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Staying Sober Tips

Tips for Staying Sober

One of the greatest fears of those in recovery is a relapse. After all the hard work and time it takes to go through rehab, no one wants to relapse go through everything again. Thankfully, there are many practices you can put in place to help you stay sober, and by implementing the following tips, you will lessen your risk of relapse.

Staying sober is a lifelong process, and we understand that cravings can be an obstacle for patients during the recovery process. When you learn how to break addiction habits and identify cravings, you can manage and avoid the urge to relapse.

It’s important to note that experiencing cravings is not a sign of weakness – it’s a natural part of recovery, and is deeply rooted in your psychological association with drugs and alcohol. The following is a set of strategies to help you take control and win the power to resist cravings.

Breaking Habits

Staying sober means that you recognize and acknowledge your cravings. To understand how to break addiction habits, you first must accept the fact that you’re having a craving so that you can identify the feeling and deal with it appropriately. It’s normal and natural to feel cravings, and you give yourself power over those feelings when you eliminate your fear, deal with them logically and calmly, and recognize that you’re the one in control.

Avoid situations where you know you are likely to have cravings. If you’re at a social function and feel an uncontrollable urge to drink or do drugs, leave the party – don’t worry about being rude or saying goodbye, just leave. Removing yourself from any potentially dangerous environment supports staying sober.

Inner Balance

In order to learn how to break addiction habits, examine your old patterns of behavior and make appropriate adjustments. Instead of drinking socially with friends after work, go to the gym, start a hobby, or take a class. Keep yourself occupied with enriching activities. Exercise is especially good for dealing with cravings, as the natural endorphins relieve stress and make you feel well. Activities like yoga and karate are excellent for achieving self-control and internal balance. Staying sober is about breaking old habits and creating new healthy routines.

Healthy Eating and Exercise During Recovery

Exercise during recovery is especially good for dealing with cravings, as the natural endorphins relieve stress and make you feel well. Activities like yoga and karate are excellent for achieving self-control and internal balance. Staying sober is about breaking old habits and creating new healthy routines.

It is also important to eat well. It’s not only what you eat that matters, but also how much you eat. Cravings can occur if you’re hungry and cranky, or have imbalanced nutrients – so sticking to a regular meal and snack schedule is an important way to stay sober. Stay away from foods that weigh you down and increase cravings and instead eat those that fuel you and keep you healthy.

Serving Others

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own struggles we forget to see the needs of those around us. Volunteering your time to serve others is an excellent way to not only see the benefits of your work but take your mind off your own trouble for a while and start living life.

There are many ways to serve in your community. Volunteering at a local youth center or library, serving food at a shelter, or donating to a charity are all ways to give back to the community. Many recovered addicts choose to sponsor others in recovery as a way to help those going through the same struggles they went through. All of these are ways to get out of your own head and see the bigger picture of life. Most people find volunteering to be extremely rewarding and empowering.

Participate in Support Groups

One of the best ways to break addiction habits is to regularly attend AA or NA meetings. These support groups are made up of people just like you who experience cravings and overcome them using a variety of methods. Not only will you have the social support to resist cravings, but you’ll likely learn important coping tools from other recovering addicts.

Outside of AA and NA, individual counseling with an ongoing outpatient addiction program can be a great resource. The Ridge offers all alumni a year of aftercare at our Milford office. Your counselor and group members will listen to you without any judgment and can help you understand and deal with triggers and develop a plan for staying sober. Other organizations can become a support system as well. Churches and community groups often offer support for ongoing sobriety and a positive outlet to get involved and meet other people.

The Ridge Alumni Program is a great way to connect with other sober and happy people in the Cincinnati area and beyond.

Dealing With Relapse

Even those who follow these suggestions still face the risk of relapse. It is an unfortunate side effect of recovery for many. The first thing to do is recognize the signs of slipping back into addiction. Withdrawing from the recovery community and family and friends, denial, cravings, and disinterest in support groups can all be signs you are close to relapse. During these times, it is important to tell someone how you are feeling and get yourself back into a support group and counseling sessions in order to prevent relapse.

