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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
11 Effective Tips For Maintaining Sobriety
1. If You Went to Rehab, Work Your Program
If your journey into recovery began with a stay at an inpatient rehab center be sure to continue your treatment plan after you go home. You should have aftercare or an ongoing treatment plan to follow which may include any or all of the below tips. Follow the advice of your counselors, sponsors, mentors or whoever you lean on during recovery. Seek out those who have been successful in staying sober and use their experience to help you through the early phases.
2. Find Inner Balance
Active addiction takes up a ton of time and energy. When you stop using substances you will find yourself with a lot of time to fill. This is a great time to throw yourself into a myriad of positive activities. However – be sure you don’t replace one obsessive behavior for another. Any activity can overtake your life in an unhealthy way. Make sure you are making time for yourself and your treatment or aftercare plans.
3. Eat Healthy and Balanced
Healthy eating improves overall mood, health, and can help prevent ups and downs that can affect your cravings. Not only should you be eating lots of healthy food, veggies, fruits and lean proteins you should also be aware of how much and how often you eat. Be careful not to overeat or skip meals.
4. Exercise Regularly
Exercise has enormous benefits for everyone. Exercise helps with stress reduction, endorphin release, and help you maintain a healthy body type and image. For folks in recovery exercise also helps fight boredom and is an avenue for setting and reaching health goals.
5. Serve Others, Especially Other People Suffering With Addiction
Now that you are enjoying a happy and sober life it is time to spread that achievement to others. Seek out others in recovery and do what you can to help them. Bring someone to a support group, have a cup of coffee and share your story, offer to mentor or sponsor a person who is hours or days into recovery. This practice helps keep you out of your head and also creates accountability for your actions. Many people in recovery report that service to others is the most important and transformational part of their journey.
Service to others can also include several other actions that allow you to get out of your self and give your time and energy to good causes. You can volunteer at a shelter, serve meals at a soup kitchen, or do service work for your church.
6. Support Groups
Support groups in recovery are an effective way to maintain sobriety, develop yourself in recovery, and share your experience with others. Support groups come in many varieties. The most popular being twelve-step based programs like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. These are by no means the only option available however Other types of support groups exist as well such as Celebrate Recovery, LifeRing, Women for Sobriety and SMART Recovery.
7. Change Habits
Many of your past habits led you on the road to using drugs or alcohol to excess. It is time to make a positive change! This is one reason why having a mentor/counselor/sponsor is so important. Each person has a different set of habits and by sharing your day to day activities with someone else they can help you break the bad habits of your past and replace them with new healthy choices.
8. Avoid Risky Situations
People, places, and things. It may be cliché, but it helps to avoid situations that may trigger a relapse. During recovery especially early on you may not have developed the right coping skills and strength to return to old friends or old haunts. Find new sober friends, try sober events and get-togethers.
9. Start a New Hobby
Occupy your mind and set goals by trying something new. Try learning an instrument, study a strategy game, or join a local softball or other sports league. Not only is this a great way to occupy your time, but you also will meet new people and develop new healthy habits.
10. Manage Stress
Quitting drinking or substance use is only the first step. Life still happens and many of the same stressors that were in your life before will exist. Family problems, job stress, everyday struggles will get you down. If you went to rehab or joined a support group hopefully you have learned some techniques to recognize your stress level and cope with it positively. Many people enjoy meditation, a casual stroll, a good book or some other form of quiet low impact activity. Sometimes just having someone to talk to is a huge help. Use your sponsor, counselor, a trusted friend or mentor to help talk through tough situations.
11. Make Amends for Past Mistakes
Making amends is one of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Fixing past mistakes is one way to clear your slate whether you follow the twelve-step philosophy or not. Many of us have found that issues surrounding guilt, shame, or regret, fueled our obsession to abuse substances. By fixing what we can during our recovery we can heal broken relationships, clear our mind and build up our foundation for recovery. It is important to have help during this process as not every situation is fixable, and the time may not be right for others. Use a sponsor or counselor to help work through this process.