Tips on How to Stay Sober
Staying sober is usually more challenging than getting sober for anyone trying to recover from addiction. Recovering addicts have a 20% to 50% chance of relapse, and this figure can be as high as 80% for individuals who are trying to quit without professional help. These percentages can vary significantly depending on a person’s motivation for treatment, the degree of accompanying psychosocial stressors, and psychosocial support.
A recovering addict usually encounters triggers that can compel them to return to their old ways. Staying sober is hard work and will demand significant life adjustments. However, a life of complete sobriety, even after years of addiction, is achievable with the right level of commitment, support, and coping skills. We have compiled 15 tips on how to stay sober and live an addiction-free life.
- Staying sober on a continuous basis can be more challenging than simply stopping drugs and alcohol; a recovering addict can suffer relapse after months or even years of abstinence. Stated another way, staying stopped from alcohol and drugs is the big challenge.
- Staying sober often requires care and therapy customized to the recovering addict’s needs.
- A recovering addict must take intentional steps like avoiding triggers and making life adjustments to achieve complete sobriety.
What Does it Mean to Stay Sober?
For many people, staying sober means abstinence from alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicating substances. However, there is more to sobriety than not being under the influence at a point in time. Staying off intoxicants is crucial, but to truly stay sober, one must identify and overcome the factors that led to the addiction in the first place.
Going through detox and stopping all substance use is only the first step; the real work at staying sober happens in the weeks and months following detox. Staying sober requires intensive care and therapy tailored to the individual needs. It also involves having a network of family, friends, or a community of people that offer guidance and support on the journey to recovery.
Staying sober also means being honest to yourself and members of your support group. Dishonesty can lead to feelings of anxiety and guilt which can trigger cravings for your substance of choice. So it’s important to always examine yourself to ensure you’re comfortable and acting right. One way to keep it simple is to remember to try yourself to `do the next right thing’. Nobody is perfect. It is progress, not perfection.
Staying sober requires a commitment to your recovery process, even after a stay in a detox centre or rehab facility. It means you must keep attending therapy sessions, counseling and other activities required for your complete healing. Self-care is also a vital part of staying sober. Daily decisions like eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep positively impact your mind and body, leaving you in better shape and frame of mind to maintain sobriety.
15 Tips on How to Stay Sober
Here are our 15 tips to help you stay sober:
Identify Your Personal Triggers
A trigger is anything that brings thoughts, memories, or feelings of addiction. To maintain lasting sobriety, it’s crucial to be able to identify objects, situations, places, and people that awaken your urges. When you know your addiction triggers, it’s best to avoid them as much as possible. It may mean avoiding bars, parties, and even old friends with whom you used those substances. Some triggers may be impossible to avoid, and you should speak to someone who will remind you of all the reasons you’re staying sober.
It also helps to know that a trigger is a temporary experience that will pass if you wait it out. The cravings your trigger brings will weaken with time, and as you continue your journey to sobriety, you’ll evolve to a point where a trigger does not affect you.
Recognize Relapse Warning Signs
Many people trying to stay sober suffer a relapse before they even realize it. This is because a relapse begins before you take a bottle of alcohol or use your drug of choice. A relapse is preceded by warning signs such as:
- Return of thinking patterns that fuel addictive behavior
- Going to places or visiting people that trigger addiction
- Impulsive, irrational, and self-defeating behavior
- Recurrence of withdrawal symptoms
- Feelings that substance use is the only way out of a present predicament
Knowing and recognizing relapse warning signs when they show up will help you make healthy choices that will not lead to drugs. If you slip and use drugs or alcohol, it’s important not to let a singular act derail your journey to recovery.
Build Healthy Relationships
Many people can trace their path to addiction to some toxic relationships they had in the past. Staying sober will require you to cut away from associations that led you down the abyss of addiction. You may need to sever ties with not only your drinking buddies or dealers; but also family members or friends who may have been inadvertently enabling your habits.
It’s essential to build relationships with people who are supportive and focused on activities that will support your sobriety. Support groups, community organizations, sports groups, and religious organizations are some of the best places to find friends with whom you can develop healthy relationships.
Stay Out of Risky Situations
Staying out of risky situations means taking deliberate steps to avoid people and situations that can trigger cravings. Avoid old routines and habits that can make it easier to slip back into addiction. It could mean changing your route to and from work, changing jobs, or relocating entirely. Addiction affects every part of your life, so every sacrifice is worth it if it helps you maintain permanent sobriety.
Build a Support Network
You need all the help you can get as you try to stay sober. Close friends and family who understand what you’re dealing with and are willing to help can form a reliable support network. Counselors and therapists can also form part of your support network. They help you develop coping skills and learn new thinking patterns to help you remain sober. If you have a sponsor, you may also want to maintain a close relationship with them so you can call them whenever you have a problem.
Learn How to Do Fun Things Alone
Boredom is one of the reasons people use drugs in the first place and suffer a relapse when trying to quit. You are more likely to relapse if your daily life lacks activities that keep you engaged. An addict’s life revolves around using their substance of choice. As a recovering addict, you must always find ways to stay productively engaged.
Going to work helps keep your mind away from drugs, but you need to find other ways to fill up your idle time. You can learn a new hobby or language, play sports, read, visit a museum, or take long walks. The less downtime you have, the less likely you are to suffer a relapse. This does not mean, however, that you have to be perpetually busy. It means having balance in one’s life, for rest, productive work, and play.