If relapse does occur, it is not the end of the world–it is just a temporary setback. When relapse happens, it is important to re-enroll in a treatment program, either a residential program again or sometimes a brief outpatient refresher is enough, depending on the person. Those who have been through relapse and go on to achieve sobriety again discover that relapse can provide insight and experience that will actually assist with recovery in the long run.

At The Ridge, we understand relapse prevention starts with rehab. We help all of our clients develop a relapse prevention plan that they can use long after their recovery is finished. We encourage ongoing participation with our counselors and support system so that clients can continue to stay sober as they return home to their families and lives.

How to Stay Sober: Support Groups

A very real concern for anyone who has gone through rehab and recovery is the risk of relapse. While it is a scary thought, relapse can be prevented and the threat of it should certainly not keep anyone from entering treatment. Relapse occurs most often among people who rush through the rehab process, are uncommitted to sobriety, or who have not developed the coping skills needed to maintain a sober life.

Many make it through rehab successfully, but a reduced number of people are actually able to carry that sobriety over into everyday life. That’s why relapse prevention is so important in helping the person learn how to remain sober long after they’ve completed their rehab program. Newly sober individuals and their families should develop a relapse prevention plan that includes support groups, changes in lifestyle, healthy behaviors, and service to others before they leave rehab.

Support Groups Encourage Sobriety

Support groups are a vital part of long-term sobriety. When someone starts to feel alone and misunderstood they are at greater risk for relapse. Drugs and alcohol become for many people a crutch, a companion, and a way to get by in life. According to a report published in Psychology Today, individuals who remain abstinent from drugs and alcohol for five years relapse less than 15 percent of the time. A good way to remain sober in the years immediately following a residential rehab stay is involvement in support groups. Support groups provide emotional renewal, encouragement, and motivation to stay sober.

There are many types of support groups, and it is important to find one that is a good fit for the best results. A good fitting support group will make the individual feel comfortable being there, allow them to open up with other members, and make them want to remain sober during and after participation.

12 Step Support Groups

The most popular type of support groups are ones that follow the 12 Steps, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. The 12 Steps originated in 1939 and have served as a foundation for millions of sober lives over the decades. This type of support group has as its core personal accountability, abstinence, humility, honesty, and connection with a higher power.

12 Step meetings usually gather once a week or more and can be found in nearly every city and town in America. Visit Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous to find a 12 Step meeting near you.

Alternatives to 12 Steps

The 12 Steps, while very effective for most, don’t work for everyone. For those looking for a different type of support system, other options are available, such as S.O.S. and LifeRing, both of which offer similar philosophies for recovery.

S.O.S. is a secular recovery support organization that encourages abstinence through the use of rational thought and focusing on taking responsibility for ourselves and our actions.

LifeRing is also a secular organization and its philosophy is that each individual has the power to overcome addiction within themselves, and through motivational support groups and online forums, individuals can take control of their addiction.

SMART Recovery is an abstinence-based, not-for-profit organization with a sensible self-help program for people having problems with drinking and using. It includes many ideas and techniques to help you change your life from one that is self-destructive and unhappy to one that is constructive and satisfying.

Women for Sobriety, Inc., is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping women discover a happy New Life in recovery from Substance Use Disorders. Founded in 1975, the WFS New Life Program is based on thirteen Acceptance Statements which encourage emotional and spiritual growth.

Because each person is different, it is important for the recovering addict to find a support group in which they feel comfortable and can bond with other group members.

Church and Spiritual Support

Other groups are beneficial when used in combination with 12 Steps or other treatment methods. Churches and spiritual organizations have excelled in recent years at providing a system of support to those in the community who struggle with addiction. Spiritual support groups provide the extra benefit of whole being wellness, as they look to God for help to strengthen body, mind, and spirit. These types of support groups can be found throughout the country and serve as a good complement to other, structured rehab programs. At The Ridge, ongoing participation in spiritual support groups is offered as an option but is not required. However, many people, even those who do not consider themselves religious, have found lasting benefits from a church-based support group.

