5 Tips for Staying Sober and Building the Life You Want
On your recovery journey, let your own purposeful goals motivate you. As you readjust to life without drugs or alcohol, be aware of your triggers and manage them so they don’t control you. Make the very most of the support systems available to you. Decide what you want your life to look like, and then participate actively. Don’t repeat the mistakes that supported your substance abuse and addiction in the first place; deal with your problems with the tools you now have. From this list of tips for staying sober, take what works, and leave what doesn’t.
Why are you getting sober? It’s more about what lies ahead of you than what is behind. Maybe you’re working on picking up some pieces of the past, but you’re doing so to create a better future.
Whether today is a good day or a worse day, putting into practice some tips for staying sober is a good way to grow your healthy roots a bit deeper and to feel empowered. In your days of drug or alcohol addiction, your choices were often working against your own best health and interests.
When you can cultivate good habits and positive motivations, however, you’re on your side. And don’t forget that there are plenty of others who are also on your side and wanting to support your positive momentum, too.
Take some time to fortify your recovery path. You’ll certainly revise your strategies, relationships, and goals along the way. But it’s important to always have these pieces in place in one form or another because your recovery depends on it.
The following tips will give you a solid place to start from.
1 - Keep Your Personal Goals in Perspective
Again, recovery is more about shaping the future than it is about fixing the past. You can learn from and lean on others in the process, but your best chance of success depends on the fact that your sobriety is for you. What are your ultimate reasons for this lifestyle? What are your real hopes and goals for your future? These are incredibly important questions to ask, and the sooner, the better.
When things inevitably get hard, and you’re coping with stress without your usual substance for relief, you’ll need some really powerful ideas to motivate you. Put some energy into developing those ideas now. Make a list of what you want and reasons why you’re on this journey of sobriety and recovery. Get really familiar with this list. You may need to draw from its strength in unexpected moments.
Feel free to let these future goals be big. But don’t be shy about positioning your sobriety goals as 24-hour milestones. Be sober for today. Tomorrow, you can deal with tomorrow. On particularly challenging days, you might take it one morning or afternoon or hour at a time. Feel empowered by the fact that you get to decide your goals based on what’s important to you.
2 - Stay Honest About Your Triggers
In treatment, you were able to identify some of your particular triggers: those people, places, and things that nudge or nag or otherwise pressure you to turn to the substance for some relief. The triggers are not going to go away—not completely. You may be able to remove yourself from the influence of certain triggers, but others will still be around. There will be some triggers that you’ll struggle to say “no” to. You’ll need to cope with triggers in one way or another. In the past, you coped by using a mind-altering substance, but, moving forward, you’ll need to make use of alternative coping strategies.
At times, a part of you will want to deny the triggers and give in to your reactive strategies of the past. The challenge will be to stay honest about the triggers you know and accept. Avoid risky situations, and remember to keep those personal goals in perspective. The more you make the necessary changes in your life, your habits, and your social environments, the more you’ll be able to maintain that honesty and to take the next right step, however small. The new structure you build for your life will support you in everything you do. Rehab is incredibly important and life-changing. But the progress doesn’t stop there; it can’t. You need to be able to take those positive lifestyle habits you initiated there and translate them into your daily life.
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3 - Lean on People—The Right People and In the Right Ways
Your best friend can no longer be your substance of choice. And, even when it was your best friend, it was also your worst enemy. Now is the time to develop connections with truly helpful and caring people. In fact, these friendships, family connections, and support groups will likely end up being a remarkably important lifeline along your path of recovery.
There may be certain friends you’ll need to leave behind or to change the nature of the relationship—if they fall into the category of triggering influences. And you may need to invest your energy and your trust in social circles where you never expected to be. Namely, addiction support groups are a primary system of support for so many recovering addicts and alcoholics. Here, you can feel some relief in the fact that you’re not alone. You can keep the critical risks of substance abuse in perspective. You can relate to others and rely on a nonjudgmental space to share your struggles and your victories. And you can learn new strategies all the time to continue coping with the challenges that arise.
Respect the value of your family relationships and other intimate relationships, too, for support—as well as the dangers and triggers these relationships can pose if playing out in codependent rather than constructive dynamics. And remember that treatment professionals will always be available and have your best interests in view.
4 - Be Active
Being active doesn’t just mean exercise. It means that you should participate in life. Be active in whatever interests you, whatever you value, whatever helps you to feel healthfully alive.
Maybe you’re interested in volunteering for a cause you care about. Maybe you’re really keen to focus on your work performance, to reach personal development goals, to feel productive in this way. Maybe you have a goal to spend more quality time with your family. It certainly is true that physical exercise can support your body and your mind in the sobriety quest. But you can achieve your weekly activity in a wide variety of ways, including the volunteering and career and family efforts mentioned.
While it is very important to stay active and not to withdraw from life’s opportunities, it is also important to find balance. Remember your tendency to participate to excess in the past. Instead, aim to act from a place of general respect and presence in each moment. Life will fall into place when you’re coming from an approach that is already balanced and motivated by those ultimate personal goals.
5 - Don't Try to Avoid Your Problems
Avoiding problems is very likely what got you involved in substance abuse and addiction in the first place. Each of our paths is unique, but, generally, substance abuse starts as a way to cope with a problem or problems. It was never and will never be an effective way. In fact, it creates more problems than it solves. And then the original problems are still there and probably festering under the surface of your denial and inattention.
You’re going to be in a better position than ever before to deal with your problems in sobriety. But you may still have the urge to resist and avoid. Ask yourself honestly, what would it take to deal with this problem? If it would take help, find the right help. If it would take time and patience, be willing to give it to yourself and defend that need to others. There are a couple of things your problems will never need, it’s safe to say: Your problems will never need your negligence, and they will never need to be drowned with alcohol or smothered with drugs.
Prioritize Your Best Tips for Staying Sober
Whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed, stop. Take a step back. Life will wait, and it’s better if you take the time to bring your best self to the fore. Any of these tips might be the right tools to employ when you need to slow down. On the other hand, these tips might just be a starting point, and you need to refine or expand them to suit your needs and goals.
You’ve already done so much work to claim the life you want. It may seem daunting that the recovery journey never ends, but you could also look at it as an opportunity with infinite possibilities. Regardless, any progress you make will happen in steps. So take it one step at a time, always pointing your feet forward toward your own goals.
Alta Mira offers comprehensive treatment for people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders and process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned Bay Area programs and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward lasting recovery.