober for in the first place. Celebrating your achievements helps you maintain this perspective and can prevent the feeling of burnout.

6. Make Adjustments as Needed

Most people who have gone through substance use treatment have built a specific plan for staying sober. Often, your substance use treatment facility will even help you design a personal recovery plan for you to stick to after you leave formal treatment.

But when you start to notice the signs of burnout, it could be time to adjust your plan to suit your evolving needs. As you make progress in your recovery, you can start to recognize that you have changing needs and desires and that your original plan doesn’t quite fit you any longer.

When you reach this point, don’t be afraid to make adjustments. It’s not worth sticking with a plan that has become tedious or unmotivating, which will inevitably lead to burnout.

7. Be Kind to Yourself

Being kind to yourself in the recovery process is one of the most critical elements of preventing burnout. People will often beat themselves up in recovery with thoughts such as:

  • I’m not doing enough
  • I haven’t made enough progress
  • I should feel better by now
  • I shouldn’t still be dealing with these symptoms

Remember that recovery is a journey; it doesn’t happen all at once. Beating yourself up for not living up to artificial ideals can ultimately leave you feeling worn down and unmotivated and perpetuate the cycle of burnout.

You’ve made a massive positive change by achieving sobriety. Recognize that there will be challenges along the way, and be kind to yourself in overcoming them.

8. Find Professional Help

If your burnout has progressed to the point that you’re worried about staying sober or simply feel as though you need more intensive and targeted support, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help.

Reaching out to a therapist or addiction treatment center can provide you with expert-level support for overcoming the symptoms of burnout. Working with a therapist can help you dissect why you’re experiencing burnout, help you incorporate preventive strategies into your routine, and ultimately get you back to feeling your best.

And professional help doesn’t have to mean therapy. You could enroll in programs such as lifestyle psychiatry, deep transcranial magnetic stimulation, or mental-health-informed fitness classes. Any of these options is a great way to help stave off the feeling of burnout and get you back to feeling your best.

Start Treatment at Plus by APN

If you need a helping hand in overcoming addiction recovery burnout, reach out to the team at Plus by APN by calling 424.644.6486 or by filling out our confidential online contact form. Our team can help you develop a personalized plan to break free from burnout and help you build and maintain a worthwhile life in recovery.


  • Bahiji, Anees, et al. “Neurobiology and Symptomatology of Post-Acute Alcohol Withdrawal: A Mixed-Studies Systematic Review.” Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, Accessed 19 Mar. 2024.
  • Emily A. Hennessy (2017) Recovery capital: a systematic review of the literature, Addiction Research & Theory, 25:5, 349-360, DOI: 10.1080/16066359.2017.1297990