Family Support

One of the closest and most convenient sources of ongoing support for staying sober is family. Our family and loved ones know us well and can read us better than others and can often see relapse coming on sooner than many others can. Because they know the person’s history and weaknesses, family members can be one of the best resources for a newly sober individual. Loved ones who participate in family rehab programming become equipped to offer support during tough days, encourage sobriety through positive activities, and are often even the motivation for an individual to stay sober.

Because there is much pressure placed on families and loved ones of addicts, it is important that family members themselves go through some kind of training or receive support themselves, so they know how best to interact with and motivate a newly sober loved one. Support groups for families of addicts, such as Al-Anon and Alateen, are a wonderful resource for loved ones.

What if Family is Part of the Problem?

Unfortunately, some family dynamics are not conducive to staying sober, and in fact, many loved ones themselves are part of the underlying cause of the addiction. In these cases, family support is either non-existent or actually harmful and should be avoided or handled with care.

If your family was part of the problem in the first place, you won’t likely be able to rely on these loved ones for support in your sobriety. Hostility, jealousy, anger, and fear might all be present in these relationships and will only contribute to relapse.

However, even these relationships can be rebuilt and over time can become a source of support to all those involved. In cases like this where loved ones contribute to the problem of addiction rather than help heal it, everyone should be encouraged to participate in structured treatment and counseling, and interactions should be taking place under the supervision of a professional.

Recovery is an ongoing process, and sober living does not always come easily. In order to remain sober and avoid relapse, it is important to maintain connections with those who can provide encouragement to stay sober and who will help with a listening ear, sound advice, and positive and rewarding social interactions.

How to Stay Sober: Healthy Eating and Exercise

Staying sober requires much dedication and commitment. It is difficult to stick with something if you feel physically weak and worn out. This is why healthy eating and exercise are so important during recovery. In order to maintain sobriety and improve the health of your mind, it is also important to work on physical health and wellness.

Develop A Recovery Diet Plan

A recovery diet plan is important because it provides the individual with energy, helps reduce sickness, reduces cravings, and helps the person look and feel better. Because those who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction typically do not take care of their bodies through healthy diets, transitioning to a balanced diet will yield drastic results from the first day.

The diet of someone in recovery should be hearty enough to provide the energy needed for a day full of activity and rehab, and filled with vitamins and nutrients to help heal and sustain the body. Excessive substance use over months or years attacks the body’s immune system and makes it difficult for the person to absorb the nutrients they do get, and it hinders the person’s ability to process foods. The results are poor appetite, weight loss or gain, gastrointestinal ailments, and mood swings. If poor eating habits are carried into recovery, they can actually impact the person’s ability to stay clean.

As the individual cleanses their body of the toxic substances they have been using, they need reparative nutrition to rebuild their health. A balanced diet of protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains, as well as limited sugar and caffeine will provide the vitamins and amino acids the body needs to heal and stay energized.

Benefits of a healthy diet during recovery:

  • Repair of damage to organs and tissues
  • Improved immune defenses
  • Increased energy
  • Improved mood
  • Reduced risk of relapse due to fatigue or depressed mood

Recreation and Recovery

Staying active is another important part of whole-body wellness during recovery. Rehab can be physically and mentally demanding, with counseling and therapy sessions throughout the day. It is important for those in recovery to implement a balanced diet to their daily routine, but also a recovery exercise program that will increase energy, improve mood, and boost the body’s immune system.

Exercise causes the body to release endorphins, which help improve mood and increase optimism. This combination greatly impacts an individual’s ability to stick with a recovery plan and avoid relapse. A healthy exercise and recreation plan can actually help the individual through the tough days and keep them on the right track to sobriety. Developing a healthy regimen during recovery also sets the foundation for sober living long after rehab is finished.