Exercise and Healthy Eating
A poor sense of self-worth and low self-esteem are one of the reasons people fall into drug abuse. Exercising regularly and eating healthy helps your mood and confidence, reducing cravings and chances of returning to old habits. You can try a combination of exercise routines and practices like yoga, Pilates, or dancing to find out what works best for you. Healthy eating doesn’t necessarily mean going on a strict diet. Avoid overeating and eliminate or reduce sugary and junk food from your diet.
Recovery takes time, up to several years in some cases. Continuing therapy after your treatment allows you to become a better version of yourself and equips you with a stronger desire to stay substance-free. It helps you learn new thinking patterns and coping skills that make it easier to resist cravings.
Therapy offers a safe space with supportive individuals who want to see you maintain your sobriety. It is the place to honestly assess your situation and prospects of remaining sober. Therapy sessions usually include growth-oriented practices like mindfulness meditation which help solidify your resolve to stay clean.
Join a Support Group
Being part of a group of like-minded people will help you on your journey to permanent sobriety. A support group connects you to sober friends and will help you develop healthier routines and avoid situations that can fuel your cravings. Support groups are typically led by a person who has gone through the same problem, and members can draw strength from their experiences and success. Popular support groups include Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and SMART Recovery.
Develop a Structured Schedule
Developing and sticking to an organized daily or weekly routine makes it easy to achieve your goals, including maintaining your sobriety. Sticking to a schedule – like having a 30-minute workout each morning or writing every evening – means you know the task for every moment, and you ensure you accomplish those set tasks. While staying sober may be your highest priority, a structured routine helps you to achieve goals that help maintain your sobriety.
Help Others and Give Back
You may find that you have so much free time on your hand now that you’re not using substances anymore. One way to maximize your time is by volunteering to teach others about the dangers of addiction and the benefits of living substance-free. Partaking in some form of community service not only helps you contribute positively to society, it also strengthens your self-confidence and increases your sense of self-worth. Your acts of service can be the motivation you need to keep going when you encounter hard times on your recovery journey.
Having specific things you intend to achieve can motivate you to keep going. Your goals could be new milestones or old ones derailed by your addiction. It could be returning to school, starting a new career, or writing a book. Your goals give you something exciting to look forward to daily and serve as motivation in times of distress.
Deal with Past Mistakes
If you are recovering from an addiction, chances are that you have hurt people who cared about or believed in you. Your past actions can lead to feelings of shame, guilt, and regret, which can hinder your recovery. It’s important to make up for your mistakes by talking to those you’ve hurt and resolving to be more responsible in the future.
Addiction recovery is tough work, and it’s not uncommon to experience slip-ups before achieving complete sobriety. It is important to celebrate every milestone (three months, six months, one year) you hit on your recovery journey as they remind you of why you started in the first place and how far you’ve come. You can celebrate your milestones with items, trips, and activities that resonate with your new way of life.
Find Balance in Your Life
Recovering addicts usually make the mistake of trying to replace their addiction with another habit in a way that can seem compulsive. They may approach a new hobby, exercise, job, or even a diet with an addiction-like vigor. While new activities may be beneficial, you should not use them to fill the void left by the addiction. The idea is to find balance in your life by engaging in productive activities in a non-compulsive manner.
How to Get Help for Addiction
Addiction to alcohol or drugs impacts you in multiple harmful ways, and it’s vital to seek professional help to achieve permanent sobriety. Many people try to quit addiction without help and realize that willpower is not enough to overcome addiction.
Addiction help usually involves a multifaceted approach that can include medications, therapy, support, counseling, rehab, sober living, and other strategies that equip you with coping skills and new thinking patterns to help handle your cravings.
The Canadian Centre for Addictions helps people understand addictions and the healthier coping strategies available by engaging them in one-on-one counseling with certified counselors, psychiatrists, and mental health professionals.
Staying sober is challenging but achievable with proper guidance and commitment. You may experience setbacks as you try to achieve sobriety, but you must see them for what they are and not allow them to derail your progress. The cravings will come inevitably, but you should allow memories of the pain of addiction to keep you going. Seek professional help today, so you can start your journey to high-quality life, not influenced by alcohol or drug addiction.
Frequently Asked Questions
The level of difficulty involved in staying sober depends on several factors, including:
- The length of time of addiction
- Withdrawal symptoms
- Desire or motivation for change
- Negative emotions
- Quality of professional care available
- Strength of available support system
How long it takes to be truly sober depends on individual factors like:
- Length and severity of the addiction
- Genetics and environment
- The physical, social, and emotional rewards are derived from using substances or engaging in the activity.
- Thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that fuel the addiction
- Their motivation and commitment to change
However, most people will be able to achieve sobriety in 90 days with the right level of care and commitment to their sobriety.
There are several ways to achieve sobriety, and some of the most effective include:
- Identifying personal triggers
- Recognizing signs of relapse
- Joining a support group
- Developing a structured schedule
- Exercising regularly and eating healthy
Yes. Sobriety can have life-changing effects on various aspects of your life, including your health, relationships, and finances. Staying substance-free allows you to focus on your goals and live a meaningful, impactful life.
The hardest year of sobriety is the first because you’re just starting the journey and may not know what to expect. Cravings and withdrawal symptoms will also be more intense in your first year.