How to Stay Sober
Staying sober is undeniably difficult, and it is estimated that around 80% of people who find long-term sobriety experienced at least one relapse on their journey. Knowing that you are not alone in your struggle can be a relief and building a life that supports your sobriety, with as few triggers as possible, is the key to success.
Confronting your alcohol abuse and deciding that you want to stay sober is the first step, so try not to be too hard on yourself. Making it to this point is not easy. The alcohol and drug recovery process is not linear and can be compared to a rollercoaster, with many ups and downs. Achieving a life free from alcohol abuse comes through the belief in yourself that despite setbacks or moments that may feel like ‘failure’, you can achieve long-term sobriety.
What Is Sobriety?
The first step is to determine what sobriety means to you. The dictionary and medical definitions of sobriety are not being under the influence of a substance. However, in the context of alcohol or drug recovery, the world can have different meanings for different people.
Many 12-step programs generally determine and teach that sobriety means total abstinence – never using the substance again.
However, there are other definitions that focus on recovery as a process of developing a lifestyle of healthy habits and coping mechanisms that support overall long-term health and well-being. Simply, it is important to decide what your goal is. This may change over time as you progress or face setbacks, but striving towards a personalized long-term goal is important. Getting professional help in deciding this goal can be helpful, as an alcohol recovery specialist can provide you with science-backed advice and support.
Tips for Staying Sober
There is a lot of support available for those struggling with substance abuse, with a range of different support groups available. However, creating the conditions required for a sober life often comes from the inside out, meaning that creating your own coping skills and building healthy habits are essential. The more strategies you learn to care for your mental health, identify triggers, and deal with stress, the easier it is to prevent relapse.
Take it Step by Step
The thought of starting alcohol and drug addiction recovery may seem overwhelming, so those who successfully maintain long-term sobriety will often split the process up into stages or smaller parts. Support groups will often suggest taking one step at a time and breaking your longer-term goals into smaller, shorter-term goals. It can be helpful to view sobriety as having different stages, from detox to addiction treatment to sober living in everyday life.
Remember to celebrate each of the stages you complete as a ‘win’ and success, telling your loved ones when you advance to a new phase, and sharing your success with them.
Take Care of Your Mental Health
Your mental health has an influence on addiction and addiction impacts mental health. Approximately 7.7 million adults in the US have co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. Regular heavy drinking is linked to worsening symptoms of mental illness including depression. It may seem at first that alcohol is alleviating symptoms of anxiety or depression, so people will use drugs or alcohol to ‘self medicate’.
Studies have found that individuals with anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), may use drugs or alcohol as a form of self-medication. However, this can soon spiral into substance abuse problems and alcohol dependence.
Self-medication can make the symptoms of these disorders worse over time and the brain changes that occur in people with mental disorders can increase the rewarding effects of the substance, making them more susceptible to becoming dependent on the substance.
Moreover, regular substance use can also cause changes in brain structure and function that make an individual more likely to develop a mental disorder.
After withdrawal symptoms have subsided, alcoholics with depression often find they start to feel better. It is important to continue to take care of your mental health while on the road to a sober life.
Dealing With Stress
Learning to deal with stress is an important part of maintaining good mental health. Stress can be a common trigger that causes those trying to stay sober to relapse. So it is important to avoid stress where possible and learn coping mechanisms to deal with it; this is key for recovering addicts. Practicing grounding techniques, such as deep breathing and reaching out for support can help you maintain control over the stress that can be present in everyday life.
Setting boundaries with the situations you put yourself in and seeking professional support can help you gain control of your triggers. Sometimes it is necessary to set a boundary and put your sobriety above another person’s stress or trauma, for taking on their stress as your own is a significant risk.
Individuals struggling with drug or alcohol abuse can often struggle to maintain employment, causing many to develop financial problems. Struggling to find and keep employment as well as dealing with financial problems can be a major trigger for relapse. It’s important to take steps to organize your finances and seek help or advice from friends or professionals if necessary. There may be financial aid or employment programs for recovering addicts in your area. Remember, you do not have to deal with financial difficulties alone.
Develop a Structured Schedule
A sober lifestyle is often built on organization, balance, and routine. Try to develop a structured daily and weekly schedule filled with a balance of recreational activities, therapy, or meetings at groups such as Narcotics Anonymous and moments or activities that bring you genuine joy. It is important that this is personal, and designed specifically for you.
Sobriety means maintaining a healthy balance. Maintaining employment, sticking to an exercise program, maintaining supportive relationships and overall healthy living requires you to live life with joy and gratitude. Living with balance means recognizing that memories of your past mistakes and drug abuse, negative beliefs, and relapse may happen but you are able to manage stress, contact your support system, and overcome these hurdles. Recovery is a lifelong process.
Part of building a sober life means avoiding people who are still using drugs and drinking alcohol. Dealing with a substance use disorder alone is very challenging, and something nobody should have to do. However, sometimes those who are close and important to you can contribute to a relapse, even if it seems like they are trying to support you. Your past relationships with drinking buddies, drug dealers, or people you obtained drugs or alcohol from may have played an important role in your life, but maintaining sobriety often means distancing yourself from people who may encourage you to have ‘just one drink’.
Sober living can be difficult when you are regularly around people with substance abuse problems who remind you of your past behaviors. This can cause a significant risk of triggering a relapse. If you want to remain sober it is important to make sober friends. This may seem overwhelming, but attending addiction support groups or mutual support groups is a great way of finding a sober friend who will help you maintain lasting sobriety.
Recognize Relapse Warning Signs
A relapse begins long before you actually consume alcohol or drugs. No matter what stage you are at in your new sober life, whether in early recovery or after 5 years, there are three phases to be aware of if you want to remain sober:
- Emotional relapse
- Mental relapse
- Physical relapse.
The warning signs of relapse include:
- Returning to addictive patterns of thinking, old habits, or leaning toward addictive behavior
- Compulsive, self-destructive, or defeating behaviors
- Seeking out old drinking buddies or situations that involve people who use alcohol and drugs
- Not thinking rationally
- Not behaving responsibly
- Seeing drugs or alcohol use as a logical escape from negative feelings or pain
Getting Treatment for Substance Abuse
If you are really struggling to stay sober on your own, it might be time to consider treatment. Addiction treatment facilities offer flexible inpatient and outpatient options to help you get to the root of your addictive behavior and help you on your recovery journey.
This can include a range of methods such as:
- Behavioral therapy including CBT, rational behavior therapy, rational living therapy, and dialectic behavior therapy.
- Trauma Therapy can help those with a dual diagnosis of PTSD and addiction, which so often go together
- Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) helps people recognize their negative thoughts and provides ways of combating self-defeating feelings
- Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and SMART Recovery process
Get Help Today
If you’re experiencing difficulties with alcohol or drugs and can’t seem to break the cycle, Ebb Tide can help. Our committed and highly-professional team will be on hand to provide all the support you need to start your recovery from the ground up. We use a range of therapeutic modalities and provide customized treatment packages that are suited to your every need. To find out how we can help you, please get in contact today.