Staying active through a gym work out is just one way for an individual to build strength and endurance. Other activities such as hiking, playing sports, swimming, yoga, and just getting out and enjoying nature all play an important role in recovery wellness.

Benefits of exercise during recovery:

  • Improved mood
  • Increased energy
  • Improved immune system
  • Increased strength and stamina
  • Reduced risk of relapse due to depression or mood swings

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

Taking care of yourself during recovery means more than quitting your substance and going through talk therapy. It means engaging in a program that will help you improve all aspects of your life, including your physical condition, emotional wellness, relationship stability, and spiritual health. It means learning what you put into your body impacts the way you face your day, and nutritious meals and moderate exercise are important to long-term healing.

A healthy body leads to a healthy mind, and vice versa, which is why it is so important to focus on whole-person wellness during and after recovery. Many who struggle with poor motivation and with relapse find that when they step back and look at their entire being, neglect of physical wellness contributes greatly to long-term sobriety.

Endorphin and Chemical Release Assist with Cravings

There is a scientific explanation as to why nutrition and exercise help with recovery. When we eat certain foods and when we exercise, our body naturally releases endorphins, which are the feel-good chemicals of the brain. This natural process is hijacked during addiction, when drugs and alcohol cause the body to release large amounts of these chemicals, leading to a feeling of euphoria. Someone who is addicted to substances is addicted to the endorphin rush they feel when they get high. Over time, the body is not able to produce endorphins like they should, and instead, they rely on substances to feel good.

With proper nutrition and exercise, the brain begins to release endorphins at a healthy level again. This helps create balance in the individual as they detox from their substance and learn how to live without the chemical effects of drugs and alcohol. Furthermore, the release of endorphins helps to decrease cravings, as the body is naturally doing what substances did for them in the past.

 

Quitting Smoking

As a person evaluates their life and their overall wellness during addiction recovery, it is important to consider giving up other harmful habits as well. Smoking is not only harmful to the body; it is an addiction that controls the person’s actions. While many people believe they should be allowed to continue smoking while going through the difficult process of addiction recovery, others see this as an opportunity to get clean from all vices that impact their wellness.

Smoking cessation during drug and alcohol rehab is beneficial because it allows the individual to quit all harmful activities and start new with a healthy lifestyle they can live with long after rehab. It aids in sustained sobriety and helps prevent a relapse because it improves the person’s foundation for substance-free living.

Quitting smoking resources:

Those who are able to focus on complete wellness find that they are better able to maintain their sobriety long after completing rehab. What is learned and practiced during treatment, including how to take care of one’s body, can be carried over to daily life. A healthy body, mind, and spirit are all necessary for long-term sobriety.

How to Stay Sober: Serving Others

Addiction can be a very lonely disease and recovering from it can appear to be just as isolating. We as humans tend to get caught up in our own struggles and forget there are others who are going through the same thing. During rehab, it is important to interact with counselors and peers in a positive atmosphere and to rely on the strength of others when possible. This helps the individual get out of their own head and see the joys and challenges others face. In the same way, focusing on others after recovery helps prevent relapse.

One tip to staying sober is to stop focusing so much on yourself. Dwelling on tough times or worrying about how you will stay sober is not at all beneficial. Instead, get out and live life, find fulfilling activities, and start seeing how you can make others’ lives a little bit better. Most people notice when they do this they experience fewer and less intense cravings to use and are able to establish a healthier, happier life for themselves.

Giving Away What You Received in Recovery

A common attitude among those who have achieved sobriety through the help of a rehab center is wanting to give away what they received in recovery. Gratitude for healing is often expressed by a desire to help others experience that recovery. This is why recovered addicts make some of the best addiction treatment professionals. A lifelong career in the addiction treatment field helps the next generation that is struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, but it also encourages sobriety among treatment providers and staff as well.

