How to Stay Sober: 10 Tips
How to Stay Sober: 10 Tips
When it comes to addiction recovery, the only thing harder than getting sober is staying sober. Relapse is unfortunately rather common. Without treatment, an addict who quits on his or her own has a 50 to 80% chance of relapsing. Even with treatment, the chances are between 20 and 50%. The bottom line is that it’s hard to quit, and even harder to maintain.
Hard work is how you succeed in life.
A sober life is far from impossible. Maintaining sobriety is more than saying no to your drug of choice. A sober life involves a major change to the way you spend your time, and who you spend it with. It involves replacing old habits with new and healthy ones. It means changing back to your true self. It means living again.
We have come up with ten tips on how to maintain that sobriety you’ve worked so hard to achieve. Even if you take nothing from these tips, please know that you can do this. You are worth it.
1. One Day at a Time!
You can’t achieve a year of sobriety without a full month. Heck, you can’t achieve a month of sobriety without a full day. Every second counts, really. However, don’t look at it like you’re “getting through” the days. Look at every day like a brand new opportunity. Concentrate on making it your own day, not a day that belongs to drinking or using drugs. You’ll overwhelm yourself if you think about sobriety in long increments. Focus on today, your day.
2. Take Care of Yourself!
Also focus on your overall health and hygiene. It’s proven that the better we feel about ourselves, the less likely we are to abuse drugs or alcohol. The same goes for the other way around: The worse our self-esteem, the more likely we are to become addicted to substances. (The study also showed low self-esteem to be connected to theft and prostitution.)
Diet and exercise. Diet and exercise. Diet and exercise. There’s a reason this three-word phrase is overused… it works. Proper nutrition and regular exercise improve our moods and make us feel better overall. If you haven’t been already, eat well and work out as part of your recovery process. Some say even replacing your addiction with a healthy habit such as exercising can help tremendously. CNN even reported on one man who replaced drinking with running and went from extreme addiction to a model of health.
Eating right takes minimal effort, and doesn’t mean you have to go on a strict diet. Just make sure you’re not overeating, and avoid fatty/sugary foods. Working out does not take long, and doesn’t mean you have to join a gym or do P90X. Do some sit-ups and push-ups before bed. Go on two-mile jogs every other morning. It doesn’t take long, and this means you’ll have plenty of time for some new hobbies…
3. Get Some Hobbies!
You can have fun sober. Something each and every recovering addict needs to learn eventually is how to have fun without using drugs or alcohol. For years, maybe even decades, you have linked your enjoyment with substance abuse. Removing drugs from your life may seem like removing the fun from your life. Activities might not interest you anymore.
This is normal.
What you need is a change of pace. Now is the time to take that piano lesson you’ve always thought about. Now is the time to travel. Now is the time to join clubs, groups, gyms, memberships, whatever tickles your fancy. Doing what you used to do is going to trigger a desire to use. Do something new.
If you have a hobby that you simply cannot give up, and it was something you did back when you were using, we suggest doing it in small increments, stopping if and when a desire to use creeps up.
4. Get Aftercare!
You deserve a lot of credit for quitting, but now is not the time to start getting cocky. If you were/are part of a rehab facility, look and see if aftercare services are offered. If you are not part of a rehab facility, consider participating in local recovery support groups, such as AA or NA meetings, online forums, and good old-fashioned making friends. A support group can be two people.
The dictionary defines aftercare as “subsequent care or maintenance.” You’ve already begun taking care of yourself by deciding to get sober. Now, subsequently, you must maintain that care. Think about your sobriety like an extremely valuable sports card. If you have a Mickey Mantle rookie card and you leave it out anywhere and give it zero aftercare, chances are it will get dusty and bent up somehow. It will lose value. However, if you give the card proper aftercare, put it into a soft sleeve and then a hard plastic case and wrap it up, the card will gain value.