Volunteering

 There is plenty of need in our world today. People might be surprised to know that they can actually do something about many of the needs of those around them. Volunteering is a great way to help other people or help advance a cause in the world today.

A study done by United Health Group, called Doing Good is Good for You, found what many people know to be true: helping others is good for us. Researchers found that:

  • Volunteers reported they were more closely connected to their community and the people in it through their service.
  • Volunteers were more likely to report higher levels of physical, mental and emotional health than those who did not volunteer.
  • Volunteers reported they were better able to effectively manage their stress than those who did not volunteer.

Find something you are good at or passionate about and do something about it. Volunteer opportunities abound in every community in the world, so you don’t have to go far to find something. You can contact a local homeless shelter, library, youth center, veterans’ organization, or humane society to find out how you can help. You can help on a less structured basis and offer to take an elderly neighbor to the grocery store or doctor visit. You can participate in a walk/run/bike to advance a cause such as cancer research.

Volunteering is rewarding because it produces immediate results. When you help someone you immediately see joy or thankfulness on their face. As a person in recovery, seeing your actions positively impacting others rather than hurting them boosts your mood and motivates you to stay on the right path of sobriety.

Sponsoring Others in Recovery 

Many who have been through recovery feel a strong connection to others who are going through recovery. This is natural as they share common histories, challenges, feelings, and concerns. Staying active with the recovery community by sponsoring someone else in rehab is a great way to stay sober.

Instead of requiring others to help you all the time, you can be a source of support and help to others. Most treatment centers and support groups look for help working with and sponsoring newly sober individuals. Talk with your alumni group and find opportunities to interact with and even sponsor someone currently going through recovery.

Serving Your Community

An unfortunate side effect of addiction is overusing and abusing community resources. Addiction leads to financial instability, health care costs, crime, violence, and trouble with the law. Once sober, many individuals find they want to give back to the community that supported them through their challenges. Being on the other side of the equation is rewarding and helps solidify one’s sobriety. Giving back to the community can happen in countless different ways but can include making use of volunteer activities as listed above, financially supporting organizations in the community, presenting at community gatherings about the dangers of addiction, and mentoring at-risk youth.

Giving back to your community helps establish a network of healthy relationships. It will improve mood by helping instill a sense of purpose and meaning. Helping others benefits those you are working with, but it also benefits you as well as you get back on your feet and reintegrate into society. Contact your local library, hospital, museum, animal shelter, food pantry, state park office, and disaster relief agency to find out how you can serve your community.

It is not necessary to commit a large amount of time to service activities – give what you can. Every little bit helps, and you will most likely find that the more time and energy you dedicate to helping others, the more you want to give.

Getting Out of Your Own Head

All of the activities listed above have a common thread that encourages and enables sobriety: focusing less on self and more on others. It’s easy to magnify our own troubles when we only look at ourselves. This leads to fear, selfishness, and regret. But when we look at others we see we are not alone, and we see others have faced exactly what we are facing. We see sources of support and we see needs we can fill. Focusing less on ourselves and more on how we can benefit others helps with long-term sobriety.

How to Stay Sober: Changing Your Habits

A sober life looks drastically different than a life of addiction. Your living situation, your sleep schedule, your meals, your friends, and your activities will all be different when you give up drugs or alcohol. This becomes apparent during rehab when individuals are required to follow a somewhat strict schedule and change much of their daily life. In order to maintain sobriety, these changes should also continue into life back at home after rehab.

Avoiding Triggers and old Haunts/Friends

One of the best ways to stay sober is to avoid triggers and things and people that would tempt you to go back to using. The addict’s lifestyle is often full of booze and bars, unhealthy relationships, discouraging friends, and atmospheres that encourage the use of drugs or alcohol. You will need to give up your old haunts and places you used to go to get high in order to avoid unnecessary triggers. You will need to clean up your relationships, manage conflict, and surround yourself with positive influences. You might even need to give up many of your friendships if those people are unwilling to change.

This does not mean you can’t have friends. On the contrary, solid friendships are a source of support and motivation to stay sober. Whenever you give up something for the sake of sobriety, be prepared to fill that spot with something beneficial, wholesome, and encouraging. Friends who harm you and drag you back into a lifestyle of addiction should be gently let go. Instead, surround yourself with friends and family who want to see you succeed and are willing to help you in your sobriety. Rather than go back to the bars and establishments where you used to get high or drunk, find new places where you can maintain that new, positive energy. It is all about choices, and by choosing to avoid certain locations, relationships, and activities, you can greatly reduce triggers to use and stay sober in the long run.

Recognizing Signs of Slipping Back 

No matter what changes you make in your lifestyle and the success you’ve had during recovery, relapse remains a threat to anyone who has given up an addiction. This imperfect world still holds many triggers to use and you will continue to face cravings, even after recovery. The best thing to do is to remain alert and watch for the early signs of relapse. If you and your loved ones learn and watch for signs of slipping back into addiction, you can prevent relapse or at least catch it early and get help.

The first and most recognizable sign you as a recovering addict will see is a decreased interest in recovery. Sobriety may not seem as important to you, you might lose interest in hanging out with sober individuals, and you might let your attendance at support groups slide. As you do so, you will pull away from your family and friends, which will be the first sign they will likely notice. Whenever a recovering addict withdraws from loved ones, support groups, and the recovery community, they are at risk for relapse. Once the addict pulls away, they will face stronger and more urgent cravings to use. They might entertain thoughts of “what if” they use again. If you start to feel the slide, the first thing you should do is tell someone, whether it is a sponsor, counselor, or a loved one, and confide in someone else and get help.

Signs of relapse:

  • Not going to support group meetings
  • Not asking for help
  • Poor eating habits
  • Poor sleep habits
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Mood swings
  • Associating with friends that remind the addict of using
  • Going back to places where drugs and alcohol are common
  • Anxiety
  • Intolerance
  • Anger
  • Defensiveness
  • Isolation
  • Glamorizing substance use
  • Fantasizing about using
  • Planning to use again

Relapse Prevention

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that 40-60% of recovering drug addicts relapse–a percentage very similar to the relapse rates of other chronic illnesses, like Type 1 Diabetes, Hypertension and Asthma. Just as with these other illnesses, the risk of addiction relapse decreases among those who carefully manage their disease and stick with the designated treatment plan.

Relapse prevention is a large part of addiction treatment. Anyone who has gone through rehab and is determined to live a sober life must have a plan in place to maintain that sobriety. This plan is usually established with the guidance of treatment providers before the treatment program is finished so that the individual is prepared to face the real world once they complete rehab. A relapse prevention plan spells out things the individual can do when they feel weak and ways they can help themselves avoid temptations to use. Participation in an alumni program and support group activities, learning how to deal with triggers, and learning how to implement lifestyle changes are all important to consider during treatment and before heading back to normal life.

What if I relapse?

Of course, relapse is always possible and it does happen, but it can be managed and the person can still achieve a sober life. Those who do relapse find that with help, they are able to get back up and on the track to sobriety again. Relapse, while unfortunate and something to be avoided is only a set back on the journey to sobriety as long as the person seeks treatment again.

If you do relapse, don’t panic. Tell someone, and get back to treatment. You might need to re-enroll in a residential program again, or you might be able to get clean again with a refresher outpatient course. Then, when you are back on your own again after treatment, be serious about sticking to your relapse prevention plan. Attend support group sessions regularly, change your habits to fit a sober life, and surround yourself with positive influences. Don’t let relapse take away your motivation or belief in your sobriety.

We help all of our clients develop a relapse prevention plan that they can use long after their recovery is finished. We encourage ongoing participation with our counselors and support system so that clients can continue to stay sober as they return home to their families and lives.

For more information about our programs, contact The Ridge today.

 

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