So will you, with proper aftercare. This includes all of the above and more, but mainly seeking support when needed. Whatever you feel is necessary to maintain your sobriety falls under aftercare. Sometimes it takes some major sacrifices…
5. Change your Environment!
It’s not just the things you used to do that can trigger a relapse, it’s people and places as well. This might be hard to do, but if you have friendships based on partying, it’s time to put them on pause, or end them altogether. Also, if certain places are associated with using, avoid them at all costs. Change begets change, and with a new environment can come a new point of view.
Like we said, develop new hobbies, but also find new people to spend time with. It can be helpful in offsetting the initial shock and isolation involved in changing your environment. Surround yourself with sober people who share your interests.
6. Don’t Let One Slip Become a Relapse!
The ultimate goal in recovery is to abstain from substance abuse completely. However, this is extremely difficult to accomplish, and there’s always a chance that no matter what you do, you may have a bad day and slip up. At this point, rather than beating yourself up and potentially using more drugs or alcohol, it’s time to rededicate yourself to your recovery.
This is NOT an excuse to relapse. However, it happens to the best of us. If and when you slip, let it serve as a reminder of where you don’t want to be. Once you use again and the initial high wears off, there’s a good chance you’ll feel shame and guilt. Turn that energy into dedication to sobriety.
7. Stick to the Plan!
At some point during your recovery, you should develop a sobriety plan to help you overcome the challenges. Some people prefer detailed day planners, and others prefer a loose mental outline. Still, whether you’re one month, two months, six months or six years sober, be sure to stick to your plan.
Set achievable goals for yourself, and reward yourself once you get there. For example, tell yourself you’ll take yourself to Olive Garden on day 90. When you get there, GO EAT! Just don’t overeat…
8. Moderation Doesn’t Work!
The goal of recovery is to cease abusing drugs or alcohol, not to reduce. Having just one drink at a friend’s birthday party or just one hit of a joint at a wedding or just one hit or heroin can snowball into something much bigger. Usually it does. Moderation only makes sense for those who are not dependent on whichever substance is at hand. If moderation worked for you in the past, there would’ve been no need for getting sobriety.
Right now you need to be a model of sobriety, for yourself and for anyone else who you love and care about, since addictions never only affect one person. As a matter of fact, take it one step further and get out there and do some charity work…
9. Help Others!
You don’t know what to do with your free time now that you’re sober, huh? Use your time to spread the good word of clear-headedness to others. Plus, community service can be a valuable recovery tool. Helping others will strengthen your self-confidence. It also creates a sense of community and adds a certain sense of self-worth that can only be felt when lending a hand.
The confidence you gain in yourself (and give to others) can be used in hard times along your recovery process. Just remember that recovery is indeed a process. Sobriety doesn’t happen overnight.
10. Never Give Up!
It sounds cliché, but no one is untreatable. No one is beyond help. All recovering addicts have a journey that starts on day 1 and lasts for the rest of their lives. No two journeys will be the same, and no journey will be easy. Still, never give up. The moment you just say screw it and throw in the towel and pick your substance back up will be the beginning of the end of your life.
Substance addiction, untreated and unstopped, leads only three places: a mental home, a prison, or the ground. You’re either going to develop a mental disease, get arrested, or die. This may seem dramatic but I dare someone to come up with a fourth destination. So don’t give up.
There is no right way to stay sober. You just stay sober. Remember how much hardship your substance of choice has caused you in the past, if ever you are tempted to go back. Remember how much pain you may have caused your loved ones, if ever you’re about to relapse. Remember how badly you wanted to get sober that time you broke down before this journey began. Remember who you were.
Yours truly recovered from an Ecstasy addiction over 10 years ago, and yours truly hasn’t touched the stuff since. The journey was long, but it was NOT fought alone, and it was NOT fought on old familiar ground. New clubs were joined, new friends were made, and now the opportunity for yours truly to possibly help others has risen.
Recovery can be a lifelong process, but it’s very worth it. You’ll enjoy life much more in recovery than on drugs or drunk. Here’s what SOBER should stand for, as an acronym: Short Of Being Entirely Ready.
There’s more work to do. Let’s get going.